Letter: Cook was right

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THE coverage of the Foreign Secretary's visit to Jerusalem has been a depressing demonstration of the extent to which the basic issues at the heart of the Israel/Palestinian conflict remain obscured by Israel's success in setting the terms of debate. Can we remind ourselves of just a few facts?

First, the acceptance by the Palestinians of a two-state solution to the conflict is itself a massive compromise on their part - Israel is built on what was Palestinian territory, with millions of refugees from that territory, and their dependants, now scattered around the world and Benjamin Netanyahu's government adamant that they will not be allowed to return.

Second, the United Nations, in line with international law, considers the land acquired by force in 1967 to be occupied territory, and the Israeli settlements built there illegal.

Third, the Oslo Accords signed by the government of Israel expressly prohibit further settlement-building, pending a final agreement by the parties to the conflict.

In the light of this, and much more, Robin Cook's actions on behalf of the European Union in visiting a settlement site and shaking the hand of an elected Palestinian representative is surely a welcome (if small) gesture of fairness towards a peoplewho are continuing to pay very dearly for what Europeans, not Palestinians, did to the Jewish people during the 20th century. If a genuine and lasting resolution of the conflict is to be achieved, which is in the interests of the Israeli people as much as anyone, then actions such as Mr Cook's - and a good deal more - are essential.


Deputy General Secretary

Scottish Trades Union Congress