Letters: MPs’ historic chance to help Middle East peace

These letters appear in the October 10 edition of The Independent

On 13 October the House of Commons will debate a motion stating: “This House believes that the Government should recognise the state of Palestine alongside the State of Israel.” This is a rare opportunity for MPs to assist the Government to take a historic decision by conveying the feeling of the country on a non-party issue which is both open and important. We hope that they will seize it.

The debate will take place when the prospects for the peace process are bleak, in the aftermath of some of the worst violence in years in Gaza, and after Prime Minister Netanyahu told President Obama on 1 October that Israel was to build 2,600 new housing units, all of them illegal, between southern Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Significantly, however, the next day the new Swedish government announced that it intended soon to recognise a Palestinian state.

The British government’s position, stated by William Hague on 9 November 2011, is that “We reserve the right to recognise a Palestinian state bilaterally at a moment of our choosing and when it can best help bring about peace.”

Our government recognised the state of Israel (without agreed borders or capital) in 1950. Today there is a common EU policy on the framework for final status agreement, including borders based on the 1967 line, subject to any negotiated modifications, Jerusalem as a shared capital, and a just solution for the Palestinian refugees.

Given our own historical role, UK bilateral recognition would symbolically reaffirm and strengthen this position. Practically it would not sidestep negotiations but help them forward. Specifically it would give the parties rather less unequal status; it would give a very public political warning to the Israeli government and public to dissuade them from taking yet more unilateral steps which could soon leave nothing to negotiate; and it would strengthen the hand of those in the US administration who would like the US to show “tougher” love to Israel and play a more even-handed role, but who are frustrated by the powerful Israeli lobby. It would also, as the Swedish foreign minister said, give Palestinians more hope in the path of negotiation.

Our historical role, national values and self-interest all point to early recognition – a significant decision which would encourage many of our European partners to join the 134 other countries that have already recognised a Palestinian state. We hope that Monday’s vote will bring that decision nearer.

Robin Kealy
HM Consul-General, Jerusalem, 1997-2001

Sir Richard Dalton
HM Consul-General, Jerusalem  1993-1997

Oliver Miles
British Ambassador to Greece, 1993-96

Basil Eastwood
British Ambassador to Syria, 1996-2000

Sir Harold Walker
British Ambassador to Iraq, 1990-1991

 

Boorish British hatred of Europe

I grew up in a Britain of manners, grace and reasoned debate, and this was recognised around the world. How times change.

Now our Prime Minister wants to renegotiate a special deal for the UK in relation to the world’s most successful trading bloc, and if the 27 other European Union members don’t agree, he threatens to leave. We apparently also want a special deal in relation to a human rights accord that everyone else in Europe has signed up to apart from Belarus. And if we don’t get that, we’ll leave that too.

This petulance flows from the same well of prejudice that cheered on Nigel Farage when he insulted Herman Van Rompuy, telling him that he had “all the charisma of a damp rag”.

The hatred of all things European by a sizeable part of the population is worrying, and yet is cheered on in sections of the press and pandered to by our politicians, looking for a scapegoat for all our ills. And as a result of this hatred, a boorish unpleasantness has crept into our national discourse. We are the worse for it, and I don’t like it.

Derek Hammersley
Chairman, European Movement in Scotland, Edinburgh

 

The Tory proposal to withdraw from the European Human Rights Convention is merely a restatement of Tory policy since the time before the party was known as Tory, Conservative or any other name,

The Tories have a deep-rooted objection to being told what to do by any foreigners. If there are orders to be given they should be given by Brits.

The Tories also know that any orders that they give to people in this country will be obeyed by a great majority, thanks to the culture of subservience which has flourished over the centuries.

The human rights which have existed in this country are such that most people can’t afford to pay for them to be put into operation. I remember as a child seeing a performance of 1066 And All That. When Magna Carta  was introduced, every clause was followed by “Except the working man”. This summed it up perfectly and nothing has changed.

Bill Fletcher
Cirencester, Gloucestershire

 

Austerity is bad for mental health

If you broke your leg, would you think it was a good deal to wait two weeks to be treated? If your mind breaks with a psychotic episode, why is a two-week wait for treatment a good deal, when the need for treatment should be just as urgent as physical health challenges? (“Clegg pledges to end the shortfall in mental health treatment”, 8 October.)

There are insufficient beds, insufficient staff, inadequate training, inadequate care in the mental health sector.  Mental health needs increase with austerity, as life becomes harder. The odd hundred million pounds won’t address the problem. A radical change in priorities will.

Investment in health rather than warfare, and taxing the rich, and corporations who avoid their taxes, rather than removing beds and benefits from the mentally ill, will ultimately save far more lives.

Shirley Franklin
Mental health carer and Chair of Defend the Whittington Hospital Coalition, London N19

 

French buses in West London

Many thanks to Jim Armitage for his article on foreign state-controlled firms running much of the UK’s infrastructure (9 October). I thought it was just me not getting the finer points of government.

EDF also, of course, owns London Electricity. And if you get a United Buses bus, you may notice a small sign above the door: “Part of the RATP Group”. The Paris underground company, of course, owned by guess who? Thankfully, our excellent local fishmonger and greengrocer are both owned by the people who serve you, but I do worry.

David Halley
Hampton Hill, Middlesex

 

Marginalised voters in safe seats

I, too, will not vote again (letters, 7 October) because in 46 years my vote has never made any difference. I have lived in nine different constituencies, including the political extremes of Tunbridge Wells and Islington. All have had safe majorities; none has been marginal.

I have turned out to vote every time. My vote has always been wasted. I have an overwhelming feeling of guilt, because I have been brought up to believe in democracy.

Frances Gaskell
Kilham, East Yorkshire

 

Victims of school rugby

Allyson Pollock’s article on the dangers of rugby (7 October) does not mention another, extremely rare, hazard for rugby players in schools: a broken neck. 

For many years I dealt  with inquiries about university facilities from prospective students with disabilities. In that time I met three students who were using wheelchairs because they had broken their necks playing rugby, and I corresponded with a fourth. 

Mary Foley
 

What killed the coal mines?

In her three-page article (8 October) on the miners’ strike Anne McElvoy finds room to quote, at length, numerous pre-Christian historians. The economics were dealt with in four words: “Coal was becoming uneconomical”.

Clearly there wasn’t space left to mention that the mining industry was expected to compete, by the Thatcher government, against a massively subsidised nuclear industry and Columbian coal imports mined by pre-teens for a pittance.

Mark Robertson
East Boldon, Tyne and Wear

 

Rooney chases Greaves record

If Wayne Rooney wants to match Jimmy Greaves’s goal-scoring total for England then he has a job on (“Rooney closes in on Greaves milestone”, 9 October). Jimmy scored 44 goals in 57 appearances. Rooney has 41 in 97 appearances. To match Jimmy’s scoring rate per match he will have to score 34 goals against San Marino.

Peter Evans
Billericay, Essex

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