Friday 9 January 2009

Ceasefire now!

Like most other European social democrats I am appalled by the loss of life in Gaza, and wrote yesterday as President of the Party of European Socialists to Ehud Barak, Leader of the Israeli Labour Party and Minister of Defence, to tell him so.

Of course, Hamas shares responsibility for the crisis with their rocket attacks on Israel, but the more than 600 civilian deaths in Gaza is hugely disproportionate to the Israeli casualties caused by Hamas rocket attacks.

My letter called for an immediate ceasefire and a comprehensive political agreement between Israel and Palestine. The truth is that, contrary to what some Israelis seem to believe, military action cannot end Hamas leadership of the Gaza strip. The result of Israeli attacks – quite apart from the terrible destruction of life and humanitarian emergency – is stronger support for Hamas among Palestinians and in the Arab world.

The Israel-Palestine conflict is at the heart of regional insecurity in the Middle East. I am urging the EU to do all it can to encourage the new Obama Administration to help end hostilities between Palestine and Israel. The creation of a independent Palestinian state - at peace with Israel - is a basic requirement for security in the region.

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