Rt. Hon. Nick Clegg Esq., M.P.
Deputy Prime Minister
18 January 2012
Your Press Conference with President Abbas
On behalf of Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine, we would like to thank you for the statesmanlike comments you made about Israeli settlements in your joint press conference with President Abbas.
By calling the continuing illegal settlement building “an act of deliberate vandalism to the basic premise on which negotiations have taken place for years and years and years”, you hit two very important nails on the head. The first is that the continual announcements of settlement expansion can only be a deliberate Israeli government tactic to scupper negotiations. The Israeli government knows full well that the PLO cannot negotiate while Israeli actions continue to call into question the Palestinian right to those territories Israel occupied in 1967, and which once formed part of the Mandate of Palestine. This is rightly the Palestinian red line on territorial issues and is fully supported by international law..
Secondly, there is far too often an unwillingness among Western policy makers to draw attention to the ethical dimension in all of this. There has to be an end to the moral equivocation which has enabled Israeli government spin doctors to construct a narrative that the settlements are on land that is “disputed”, and which seeks to imply that the settlers have a “right” to build their homes there which is morally equal to the rights of the indigenous people of the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The latter, of course, are entitled in international law to exercise their right of self-determination by establishing their own state on the entirety of their land.
We were also immensely encouraged by another statement you made in the press conference, namely that “the continued existence of illegal settlements risks making facts on the ground such that a two-state solution becomes unviable”. Far too often, politicians have confined themselves to calling for a halt to settlement construction, rather than drawing attention to the key point that they should never have been built in the first place and are an obstacle to peace. Of course, in negotiations, the Palestinians may agree to cede some of the land on which settlements have been built in exchange for an appropriate quid pro quo, but such negotiations have to be conducted on an arms’ length basis by parties which recognise the rights of the other in international law, something which Israel still refuses to do. Israel must not be allowed to bludgeon the Palestinians into making concessions as a result of the duress inherent in its brutal occupation. Any peace treaty achieved in that way will not last.
We very much hope that Britain, through the Coalition Government, will shortly see fit to recognise the sovereign state of Palestine on the entirety of the Occupied Palestinian Territory and support UN membership for Palestine. It is only by such recognition of Palestine by the international community that negotiations to a full peace settlement can be facilitated.
John McHugo, Chair, Lib Dem Friends of Palestine,
Sally FitzHarris, Secretary, Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine,
David Steel, House of Lords
Jenny Tonge, House of Lords
Chris Davies, MEP
Arthur Goodman, Parliamentary and Diplomatic Liaison Officer, Jews for Justice for Palestinians
Jonathan Fryer, Chairman, London Liberal Democrats
Cllr Simon Lytton
Saghaer Ahmad Mallick, Treasurer, Lib Dem Friends of Palestine
Cllr John Hall
Janice Gupta Gwilliam
Patrick and Deborah Darnes
Cllr Louise Bloom, Eastleigh Borough Council
Cllr Maureen Jalili
Penny Rivers IMRI
Julian Heather, Vice Chair, Streatham Liberal Democrats
Dr Chris Burns-Cox
Chris Caswill, Liberal Democrat member Wiltshire Council
Mrs Malinda McLean
Mrs Janet Forst
Miranda Pinch EAPP (Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel)
Daniel Mark Furr
Stuart McCready, City Councillor, Summertown, Oxford
Dr Marion J Lamb
David E Chappell
Carl Freeman, Worcester Palestine Friendship Group
Peter Dulieu, Membership Secretary, Lib Dem Friends of Palestine
Deborah Newton-Cook, Member of Brussels and Europe Liberal Democrats