The hope created by Yitzhak Rabin and Yasar Arafat's Oslo peace deal must be rediscovered – Christine Jardine

Both sides in this conflict share a common sense of loss

Thirty years after I cried with joy over Yitzhak Rabin and Yasar Arafat’s Oslo peace agreement, I sat in a room at Westminster and wept at another generation of Israeli and Palestinian lives destroyed. The pain suffered in the past two weeks is beyond imagination.

The graphic horror stories of how Israeli children were murdered or taken hostage as a disgusting bargaining chip are unbearable. But we owe it to them, and their families, to make sure they are engraved on our common conscience. For their lives are the price that their two peoples are paying for the world’s inability to grasp that peace which once seemed within reach. To create two equal states.

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Since October 7, rage has swept across the world at the devastation wrought on the communities of southern Israel by the terrorists of Hamas. As I listened to accounts of what the Israeli Defence Force had discovered, I struggled to control my revulsion. What sort of person can do that to children? Or can embed themselves amongst their own people in Gaza to use them as a shield with little regard to the pain that might bring them?

I watched our First Minister struggle to control his emotions over family trapped in the torturous place that is Gaza, not knowing if he will see them again and felt both sorrow and anger for him. It reinforced my belief that we must prioritise humanitarian aid, medicines, food and water for the people caught up in this purely by accident of birth. That must not, however, undermine Israel’s right to defend itself in line with international law and protect its people from the evil that walked among them. I have spent time in both communities. Met representatives of Fatah and the Palestinian Authority on the West Bank. Eaten with elected Israeli politicians and government representatives.

This week I attended the Israeli Ambassador’s briefing in London and listened to appeals from Muslim community representatives in my constituency. They are all reasonable people who want the best for their people and present acceptable arguments.

But somehow, between us, we have failed to answer the only question that has seemed to matter these past two weeks: how do we stop the terrorists destroying lives? My friend and colleague Layla Moran, whose mother is Palestinian, in parliament this week lamented the fact that war seems to have become easier than peace.

She told how she had found solace by joining a vigil arranged by the Jewish community near her in Oxford. She felt they understood her pain and said: “Between our communities, we now share profound emotions, loss and grief. When the Prime Minister says never again, I agree with him.” Perhaps what those communities in Israel and Palestine need now, indeed what the world needs now, is for them to find that common sense of loss, that bond.

Then maybe there could be a chance, even if it is only the slimmest initially, that they can somehow rediscover that hope they once shared all too briefly and was reflected in the courageous conciliatory moves by Rabin and Arafat. And the belief that they might be able to live in two equal and separate states. That all their children might know peace.

Christine Jardine is Scottish Liberal Democrat MP for Edinburgh West



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