Last week I visited Israel and the West Bank in my capacity as the Shadow Minister for Africa and the Middle East. Following an invite by the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre to Israel, I spent three days across Israel and the West Bank undertaking an intense itinerary of meetings and visits with politicians, trade unionists and civil society organisations and attending the Herzliya Security Conference.
During my time in the West Bank, I was delighted to meet with the Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority, Dr Salam Fayyad, to discuss developments in building state institutions under the PA’s control. It was encouraging to learn of progress with regard to building state institutions in the West Bank; crucial for the creation of a future viable Palestinian state. He shared a measured optimism at the calls for democratization across the region and talked of plans for future elections in the West Bank.
I held a meeting with representatives from the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions (PFGTU) to learn of its crucial work in creating the foundations for a future viable Palestinian State. I too was inspired by the work of youth leaders working with One Voice Palestine in Nablus and One Voice Israel in Tel Aviv in their efforts towards fostering conditions for a two state solution. Further to visits to Ramallah and Nablus, I was taken on a visit to Bethlehem and the village of al Walaja by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency where I witnessed the concerning effects that the wall is having on local people.
Whilst listening to concerns with regards to the need for progress across the board on the Middle East Peace Process from all sides, I too discussed the need to challenge those who seek to delegitimize Israel. In what was my first visit in my capacity as Shadow Minister and having not visited Israel and the West Bank since I was a Minister in 2004, it was a very informative visit and I look forward to follow up meetings with colleagues in and outside of Parliament on working alongside Israel and the Palestinian people to support the realisation of two states, based on the 1967 borders, with Jerusalem as a shared capital.