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West Sussex County Times article
When I visited Israel last year, it was impossible to go into Gaza . The authorities could not have ensured the safety of our visiting delegation of MPs; indeed, a BBC journalist was still in the hands of extremists, having been kidnapped.
But we talked to Israeli politicians about the rocket attacks which were being launched from Gaza to Israeli settlements, attacks which continued in spite of Israel's unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in 2005. Since then, more than 5,000 rockets and mortars have been fired.
We also talked to the Palestinian's Chief Negotiator, Saeb Erekat, who I heard on the Today Programme on Monday. He is part of President Abbas' Fatah movement which was ousted from power by the election of Hamas in Gaza. Calling for an immediate end to Israel's attack, he said "you don't solve such problems with military means."
Many will agree with him. Will the destruction of Hamas' infrastructure convince them to give up their goals? After all, Hizballah has tripled its military arsenal since Israel's military offensive in Lebanon two years ago. The concern is that Israel's attacks will only encourage further extremism.
Yet I wonder what any of us would do if we were in Israel's shoes. I remember politicians on both sides who want a settlement telling us that they needed a partner for peace. And the problem is that Hamas is committed to Israel's destruction. It doesn't want to negotiate.
The international community is calling for Israel to cease its attacks, but as I write there is little sign of that happening. Israel appears to have lost patience, pledging "all-out war" with the explicit goal of toppling Hamas.
I have always supported a two-state peaceful solution in Israel. But I fear that while Hamas remains in power in Gaza it will prevent any peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, and threaten the rule of the moderates in the West Bank on whom partnership for peace relies.
2 January 2009
"I pledge to work hard for everyone in the constituency, to stand up for local people, and to be a strong voice at Westminster for your concerns"