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Parliamentary Delegation to Israel
Article for West Sussex County Times
Six years ago this week, 21 young people were killed and 120 injured by a Hamas suicide bomber in a nightclub in Tel Aviv. I have been in Israel this week and my hotel is close to the site.
If this anniversary were not enough to make me reflect on the toll of years of violence in the Middle East, I met the parents of the three young Israeli soldiers abducted by Palestinian extremists nearly a year ago. I will not easily forget the anguish of the fathers and mothers who still do not know if their sons are alive or have been murdered.
While I have been here, rocket attacks on Israeli homes have been launched from Gaza, which Israel unilaterally vacated with the aim of peace. The security situation is so grave that we could not possibly visit this area, but we went up to the West Bank and were taken to see the new security fence. This has reduced suicide bomber attacks, but it serves as a bleak reminder of the failure of successive peace processes, and behind the barrier many Palestinians remain in economic hardship.
This has not been a one-sided visit. I met the chief negotiator of the Palestine Liberation Organisation as well as Israeli officials and MPs. The irony is that in many ways both sides see better than ever the route to peace, which they accept is a two state solution, but in their way stand extremists who do want not peace and are fighting a war of ideology rather than for territory.
Many constituents write and come to see me about this conflict, with strong views expressed on either side. No-one is blameless, but I prefer to look forward to peaceful co-existence, beginning with the renewal of dialogue. That requires an end to terrorist attacks, and the immediate return of hostages.
31 May 2007
"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"