In common with my Labour Party colleagues, I am deeply concerned at the humanitarian situation in Gaza and the suffering that many Palestinian people are experiencing. It is clear that the blockade of Gaza undermines basic human rights and economic prospects, as well as the availability of essential services, and it needs to be lifted. The UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories has stated that basic health services have been drastically cut and complex diagnostic equipment and interventions are available only intermittently. This situation is exacerbated by the intermittent power supplies resulting from the blockade.
I know that organisations such as Medical Aid for Palestinians have raised the issue of access to medical care for those living in Gaza, and the obstacles that they face when seeking to travel for treatment. The World Health Organization (WHO) has found that there has been a declining rate of approval of permit requests for patients since 2012, and that in 2016, the approval rate for permits for Gaza patients to cross Erez checkpoint was the lowest it had recorded since 2008. I agree that these restrictions should be eased and the UK Government claims that it has consistently urged the Israeli Government to ease movement and access restrictions.
Ultimately, I would like to see the situation in Gaza and in the wider Occupied Palestinian Territories resolved through a negotiated two-state solution – one that recognises the importance of security and stability, and guarantees a viable future for both Palestinians and Israelis. However, as the Middle East Quartet has warned, the denial of Palestinian development, of which healthcare forms a part, undermines any eventual agreement on such a solution. I believe it is necessary and urgent for the blockade of Gaza and the humanitarian crisis it is creating to be addressed now, and not delayed until a two-state solution can be achieved.
I believe a two-state solution is still both achievable and necessary, and I will continue to urge the Government to fully back all initiatives to achieve this. But I will also lend my support to any calls for action on the Gaza blockade now.