MP criticises select committee

By Dana Gloger, July 24, 2008

In a highly  unusual move, an MP on a government select committee has spoken out against its report on development in the Palestinian territories.

Stephen Crabb, Conservative MP for Pembrokeshire is one of 11 members of the International Development Committee who published its report The Humanitarian and Development Situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories on Thursday.

This week he said the report had "a narrative that Israel is the aggressor" and was "over the top".

Some of the report's main recommendations included involving Hamas in any peace negotiations, that the UK government and the Quartet should have condemned the Gaza blockade more strongly, that investment to the West Bank and Gaza should be welcomed. It added there was no justification for the expansion of Israeli settlements.

Mr Crabb, who is also Chairman of the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission, explained that he particularly opposed recommendations on negotiating with Hamas.

The Quartet, made up of the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations, has insisted there should be no dialogue with Hamas until the group renounces violence, recognises Israel's right to exist and respects previous peace agreements. Former Prime Minister Tony Blair, now the Quartet's Middle East representative, gave evidence to the committee.

Mr Crabb said: "It is deeply regrettable that the Committee chose to adopt a position which flies in the face of the international consensus on the steps Hamas needs to take if it wishes to be a serious partner in any peace process.

"There's nothing pro-Palestinian in the ideology of Hamas and the Palestinian people have been let down by them."

He also objected to the section of the report on the EU-Israel Association Agreement, a trade deal, which said: "We are surprised that the EU has decided to upgrade its relationship with Israel while it continues to flout international law."

Despite his criticisms, Mr Crabb said: "Palestinians, especially those in Gaza, are living in a humanitarian disaster zone and we cannot turn our back on their plight."

This week, chairman of the committee Malcolm Bruce MP (Lib Dem) said the current ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, brokered by Egypt, was an opportunity to engage in dialogue.

"We understand the Quartet's conditions but that should not exclude exploratory sounding out of Hamas to try to find out what the basis of peace might be. There cannot be a credible peace deal with out involving Hamas," he said.

Another committee member Richard Burden MP (Labour) added: "In reality, Hamas controls Gaza and all stakeholders must have a part in doing something about the humanitarian crises there."

Last updated: 2:34pm, July 24 2008