Israel-Gaza conflict: Dominic Raab looks to ‘more positive future’ during talks with Israelis and Palestinians

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has reiterated the UK supports a two-state solution to deliver a “more positive future for Israelis and Palestinians” during his visit to the Middle East.

Mr Raab has been meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, saying the UK is committed to “working with regional leaders”.

It comes as part of a one-day visit to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, as Mr Raab holds a series of talks to discuss efforts for peace and the UK’s role in the region.

The Israel-Gaza ceasefire was declared last Friday after 11 days of fighting killed more than 250 people, the vast majority in Gaza, and caused widespread destruction in the impoverished territory.

It was the worst violence between the Israeli military and Hamas militants since 2014.

Mr Raab said he “discussed the flourishing relationship” between the UK and Israel with Mr Netanyahu – and after a meeting with the Israeli foreign minister, Gabi Ashkenazi, he tweeted: “Vital we make progress towards a more positive future for Israelis and Palestinians.”

In a further update on Twitter and following talks with Israeli defence minister Benny Gantz, Mr Raab said “the UK is committed to supporting a durable ceasefire in Israel and Gaza and to working together to forge a lasting peace”.

Mr Raab, who has also been holding talks with Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh and foreign minister Riad Malki, later stressed “the need for all sides to respect the ceasefire”.

It comes after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken pledged during his Middle East mission that Washington would provide extra aid as part of efforts to support a ceasefire.

Mr Blinken has arrived in Egypt in the latest leg of his visit to the region, a day after holding talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders as part of a bid to “rally international support” to rebuild Gaza.

He has described Egypt and Jordan as central players in trying to bring calm to the region.

Both countries are key US allies that have peace agreements with Israel and frequently serve as mediators between Israel and the Palestinians.

Analysis: Nothing Raab says will have any impact on resolving this crisis
By Alex Rossi, Sky News correspondent

“Satire is a beautiful thing even if the ugliness of the Israel Palestine conflict is no laughing matter,” one prominent Israeli journalist, Anshell Pfeffer, tweeted.

“I can’t believe the British media is currently fixated on unemployed Dominic Cummings and his Downing Street gossip rather than on Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab who as we speak is in Jerusalem making peace between Israel and Palestine.”

Damned by comedy, no one who watches this conflict closely really understands why Mr Raab’s here now, or what he hopes to achieve.

His one-day visit comes hot on the heels of US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken. Like Mr Blinken, the foreign secretary has held talks with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

But unlike the US, the UK has very little power when it comes to this crisis.

Mr Raab issued this statement: “The events of the last month demonstrate the urgent need to make genuine progress towards a more positive future for both Israelis and Palestinians.

“The UK supports a two-state solution as the best way to deliver a lasting peace.”

The truth is nothing Dominic Raab says or does will have any impact on resolving this most intractable of conflicts.

It’s why Mr Pfeffer’s tweet is funny.

The peace process is dead and in reality, as long as Mr Abbas sits in Ramallah and Mr Netanyahu sits in Balfour Street, it has little chance of being restarting.

As for the two state solution, it is diplomatic orthodoxy, which many governments still cuddle like a security blanket. But the reality on the ground is that that bus may have already left the station.

It’s not impossible – theoretically – for it to happen, but practically it would take an awesome amount of creative thinking and hard compromise.

The success of Israel’s colonisation of the West Bank means that the land there is slowly being gobbled up by the settlement project. As for Gaza, it’s not only politically separated – it’s geographically removed, too.

The best the UK government can do then is offer encouragement, support and perhaps hope – but only from the sidelines.

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