I have been closely following the events of recent weeks and I am deeply concerned by the continuing violence across Israel. The large-scale rocket attacks on Tel Aviv and central Israel are the worst in the state’s history. It is important that all sides show restraint and avoid escalating tensions.
Hamas has adopted the tactic of firing 100+ rockets in a single large barrage in an attempt to overwhelm Israel’s Iron Dome missile defence system.
I welcome the steps Israel is taking to prevent further violence, including the redirection of the annual Jerusalem Day march away from the Old City’s Damascus Gate and Muslim Quarter. The Temple Mount, Judaism’s holiest site, has been closed to Jews in order to reduce tensions.
It is regrettable that the Hamas terror group has sought to exploit frustrations by encouraging violence following Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas’ decision to postpone the much-anticipated first set of Palestinian elections in 15 years. Dozens of rocket attacks and arson balloons have targeted Israeli communities along the Gaza border, causing widespread fires and damage. The latest Hamas rocket fire towards Jerusalem is a troubling development.
President Abbas’ Fatah party has encouraged mass protests, calling for increased rioting and violence. A statement attributed to Fatah and publicised by official PA news agencies urged Palestinians to “raise the level of confrontation in the coming days and hours”.
Israeli security officials have documented preparations ahead of the riots on the Temple Mount, including Palestinians collecting stones, fireworks and displaying Hamas flags.
With regards to the extremely complex dispute in Sheikh Jarrah, it is my understanding that extensive litigation over many years has established that the Palestinian residents do not hold proof of ownership, but enjoy Protected Tenant Status. As protected tenants, a mutual arrangement was agreed in 1982 that they could continue living there as long as they paid rent and maintained the properties.
In February 2021, the Jerusalem District Court upheld an earlier court decision that after non-payment of rent and illegal construction on the property, the Palestinian residents must vacate the premises.
The tenants appealed to the Israeli Supreme Court, and a hearing was set for Monday 10th May. The Supreme Court, which is highly respected internationally for its independence, has now postponed the hearing, with a new date to be determined within the next 30 days. The planned evictions will not go ahead before the hearing; I hope this delay will allow tensions to reduce.
Ultimately, the only way to resolve these issues is to secure a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.
The Abraham Accords signed between Israel and her Gulf partners last year present an important opportunity to reinvigorate the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. I will continue to urge the UK Government to support efforts to restart direct negotiations to achieve a lasting peace.