Blessed are the peacemakers?

Anyone watching business in the House of Commons this afternoon will have witnessed the undignified sight of the SNP, the Conservatives and the Labour Party using the plight of Gazan Palestinians to play an absurd game of political football.

None of them come away with much credit from a charade in which party interests come before human rights. 

Oh, what a circus it's all been... but the bottom line is that what is happening in Gaza appears to be of secondary interest to the players at Westminster than the usual political games we have come to associate with Opposition Day Motions.

This is not a way to deal with such an important matter of life and death and it reflects badly on our democratic system.

The Speaker, Lindsay Hoyle, hasn't covered himself in glory either, parting from convention in order to seemingly placate Labour. The fact that such Parliamentary conventions are themselves outdated and unfit-for-purpose seems to have passed many by; the fact that protocol and process actively undermines authentic debate isn't something that we should be clamouring to uphold. But that's another issue. What's happened today is that arguments about process have taken up far too much time to the detriment of more important matters.  

What I would say is that what we have seen today is shameful. Utterly shameful.

Palestinians deserve better. 

UK Democracy deserves better.

Issues around human rights deserve better.

And, for me, the biggest disappointment is that the cause of peace in Israel-Palestine deserves better.

"Blessed are the peacemakers" said a rather well-known 1st Century Palestinian Jew. There wasn't much evidence today that many of our elected representatives are too interested in peace, simply in themselves.

Of course we all want a ceasefire. But what we must be striving for is a much greater prize - that of a lasting peace. It's not an easy thing to achieve, but any meaningful calls for ceasefire have to look beyond the present. This is why Layla Moran is absolutely correct to state that "immediate bilateral ceasefire without mention of two states and regional security risks freezing the conflict again". She is also correct to bemoan the likelihood that a lack of coordination leading to an immediate ceasefire being rejected.

Let's be realistic - neither Hamas nor Israel's government are likely to take much notice of whatever Westminster decides. But these discussions and decisions can be useful in shaping our response to the escalating crisis, building a broader consensus and in facilitating possible routes to peace. An opportunity to do something genuinely worthwhile could easily be undermined by tribal politics.

If we really care about peace, then perhaps we need to start talking about it. We need to think what it may look like. We need to consider a two-state solution. We need to engage with the questions of how to solve a problem like Hamas... and a problem like Netanyahu/Likud. We have to be advocating solutions that are practical, that involve other key players in the region. We also may want to think about how a ceasefire may open up possibilities for peace, and how opportunities created by any ceasefire should be used to work towards it.

At the moment I see plenty of slogans but few ideas. For example, those who are happy to openly call for a "free Palestine" are a little coy when it comes to the detail of what a "free Palestine" may actually look like, and where Israel fits in. 

It seems to me that many of our elected representatives are more concerned with being right - and being seen to be right - than with doing what is right. The tragedy is that this state of affairs serves no-one.

That is not to say I can't find agreement with much of what has been said this afternoon. Just a few moment ago Kit Malthouse, not someone I always agree with, stated that there can be no military victory over Hamas and that every Israeli bomb is a recruiting sergeant for Hamas.  How can we persuade Israel of the futility of its current self-defeating strategy? He said he despaired at "the UK [being] trapped in crazy battle of semantics" over the wording of the calls for a ceasefire, adding that voters "have no clue what we're doing any more".

Mr Malthouse is absolutely correct. I understand that wording and process matter (I can fully understand why the SNP's motion, which does not mention the 7th October attack by Hamas, is problematic) but what is being discussed here is merely the basis for the first step towards peace. Surely it shouldn't be hard to find a way forward?

I have no idea how Parliament will vote later today, but this is no way to handle this issue. 

So yes, like so many I want the violence to stop immediately. But unless we can follow that up with a coherent plan to pursue a lasting peace, it will simply be another wasted opportunity. And unless Parliament can get its act together and cease the infuriating games, why should anyone have faith in it to do anything - or be anything other than an out of touch place full of self-interested, self-serving people? 

"Blessed are the peacemakers?" If only we could find some.