The UK’s House of Lords debated whether Hamas should remain a designated terrorist organisation yesterday afternoon, with several prominent figures advocating for the issue to be reconsidered.
A question raised by Lord Raymond Hylton, a cross bencher and peer who has met with Hamas officials in both besieged Gaza and the occupied West Bank, pointed out that in light of the reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas, the situation of the group had changed significantly since it was first listed as a terror group.
“Would delisting not help all sides to be rather less intransigent than they have been up to now? Would it not build confidence among all Palestinians and help support their new Government of Unity?” he queried
Baroness Susan Williams, a minister of state in the Home Office, responded only to say that it was not government policy to provide a commentary on groups already designated and that a written application must be made to consider the issue.
The request was once again echoed by Lord Frank Judd, who argued that a distinction should be made between the military and political wing of Hamas.
“Is it not important to recognise in political terms that Hamas is a pluralist organisation? Is it not vital to strengthen the more moderate elements within Hamas, particularly at this time of reconciliation between the PLO and Hamas?”
However, Baroness Williams reiterated that the UK had some conditions before it could be delisted, namely that the group renounces violence, recognises Israel and accepts all previously signed agreements.
“We now expect to see credible movement towards these conditions, which remain the benchmark against which its intentions should be judged. We call on those in the region with influence over Hamas to encourage the group to take these steps,” she stated.
The issue of the recognition of Palestine was also briefly addressed, with Baroness Lindsey Northover, a Liberal Democrat politician, calling for the British Government to recognise the state of Palestine 100 years after the Balfour Declaration.
Baroness Williams said that the UK government was committed to securing the rights of non-Jewish communities in the region, and restated their support for the two-state solution.
“We are clear that we want to see the creation of a sovereign, independent, democratic, contiguous and viable Palestinian state living in peace and security side by side with Israel.”
As the centennial anniversary of the Balfour Declaration approaches this month, pro-Palestinian activists and the Palestinian Authority (PA) have asked Britain to apologise for its role in the creation of the document, which led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people.