BY ADAM CAILLER
THE political leadership in Gaza will have to change before peace can happen, according to Middle East Minister Alistair Burt.
Mr Burt, who was joined by members of United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, made the comments during a session of the International Development Committee — which included questions from Bury South MP Ivan Lewis.
He said: “I don’t accept the extreme narrative on either side.
“Israel is required to think about a future which involves those who are dedicated to its destruction.
“That’s why the international expected position is that Hamas has to move towards the Quartet Principles.
“Hamas is not desperately popular in Gaza.”
Pointing to how untrustworthy Hamas casualty figures are, the former Bury North MP explained: “It claims certain numbers of Hamas operatives were killed (in the recent Gaza border protests), this may not be true, which is why trying to find out what happens in extremely difficult.
“The political leadership in Gaza will have to change or express different attitudes.
“We have seen the same videos encouraging the killing of Israelis as everyone else.
“Any sensible discussion has to recognise the genuine pressures on the State of Israel from those who would kill Israeli citizens, and the difficulties of those in Gaza with the objectionable leadership because of the views of Hamas.”
Mr Lewis asked Mr Burt, MP for North East Bedfordshire, to ensure that the context for a “political settlement” is not ignored by those who want to “narrow the focus” and hold the Israelis responsible for the humanitarian situation in Gaza.
He added: “I think everyone would accept that the humanitarian crisis in Gaza is horrendous and the Palestinians in Gaza are the victims.
“It is highly unacceptable that in the 21st century this is happening and the day-to-day realities are horrendous.
“If there is a solution, it has to be political.”
Mr Burt responded that the recent Gaza border riots were not just a “spontaneous outpouring of anger” and that it was “whipped up” by Hamas.
Mr Lewis questioned the UNRWA representatives as to how the refugee status of Palestinians can last for five generations, while for all other countries the limit is just one.
He also asked about their financial status and whether they would accept money from America if a new plan was put together.
UNRWA’s director of legal affairs Rachel Evers said: “Our deficit is $250 million. We have been told we will get no further US funding.
“If a new plan would come through, I can’t say if we would or would not welcome it.”