In October 2016, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories said that “the quality of health services [in Gaza] continues to deteriorate, with significant shortages of essential drugs and disposables, the non-payment or underpayment of medical staff salaries and compromised health-care service delivery owing to prolonged fuel cuts.” In July 2017, amid longstanding powers shortages in Gaza, the UN Special Rapporteur said that “many operating rooms have now been shut down, basic health services have been drastically cut and complex diagnostic equipment and interventions are available only intermittently”.
The Labour Party, as stated in its manifesto for the 2017 General Election, “is committed to a comprehensive peace in the Middle East based on a two-state solution – a secure Israel alongside a secure and viable state of Palestine.”
I am deeply concerned at the humanitarian situation in Gaza and the suffering that many Palestinian people are experiencing. It is clear that the blockade of Gaza undermines basic human rights and economic prospects, as well as the availability of essential services, and must be lifted. Indeed, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories has said that, amid longstanding powers shortages in Gaza, basic health services have been drastically cut and complex diagnostic equipment and interventions are available only intermittently.
I know that organisations such as Medical Aid for Palestinians have raised the issue of access to medical care for those living in Gaza, and the obstacles that they and their companions face when seeking to travel for treatment. The World Health Organization (WHO) has found that there has been a declining rate of approval of permit requests for patients since 2012, and that in 2016, the approval rate for permits for Gaza patients to cross Erez checkpoint was the lowest it had recorded since 2008. I agree that these restrictions should be eased and the Government says that it has consistently urged the Israeli Government to ease movement and access restrictions.
Ultimately, though, the only way the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and the wider Occupied Palestinian Territories will be resolved is through a negotiated two-state solution – one that recognises the importance of security and stability, and guarantees a viable future for both Palestinians and Israelis. As the Middle East Quartet has warned, the denial of Palestinian development, of which healthcare forms a part, undermines eventual agreement on such a solution.
I believe a two-state solution is still both achievable and necessary, and I will continue to urge the Government to fully back all initiatives to achieve this.