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Statement by the Minister on visit of The Elders to Gaza

I very much welcome the visit to Gaza on 16 October by a delegation from The Elders, led by former President Mary Robinson, and the statements which they have made following their visit. Their experiences and reactions very much echo my own when I visited Gaza in February this year. I continue to encourage high-level visits of all kinds to Gaza.

I have been disappointed to learn, both from The Elders and from others, that progress in rolling back the blockade of Gaza has been very limited so far. The Elders have rightly drawn attention to two areas in particular which I have repeatedly stressed: materials for reconstruction and the long-overdue resumption of normal economic activity.

While there has been some increase in the flow of construction materials into Gaza, this remains completely insufficient for the repair of housing and of vital infrastructure as well as for developmental needs such as the construction of schools by UNRWA. The lack of any provision for exports, furthermore, means that economic life is still strangled and Gazans remain in a state of dependency without any prospect of improvement. The combination of inadequate schooling and a lack of legitimate employment provides a perfect breeding ground for militancy. The Elders referred to ‘creating a generation of young people who have little to lose’ while Mary Robinson pointed out that this does not make Israel safe. I strongly agree with those statements.

While I recognise that the new measures are bringing modest improvements, I call on the Israeli Government to make more substantial progress in relation to ending the blockade and to extend the measures to include commercial goods, exports, and persons.