1. LIFE LESS IN GAZA
The sheer number of deaths and injuries in Gaza yesterday has shocked and appalled many, including Israel’s supporters in the UK. The Palestinians say 52 protestors were killed and 2,400 wounded after Israeli troops opened fire at the border. Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas condemned what he called Israeli “massacres against our people”, and declared three days of mourning. There have been six weeks of protests so far, and the biggest demonstration is expected today to mark the 70th anniversary of what Palestinians call ‘the catastrophe’ of the creation of the state of Israel. Add in the funerals of those killed yesterday and more bloodshed looks highly likely.
Last night, Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt criticised both Hamas and the Israelis. “It is deplorable that extremist elements may have been seeking to exploit these protests for their own violent purposes,” he said, in a carefully calibrated statement. “We will not waver from our support for Israel’s right to defend its borders. But the large volume of live fire is extremely concerning. We continue to implore Israel to show greater restraint.” Will the Israelis show that restraint today? Will Hamas try to calm things too? Or will critics of the Netanyahu government be once more allowed to argue that a life is simply worth less if it is lived in Gaza?
Israel’s ambassador Mark Regev claimed on Today that it used live rounds ‘in a measured way, only when there is no alternative’. The White House was unrepentant too yesterday about the opening of its temporary embassy in Jerusalem (shrugging off the nepotism of a US President sending his unelected daughter and son-in-law to oversee such an historic move). It also described the Gaza protests as ‘gruesome propaganda event’. Yet the contrast between the images of the two events couldn’t be starker. Boris Johnson has Foreign Office Questions in the Commons at 11.30am, will he agree with the US’s line that there is a ‘new reality’ in the region? Given the anger on this, the Speaker may grant an Urgent Question too.
2. NO WAY, NORWAY?
The Cabinet sub-committee on Brexit meets today, but no one expects a puff of white smoke on the vexed topic of which customs option will get the go-ahead. As I revealed yesterday, Greg Clark was on the Norway-Sweden border looking closely at how it worked, and he’s expected …