Members of parliament engaged in a heated debate over the current military conflict between Israel and Gaza yesterday. Meanwhile, the US ambassador to Iceland has posted a statement on his blog responding to Monday’s protests.
The Israel/Palestine question can spark rather passionate rhetoric between people, and members of parliament are no exception. DV reports that Independence Party chairman Bjarni Benediktsson set off a heated debate over the issue himself in parliament yesterday.
“The spark that ignited this powder keg came from Hamas,” Bjarni said, adding that Hamas has in the past said that it is their goal to wipe out Israel. “Such a policy I do not understand.” He also said that he believes Iceland should stop pressing for the United Nations to recognise Palestine as a sovereign nation.
Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee Árni Þór Sigurðsson retorted that Hamas has actually changed their position concerning Israel, wanting peaceful co-existence and putting the onus on Israel to make that happen, but that it remains the policy of Israel to wipe out Palestine.
Social Democrat MP Mörður Árnason responded to Bjarni, saying, “The Israeli Minister of the Interior has said that the purpose of the attacks should be to bomb Gaza back to the Middle Ages,” referring to comments made by Israeli Minister of the Interior Eli Yishai, who indeed did say that the “goal of the operation is to send Gaza back to the Middle Ages.”
“And here comes the chairman of the Independence Party saying that Israel should stand by its principles? This is not how people talk, Bjarni!,” Mörður said.
In related news, US ambassador to Iceland Luis E. Arreaga has posted a statement on his blog in response to last Monday’s protests. Here is the statement in full:
Many Icelanders came to the Embassy yesterday to express peacefully their views about the ongoing conflict in Gaza. They asked for the United States to intervene to stop the conflict and prevent the loss of life. The United States favors a lasting peace that includes the creation of a Palestinian state living side-by-side with Israel. We also recognize the right of Israel to defend itself against attacks on its population. Both President Obama and Secretary Clinton are indeed engaged and working with leaders in the region to find a diplomatic solution to the conflict. In fact, Secretary Clinton is on her way to the region where she will visit Ramallah, Jerusalem, and Cairo to consult on the situation in the region. She will emphasize the United States’ interest in a peaceful outcome that protects and enhances Israel’s security and regional stability; that can lead to improved conditions for the civilian residents of Gaza; and that can reopen the path to fulfill the aspirations of Palestinians and Israelis for peace and security.