MEPs from across the political spectrum deplored the escalation of violence in Gaza in recent days during a lively debate on 21 November and welcomed news of an immediate ceasefire that could prove to be a first step towards addressing the underlying problems in the relations between Israel and Palestinians. MEPs will vote on a resolution on the situation in Gaza on 22 November.
Speaking on behalf of the EU's high representative for foreign affairs Catherine Ashton, Cypriot foreign minister Erato Kozakou-Marcoulis called for a cessation of all hostilities and hailed news of an agreed ceasefire as a stepping stone towards achieving lasting peace. She expressed the EU's condemnation of rocket attacks on Israel, but insisted that the country should open access to humanitarian aid and trade routes to and from Gaza. EU will continue to play a leading role in humanitarian activities and stand ready to assist in the economic reconstruction of Gaza, she said.
Spanish Christian Democrat MEP José Ignacio Salafranca Sánchez-Neyra said: "Once again images of horror in the Middle-East have shaken us all... The EU has got to support the ceasefire so that we can avoid the worst, but let's be clear: there will be no stability in the region unless we don't get to the root cause of these injustices that are fuelling hatred and violence in this bedevilled region."
Belgian Social Democrat Véronique De Keyser called news of a truce a relief as there had already been enough blood shedding in the region. While expressing concerns about Israel's security, she stressed that offering Palestinians a homeland which is secure within its borders is part of the solution
Belgian Liberal Democrat Annemie Neyts-Uyttebroeck stressed: "The status quo is not an option for the future. We need to eliminate the reasons for this violence and that is only possible if Israel can continue to exist in peace even alongside a Palestinian state."
Meanwhile Green MEP Daniel Cohn-Bendit expressed his support for Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas's plan to ask for an observer status for Palestine at the UN and called on Israel to lift the blockade on Gaza. "You have to give Palestinians prospects of a proper life if you wish to achieve peace and security," he said.
British Conservative MEP Charles Tannock commented: [My] group of course supports the two-state solution based on a viable Palestinian state, living in peace and security with Israel. However, there can be no prospects of such when Gaza is run by an EU-banned terrorist organisation wishing to destroy the state of Israel."
Bastiaan Belder, a Dutch member of the Europe for Freedom and Democracy Group, said that Israel was only reacting to attacks by Hamas. "Israel is defending people's lives and property and that is legitimate."
Patrick Le Hyaric, a French member of the Confederal Group of the European United Left - Nordic Green Left, said "The Palestinians have been trying to enter a process of dialogue for twenty years and the international community and the EU have weakened and humiliated the Palestinian authority and allowed the Israelis to act with impunity."