OPINION - David Cameron has taken a position on Israel-Gaza policy that makes me applaud him for once

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

There was a time when I didn’t really think I’d say this, but hurrah for David Cameron. The Foreign Secretary has said what needed to be said as he started his fourth visit to Israel since taking on the post, which is that Britain should back a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict, if necessary before an agreement is arrived at.

“Almost most important of all is to give the Palestinian people a political horizon so that they can see that there is going to be irreversible progress to a two-state solution and crucially the establishment of a Palestinian state,” he said. Britain has always theoretically, in-an-ideal-world sort of way, supported this outcome, but Lord Cameron has said the UK has a responsibility to set out what that would look like. And this even given the bleak outlook in the wake of the Hamas atrocities in October.

David Cameron knows Britain’s historic responsibilities in the region. And he does have “an ineffable Etonian charm”

Yes and yes. And one thing that should give us heart about his proposals is that he has been briefed by the excellent Daniel Seidemann, an Israeli attorney specialising in Israel-Palestinian relations, whom I have met, and who has a genius for discerning the possible.

And what he maintains is that, notwithstanding the disastrous policy of encouraging Israeli settlements in the occupied territories, a two-state solution is possible. It would entail altering the territory that has until now been envisaged as part of a Palestinian state, but land exchanges would be done with land of equal worth. It’s a start.

Lord Cameron’s initiative is necessary for the simple and sufficient reason that the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, this month flatly rejected a Palestinian state. In this he is acting in concert with the extremist settler parties who are his coalition partners — and frankly the single most constructive move to peace would be reform of Israel’s disfunctional PR system. Yesterday some ministers joined a rally calling for “voluntary resettlement” of Palestinians.

David Cameron knows Britain’s historic responsibilities in the region. And he does, as Andrew Mitchell, his deputy, points out, have “an ineffable Etonian charm”. That (usually annoying) trait cannot be better deployed than in making the case in Israel for “irreversible progress”. Even now. Especially now.

Melanie McDonagh is an Evening Standard columnist