Former hostage Sir Terry Waite has suggested a “Mandela figure” is needed to resolve the conflict in the Middle East.
Sir Terry, who spent almost five years in captivity after being kidnapped by Islamic terrorists in Lebanon, said warfare was not the answer and that those killed in the Israel-Hamas conflict were victims of “inadequate leadership”.
The 84-year-old humanitarian, who co-founded the charity Hostage International, which supports families of those taken captive, was speaking after being honoured by the King at Buckingham Palace on Wednesday.
He was appointed a Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George (KCMG) for his services to charity.
Sir Terry told the PA news agency: “Warfare will not resolve this problem. It’s clear when warfare takes place it’s the innocent on both sides who suffer – the innocent in Israel and the innocent in Palestine.
“What we lack today seems to be an international statesman, who can view that situation impartially and really negotiate a settlement – that’s going to be exceptionally difficult.
“Because Hamas are intent on causing death and destruction and the other side are equally aggressive in many ways, if not more so in some respects.
“(The innocents killed) are victims in some ways of inadequate leadership in both camps … Israel and in the Palestinian territory.
“What we could hope for, and this is almost a vain hope, is somewhat like a Mandela figure who would emerge from this chaos and be able to take an overarching view of it.
“We need people of that calibre, who are not going to be affected by domestic politics and are going to be concerned about people on both sides of the divide.”
He added that the war cannot continue as Palestinians and Israelis are being killed while the younger generation are becoming “embittered”.
“In the face of all these troubles in the world, domestically and politically, you can work in your own sphere of influence to promote harmony, to promote peace,” he said.
“Keep hope alive and don’t despair; I had to do that in captivity – five years of isolation, and somehow I had to keep hope alive and was able to manage that. It’s difficult, but it’s possible.”
As an envoy for the Church of England, Sir Terry travelled to Beirut to try to secure the release of four hostages but was kidnapped and held captive from 1987 to 1991.
He said he was kept in solitary confinement and, when anybody came into the room, he had to put a blindfold over his eyes.
He also faced a mock execution and was beaten.
Sir Terry said he would be travelling to Greenwich, south-east London, to share his honour with a homeless shelter.