THURSDAY 26 FEBRUARY 2015
- Barry Sheerman: What recent assessment has Foreign Secretary made of the state of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process?
- Barry Sheerman: What recent conversations has Foreign Secretary had with his international counterparts on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
- Barry Sheerman: What recent discussions has Foreign Secretary had with representatives of the Israeli government on the construction of settlements on occupied Palestinian land?
Nos 1-3 Commons Written Answers
- Lord Hylton tabled a Question on Syrian refugees, asking what measures HMG and the host states were planning to prevent Syrian refugees becoming permanent residents in those states. He said: “The whole House will know very well that many Palestinians are still stuck in the camps to which they moved in the late 1940s.”
WEDNESDAY 25 FEBRUARY 2015
- Ninety minute debate in Westminster Hall on “UK contribution to preventing conflict in Gaza”, tabled by Michael McCann, a vice-chair of Labour Friends of Israel, in response to the Palestine recognition debate of 1.12.14 tabled by Graeme M Morris. There was no vote at the end of this debate.
– Michael McCann argued that Hamas and the support it gets from Iran are responsible for the Gaza wars; to prevent a repetition, and before reconstruction can occur, it has to be demilitarised and made to give up its control of Gaza. “I am sick and tired of coming to debates in this House where we hear about people dying, about the blood, and about the disaster of buildings being destroyed and hospitals being destroyed. I am sick and tired of coming to debates like that. I am trying to move forward with a positive proposal for peace.” Britain, he says, should put before the UNSC a proposal for the imposition of sanctions on member states attempting to transfer weapons to Hamas and for the provision of disarmament inspectors. “If some hon. Members want to go over the history of who is right and who is wrong, count me out.”
McCann’s proposal that reconstruction should follow demilitarisation was supported with speeches by Robert Halfon, Anne McGuire, Louise Ellman and Fabian Hamilton and supportive interventions by Andrew Percy, Bob Blackman, all redolent of anti-Hamas rhetoric.
The debate continued with Richard Burden, David Ward, Andy Slaughter, Graeme M Morris and Andy McDonald putting the contrary arguments:
– Richard Burden, Chair of Britain-Palestine APPG: Leaving the humanitarian needs for a later date is tantamount to collective punishment. “If my hon. Friend is right to say that Hamas uses the population of Gaza as pawns, as playthings, what on earth would be the incentive to demilitarise in that situation? What would cause it to do that if, as he is saying, it plays and thrives on the current situation?” We should say to Israel that if it expects to receive the privileges under the EU-Israel Association Agreement, it also has to accept the responsibilities. It parliamentarians into Gaza. “I and other hon. Friends here were the last ones allowed into Gaza to see what was happening, and that was after Operation Cast Lead in 2009. On several occasions, I have asked the Israeli embassy, “Why do you not let us in?” Each time, it has said, “We are surprised you are not let in.” However, every time we try to get in, the co-operation disappears and the walls go up. As far as I know, my hon. Friend has not been to Gaza, and I imagine he would have the same problems as me in getting in. Let us, therefore, speak with some knowledge. MPs from this country should be given access to Gaza so that we can see for ourselves whether the international organisations that operate there are right or whether my hon. Friend is right that this is all some kind of Hamas plot.”
– David Ward: “We all know that the Balfour declaration was conditional: it was clearly anticipated that conflict could arise, and a future home in Israel was conditional on the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities being protected. We all know that, and we also know that there has been a clear breach of that contract…. The international community would allow no other country to treat anybody the way Israel treats the Palestinians. Such a country would be ostracised and treated as a pariah state; at the very least—as in the case of Myanmar, Russia and South Africa—we would impose sanctions. I have an online petition with more than 80,000 names calling on the Government to be an agent of change and to consider sanctions as part of bringing about a peaceful resolution to the conflict. The truth is that, until we engage in an honest debate about why Israel is given special protected status, we will never resolve the conflict.” [To see the petition click on this link: http://davidward.org.uk/en/petition/we-demand-the-british-government-stands-up-for-the-palestinians-now ] In conclusion: “The urging and the condemnation do not work; something new needs to happen, and I would argue that that will come through sanctions. Given its legacy across the region, the UK can and should provide leadership.”
– Andy Slaughter: “I have no pleasure in saying that I found today’s debate to be premised on an entirely cynical proposition, and quite disrespectful of the human rights of the Palestinian people. Listening to hon. Members on either [ed. sic] side saying that Israel has kept Gaza supplied, I think people must be living in a parallel world…. The bombing of schools full of refugees, the shelling of hospitals, the contamination of water supplies and the reduction of Gaza, such that according to the UN it will not be habitable by 2020, are factors that have not so far been mentioned in the debate.” Citing UNWRA, Amnesty International and Oxfam on the need to consider immediate humanitarian needs, he asks Members “to reflect on what those organisations have said; on the fact that Israel has a responsibility, just as Hamas and other organisations do; on the fact that war crimes are committed by Israel and that collective punishment and the blockade of Gaza are major contributory factors to what we are dealing with; and on the fact that Israeli forces often, unprovoked, fire on people in the Gaza strip. The blockade should be lifted now, under international law. That could be done, and supplies could go into Gaza with monitoring and verification to make sure that arms do not get in. An entirely false and unworkable premise has been put forward, as I am afraid its sponsors know. Let us have genuine dialogue and reconstruction. Let us prevent arms from going to Gaza; but let us not punish the children and civilians of Gaza for what is happening there.”
– Grahame M. Morris: “We must look at the root causes of the situation. We are talking about a day-to-day, grinding occupation. The occupying power is Israel, which maintains an illegal and unjust iron grip on the territory and its inhabitants……I refer Members to article 154 of the fourth Geneva convention, which refers to the responsibilities of the occupying power under belligerent occupation. Of course, the closure of Gaza is part of a long process that predates the rise of Gaza. Members who support the Israeli Government often use that fact as some kind of justification, but it is quite incorrect to do so. The punitive nature of the blockade, although it is denied by those who strongly support the Government of Israel, is acknowledged by those who administer it as an act of collective punishment…. There are issues that must be addressed with Egypt, and I do not think that its position is awfully helpful.” He questions the suggestion that Israel would end the blockade, end its illegal settlement enterprise and allow the establishment of a Palestinian state if Hamas would voluntarily disarm. “The parties in Israel are opposed to the establishment of a Palestinian state, so that premise is deeply flawed. In the west bank, the Palestine Liberation Organisation adopted non-violent resistance to the occupation in 1988. In the years since, what has been its reward? House demolitions, the expansion of illegal settlements, the arrival of hundreds of thousands of illegal settlers, continued oppression, the arrest of children and the subjugation of military occupation. My hon. Friend’s suggestion is not conducive to peace, because it proposes only to remove Hamas’s weapons. It would not address the factors that lead people in the west bank towards violence. Let us learn from the peace process in Northern Ireland. We are treating the symptoms and not the cause. We must address the blockade, and rather than undermining Palestinian political institutions that seek a peaceful resolution to the conflict, we should strengthen them.”
– Andy McDonald: “Any proposal for ending conflict between Gaza and Israel that does not prioritise the upholding of international law and a just settlement between Israel and Palestine is bound to fail. Indeed, the failure of the international community to halt the colonial theft of Palestinian land and to broker a just peace is the greatest provocation of further unrest.” Oslo has failed. “Palestinians have been asked to sacrifice almost every conceivable right or claim to justice at the altar of negotiation. That has afforded the Government of Israel unparalleled impunity for its many crimes against the Palestinian people. With each unpunished transgression, those on the Israeli right are encouraged to continue to act as they like, however immoral or illegal their actions, safe in the knowledge that there will be no adverse consequences. Palestinians are told that they must negotiate for their rights, their statehood and their freedom from occupation. Meanwhile, the party with which they must negotiate changes the facts on the ground day by day to make the realisation of those rights an ever more distant prospect.” The Israelis were not expected to negotiate with the Palestinians for their rights. “Most of the current Israeli Government—those with whom the Palestinians are told they must negotiate to obtain their rights—are on record as saying that they fundamentally oppose the establishment of a Palestinian state.” Our Government should respect the will of Parliament, immediately recognise Palestine and support the unity Government, in which Hamas is to take a back seat.”
– Gareth Thomas, winding up for the Opposition front bench, had many questions for the Minister about the shortfall in international aid; he wanted to know when the next DfID disbursement was planned.
– Tobias Ellwood, winding up for the Government, expressed frustration at having only nine minutes for his speech because of the Division at 4pm.
“May I ask the powers that be, if they happen to be listening, that we have a longer debate on a more regular basis, such is the importance of the issue?” The UK has provided more than £17 million in emergency assistance and pledged more than £20 million at the Gaza reconstruction conference in October, with a quarter of our pledge having already been distributed. “We continue to stress to the Israeli authorities the damage that their restrictions are doing to ordinary Palestinians in Gaza. We are clear that supporting legal trade for Gazans is firmly in Israel’s long-term interests. We are concerned about the closure of the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt. Indeed, let us open the other crossing. The Rafah crossing is a pedestrian crossing that needs to be converted into a wider one for vehicles. The Kerem Shalom crossing could be expanded, and Erez is another one that needs to be widened…..
An agreement should also ensure that Israel lifts its restrictions in order to ease the suffering of ordinary Palestinians, and allow the Gazan economy to grow. In response to some of the comments that have been made today, we are lobbying Israel on the transfer of goods from Gaza to the west bank. We want an increase in the fisheries zone from six miles to the 20 miles that was in the Oslo peace accords. We want further movement of people out of Gaza at some of the crossing points that I mentioned. We also want Israel involved in longer-term strategic measures such as power, water and exports. I have personally lobbied Federica Mogherini. She and others in the European Union could promote the idea of getting the marina working. Let us have an umbilical cord going from Gaza to the EU via Cyprus, which is secure, with the agreement of the Israelis.” Unfreezing the tax revenues would also help. HMG are disappointed about the political stalemate between Fatah and Hamas, and would encourage the PA to increase their footprint in Gaza, which requires their being able to get there. “We call on Israelis to allow the movement of people, particularly the politicians, to be able to exert their leverage. We are also emphasising the need to resume talks on a long-term ceasefire to achieve stabilisation….. We want to facilitate the contacts towards reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas. We want Egypt to resume its important role in hosting the talks that began in Cairo.”
– Jim Hood (in the Chair): Suggests they could come back after the Division but they did not do so.
Throughout the debate interventions were made or attempted by: Andrew Percy, Chi Onwurah, Bob Blackman, Karen Buck, Yasmin Qureshi, Neil Carmichael, Debbie Abrahams, David Burrowes, Mark Durkan, Jim Shannon.
Hansard video: http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Main/Player.aspx?meetingId=17271 duration 1hr 28mins
- Gavin Shuker: What financial contribution does the Government plan to make to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in (a) 2015-16 and (b) 2016-17?
Commons Written Answers
MONDAY 23 FEBRUARY 2015
- Sir John Stanley: Pursuant to the Answer of 9 February 2015 regarding the standard individual export licence for equipment employing cryptography and software for equipment employing cryptography to the value of £7.7 billion approved by his Department for export to Israel and the OPTs [ed: http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Commons/2015-02-02/222938], will BIS Secretary say what the reasons were for the surrender of that licence by the exporter in August 2014; what role was played by his Department in the surrender of that licence; and what the reasons were for his Department’s approval of that licence in the first quarter of 2013 when it was then surrendered unused by the exporter 18 months later?
- Richard Burden: What steps is Foreign Secretary taking to ensure that UK-based private security companies operating in (a) Israel and (b) the Occupied Palestinian Territories adhere to the International Code of Conduct for private security service providers; and will he make a statement?
- Ian Austin: What is Foreign Secretary’s policy on promoting the demilitarisation of Gaza? [ed: the wrong reply was attached by Hansard; see Nos 4 and 5 below]
- Ian Austin: What assessment has Foreign Secretary made of progress in the demilitarisation of Gaza?
- Liam Byrne: Pursuant to the Answer of 29 January 2015 [ed: http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Commons/2015-01-27/222138/, which organisations are involved in the process of clearing home-owners’ applications to the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism; how many applicants have been rejected during that process; and what the involvement of the Israeli government is in assessing the security risks associated with each application?
- Jeremy Corbyn: Has the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Department agreed arrangements with the Israeli government to ensure that all animal products exported from Israel to the UK originate wholly within Israel and not from Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories?
Nos 1-6 Commons Written Answers
- Lord Carlile: What is HMG’s assessment of Iran’s financial and material support for international terror groups?
- Lord Grade: What is HMG’s assessment of Iran’s financial and material support for Hamas?
- Baroness Tonge: What discussions have HMG had with the government of Israel concerning its financing of the World Zionist Organization to assign Palestinian land to Jewish settlers?
- Baroness Tonge: Were the new European Union guidelines on settlements published in their entirety on 1 January; and are there any plans to make the guidelines obligatory?
- Baroness Tonge: What representations have HMG made to the government of Israel about the suspension of the pilot programme to end night arrests of Palestinian children?
- Baroness Tonge: Further to the Answer on 2 February [ed: http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Lords/2015-01-26/HL4414],do HMG, in the light of recent reports of shell shock among Gazan children, have any plans to ask the government of Israel to refrain from mock aerial fighter displays; and what funding or help is the United Kingdom providing to treat trauma in young children in Gaza?
- Baroness Tonge: How many children with life altering injuries from the recent conflict are receiving rehabilitation outside Gaza; how many are still within Gaza; and what rehabilitation facilities exist in Gaza following the bombing of Al Wafah hospital?
- Lord Davies of Stamford: What is HMG’s assessment of the reconstruction and demilitarisation of Gaza?
- Bishop of Southwark: What is HMG’s assessment of the current humanitarian situation in Gaza?
- Lord Hylton: What assessment have HMG made of any proposals to prevent burns and other accidents in Gaza caused by overcrowding and unsafe heating and lighting?
- Bishop of Southwark: What assessment have HMG made of the funding available to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East in Gaza?
- Bishop of Southwark: Do HMG intend to pledge any funds to assist United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East in Gaza to restart its cash assistance programme in Gaza?
Nos 7-18 Lords Written Answers