This week’s Parliamentary week includes a debate with the House of Commons on the UK’s role in the Middle East. This is a summary of what MPs and Peers have said in the Houses of Commons and Lords about Palestine and Israel.
WEDNESDAY 2 DECEMBER 2015
- ISIL in Syria:
– Yasmin Qureshi: [extract] Finally, General Hitit of the Lebanese army, a Christian Maronite, explained what was central to the whole issue. Some people may strike me down on this, but it was said that the Israel-Palestine conflict has to be the key. That was said not just in Beirut but in Cairo and Amman. It is key; it is a big recruitment driver. Until that situation is sorted out, there will never be peace in the middle east.
– Martin Vickers: [extract] We want to help and support our French neighbours because, unlike the suffering that we often see on our TV screens in, say, Gaza, Yemen or Mali, which tend to be distant places, we can readily identify with them.
– Tania Mathias: [extract] I am reassured that all our action will be for those refugees as well—the Palestinian refugees in the camp provided by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency in Syria.
– Philippa Whitford: [edited extract] I am glad to follow the hon. Member for Twickenham (Dr Mathias). We overlapped slightly in Gaza, where we both served…… When I worked in Gaza, people described to me death falling from the sky all the time—sometimes directly from western powers, sometimes from regimes that we either supported or created, all the way from the Shah of Iran to Saddam Hussein.
- Syria: UK Military Action:
– Lord Hylton: [extract] Above all, we should not forget the unresolved and worsening conditions of Palestine and Israel. Everyone in the Middle East and north Africa knows about it, even the illiterate. Failures on every side cast this country and the West in general as invaders, crusaders and oppressors. It is a constant spur to terrorism. We must use every possible channel, official and unofficial, for the crucial task of peace-building. Moral imagination suggests that new Palestinian elections after nearly 10 years might allow a younger and more united leadership to emerge.
– Lord Turnberg: [extract] Iran and its proxies threaten Jordan and Israel, both strong supporters of the West and both of which feel very threatened. Incidentally, there is this strange idea floating about that all the problems of the Middle East are somehow due to Israel’s inability to reach agreement with the Palestinians—the Saudi ambassador said as much in the Times today. Does anyone really believe that if Israel did not exist, all would be sweetness and light with Daesh? That hardly seems credible.
- Lord Hylton: Will HMG make representations to the government of Egypt about the alleged involvement of Egyptian forces in the death at sea of Firas Miqdad, a fisherman from Gaza?
- Lord Hylton: What representations have HMG made to the government of Israel following the Decision adopted by the IPU’s Governing Council meeting on 21 October concerning Palestinian parliamentarians, in particular about the health of those parliamentarians being detained, access for family visits, and grounds for early release?
Nos 3-4 Lords Written Answers
TUESDAY 1 DECEMBER 2015
- Foreign Secretary attended Foreign Affairs Council on 16 November in Brussels, chaired by Federica Mogherini; in the presence of EU Special Representative Fernando Gentilini, it discussed the situation in the middle east in the light of the increased violence, particularly in East Jerusalem, the west bank and Gaza, focusing on the peace process. Member states agreed that the EU should explore what it could do on the ground to help preserve the two-state solution.
Commons Written Statements
- Jim Shannon: What recent discussions has Foreign Secretary had with his counterpart in the Israeli government on the prevention of attacks by Palestinians on Israelis?
Commons Written Answers
MONDAY 30 NOVEMBER 2015
- Backbench Debate on the UK’s Role in the Middle East – tabled by Phillip Lee:
– Phillip Lee: Says that in the short time since he made his initial application to the Backbench Business Committee there have been numerous developments that are relevant to this debate, including more lives lost in the on-going conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
– Peter Grant: [edited extract] Advent….is a time of reflection and preparation, to celebrate the birth of a convicted and executed criminal, a Palestinian Jewish refugee whose message of peace and good will to all is as desperately needed today as it ever has been at any time in the 2,000 years since he walked the very lands we are speaking about this evening…. I want to see the United Kingdom adopt a foreign policy that is morally right, rather than simply what is right in terms of political, economic or diplomatic expediency. Against those measures, it has to be said that the United Kingdom’s record has not been particularly impressive….. We honour the Israeli Prime Minister with a full state visit despite the fact that the UK Government’s position is that the Israeli Government are acting against international law by occupying Palestinian territories. We allow weapons and military hardware to be sent to Israel and then pretend not to know that they could be contributing to the deaths of hundreds of innocent women and children in Palestine.
– Angela Watkinson: [edited extract] I want to focus my remarks on the value of our constructive relationship with Israel and the contribution that it makes to peace and stability. The selective discrimination against Israel in UK university campuses contrasts with the huge benefits of BIRAX—the Britain Israel Research and Academic Exchange Partnership—which is an initiative of the British embassy in Israel and the British Council. Israel is a multiracial, multi-ethnic democracy where Arab, Druze and other minorities are guaranteed equal rights under law. Israel’s declaration of independence grants “all Israel’s inhabitants equality of social and political rights irrespective of religion, race or gender”, and it is currently the only functioning democracy in the middle east. In stark contrast to other middle eastern countries, there are no legal restrictions on movement, employment, or sexual or marital relations for any of Israel’s citizens. All Israeli citizens from every minority vote in elections on an equal basis. In the past two months, there have been over 90 terror attacks that have seen the deaths of 21 Israelis and many more injuries from stabbings, shootings and car rammings. Yet Israeli hospitals have treated both victims and terrorists regardless of their nationality…..
[Andy Slaughter intervention: If the hon. Lady is going to quote statistics, she should perhaps do so completely. Since the beginning of October, the violence on the west bank has resulted in 85 Palestinian deaths and 11 Israeli deaths, and 9,171 Palestinian injuries and 133 Israeli injuries. That is a ratio of 69:1.]
….. In addition, Israel has participated in disaster relief efforts worldwide, most recently providing assistance to Syrian refugees arriving in Greece and elsewhere. Violence has been fomented by repeated inflammatory and false allegations from the Palestinian Authority, Fatah and Hamas accusing Israel of planning to destroy the al-Aqsa mosque and other Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem. Yet Hadassah medical centre, home to Jerusalem’s largest emergency ward, treats the city’s wounded regardless of whether they are victims or attackers, and co-operation between Palestinian and Israeli doctors has helped to save 607 Palestinian children since 2005. The hospital has mixed Jewish and Arab medical staff and routinely treats both attackers and victims, often in adjacent wards…..
[John Howell intervention: I wonder whether my hon. Friend, like me, has been to Save a Child’s Heart in Tel Aviv and acknowledges that the work that the doctors there do in the Palestinian territories, particularly in Gaza, is second to none in saving children’s lives.]
……My hon. Friend is absolutely right. When I continue my remarks, he will find that I cover that. Israel’s Teva Pharmaceutical Industries provides the NHS with one in six of its prescription medicines, making it the NHS’s largest supplier of generic drugs. It is leading the world in the development of drugs to combat Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, Parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis. Scientists have developed methods for producing human growth hormone and interferon, a group of proteins effective against viral infections. Copaxone, a medicine effective in the treatment of multiple sclerosis, was developed in Israel by Teva Pharmaceuticals from basic research to industrial production. It has also developed early diagnosis for mad cow disease and Creutzfeldt-Jakob genetic disease in humans, with a urine test instead of a brain biopsy, and identified the gene that causes muscular dystrophy and the gene linked to post-traumatic stress disorder. In July 2015 the British embassy announced three new water research programmes between UK and Israeli scientists. The work of Israeli research institutions, such as Tel Aviv University and the Weizmann Institute of Science, improves the lives of people in water-poor countries by sharing Israel’s expertise in waste water treatment, purification and water reuse. The programmes will enable scientists from Britain, Israel and the region to work together to tackle water shortages. Israel is one of the founding members of Digital 5, a group of leading digital Governments who met for the first time in London in December 2014. In March 2015 it was announced that three UK-Israel academic collaboration projects will receive £1.2 million of cyber-research funding from the UK Government. The total value of trade and services between the UK and Israel is now more than £4.5 billion a year, and the UK is Israel’s second biggest export market. British businesses such as HSBC, GlaxoSmithKline, Barclays and Rolls-Royce have invested more than £1 billion in Israel. The UK and Israel work closely together in technological and scientific research, including cyber-security.
In short, Israel is a tolerant, fair society. Creative and innovative, it produces and develops, and it advances knowledge. Britain’s close relationship with Israel is a force for good in the middle east, and it is essential that we build and maintain that strong relationship.
– Andy Slaughter: [edited extract] I am sorry that a few moments ago we listened to a speech that gave a very one-sided view of that situation [the current situation in Isrel-Palestine], which is at its most serious for many years. The issues are not new—we are familiar with them, including the growth of Israeli settlements, which now account for almost 600,000 people in the occupied territories; settler violence; a shoot-to-kill policy and increased use of live fire; increased use of home demolitions; child detention and administrative detention; pass laws, checkpoints and barriers; and restrictions of access to the Noble Sanctuary and other holy places. None of those things is new, but the intensification of their use by the occupying power is much more significant, and that is going on partly because of the extremism of the Israeli Government and partly because tragic events elsewhere in the middle east, including in Syria, give cover for it….. There are often distractions. Because the European Union has suddenly decided belatedly to impose labelling restrictions, Netanyahu said this morning that he was not going to talk to the EU. It is important that we do not import settlement goods, but, in the great scheme of the occupations, those are details. I can only quote from a recent article in The Guardian by Marwan Barghouti, who is a prisoner in Israel who wrote that “the last day of occupation will be the first day of peace.” That is what we should keep our eyes on—the fact that this is a country that has been occupied for many decades, and justice will never be achieved in Palestine until Israeli forces withdraw.
– Heather Wheeler: [edited extract] In stark contrast to such countries [where Christians are persecuted], the state of Israel remains committed to its declaration of independence pledge to “ensure the complete equality of all its citizens irrespective of religion.”
Since Israel’s founding in 1948, its Christian population has increased a thousand-fold. Today, Christianity is practised by more than 160,000 Israeli citizens, and it is the largest religious community in Israel after those of the Jews and the Muslims. Israel is home to the holiest sites in Christianity, including the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, where Jesus was crucified and resurrected; the Room of the Last Supper and the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem; and the Sea of Galilee in northern Israel, where Jesus practised his ministry. Though Christians are exempt from military service, thousands have volunteered and have been sworn in on special New Testaments printed in Hebrew. The level of freedom in Israel is remarkable when one considers the oppression and persecution faced by citizens in neighbouring countries, including those under the Palestinian Authority in the west bank and under the oppressive rule of Hamas in Gaza. In 1950, 15% of the population in the west bank was Christian in 1950; now, it is less than 2%. A generation ago, as many as 80% of Bethlehem’s population were Christian. This figure has now decreased to 10% owing, it is said, to land theft, intimidation and beatings. We must continue to work together with Israel, a country that upholds the rights of minorities in this turbulent region and the only country in the middle east that shares our democratic values. I call on the Government to draw attention to the devastating decline in the Christian population in the middle east and to dissociate themselves from any countries that sanction minorities for their religious beliefs or ethnic origin.
– Tobias Ellwood: [edited extract] From the 1820 Trucial States treaty with the Gulf kingdoms, the so-called veiled protectorate rule of Egypt, the San Remo conference and the Balfour declaration, Britain’s history, for better or worse, is deeply intertwined and inextricably linked with the security, economy, governance and, in some cases, the very creation of states across the region….
Today, UK trade with the middle east and north Africa is worth £35 billion a year. For example, …..in Israel, the Prime Minister has launched a thriving bilateral active technology community hub. Such strong relationships create the trust that allows us to raise issues such as human rights, the rule of law and other aspects of justice, and to have these frank conversations.
– Tommy Sheppard: [edited extract] My third and final point, relating to the need for consistency and coherence, is the Israel-Palestine question, which has in many ways been overlooked in the last few years. The situation there is getting worse than it has ever been before. The violence is reaching very intense levels, and, as was pointed out earlier by, I think, the hon. Member for Hammersmith (Andy Slaughter), the disparity in that violence is really quite marked. The number of casualties on the two sides is entirely unequal, and many aspects of the reaction of the Israeli defence forces are disproportionate and, indeed, could be considered unlawful. We cannot continue to ignore the situation in Palestine, in the occupied territories and the green zone….
[Tom Tugendhat intervention: Will the hon. Gentleman forgive me if I make a very short comment on the Israel-Palestine question? He has raised some excellent points, and is advancing an extremely fluent argument encompassing most of the middle east. What has struck me over the past four or five years—and I wonder whether it has struck him as well—is that since the so-called Arab spring, the question of Israel has not been mentioned on the Arab streets. The question is not whether or not Israel is legitimate or illegitimate; it relates to the governance of the Arab countries themselves. Is it not incumbent on us to focus on that question of governance—of which the hon. Gentleman himself has just spoken so fluently—rather than sending ourselves down a rabbit hole and talking about the Israel-Palestine question, which is, let’s face it, distinct from the question of governance in the region?]
……It is distinct, but it is not possible to consider a lasting peace in the middle east without addressing the situation there, which I think is being brushed under the carpet at the moment. In the occupied territories, the Israeli Government are sponsoring and supporting both the development of new settlements and the demolition of Palestinian homes and properties, which is creating a situation that is close to the annexation of those occupied territories by the state of Israel. That may be Israel’s intention, but if it pursues the same path, the viability of a separate Palestinian state will not be there, and hence the two-state solution will not be there. If the Israeli Government intend to continue their present policies, the Israeli Government should be challenged to say what they consider to be the longer-term conditions for a settlement of the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis in that part of the world. Meanwhile, millions of Palestinian refugees are still being held in the refugee camps in neighbouring countries, in a sort of holding pattern, and are being denied any hope or any prospect of a place that they can call home. I must say in all seriousness that one of the things that this country could do—acting in concert with other western countries—is try to take a fresh initiative on the question of Israel-Palestine, and be seen to try to advocate the human rights of Palestinians and the requirement for a lasting and balanced peace in the area. I think that that would, single-handedly, do a great deal to undermine and counter much of the mythology that is being put about on the issue of Daesh, and the suggestion that this is a conflict between the west and Islam. We should be seen to take new action on Palestine, but at present no one is talking, and no talks are planned for the future. I know from correspondence with the Minister that he is sympathetic to much of what I have just said, but this seems to be the policy that dare not speak its name. The United Kingdom cannot continue to be silent on what is happening in that part of the world.
– David Jones: [extract] I would like to focus on what is for many the kernel of the middle eastern problem—namely, the issue of Israel and Palestine. As the hon. Member for Edinburgh East pointed out, that issue seems to have been overlooked in recent years, but it is now bursting on to the international consciousness as a result of the increasingly violent tension in that country.
Since the beginning of October, the violence in Israel and the west bank has resulted in the deaths of 85 Palestinians and 11 Israelis, and more than 9,000 Palestinians and 133 Israelis have been injured. There is talk of this being the third intifada. The latest surge in violence began after a Palestinian stabbed two Israelis to death in the old city of Jerusalem, which all hon. Members would of course condemn. We have to wonder, however, whether the Israelis acted proportionately in their response. They have erected more walls to surround the west bank, and added to the 750 km of security fences that are rapidly caging in the west bank. They have fired at protesters on the Gaza border, and early in October, nine Palestinians were killed in what Israel claimed was an attempt to bridge the fence. The causes of the conflict are many and various. They go back to the 1967 six-day war and beyond. However, it seems that the recent escalation was sparked, at least in part, by the Israelis placing restrictions on access to the al-Aqsa compound in Jerusalem’s old city. The French Government have called for an international observer force to be deployed at the holy sites, and I strongly urge the Government to give consideration to that proposal. The al-Aqsa compound has been a source of tension for many, and if Britain could play a part in defusing that tension, it would be doing a wonderful thing. Many people in this country—and, indeed, in this House—fully understand that Israel’s history renders it unique and that it is concerned about its borders, but it has to remember that it is a democracy. Many of its actions in the region do it a huge disservice, particularly the increase in the number of settlements on the west bank. In fact, the settlement programme continues unabated. On 8 October, Israel’s Defence Minister said that settlement building “was not frozen for even a minute”,
and pledged that Israel would continue to “build in the future”. If Israel continues to deny the Palestinians any prospect of constituting themselves as a state and of living with the kind of dignity that they are entitled to, it will continue to experience the sort of violence that it is facing at the moment. As my hon. Friend the Member for Hornchurch and Upminster (Dame Angela Watkinson) said, Israel has a great deal to commend it. Like her, I have visited the Hadassah hospital in East Jerusalem, which treats patients of Israeli and Palestinian extraction equally. However, continuing to deny the Palestinians a homeland of their own will result only in the continued escalation of the violence. It will, as the hon. Member for Edinburgh East put it, render the prospect of a two-state solution almost impossible. In the climate talks in Paris today, the Israeli Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, and the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, shared a handshake. That could possibly be the start of a dialogue between the two sides, and it is dialogue that is needed, rather than what the Secretary-General of the United Nations has referred to as the continued enclosure of the Palestinians behind walls. We have to find our way towards a solution, and I believe that this country, with its long history in the middle east, could play its part in that. With goodwill on both sides, we may yet see a resolution of that most persistent of conflicts.
– Keith Vaz: [extract] Says one reason why Yemen is not often discussed “could be because we are always talking about the situation between Palestinian and Israel” and Syria.
– Mark Durkan: [extract] It has also been important to hear about what many would regard as the most enduring middle east conflict—the situation in Israel and Palestine. The hon. Member for Edinburgh East (Tommy Sheppard) and the right hon. Member for Clwyd West (Mr Jones) spoke compellingly about why that situation should not be losing attention as it appears to be relative to what is going on in Syria and elsewhere. Let us remember that that situation is one of the factors that is used in the wider radicalisation agenda that too many people seek to promote. If we are to confront the evil logic and the cynical rationale that are used by Daesh and others who come up with a perverted extremist Islamist view of the world, we need to remember that they cite the west’s ineffectual position on Palestine as one of their main bits of evidence for our unsuited interest in the region. Let us remember that that conflict, which is being pursued with yet more demolitions and more settlements, has had a pretty ineffectual diplomatic response from the west—the same west that is talking about marshalling our best diplomatic efforts, military action and humanitarian aid into a comprehensive strategy in Syria. Then people will ask, “What quality will this huge diplomatic effort have? Where do we see this huge diplomatic effort elsewhere? Do we see it in the middle east and Palestine?” Frankly, people do not see it there. People see the EU and its member states adopting essentially a screensaver approach to what is happening to the Palestinians. Shapes are thrown, images are projected and impressions are created, but nothing real is going on. When was the last time that the Israeli Government took seriously any strong diplomatic message from EU Governments or the UK Government about any of those on-going violations?
– John Howell: [edited extract] ISIL is but one manifestation of the evil of radical Islam. It would be unwise now to cast similarly reprehensible groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra, Hezbollah, Hamas and others in a different or, indeed, a better light….. Some, such as the Foreign Minister of Sweden, have relayed the misguided notion that the prolonged Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the root of the current turmoil in the middle east and that once it is resolved the blight of Islamist radicalism will end. That is simply not the case. In fact, part of the reason we are in this current state is that too much focus rather than too little has been placed on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at the expense of other conflicts in the region. I was at a dinner last week at which a somewhat left-wing Canadian journalist made a speech with which I happened completely to agree. He said that when he first went to Israel, he pointed out that in his news office there were a huge number of journalists concentrating on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at the expense of the whole of the region. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is at best a minor sideshow. The wars in Libya, Syria, Iraq, Yemen and elsewhere have raged on, yet just last week the UN decided to pass six resolutions against Israel, the only stable democracy in the region. To suggest that the existence of Israel is at the root of the entire middle east’s turbulence today is to overlook the sectarian divisions in the region that have existed for centuries…. The AKP Government in Turkey…. are a vocal supporter of the terrorist group Hamas, which has masterminded deadly attacks against Israelis from its Istanbul headquarters…..
The situation in the middle east is very confused, but it is not surprising, in my view, that the western press ignored totally the rise of ISIL, because they were not looking. All their action was focused on what was happening in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, not in the wider middle east….. We all need to concentrate on that and to ensure that the press do not just focus on the one thing that it is easy for them to get a grip on, which is made easy by the openness of Israel in allowing the press in and allowing access to everything that there is to talk about in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
– Edward Argar: [edited extract] The middle east is a region I know well, having spent time in Yemen, Oman, Syria, Lebanon and Israel and Palestine…. A key part of that wider context is the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, which has long been a running sore, with its origins in the days of more direct British involvement in the region. While I have huge respect for my hon. Friend the Member for Henley (John Howell), with whom I agree on many things, I cannot agree with him that this is but a sideshow. For too long, the leaders of both sides have let down their people by not making greater progress in delivering peace, and it is the ordinary people of both sides who have suffered. It is more important than ever that we join with others who desire peace to work to achieve a long-term solution to the conflict, however distant that may appear at times……
Seema Kennedy intervention: Does my hon. Friend agree that the main external actor in the Israel-Palestine situation is the United States, and that Britain can play a very important role in assisting the United States in understanding the regional dispute in Israel-Palestine and, we hope, bringing it to the two-state solution that we all desire?
…..I agree entirely with my hon. Friend. The United Kingdom, with its historical links and understanding of the region, has the potential to play a positive role in helping to move us towards peace not only between Israel and Palestine but in the wider region more generally. The basic ingredient of a long-term settlement must include an Israel secure within her borders, recognised fully by her neighbours, freed from all acts of aggression and threats of terrorism, and living peacefully alongside a viable, independent Palestine. Alongside these key elements, sharing Jerusalem must be part of any agreement, as would be compromise from the Palestinians on their claim to a right of return and the recognition by Israel that settlements on Palestinian land are illegal and wrong and must be given up. Too often in this debate, people say that they are pro-Israel or pro-Palestinian. I believe that in order to be pro-peace, one must be pro-both. While the urgency of finding a solution can at times appear to be lesser, the importance of doing so has never been greater, and we must play our role in restarting stalled peace talks.
– Chris Green: [edited extract] It is important to recognise ISIL’s objectives….. Israel has been mentioned a few times, but it has not yet become involved in this conflict. If ISIL becomes established in the middle east, at what point will it turn its eyes towards Israel?
– Stephen Phillips: [edited extract] A solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict is no nearer than it was when I entered the House. Indeed, it seems to me clear that the two-state solution is effectively dead…. Today, we heard from the middle east Minister, but his colleagues in the Foreign Office have a broader remit, and the responsibility of the Government, bilaterally and within the United Nations, must be to ensure that we act in concert with our allies and that our message on all issues is clear. Without that clarity from the west—on Israel/Palestine, the rise of ISIL/Daesh and the issue of pervasive sectarianism—we risk creating divides that can be exploited by extremists.
– Tania Mathias: [edited extract] I wish to focus particularly on the role that is nearly 100 years old—a role that started off with a declaration from the UK Government that said: “Her Majesty’s Government views with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.” The same declaration also said that it was “clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of non-Jewish communities in Palestine”. My point is that our role then decreased in 1948, and many people in that area—Arabs, Israelis and Palestinians—would say that the UK Government walked away and “left the key under the mat”….. I believe that the UK’s role has been lacking in the Palestine-Israel area, and that the UK must continue to negotiate and have diplomacy. We must still be talking about the borders of Palestine-Israel. We must still be talking about the settlements. We must still be talking about security for Palestine and Israel. We must talk about refugees’ rights to return, which I have raised with the Minister with responsibility for Syrian refugees. I particularly asked what was happening for the Palestinian refugees who are in the Syrian camps. Can they go home; will there be homes built for them in Palestine? We must, of course, also still talk about Jerusalem. The UK’s role and responsibility in the middle east must be long term and ongoing. Contrary to what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Henley (John Howell), this is not a sideshow. There can be no long-term peace and stability in the region until there is peace and stability for Palestine and Israel.
– Bob Blackman: [edited extract] Other Members have alluded to the ongoing problems between Israel and Palestine, the area that has failed to be addressed. I speak as someone who has been on visits to Israel and the west bank with both the Conservative Friends of Israel and the Palestinian Return Centre to see both sides of the argument. One depressing thing about the Palestinian representation is how badly they have been let down by their leadership and by their legal advisers, and how they have failed to see any progress towards achieving what they all want to achieve, which is an outright country—a state that is independent and secure. Israel has to take steps to maintain security. In 2014, Israel, whose territory was subjected to more than 5,000 rockets and bombs sent from Gaza, had to take action against Hamas and the Hamas dictatorship that is misleading Gaza. The reality is that even now Hamas is diverting the international aid that Britain and other countries are putting in to rebuild the terror tunnels it began. Hamas is also utilising the money to fuel hate-filled lessons in ideology in that region, and is preventing the international aid from coming in. It has even prevented the setting up of a water desalination plant which would enable all the people of Gaza to enjoy clean drinking water at first hand. That is extremely regrettable…..
– Tania Mathias intervention: I agree that the rebuilding in Gaza is crucial. Will my hon. Friend join me in asking the Minister whether there is a way we can monitor it, through our staff or UN staff on the ground?
…..It is key that we monitor what is done. Clearly, Hamas is still using its power to divert aid and prevent ordinary Palestinians from receiving the aid that they so desperately need. It is a scandal that more than a year after the conflict, people who were made homeless as a result of that conflict are still homeless in Gaza. Hamas and its distorted ideology prevent progress from happening. We see a series of other potential conflicts to come. In Lebanon, Hezbollah has reinforced its forces as a result of being a proxy for Iran, and many hundreds of thousands of rockets are now aimed at Israel, in order to destabilise the region. In Syria, Assad’s regime directly assists Hamas and Hezbollah in rearming. We cannot deal with these countries in isolation.
– Diana Johnson summing up: [edited extract] It is unusual to have a debate on the middle east where Israel and Palestine are not the main focus, but we have had important contributions from the hon. Members…. who all talked about how important Israel and Palestine are to the region. We all know that there are no peace talks at present and there seems to be little prospect of a return to negotiations in the short term. I agree with the view expressed by the hon. Member for Edinburgh East (Tommy Sheppard), who speaks for the SNP, who said that the Government need to do all they can to urge a return to the negotiating table. It falls on all politicians in all parts of the House to reach out to the leaders in both Israel and Palestine and ask them not to take steps that will make a return to negotiations harder to achieve. This means an end to blockade and occupation, and an end to rocket and terror attacks.
- Angela Rayner: What recent steps have HMG taken to advance peace talks in Israel and the Palestinian Territories?
3. Charles Walker: What UN initiatives is the UK supporting that aim to promote reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians and establishment of a Palestinian nation state that is recognised both internationally and by Israel?
4. Charles Walker: What discussions have the Foreign Secretary or his officials had with Dr Salim Munayer and Musalah on prospects for reconciliation between Israel and Palestine; and will he make a statement?
5. Andy Slaughter: What steps is DEFRA Secretary taking to (a) enforce the European Commission Interpretative Notice, C2015 7834 final, on the indication of origin of goods from territories occupied by Israel since June 1967 and (b) ensure that penalties for mis-labeling of such products are effective, proportionate and dissuasive?
Nos 2-5 Commons Written Answers
- Baroness Tonge: Whatrepresentations are HMG making to the government of Israel regarding the undercover raid by Israeli armed forces on a hospital in Hebron, resulting in the death of a relative of the suspect?
- Baroness Tonge:What representations have HMG made to the government of Israel following reports that Palestinian families living in the Humsa al Buqai’a herding community have been displaced to allow Israeli military training to be conducted?
- Baroness Tonge: What representations have HMG made to the government of Israel about the arrest and interrogation by Israeli police of Palestinian children in East Jerusalem, in particular regarding reports that children aged between six and 12 have been arrested and interrogated without a parent present?
- Lord Warner: What information have HMG received from the UN or other independent sources about the number of (1) deaths of, and (2) injuries to, (a) Palestinians, and (b) Israelis, in the Occupied Palestinian Territories as a result of attacks for each of the last three years; what information do they have on the number of perpetrators brought to justice for such attacks in the last 12 months; and what representations have they made to the government of Israel in the past 12 months on those issues?
- Baroness Tonge: What representations have HMG made to the government of Israel about its decision to approve the construction of Israeli settlement units in Bethlehem and close to Ramallah?
- Baroness Tonge: What representations have HMG made to the government of Israel about the construction of solar farms in the West Bank on settlement land, and the protection for Palestinians’ solar installations?
- Lord Hylton: What action do HMG plan to take to minimise the restrictions and difficulties experienced by Palestinians both inside the Occupied Territories and in adjoining countries?
- Lord Luce: Are HMG considering recognising Palestine as a state?
- Lord Hylton: What assessment have HMG made of the value of Palestinian universities as a human resource for Palestine and the wider Middle East; and what additional resources and support do they plan to provide for their development and contribution to peace-building?
Nos 6-14 Lords Written Answers