FRIDAY  17  JANUARY  2014

Foreign Secretary to attend 20 January Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) in Brussels; UK will want the discussions on the MEPP to focus on how the EU can best support the current negotiations.

Commons Written Statements

THURSDAY  16  JANUARY  2014

1. Richard Burden:  Pursuant to the answer of 6 January, for what reason did the reports which the DfID Secretary received conclude that emergency response systems were working adequately?

[See Richard Burden’s 3rd question for the 6 January answer]

Commons Written Answers

2. Earl of Sandwich: How many asylum-seekers are currently in detention in the UK, of what nationality, and in which removal centres? [Lord Taylor of Holbeach’s written answer includes a table which shows that as at 30 September 2013 there were 2 asylum seekers from the OPTs in the Brook House IRC and 1 in the Dover IRC; there was also 1 from Israel in the Morton Hall IRC]

3. Lord Warner: What assessment have HMG made of the recent decision by the Israeli Defence Minister and security services to declare the Council for European Palestinian Relations “an illicit organisation” under Israel’s Security Regulations; and have they had any discussions with Israeli government representatives about the decision?

4. Lord Warner: Will HMG assess the implications for the safety of UK other EU parliamentarians wishing to visit Gaza or the West Bank through Israel of previous travel to those places under the auspices of the Council for European Palestinian Relations, now declared “an illicit organisation”?

5. Lord Warner: What discussions will HMG have with other EU governments about the implications for parliamentarians visiting Gaza or the West Bank through Israel of the decision by the Israeli Defence Minister and Security Services to declare the Council for European Palestinian Relations “an illicit organisation”?

6. Lord Warner: Will Ministers continue to meet UK parliamentarians to discuss their reports on the conditions of the Palestinian people living in Gaza or the West Bank if those reports derive from visits assisted by the Council for European Palestinian Relations?

7. Baroness Tonge: What discussions have been held regarding extending the deadline for the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks due to end in April?

Nos 3-7

8. Baroness Tonge: Do HMG have any plans to terminate their contracts with G4S, if that company is found by the OECD to be acting in Israel in contravention of government guidelines?

Nos 2-8 Lords Written Answers

9. Lord Stone of Blackheath (in 25th Anniversary of the World Wide Web debate): “A new Israeli start-up, Appick Shopping, will launch a new internet technology in the high street soon to make shopping more enjoyable. It is coming to London because it knows that we in the UK spread shopping technologies to the world.”

…….The web can be a vehicle for coherence for all beings. Its dangers lie not in the technology, but in whether users act mindfully. It can work in peacemaking, not only globally but locally. In Jerusalem, PICO—People, Ideas, Community, Opportunities—has an exciting new concept in co-working shared space, creating a grassroots change in a complex neighbourhood. It sets out to include both the Arab and Jewish communities in West Jerusalem and will link with a similar set-up in East Jerusalem. The web crosses the physical walls and those of culture and language. ”

Lords Debates

Baroness Falkner of Margravine (in “China: Air Defence Identification Zone” debate):  “I have to agree with RUSI’s assessment that China’s motives there [air defence identification zone] are probably to establish a quasi legal basis for boosting its sovereignty claims to the Senkaku. Changing the facts on the ground, as the Israelis famously demonstrate, or, in this case, the “lines on the map”, to underpin its long-term claims, can result in success.”

Lords Debates

WEDNESDAY  15  JANUARY  2014

1. Bilateral Relations: Kurdistan Region of Iraq:

– Martin Horwood: Mainly in the Kurdistan region but all over Iraq there are still Palestinian refugees; “the ultimate solution to all these problems is to press the peace processes for Syria, for Israel and Palestine, and across the region.”

Westminster Hall

2. Baroness Tonge: What information have HMG received relating to Israel’s investigation of the killing of Wajih al Ramahi in Jalazone refugee camp?

3. Lord Warner: Have UK security services been consulted by Shin Bet about named parliamentarians associated with the Council for European Palestinian Relations or any visits organised by the Council?

Nos 2-3 Lords Written Answers

TUESDAY  14  JANUARY  2014

1. Roger Godsiff: What representations has the Foreign Secretary made to Israel over the arrest and detention of Sireen Khudiri?

2. Richard Burden: Has Foreign Secretary raised with the Israeli Foreign Minister on 7 January the issue of Israel’s approval of new housing units at Ofra and Karnei Shomron illegal settlements, and the commitment made by UK and other EU member states at the FAC on 14 December 2013 to monitor settlement expansion and its broader implications and act accordingly ?

3. Sir Bob Russell: Will Foreign Secretary make it his policy to support an application for Palestinian membership of the International Olive Council?

4. Sir Bob Russell: Will Foreign Secretary make representations to Israel to end the blockade on Gaza; will he work with other EU countries to press Israel to allow essential equipment and parts to be brought in to Gaza for the building and operation of desalinisation and power plants; and will he make a statement?

Nos 3-4

Nos 1-4 Commons Written Answers

5. Short debate on role EU is playing to reach a wider Middle East peace settlement:

– Lord Soley: EU involvement has already benefited both parties in the dispute; it has promised substantial economic and political package once there is an agreement.

– Lord Carrington: Pays tribute to Sharon. While the conflict is not the root of all ME problems, they cannot be solved without finding a solution to it. Many Moslems believe US and EU support of Israel is absolute. EU’s role must be to support and put pressure on the Americans, and make clear to Israelis and Palestinians that only a two-state solution is possible and that “no other solution will be acceptable if money, technology and arms are still to flow to the region”.

– Lord Palmer of Childs Hill: Pays tribute to Sharon. Outlines details of EU FAC’s offer; Israel must not be the only side asked to make concessions; progress demands give and take. UK and EU constantly endorse Palestinian demand for ’67 lines to be the basis; Israel must be given assurance that an agreement would not threaten its existence as world’s only state with Jewish majority. PA and Hamas media glorification of terrorism and violence, the denial of the Jewish connection to the land and any right to statehood, as well as the continued Palestinian attacks on Israelis, send out very negative message to Israel about Palestinian intentions. EU should do more to pressure the PA to address that problem; could ministers strengthen public statements regarding glorification of violence against Israel in the Palestinian media?

– Baroness O’Loan: Talks movingly about her visit to a Gaza camp at Jaresh, in Jordan, where people have lived since fleeing from Gaza in 1967, cared for with UNWRA’s very limited resources. The people, including 5,000 plus children, have no future, no identity, no homeland; UNWRA is not enough; EU should encourage UN to conduct an audit of conditions in those forgotten camps, recognise its responsibilities to those forgotten people.

– Bishop of Worcester: Focuses on the Holy Land; describes himself as pro-Palestinian Zionist. Welcomes new EU guidelines on settlements and agreement on the EU Horizon 2020 programme. Prospect of building on Zone E1 close to Jerusalem would render contiguous Palestinian state well nigh impossible. Expansion of settlements not conducive to lasting and just peace settlement. Hopes more will be made of EU promise of incentives.

–  Lord Weindefeld:  EU could play important role but “the lacerated psyche of both nations needs considerable tact and respect” on EU’s part. “Pinpricks from Brussels, such as trade boycotts and academic and other cultural ostracism, inflame only one party.” The last batch of Palestinian prisoners released included “a man who killed a woman in the ninth month of pregnancy, three further children and an Israeli soldier trying to prevent this crime; he was hailed by President Abbas as a national hero and a model for Palestinian youth. No doubt, Palestinians could point to deeply offensive incidents allegedly committed by Israelis.” Settlements are a tremendous problem but their total area is less than 2% in Palestinian land. EU can do a great deal with tact and compassionate understanding for the two sides.

– Lord Leigh of Hurley: Declares interest as board member of the Jerusalem Foundation. Pays tribute to Sharon. Since 1994 EU has provided more than €5.6 billion in assistance to the Palestinian people, with UK being a very large contributor to this sum. European Court of Auditors’ Special Report No. 14 has found worrying evidence about payments to civil servants in Gaza and the fact that a significant proportion of the PA budget, partly financed by the EU Pegase programme, is used to pay a salary to Palestinian prisoners convicted of terrorist activities, running to a rate of nearly £3 million per month. Abbas praises as heroes those convicted terrorists whom Israel has “commendably” started to realease. EU should reflect on whether it should allow its – and our financial – support for Palestine to be used for prisoner salaries; it should follow example of the Portland Trust. Palestinian economic growth achieved 4.25% in 2013. By promoting prosperity of the region EU will enhance the peace process.

– Lord Anderson of Swansea: Israel is oasis of stability; no one can plausibly blame it for the entire MENA turmoil but the current Israeli Government’s settlement policy is placing obstacles in the path of a two-state solution. EU is the largest provider of development aid to the PTs. Will HMG press for the European Court of Auditors’ concerns to be addressed and will they seek to make the EU’s political weight in the region more commensurate with our financial contribution?

– Baroness Tonge: The length of time the peace process has taken has been one of the main factors in destabilising the Middle East. There are not many signs for optimism about the latest attempt. Hopes that EU, supported by UK, will suspend the EU Israel Association Agreement, depending as it does on Israel respecting Palestinians’ human rights. Even John Kerry has

warned of moves to delegitimise Israel, a “boycott campaign on steroids”, should talks fail. This boycott is already happening: settlement goods banned from some supermarket chains; Soda Stream, Ahava, G4S and Veolia have suffered; largest Dutch water company stopped collaboration with Mekorot; Romania banned its workers from going to work in settlements;

universities here and in South Africa are increasingly calling for academic boycotts. “Do we really want that? I certainly do not.” It would be a tragedy if Israel became isolated from international community. Regarding the amount of aid we pour into the OTs, as the Ambassador here [see item 6] and the World Bank have pointed out, Palestinians could run their own affairs if they were free of Israel’s iron grip on their resources. There must be investigation into corruption among the Palestinian administration: our aid money must be spent wisely. “Finally, if talks fail, we must insist that if Israel wants to go on occupying Palestinian land, it should pay for that occupation itself and not rely on the international community, especially the European Union, to foot the bill. We cannot let this injustice continue for another four decades.”

– Lord Mendelsohn: Pays tribute to Sharon. EU can play a role by encouraging regional relationships that provide confidence to the Palestinians and that support Israel’s security. EU must not undermine current talks by adopting positions that alter the balance of advantage during negotiations. Welcomes Foreign Secretary’s comments last week regarding the EU’s package.

– Lord Bew: US still the key player; it is not clear what is EU’s role in the changing relationship between Israel and the Arab Gulf countries. “I am not endorsing the dismissive attitude of the Israeli elite towards the EU over quite a period of time, which I think has been a mistake. However, I am saying that the EU has never found a consensus on using its economic power to gain political concessions from Israel, and so far its strategy has not worked.” EU should focus on state-building,  creating an environment in which Israelis and Palestinians can comfortably engage in areas of mutual benefit, such as water and energy. EU could do even more to help the high-tech companies and thousands of technology graduates in the PTs. Welcomes compromise on Horizon 2020 programme, which will not only benefit Israel: “It is not in the EU’s interests to drive Israel towards China and India. We have important interests of our own in ensuring the utmost co-operation with Israel’s scientific community.”

– Lord Triesman: EU has made huge efforts on the economy of Palestine; it must continue to engage the next generation positively; praises the disaster programme and Sir Ronnie Cohen’s work with the Portland Trust. Of course, much of the work has not succeeded. EU has a responsibility to help but also to criticise illegal settlements as well as rocket attacks.

– Baroness Warsi: Regrading the unprecedented package annnounced by the EU FAC on 16 December, “We are working with the European External Action Service to develop a firm offer in the coming months.” EU is the leading multilateral donor to the PA and provided $2.2 billion of support to the OTs between 2007-2013. UK and EU are working to build the institutions of the PA but accountability and transparency are important goals in strengthening governance. We are advising British businesses to bear in mind HMG’s view on the illegality of settlements under international law when considering their investment and activities in the region. “Like my noble friend Lady Tonge, the British Government opposed calls to boycott Israel….. We understand the concerns of people who do not wish to purchase goods exported from Israeli settlements in the OPTs. It was in order to enable consumers to make a more fully informed—”

Baroness Tonge (interrupting): “I thank the Minister for giving way, but I must correct something that she said. I do not oppose calls to boycott Israel; I said that it would be a tragedy if that is what had to happen.”

– Baroness Warsi: “My Lords, I stand corrected.” We understand the concerns of people who do not wish to purchase settlement goods, which is why in December 2009 the UK introduced voluntary labeling guidelines. EU-wide guidelines on the labelling of settlement produce would be an important step to ensure correct and coherent implementation of EU consumer protection and labelling legislation. We have regularly urged both parties to act against incitement in the media and strongly believe that President Abbas is a partner for peace. Now is the time to resolve conflict and move forward.

Lords Debates

6. Foreign Affairs Select Committee: Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories: prospects for 2014:

Witness 1: Manuel Hassassian, Head of the Palestinian Mission in London (approx half an hour);

Witness 2: Daniel Taub, Israeli Ambassador to the UK (approx half an hour);

Witness group 3:  (approx one hour)

– Professor Rosemary Hollis, Professor of Middle East Policy Studies, City University, London;

– Dr Ahron Bregman, Department of War Studies, Kings College London;

– Professor Yezid Sayigh, Senior Associate, Carnegie Endowment Middle East Center, Beirut.

Hansard video:

NB: Hansard transcript not available.

MONDAY  13  JANUARY  2014

1. Andrew Smith: What views did HMG communicate to the PA prior to or during the meeting of the International Olive Council on the PA’s membership of the Council?

Commons Written Answers