THURSDAY 3 JULY 2014
1. Business of the House:
– Gerald Kaufman: “Will the right hon. Gentleman ask the Foreign Secretary to make an urgent statement in which he condemns the murder by Israeli terrorists of the Palestinian, Mohammed Abu Khdeir, who was kidnapped yesterday? The murder was the outcome of the hysteria that was deliberately provoked by the Israeli Prime Minister following the kidnap and murder of three Israeli teenagers. Will he ask the Foreign Secretary to send our sympathy to the family of Mohammed Abu Khdeir; to join the American Secretary of State, John Kerry, who has described the murder as “sickening”; and to make it clear to the Israelis that we expect nothing more than the hunting down and bringing to justice of the murderers of this poor boy?”
– Andrew Lansley: All teenager murders are sickening; we condemn them all; we welcome Israel’s commitment to bring those responsible to justice and President Abbas’s condemnation; essential to avoid action or rhetoric that could lead to further loss of life; such events highlight importance of reaching a negotiated 2-s-s. “I will of course, as he asks, draw his comments to the attention of the Foreign Secretary…. These events and others in the middle east are of serious concern.”
2. Robert Halfon: “On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Following the question from the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Sir Gerald Kaufman), I fear that the wrong impression has been given to the House. The Israeli Prime Minister and the mayor of Jerusalem condemned the death of the Palestinian in Israel in the last few days. There is absolutely no evidence that that atrocity was carried out by an Israeli.”
Nos 1-2 Commons Oral Answers
3. Protecting Children in Conflict – Backbench Debate tabled by Fiona O’Donnell, MP for East Lothian:
– Louise Ellman: [extract] “Does she agree that it is wrong to incite to violence children in conflict situations? For example, a young boy who was speaking about a game being shown on Palestine TV in May said that Zion is Satan with a tail. Is it not terrible for someone to incite a young boy to make such a statement?”
– Fiona O’Donnell: [extract] “The Israeli-Palestinian conflict makes victims of children on both sides. The Leader of the Opposition was right to highlight the tragedy of Israeli children learning in schools which have to be able to survive rockets attacks from Gaza. What kind of environment is that for children to learn? I would be grateful if the Minister commented on last year’s UNICEF report which stated that the ill-treatment of Palestinian children in the Israeli military detention system was widespread, systematic and institutionalised. What discussions has his Department had with the Israeli Government and, given the recent loss of young Israeli and Palestinian lives, how is his Department working with the Department for International Development and NGOs to protect children, particularly in Gaza? I have constituents who have spent time working in the west bank, ensuring that Palestinian children can walk safely to school. Sadly, the people from whom they need to protect the children are all too often other children. Israeli settler children are taught terms of abuse and encouraged to throw stones. That is a tragedy and an abuse not just of the Palestinian children but of the Israeli children. They are all victims. That is why I tabled an early-day motion and wrote to the Foreign Secretary asking him to reintroduce funding for Breaking the Silence so that ordinary Israelis can hear credible voices telling them what is being done in their name. Children’s involvement in violence goes far beyond that kind of activity, however.”
– LE: “I take the point my hon. Friend makes very seriously; when wrongdoing occurs it must be put right. Does she agree with me that there is a consistent and relentless campaign of incitement to violence on the Palestinian media almost daily, which inevitably has an impact on young children who then start to commit acts of violence?”
– FO’D: [extract] “We know that children’s involvement in violence goes beyond the kind of activity seen in the WB.”
– Edward Leigh: [extract] “She was right to deal with the Palestinian situation, but I will not follow her example in any detail as I do not want to get involved in the debate about the rights and wrongs of the Palestinian issue, except for noting the suffering of both the Palestinian people and the Israeli people in a very difficult conflict…. The situation in northern Iraq is, dare I say it, even more terrible than what is going on in Palestine.”
– Grahame M Morris: [extracts] “Clearly, the events of the past few weeks have once again brought to our attention in this House and throughout the world the enduring suffering of children as a result of the Israel-Palestine conflict. I draw to the attention of the House my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests.” Expresses sympathy with families of Israeli youths; no hierarchy of victimhood; deaths of innocent Palestinian children equally tragic. “For Palestinians, this week’s kidnapping and murder of a 16-year-old boy in a suspected revenge attack and the two innocent teenagers shot dead by Israeli soldiers at Ofer in May this year are just as painful and just as tragic to the Palestinian communities as the deaths of the Israeli youths are for Israel. Since 2001, 1,407 Palestinian children have been killed by Israeli military forces and Israeli settlers as a consequence of an unjust and illegal military occupation. Worryingly, according to the United Nations, the instances of Israeli soldiers using live fire against the Palestinian civilian population in recent weeks have increased.” Condolences to all the families; those responsible should be brought to justice; no more families on either side should suffer such tragedies again; but suffering will go on until international law, UN resolutions and international conventions for peace are implemented in the ME. “There is a danger that the current climate of vengeance and retribution will worsen the situation. Uri Ariel, the Israeli housing Minister, has called for a “proper Zionist response”, meaning an acceleration of Israel’s illegal expansion of settlements in the west bank and East Jerusalem and a programme of punitive house demolitions. The Israeli Deputy Minister of Defence, Danny Danon, said that Israel should make the entire Palestinian leadership pay a heavy price for the killing of the three Israeli teenagers, and Mr Lieberman, the Israeli Foreign Minister, advocated a full-scale invasion of Gaza as a legitimate response. In the name of security, rights, justice and peace, the demands of these politicians must be rebutted, resisted and challenged by the international community.” Children always pay heaviest price. “I was interested in the intervention from my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Riverside (Mrs Ellman), in which she pointed out the radicalisation of Palestinian youth as a consequence of broadcasts in the Palestinian media. We should also think about the consequences of their day-to-day experience of being brutalised by the occupying power and the impact that that has on young minds. That cannot be discounted and the effects attributed to brainwashing by their own communities. These are relevant issues, but we cannot discount the huge pressures on the Palestinians’ day-to-day existence. Israel has by far the greater ability to make the Palestinians suffer. I fear that it will escalate its policy of punishing them collectively—a crime under international law—for the violent actions of a minority…..The Israeli blockade of the Gaza strip has now entered its seventh year, spelling despair for its population of 1.6 million, 42% of whom are children aged 14 or younger. Some international organisations are suggesting that the situation cannot continue. The International Monetary Fund, for example, has said that the blockade and other restrictions imposed by the Israelis on Gaza cost the Palestinians 78% of their GDP, or an estimated $6.3 billion a year. With 80% of families in Gaza dependent on humanitarian aid, the consequences are more than economic. Gaza’s children suffer immeasurably as a result of the severe restrictions Israel places on imports, exports and the movement of people, whether by land, air or sea. Restrictions on the import of construction equipment mean that vital infrastructure, such as housing, health care facilities and schools, are not fit for purpose. More worryingly, water and sewage treatment services are starting to break down. The blockade causes endemic and long-lasting poverty, preventing families from being able to put nutritious food on the table. That manifests itself in malnutrition among the children. Stunting as a result of long-term exposure to chronic malnutrition is found in 10% of children under five in Gaza. Anaemia affects 68% of children and a third of pregnant women. Some 90% of the water extracted from Gaza’s only aquifer is unfit for human consumption, and the UN has warned that it will be irreversibly damaged by 2020.”
– FO’D: “My hon. Friend is making a powerful speech. Unfortunately, the Israeli authorities would not allow the Select Committee to travel to Gaza. Does he share my concerns about salt in the water? When mothers have to make formula with water that contains salt, that has huge implications for their young children’s physical and mental development.”
– GMM: “I am grateful to my hon. Friend for making that point. I was a member of a delegation that visited the west bank, and we, too, were refused entry to Gaza. I have certainly heard from other right hon. and hon. Members who visited Gaza and can corroborate exactly what she says. I think that the Minister should make representations to the Israeli authorities on humanitarian grounds.” The UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs has said that the blockade is “a collective punishment of all those living in Gaza and is a denial of basic human rights in contravention of international law”. I completely agree. There is no moral or legal justification for Israel’s collective punishment of over 800,000 children. Although they are kept apart by military checkpoints and separation walls—my hon. Friend the Member for East Lothian and I were unable to gain access to Gaza because of the restrictions imposed by the Israeli authorities—the children of Gaza’s fellow Palestinians in the illegally occupied west bank and east Jerusalem, and indeed in the refugee camps, also suffer profoundly as a result of the conflict.
The rights of Palestinian children are routinely violated as Israeli military detention fails to safeguard basic human rights or to adhere to international law in relation to detaining children. The most recent figures indicate that 196 Palestinian children were being held in Israeli military custody at the end of April, but I suspect that the number has increased dramatically in recent weeks. I am disturbed that the Israeli authorities are no longer releasing information on precisely how many children are being held in military detention. My hon. Friend referred to the independent report “Children in Military Custody”, which was authored by seven senior lawyers from the United Kingdom and funded by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. It highlights how two distinct legal systems are applied by the Israeli authorities to residents of the west bank depending on an individual’s race or national identity. When that policy was applied in South Africa, it was called apartheid, and international politicians, including John Kerry, have used that term with respect to what is happening in the west bank. That independent report by leading lawyers, commissioned by our own Foreign Office, concluded that Israel is in breach of seven articles of the UN convention on the rights of the child, including in relation to discrimination, the child’s best interests, premature resort to detention, non-separation from adults, prompt access to lawyers and the use of shackles. When I was first elected, I had the opportunity to visit the west bank and see one of those military courts in operation. Some of the children are very young. Some are arrested in midnight raids. The crime for which they are most commonly arrested is throwing stones, and there is often little evidence that the arrested child is the one responsible. They are then shackled and blindfolded before being questioned without their parents being present and without access to any legal representation. There are extensive reports indicating that physical and verbal abuse by the Israeli authorities against those children is commonplace. They can be detained without charge for 188 days and then be made to wait two more years before the conclusion of their trial. They are often arrested in the refugee camps or the occupied territories, but they are held in military detention within Israel. Again, I am not a lawyer, but I believe that that contravenes a United Nations convention.
Most of those children are forced to sign confessions in Hebrew. They might have some understanding of Hebrew when it is spoken, but not when it is written. They often sign the confession in the hope of speeding up the trial. Unsurprisingly, given the flagrant disregard for international law, the overall conviction rate for Palestinian children in Israeli military courts—I should not laugh, but this number is like something from North Korea—is 99.74%. I believe that a form of psychological warfare is being waged on an entire community and that it is children who are being made to bear the brunt of Israel’s punitive measures. I have witnessed those court proceedings while visiting Israel. Indeed, the image of a young boy the same age as my youngest son being marched along by soldiers with his hands and feet in shackles was truly shocking and will stay with me for the rest of my life. Recent events have served as a stark reminder of the brutality of life for children in conflict areas. As a parent, I wish that no mother or father had to experience the tragic loss of their child. For a serious commitment towards that end, we must understand that recent tragedies are rooted in a conflict that will not end until Israel acts in accordance with international law, United Nations resolutions and the overwhelming consensus of the international community in order to realise peace and justice in the middle east.
In conclusion, I ask the Minister, in conjunction with his ministerial colleagues, to press the Israeli Government to adhere to these international conventions, particularly in relation to the right of the child.”
– Tim Loughton: [extract] “This is, of course, a timely debate, for the most tragic of reasons. The images we saw from Palestine earlier this week of the three Israeli children who became victims of war starkly brought home to us the ghastly things and tragedies that are daily occurring in other parts of the world.”
– Kerry McCarthy: [extract] “I am contacted regularly by constituents who are concerned by the plight of Palestinian children in particular. As we have heard, by the end of December, 154 boys were being held in Israeli military detention, most in pre-trial detention. There is concern at the fact that that more than 1,000 children were arrested by Israeli security forces last year. As my hon. Friend said, that conflict is a tragedy for the children on both sides and for the families on both sides who have lost children, who have seen their children suffer or who have had to watch their children grow up with the ongoing conflict, perhaps being stoned on the way to school, suffering abuse or living in fear of rocket attacks. I look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say about that.”
– GMM: “While my hon. Friend is on that point, I would like to ask her opinion on the specific recommendations of the report that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Baroness Scotland commissioned on the treatment of Palestinian child detainees, which the Israeli authorities have largely ignored.”
– KMcC: “I have read the powerful “Children in Military Custody” report, to which my hon. Friend refers. Obviously, the Minister is not in a position to take it forward with the Israeli authorities, but the recommendations should be acted on.”
– Mark Simmonds: [extract] “The hon. Member for Easington (Grahame M. Morris) made a powerful contribution discussing primarily the challenges that are raging in the middle east, particularly as they relate to the Israel-Palestine conflict. I reiterate that we utterly condemn the appalling murders of both the Israeli and Palestinian children, and we stand ready to help bring those responsible to justice. We are concerned about the recent increase in violence in Gaza and the risks to children. Rockets coming from Gaza into Israel must stop. We call on Israel, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority to work together to allow for the legal use of the Gaza strip for innocent people. I also inform the hon. Gentleman that DFID has a number of initiatives to protect children specifically in the region, including psychosocial support and clearing schools of unexploded devices.”
4. Nadhim Zahawi: What assessment has FCO made of the adherence of Hamas to the Quartet Principles?
Commons Written Answers
WEDNESDAY 2 JULY 2014
1. Questions to the Prime Minister:
– Robert Halfon: “The world has seen the tragic and brutal murders of three Israeli youngsters, most probably by Hamas. Will my right hon. Friend give the Israeli Government every possible support at this time? Does he agree that, far from showing restraint, Israel must do everything possible to take out Hamas terrorist networks, and will he give the Israeli Government support in that?”
– David Cameron: “What I say to my hon. Friend, who I know is passionate about these issues, and to everyone in the House, is that this was an absolutely appalling and inexcusable act of terror, and one can only imagine the effect on the families and friends of those poor teenagers, and what happened to them. It is very important that Britain will stand with Israel as it seeks to bring to justice those who are responsible. We also welcome the fact that President Abbas has firmly condemned the abduction and tried to help find those people. As my hon. Friend said, it is important that all security operations are conducted with care so that further escalation is avoided. The people responsible for this should be found and brought to justice.”
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Commons Oral Answers
2. Andrew Turner: By what process was Tony Blair appointed to the post of ME peace envoy, and who approved that appointment?
Commons Written Answers
3. Lord Hylton: What assessment have HMG made of any change in the treatment of young people arrested in the WB and East Jerusalem since the publication of the report of the independent commission headed by Baroness Scotland? [Baroness Warsi refers to her reply of 18.6.14>]
4. Baroness Tonge: What assessment have HMG made of the use of the phrase “cleaning the stables” by Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and others in relation to Israeli operations in Palestinian areas; and what impact do they consider such language will have on relations between the communities there?
Lords Written Answers
TUESDAY 1 JULY 2014
1. Urgent Question: Israeli Teenagers (Abduction and Murder)
– Peter Bone: Will the Minister make a statement on the effect that the murder of three Israeli teenagers abducted by Palestinians will have on the MEPP?
– Hugh Robertson: I visited Israel and the WB after the kidnapping; this is an appalling and unjustifiable act of terror; we send our deepest condolences to the families; we remain in close contact with the Israeli and Palestinian authorities. “The urgent priority is to hold those responsible to account under the rule of law, and we stand ready to do everything possible to help. The Home Secretary has been in Israel and the west bank this week and has had discussions with political leaders on both sides. I welcome President Abbas’s condemnations of the abduction. We are encouraging Israel and the Palestinian Authority to continue to work together to find the perpetrators….. It is also vital that all parties avoid action that could escalate the situation further. All security operations must be handled with due care, restraint and a proportionate use of force. It is too early to be clear about the full implications for the middle east peace process, but we will do our utmost, with our allies and partners, to keep open the prospects for a return to negotiations on a two-state solution, which is, and remains, the only way to resolve this conflict once and for all.”
– Peter Bone: We pass on our sympathies to the families and the nation of Israel. “I cannot help but reflect on what the feeling of this House would be if three teenagers from Wellingborough had been abducted and murdered by terrorists…. It is true, I believe, that overseas aid to the PA has been used to provide salaries for the families of convicted Palestinian terrorists. Given the propaganda celebrating the abduction of the Israeli teenagers, should we review that? Will the Government support the Israeli Government not only in their actions to track down the perpetrators of this evil crime, but in dismantling the infrastructure of the organisation? Does my right hon. Friend share my concern that part of the Palestinian Fatah-Hamas unity Government is a terrorist organisation that carries out such dreadful crimes? It seems completely illogical that it can be thought of as part of a democratic process. Will he also set out his concerns a little more about how this incident will affect the ongoing peace process? Unless such terrible acts of terror can be stopped, I do not see how we can move the peace process forward.”
– HR: [extract] “On the question of salaries, as luck would have it, the Minister of State, Department for International Development, is sitting next to me, and he absolutely confirms that this is not true; it is an old rumour. The money is paid through a World Bank trust fund to vetted people, who are nominated civil servants.”
We understand why this event has consumed Israeli society. “It is crucial that any actions that the Israeli Government take are precisely targeted to find the perpetrators and that, in doing that, they avoid a more general escalation. On the question of Fatah and Hamas, the technocratic Government are signed up to the Quartet principles. If anybody in that Government were an active member of Hamas, which remains a terrorist organisation, that would absolutely be the end of this Government’s dealing with them and would be a very serious matter indeed.” Trying to create the conditions for restarting the MEPP is a pivotal part of HMG policy. “If this situation goes on, with further settlement building on the one hand and applications to international organisations on the other, there will not be another chance. I urge all Members, with whichever side they sympathise, to do everything possible to de-escalate the situation and encourage both parties to return to the negotiating table.”
– Ian Lucas [speaking for the Opposition]: We are united in our sympathy with the families; those responsible must be brought to account; now is the time for the international community to unite to make progress towards peace. “The Minister will be aware of the Israeli Government’s insistence that Hamas is responsible for the kidnapping and murder of these three innocent young men, but will he provide the British Government’s assessment of today’s claims of responsibility for the murders by the jihadist group, Supporters of the Islamic State in Jerusalem? These are perilous times and the risk of further bloodshed is high. The US Under-Secretary-General Jeffrey Felton was right to say that both Israelis and Palestinians should exercise maximum restraint to prevent tensions from escalating further.”
– HR: We agree that this is a moment for exercising maximum restraint. “ I have already communicated with Minister Livni, who is my direct counterpart, and I saw Minister Steinitz when I was in Israel a week ago, and he saw the Foreign Secretary when he was in this country at the end of last week… On the impact on the Palestinian Government, this is a serious moment and I absolutely welcome President Abbas’s strong condemnation of the actions, both overnight and indeed in his speech in Riyadh a week ago. When I was in Israel, both sides acknowledged the security support that had been given by the Palestinians in the early stages of the incident.
As for who is responsible, it is too early to say. The British Government have no firm evidence, and nothing from the Islamic state in Jerusalem. It is fair to say to the hon. Gentleman, in the spirit of openness and honesty, that the Israeli Government are very clear about the fact that Hamas was responsible. When I was in Israel 10 days ago, there was some indication on the Palestinian side that that might be correct, but we have no hard evidence in London to back that up.”
– Alistair Burt: [extract] “Whatever may be the causes of conflict, children are never the perpetrators, and they never deserve to be the victims. Does my right hon. Friend agree that men of violence know exactly what they are doing, and know exactly what to provoke in response? There is no justification for this wicked crime, and Israel is right to seek justice on behalf of the families, but will the Foreign and Commonwealth Office urge—even now, at such a critical time—that more effort be put into the peace process? Until this is settled, there will be another incident, and another, and another, until the men of violence get what they want, which is a conflagration that will add to the explosions in the area, and the men of peace will find that it is too late.”
– HR: [extract] “My right hon. Friend has my absolute assurance that the Foreign Office will do everything possible to reinvigorate the middle east peace process. We may speculate on the many possible causes of what has happened, but the fact that renegade elements opposed to the peace process have used it to bring down that process is clearly a very likely explanation.”
– Gerald Kaufman: I commend the Minister for his balanced response and ask him to send our sympathy to the families of these abducted and murdered youths? “What has been done to them has no conceivable justification of any kind. Will the Minister also send our sympathy to the families of the five Palestinians whom Israeli troops murdered during their search for the missing youths in a collective punishment which has involved hundreds of arrests and the looting and ransacking of houses? Nothing whatsoever can justify the murder of these Israeli youths, but it is very important indeed to see it in the context of a conflict that will go on until there is a fair settlement.”
– HR: Absolutely. “It has often struck me, in the context of the middle east, that there cannot really be a hierarchy of victimhood, and our sympathy must be with all who have lost their lives…. If this tells us anything, it is that we must renew and deepen our search for a peaceful settlement in the middle east, one that recognises the concerns of both sides. It was an absolute tragedy that, having put in so much work and effort personally, the United States Secretary of State was unable to conclude an agreement at the end of March, but that is not a reason for not trying any further, and we must deepen those efforts.”
– Martin Horwood: I join in expressing sympathy for the parents of the teenagers and all the people of Israel. The condemnation by Israeli and Palestinian authorities underlines importance of bringing together all parties prepared to engage in a peace process, “even when the conflict has involved the ultimate tragedy of the deaths of children on both sides”.
– HR: Yes. It proves the importance of trying to get the MEPP back on track, and of delivering a solution for both sides in the conflict.
– Louise Ellman: “These are cold terrorist murders of three teenagers on their way home from school. What does the Minister think should be done to address the unremitting messages of hate that come from Palestinian media? They are partly responsible for this situation and are a grave impediment to peace.”
– HR: “I shall give the hon. Lady an answer that draws on my personal experience. As she may know, I was a soldier for 10 years, and took part in campaigns against terrorism, and when we lose people—civilians or soldiers—in these situations, that is precisely the time when we need to show leadership and show restraint. Absolutely all efforts should be directed at finding the perpetrators but it is very important that all those actions are directed at doing that, and nothing wider.”
– Richard Ottaway: One’s heart goes out to the parents and to the Israeli nation. “This has happened just two weeks after the Palestinian unity Government have come into effect. I believe the Minister has just said that if Hamas turns out to be the perpetrator, he will reconsider the British Government’s attitude to the unity Government. Will he clarify exactly what he means by that and the likely consequences if Hamas turns out to be the perpetrator?”
– HR: [extract] “It is important to note that the technocratic Government have absolutely signed up to the Quartet principles and, as far as we can see, no member of Hamas is part of that Government. If members of Hamas are, indeed, proved to be part of this and responsible for these actions, that would clearly be a very serious moment indeed, and we would have to examine very precisely the link between it and the technocratic Government. At this stage it is too early to set that hare running, because we do not have the full facts in front of us, nor do we have any absolute evidence as to who was responsible, so I think that has to be a question for another day.”
– Richard Burden: There was no excuse for this appalling crime. “Does the Minister agree that Palestinian teenagers and children who also die, in Israeli strikes and military operations, have names, faces and families, for whom their deaths are equal tragedies? He rightly referred to the importance of the rule of law. Will he say to the House, in the appalling situation we are in at the moment, what he thinks are the responsibilities under international law of the Palestinian Authority and what are the responsibilities of the Israeli Government as an occupying power in the west bank, and will he confirm that collective punishment of the Palestinian people is a crime under international law?”
– HR: “Yes, I absolutely understand why the hon. Gentleman asks that question, particularly given his role as the chairman of the all-party group on Britain-Palestine. The role of the technocratic Government is very clear. These youths were not abducted in an area that is inside their security control, but it is perfectly possible—but not yet confirmed—that the perpetrators of this crime did come from an area that was controlled by them. It is absolutely their job and responsibility to co-operate with the Israeli Government in bringing the perpetrators to justice, and it is absolutely the responsibility of the Israeli Government to ensure the action they take is precisely targeted at the perpetrators and no wider.”
– Robert Halfon: “Hamas is Hamas is Hamas: it is a terrorist organisation whether it is part of the so-called unity Government or not, and Hamas has celebrated the kidnapping of these children and their murder. Surely it is now time to cut off relations with the Government given that they are co-opted with a terrorist organisation. Does my right hon. Friend agree that, far from showing restraint, the British Government should give Israel every possible assistance to take out the Hamas terrorist network so that that country can be sure that her children will be secure in the future?”
– HR: [extract] “As far as Hamas is concerned, nobody should be under any illusions about this at all: Hamas is a terrorist organisation and remains a terrorist organisation, and one that is proscribed by the British Government. The key thing about the technocratic Government was that they signed up to the Quartet principles and renounced violence and no member of Hamas is a member of that Government.”
Urgent Question: Israeli Teenagers (Abduction and Murder) continued:
– Luciana Berger: What recent reports has the Minister received on statements by the new Palestinian unity Government and President Abbas on this heinous act?
– HR: I didn’t see President Abbas when I was there, because he was in Riyadh where his speech was unequivocal in its condemnation and last night he made another statement along the same lines. “Israeli interlocutors whom I saw in Israel were very clear that they had received full security co-operation from the technocratic Government.”
– Crispin Blunt: “The anger and outrage of the people of Israel at the appalling murder of these three teenagers are wholly understandable and shared here because of our special links to Israel, but equally understandable are the anger and outrage of Palestinians at the death of 1,406 children in the conflict since 2000, including 270 in Gaza under air and ground attack in 2009 alone. Would adding to this awful toll by the threatened Israeli reaction be either legal or wise?”
– HR: [extract] “The death toll on both sides throughout this conflict is appalling. This is merely the latest in a long line of incidents that has tried to derail the peace process, and it proves once and for all that there is no future in violence and underlines the importance of getting both parties back to the table.”
– Andy Slaughter: The response by Breaking the Silence was to say we mourn for the victims from both sides in the past weeks, hoping for an end to the cycle of bloodshed and occupation. “Does the Minister agree that that is the right response—that we should send our condolences to Israeli and Palestinian dead and their families—and that, particularly given what the Prime Minister of Israel has said about retaliation, we should stress to all sides that retaliation and escalation are not the way forward?”
– HR: [extract] “As I have said, it is crucial that any reaction is targeted very precisely at the perpetrators, and further bloodshed is not the way to resolve this situation.”
– Andrew Selous: [extract] “I utterly condemn these foul murders, and commend the Minister for his measured responses. What is his assessment of the viability of the two-state solution in terms of the availability of land?”
– HR: It is more difficult now than it has been for a while to get the MEPP back on track, as everybody would admit if they were being honest, but the 2-s-s remains the best basis for it. “It will require a very particular formulation of land swaps, which will be difficult, as everybody is aware, but the events of the past two weeks show just why it is so important.”
– Michael McCann: [extract] “Having returned from a ME investigation by the Select Committee on International Development, I have to say that I disagree profoundly with the Minister’s statement on DFID funding to the PA. We do provide funding to the PA and it is absurd to suggest that that money can be ring-fenced; the Palestinian Finance Minister confirmed to me that they do pay Palestinian prisoners in jail, depending on how long their sentences are.”
– HR: [extract] “I have followed the progress of the International Development Committee carefully across the region. I have not yet seen the report, but, clearly, if the Committee has evidence to support the allegations the hon. Gentleman has made, that would be a very serious matter, which I am sure the International Development Secretary will wish to take up.”
– Geoffrey Clifton-Brown: [extract] “I can well understand that today those in charge in Israel would want to retaliate, but as a good friend of Israel may I ask that we encourage them and men of good will to exercise restraint?” We have good channels of communication with both sides and with the Americans, so can we use them to row back from a bleak place towards a peace process?
– HR: International reactions, including President Obama‘s statement, concur.
– Debbie Abrahams: What specific measures are HMG taking to help de-escalate tensions and restore some balance between the Israeli and Palestinian Governments, and in the region?
– HR: HMG give long-term support working with the PA to build up capacity and relieve poverty. “I saw many of the schemes during my visit last week, including the training at the police academy and the schemes where we are helping Palestinians with planning issues.” We also give shorter-term support through our ministerial and embassy contacts, and the consul-general’s contacts in E Jerusalem.
– David Ward: I welcome this urgent question on these brutal and sickening murders. “Does the Minister agree that if urgent questions were sought each time a Palestinian was treated brutally and murdered by the Israeli defence forces, we would, sadly, be here most weeks?” Violence by either side must be condemned equally; it cannot be in the interests of either side.
– HR: “I doubt that anybody in the House, or anybody involved in the politics of the middle east, believes that a further escalation between the two sides in this conflict is in anybody’s interest—that way lie more deaths similar to the ones we have seen overnight. On whether a life is worth more or less one side of the line or the other, I say it absolutely is not; there is no hierarchy of victimhood, and people suffer equally.”
– David Winnick: We all condemn these cold-blooded murders and send our sympathy to the parents of children on both sides of the conflict who have lost their lives. In Northern Ireland the killings took place over many years on both sides and a settlement fortunately came about. Even if it has not entirely resolved the situation there, it has substantially reduced the number of killings.
– HR: [extract] I served as a soldier in NI in 1987-88. When I left I thought it was utterly inconceivable that the problem would ever be solved, yet it was, through the good work of good people on both sides. “That probably reveals the central theme of this morning: when the situation seems bleakest is precisely when we need to strive hardest to try to find a solution.”
– Lee Scott: I would like to add a Jewish condolence and wish the mourning families long life and no more suffering. “Does the Minister agree that one way to bring this current crisis to and end would be for the PA to turn in the people who committed this heinous crime, so that justice can be done through the legal process?”
– HR: I concur. “Let me give him reassurance by saying that while I was there, it was abundantly clear to me that the technocratic Government were co-operating in security terms with the Israelis, as the Israelis acknowledged. If that Government have any information that they have not handed over that would help bring those responsible to justice, I urge them to hand it over now.”
– Mark Durkan: I join other members in condemning these dreadful murders and deploring the unjustified deaths of Palestinian youths in recent times. “Does the Minister recognise that in any conflict there comes a point where both sides have to recognise that they cannot be secure against each other and that they can be truly secure only with each other?” Today we should also offer solidarity to the peace-minded people on both sides who do not see themselves in the violence on either side.
– HR: [extract] “It has often struck me when dealing with the politics of this region – this is not something that is confined to Israel and the OPTs – that it is always easier for people to return to violence than it is to make the difficult compromises and decisions necessary to move the peace process forward. That is why, throughout history, those who have achieved peace processes are held in such high regard.”
– Mike Freer: “Many of my constituents will be disappointed to hear from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office the rather well used and tired phrase “proportionate response”. Perhaps the Minister, who I know is a decent man, could advise me on what I say to my constituents about what the FCO regards as a proportionate response to three teenagers being murdered and missiles being fired at Israel on a daily basis.”
– HR: “I am sorry that my hon. Friend feels that way. Let me be absolutely clear about this: it is utterly unacceptable that people in the Gaza strip fire missiles at Israeli citizens. As he knows, I attended a funeral in January on the edge of the Negev. Precautions had to be taken because we were under threat from missile attacks, which is utterly unacceptable in any way, shape or form. The correct response to the kidnapping and murder of three teenagers is to find the perpetrators and to bring them to justice. We expect exactly the same response in that part of the world as we would find here—no more and no less.”
– Jim Cunningham: We must condemn these terrible murders, and the same applies to Palestinians. “I ask the Minister to urge restraint on the Israeli Government, because we have a volatile situation throughout the middle east, and we do not want to give to these terrorist organisations any cause to use the Palestinian-Israeli situation as an excuse for further violence.”
– HR: [extract] “The key thing is that all the resources are targeted at finding those responsible, but that will clearly not be the case if people are pursuing other agendas. Such a targeted campaign will, I have no doubt, be carried out by the Israeli Government. The PA must play a full part in helping them to achieve that. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that that was clearly the case when I was there 10 days ago.”
– Philip Hollobone: With respect, the Minister did not answer Mrs Ellman’s question as fully as he might. “These murders take place against the background of the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners by the Israelis as a signal of good intent for the peace process, and of a constant stream of hate and abuse from state-sponsored TV and media in the PA. Surely this House and HMG need to make it clear to the PA that this background of hate and contempt for Israel must stop if we are to have a meaningful peace process.”
– HR: [extract] “We have made it absolutely clear to the Palestinian authorities that that sort of behaviour is unacceptable. As I have already said, I did not realise that there was any truth in these allegations. I have been specifically reassured that there is not. If the International Development Committee has evidence that that is not the case, we will be keen to see it. To be fair, when the technocratic Government were formed, they were very clear that they would sign up to the Quartet principles, which is an internationally agreed standard. They were absolutely clear and unequivocal on that, and they gave those undertakings to us, the Americans and the Israeli Government.”
– Andrew Gwynne: What measures are the Palestinian unity Government taking to ensure accountable and effective governance, renew the economy, create jobs, bring about hope for the Palestinian people and ensure that funds are not diverted to terror activities?
– HR: [extract] [extract] “The approach of the Palestinian Government on economic regeneration is led by Prime Minister Hamdallah, whom I met during my recent visit. He is English educated and extremely impressive. He is very fixed on what needs to be done to regenerate the PA. He is absolutely right to point to the need to eliminate corruption in the PA, because that has bedevilled the region and its prospects for economic growth for some time. The PA have given us a series of assurances that they understand the importance of that and that they are taking the necessary action.”
– Bob Blackman: [extract] “A constant stream of evidence substantiates the fact that UK taxpayers’ money is finding its way to the evil terrorist organisation Hamas. Will my right hon. Friend undertake to look again at all the evidence—from the Select Committee on International Development, from Israel and from the PA areas – with the objective that not a single penny of UK taxpayers’ money should find its way to the evil terrorist organisation Hamas?”
– HR: [extract] “It is absolutely the position of the Government that UK taxpayers’ money should not go to fund terrorists. That is 100% the case. If, following the International Development Committee’s visit to the region, evidence has emerged that points to the fact that that is not the case, it would be a very serious matter and I can give him an undertaking that that is something into which the Secretary of State will look as a matter of urgency.”
– Alec Shelbrooke: What conversations has the Minister had with our US allies about these terrible events and about getting the peace process moving forward again?
– HR: We can never overstate how much we appreciate the work of Secretary Kerry. “Ultimately, he has become frustrated by the actions of both parties. He has called for a pause in the process for both parties to face up to the consequences of not pursuing the peace agreement, which, I believe, will be very profound for the whole region. I urge him to join us and everyone else to do everything we can not to escalate the situation further and to encourage both parties to get back to the negotiating table.”
– Mark Harper: [extract] “If it turns out that there is persuasive evidence that Hamas was indeed behind these evil murders, will the Minister return to the Dispatch Box to set out what implications that has for the British Government’s recognition of that Palestinian unity Government?”
– HR: [extract] “The Israelis are very clear about who they think is responsible. The PA have indicated that that view may be sensible. We need to find out who the perpetrators were, and then we need to find out what, if any, association they may have with the technocratic Government. At the moment, the technocratic Government are absolutely clear that they are fully signed up to the Quartet principles and that they are a non-violent Government and have no contact with Hamas. Indeed, talking to members of Fatah, it is clear that their relationship with Hamas has been desperate. They hate Hamas and regard it as being responsible for the splits that have occurred, so there is some small reason for hope.”
– Matthew Offord: The depravity of these murders is beyond comprehension for many of my constituents and for me. “The Minister asserted that no money from British taxpayers goes to Hamas, but he has now accepted the position of the International Development Committee that that might be the case. Will he put his efforts into facilitating a meeting of a cross-party delegation of MPs so that we can speak to the DFID Minister and present the evidence we have been talking about for many years already?”
– HR: “I gave the answer that I did to an earlier question because I was assured, as I have been in the past, that there were no grounds for believing that. If a Select Committee of this House has uncovered evidence that firmly proves that that is not the case, that is a very serious issue. I can offer my hon. Friend a cast-iron guarantee that we will take that up. Indeed, the very fact that it has been found by a Select Committee will ensure that the Department responsible has to answer those questions.”
– Barry Gardiner: In rightly praising Secretary Kerry, the Minister might have been slightly unfair to Madeleine Albright.
– HR: I intended no slight to Madeleine Albright.
– Bob Stewart: [extract] “Does the Minister agree that the people who carried out these murders – a minor act of genocide, in a way – are no friends of the peace process and certainly no friends of the Palestinian cause?”
– HR: I absolutely agree. “One needs only to go there or to watch events from here to sense the angst that this has caused.”
– John Glen: One of my constituents wrote to me last week expressing her concern about universities, colleges and newspaper offices being stormed by the IDF searching for the teenagers. Is the Minister aware of those reports and can he comment on them?
– HR: Yes, we are aware of the impact that any form of military action has on life in the WB. “On the other hand, we have to understand that Israel is the one liberal democracy in that part of the world and that it lies in an arc of countries where instability is everywhere. Security is Israel’s key concern, and we understand that, but it is important that the actions taken in this regard are precisely targeted to identify and deal with the perpetrators and not a wider objective.”
– David Burrowes: “These appalling and heinous acts of terror have been equally condemned on both sides of the House and by all apart from Hamas. Further to the Minister’s response to my hon. Friend the Member for Finchley and Golders Green (Mike Freer), may I question how he can draw an equivalence between such an act taking place here and such an act taking place in Israel when it comes to a proportionate response to bring the perpetrators to justice? When Hamas and terrorists are throwing rockets over the border and on to innocent civilians and when Hamas itself sees Israeli teenagers as legitimate targets for terrorist attacks, how can we draw any equivalence when it comes to the response?”
– HR: “The correct response as regards the war on terror, which we have faced in this country for many years through the threat from Irish republicans, is to target what we do very precisely, to avoid escalation and to abide by the rule of law. That is precisely how we relieve the underlying causes of conflict. If one goes further than that, the lessons of history show that that inevitably stokes the conflict and makes things worse.”
– James Morris: “Notwithstanding the Minister’s remarks about the need for restraint, does he not agree that Israel faces a toxic combination of brutal terrorism, as revealed in this particular incident, and of rocket attacks from Gaza and that as a sovereign country it has the absolute right to defend and protect its citizens against these threats?”
– HR: [extract] “We would absolutely expect the state of Israel to protect its citizens, but the point that I am making—do not get this wrong—is that it needs to do that in a way that precisely targets the response at those who are responsible for this action and not at a wider political aim.”
– Guto Bebb: “In view of this sickening crime and the celebration of the kidnapping in state-sponsored Palestinian media, what assurances can the Minister give me that the words of condemnation given by President Abbas to an international audience will be repeated for his domestic audience?”
– HR: “I think I can give my hon. Friend that assurance, because I was in the west bank when it happened and the domestic price that President Abbas was paying for taking that stance internationally was abundantly clear. He is absolutely doing what the international community wants to see him do and we expect the Palestinian technocratic Government to live up to their responsibility to co-operate fully in security terms with the Government of Israel.”
– Rehman Chishti: Hamas is backed by Iran. “Will the Minister assure the House that Iran will not be involved in any further middle eastern issues without first giving up terrorism?”
– HR: Yes, I can give that assurance. “In a sense, his question sheds some light on precisely why the Israeli Government are concerned about security and are right to be concerned about security.”
– Michael Ellis: No moral equivalency can or should be drawn between this deliberate and calculated abduction and murder of teenagers and other incidents. “Does he agree that such wickedness cannot go unpunished and will he and HMG support the Israeli Government if they seek to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure of Hamas, which is, after all, an entity that destroys and seeks to destroy its own people when they disagree with it, as well as Israeli youths, children and other victims of strikes from the air and on land?”
– HR: An escalation of the crisis will serve only the men and women of violence on both sides, which would play into the hands of all those who seek to sabotage the peace process.
Hansard video: from 12:34:39 duration 55′
Commons Oral Answer
2. Andrew Smith: How much of Area C is covered by approved masterplans?
3. Andrew Smith: How many of the masterplans funded by DfID in Area C have received full approval by Israel and how long did the approval process take in each case?
4. Andrew Smith: When will the construction of the first infrastructure project funded by DfID in Area C commence?
5. David Ward: What assessment has DfID made of the adequacy of the level of food, fuel and medical supplies entering Gaza each day?
6. Caroline Lucas: With reference to the briefing notes issued by the spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights dated 20 June 2014, on the legislative amendment before the Israeli Knesset relating to force-feeding and medical treatment of prisoners on hunger strike, what steps is Foreign Secretary taking to ensure that international human rights and international humanitarian law human rights are upheld by all parties?
7. Andrew Smith: With reference to the written answer of 6 May 2014 [ed: , how many complaints about differential treatment of British nationals have been made since 2010 by the UK embassy in Tel Aviv to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and on which dates?
8. Kelvin Hopkins: What is the Foreign Secretary’s policy on sanctions against Israel, and what assessment has he made of the compliance of that policy with international law and relevant UN resolutions?
9. Richard Burden: What information does FCO hold on how many of the recommendations made by UNICEF in its March 2013 report on children in Israeli military detention have been implemented by Israel, and what discussions has Foreign Secretary had with his Israeli counterpart on the recommendations yet to be implemented?
10. Paul Flynn: How often does the Quartet Envoy report back to the Quartet constituent parties; what form does that reporting take; will Foreign Secretary publish a URL link to published outputs of the Envoy’s work; how many visits has the Envoy made to the ME since his appointment in June 2007; how many of these visits were to (a) Israel, (b) the WB Palestinian Territories and (c) the Gaza Palestinian Territories; and what has been the annual cost to the UK of supporting the office and travel of the Envoy?
11. Nick de Bois: What assessment has Foreign Secretary made of the implications for the MEPP of then-Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh’s statement in April 2014 that kidnapping Israelis was a top priority on the agenda of Hamas and the Palestinian resistance?
12. Richard Burden: Pursuant to the answer of 19 June 2014 , on Palestinians, what response has Prime Minister Netanyahu’s office made on the issue of demolitions in East Jerusalem or the rest of the OPTs?
13. Richard Burden: What recent representations has Foreign Secretary made to his counterparts in Israel about the treatment of Palestinian child detainees in Israel?
14. Caroline Lucas: Will the UK support the request from the PA for an emergency session of the UNSC on the treatment of Palestinian detainees?
15. Caroline Lucas: What reports has Foreign Secretary received on the release of the abducted Eyal Yifrah, Gilad Sha’ar and Naftali Frenkel?
16. David Ward: What progress has Foreign Secretary made in ensuring that Palestinian children are interrogated only in the presence of their parents and lawyers?
17. Guto Bebb: What recent reports has Foreign Secretary received on the three kidnapped Israeli teenagers, and what steps he has taken to secure their release?
Nos 2-17 Commons Written Answers
18. Baroness Warsi reads out the Statement made in the Commons by Hugh Robertson [see Item 1 above]. There were contributions from a number of peers – to be processed later]
Lords Oral Answers
19. Baroness Tonge: Have HMG sought advice concerning the legality of current Israeli military action in the West Bank, and, if so, what conclusions have they drawn?
20. Baroness Tonge: What representations have HMG made to Israel concerning the reported death of Mohammed Dudeen?
21. Lord Hylton: What discussions do HMG and the EU intend to have with Israel, the PA and the PLO to prepare for the Palestinian elections; and will the position of imprisoned members of the PLC be discussed?
- Lord Hylton: When did HMG last discuss with Israel progress on UN-funded projects in Gaza (1) for which clearance has been given, and (2) for which clearance is awaited; and with what result?
23. Baroness Tonge: What action do HMG plan to take to ensure that the search for the missing Israeli teenagers does not result in the use of live ammunition against Palestinian children?
Nos 18-23 Lords Written Answers
18. Baroness Warsi reads out the Statement made in the Commons by Hugh Robertson [see Item 1 above].
– Lord Bach [for the Opposition]:”The suffering of the families will, of course, be unbearable and the nation of Israel and millions more around the world will be in mourning.” What have been HMG’s the latest contacts with the two governments; what will be the likely impact of this latest tension on the Palestinian unity Government and on the Israeli Government’s policy towards them? Does she agree both sides should exercise maximum restraint to prevent further escalation?
– Warsi: “The Minister for the Middle East Hugh Robertson spoke to Minister Livni earlier today. The Home Secretary has been there this week; contact was planned today for the Foreign Minister to speak to his opposite number and a potential Prime Ministers’ call as well. The Foreign Secretary met the Security Minister recently.” The unity Government do not include members of Hamas and have signed up to the Quartet principles.
– Baroness Falkner: “We join their families and the whole Israeli nation in feeling their loss and in sharing their unity at this time of great suffering.” Did Mr Robinson discuss with both sides the importance of proportionality? “Find the murderers, the perpetrators of this act, and bring them to justice, yes; but it is hugely important that the unity Government and the peace process should not be imperilled at this time of justifiable anger on the part of the Israelis.”
– Warsi:”We have to accept that this kidnapping has consumed Israeli society over the past 18 days and therefore our thoughts are, of course, with the families and the friends of the young men who have lost their lives. However, it is important that all efforts should be directed at finding the perpetrators and nothing wider. That is the message that we are emphasising in our discussions.”
– Lord Wright: “There can be no justification for kidnapping or murder, but can the noble Baroness assure the House that the European Union, as a member of the quartet, is urging the Israelis to avoid any retaliation, which will only increase the suffering, humiliation and deprivation of the populations of Gaza and the West Bank and can only reduce the already very slender chances of achieving a peace process?”
– Warsi: [extract] “The noble Lord makes an important point and he will be aware, as others are, that in the operation in response to the kidnapping of these teenagers, 400 Palestinians have been arrested, seven Palestinians have lost their lives and more than 1,000 homes have been searched.” The response must be targeted and avoid escalation.
– Lord Campbell-Savours: “Do the Government equally condemn the actions of the Israeli troops who recently killed two young Palestinian boys who were peacefully demonstrating in the West Bank of the Jordan?”
– Warsi: Yes. “We must make it clear that there can be no hierarchy of victimhood in this dispute and that whichever side loses a child, it is equally condemnable.”
– Lord Palmer of Childs Hill: “More than two weeks ago, when the three non-combatant young men were kidnapped, the result on the streets of Gaza City was celebrations and jubilation at the kidnapping and a call from Hamas for more kidnapping. Can the Minister tell me how we can try to stop this horrendous escalation of kidnapping, which is of no benefit to anybody in that area?”
– Warsi: HMG are concerned about some of these responses; we have been heartened by President Abbas’s positive approach, his statements, and the full security co-operation of the technocratic Government helping to de-escalated the situation.
– Bishop of Derby: [extract] “Can the Minister assure us that, in our work to seek peace, we will do everything we can to mitigate the knee-jerk reaction of anger and invite people to think more deeply about the human content of grief and how to deal with it?”
– Warsi: “We will of course do that. The right reverend Prelate makes important points, but I think he would also say—and on a very personal basis, I acknowledge this as a mother—that it must be incredibly difficult to reach that second phase when you have just lost your children.”
– Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: [extract] “I wonder whether the Minister could come back to the point of the Question, which is about the impact on the Middle East peace process, and what she and the Government see as the next positive step that might be taken in that process.”
– Warsi: Yes, these events have made it much harder to reopen negotiations. However, the 2-s-s is the only long-term solution for a safe and secure Israel alongside a viable, flourishing Palestinian state.
– Baroness Hayman: It is a tragedy that both peoples have been let down by their leaderships being incapable of taking their countries to the point of the 2-s-s. “Will she take this opportunity to pay tribute to the bereaved parents on both sides who have been active in the peace process?”
– Warsi: Yes, I do pay tribute to the bereaved parents on both sides.
Lords Oral Answers>
MONDAY 30 JUNE 2014
1. Baroness Tonge: What investigations do HMG intend to make into UKBA’s refusal of an entry visa to Nabil Al-Raee, Artistic Director of Jenin Freedom Theatre?
2. Lord Hylton: What representations have HMG made or will make to Israel concerning prisoners and detainees now on hunger strike, and will they ask for a review process for the release of those held under administrative orders?
3. Baroness Tonge: What discussions have HMG had with Israel concerning recent reports of violence in Al-Jalazoun refugee camp and the launch of air strikes against Gaza?
4. Baroness Tonge: What assessment have HMG made of the prospect of a third intifada, and what discussions have they had with Israel concerning the possibility?
5. Lord Hylton: What steps are HMG taking to create trust between Israelis and Palestinians; what UK and EU funds are earmarked for that purpose; and what discussions have they had with relevant British NGOs about trust-building?
6. Lord Hylton: What discussions do HMG intend to have with EU institutions regarding the uses of EU expenditure in Israel and Palestine during the last 25 years?
- Lord Hylton: What assessment have HMG made of the relevance of the Arab League Peace Initiative to ME stability?
Nos 3-7 Read more>
8. Baroness Tonge: Have HMG informed businesses operating in Israel and Palestine of their revised guidance on overseas business risk discouraging trade in illegal settlements?
9. Lord Hylton: Will HMG seek to re-activate the provisions concerning Gaza of the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access?
10. Baroness Tonge: What, if any, contribution could the UK make towards discovery of the group responsible for the three kidnapped Israeli settler teenagers, and what discussions have they held with the Israeli Prime Minister concerning his analysis of the situation?
- Baroness Tonge: What support will HMG give to the new unity government in Palestine, and what action do they plan to take to support the stabilisation of the WB and Gaza?
Lords Written Answers