TUESDAY 12 JANUARY 2016
- Questions to the Foreign Secretary:
– Rupa Haq: What discussions he has had with the Government of Israel on reducing tensions in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
– Tobias Ellwood: Incidents of violence have slowed, but we remain concerned about the situation and encourage both sides to de-escalate tensions. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and I have called on all sides to restore calm.
– RH: While the peace talks stall and tensions escalate, the continued expansion of settlements makes a two-state solution ever more difficult to achieve. What representations is the Minister making to the Israelis about the illegal settlements?
– TE: I made a statement at the weekend about Israel’s announcement on settlements. The hon. Lady is absolutely right. We are an important friend—an ally—of Israel, but the issue of settlements makes it much harder to achieve, and takes us further away from, the two-state solution we seek.
– Victoria Atkins: November 2017 marks the 100th anniversary of the Balfour declaration, which was an historic step in the creation of modern Israel. Are there any plans to mark this anniversary?
– TE: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. During this Parliament, we mark a series of events and decisions that took place during and after world war one, including the Balfour declaration, the then Foreign Secretary’s letter to the leader of the British Jewish community, Lord Rothschild. We are proud of the role that Britain played in supporting the birth of the state of Israel, but the incompletion of the Oslo accords reminds us that there is still work to do to honour the declaration in full. But, yes, we will mark the Balfour declaration anniversary this year.
– Ruth Cadbory: The only way truly to de-escalate tensions is through the restarting of meaningful peace talks. What are the UK Government doing to support this aim?
– TE: We continue to press both sides to come together. John Kerry said not long ago that the middle east peace process must not become a tired old slogan or some throwaway phrase we use to appease our consciences. We need to get both sides back to the table. That is what the Palestinian and Israeli people want.
– Crispin Blunt: Will the Minister tell us, then, what the Government are doing to ensure this issue remains at the top of the international agenda?
– TE: As I say, we call on both parties to resume talks as soon as possible. Prime Minister Netanyahu, on his visit to London and when he was in Washington, and President Abbas have made it clear that they are committed to the two-state solution, but we should also make it clear that the status quo is not acceptable. We currently have a 1.5-state solution, not a two-state solution or a one-state solution, which I do not think is what Israel wants, because the Jewish community would be the minority. We need to get the parties together to work towards that two-state solution, because the status quo is not acceptable.
– Louise Ellman: Has the Minister made representations about the current Palestinian campaign of inciting violence, which has led to 40 young Palestinians committing acts of terrorism, including shootings and stabbings of Israeli civilians on the streets of Israel?
– TE: The hon. Lady is absolutely right to raise that point. Both sides need to refrain from rhetoric and from taking actions that clearly inflame the situation rather than take us where we want to be. Some of the acts of violence are not incited, although some are. It shows the frustration of some individuals who have lost faith in their own leadership. The fact that youngsters can get out a knife and go off and kill an Israeli, knowing the consequences, reflects the dire situation we face. That makes it all the more urgent that the leaders come together and move towards a two-state solution.
– Hilary Benn: Last week, the Minister of State told the House that he wanted to see “genuine intelligence evidence”. However, we know that human rights organisations have already reported what they regard as potential breaches. For instance, a hospital supported by Médecins Sans Frontières in northern Yemen was hit by a missile recently, and another MSF hospital in Sadaa was destroyed last October. In the light of those reports, and given that the Government’s own policy is not to grant arms export licences if “there is a clear risk that the items might be used in the commission of a serious violation of IHL” —international humanitarian law—will the Foreign Secretary launch an immediate review of arms export licences for Saudi Arabia relating to the use of British-supplied weapons?
– Philip Hammond: We need to be careful here. The MSF hospital attack in Sadaa is still being investigated, but so far there is no evidence that it was hit by a missile, although it clearly came under attack. We are looking urgently at the situation on the ground.
We have a very robust export licensing process. There is a series of questions against which any export licence application must be tested, and we apply it rigorously. When a conflict is under way, whether we are talking about Yemen today or Operation Protective Edge in Gaza in the summer of 2014, we take particular care to apply the criteria diligently. That is what has been done, and that is what will be done in relation to any future arms licensing applications that are received.
– Joan Ryan: On new year’s day, Nashat Melhem murdered two Israelis in a bar in Tel Aviv and wounded eight others. He then killed a taxi driver, a Bedouin Israeli, while escaping. He himself was killed a week later in a shoot-out with the police. The Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Health has described him as “one of the dearest martyrs”, and the Fatah Facebook page has commented: “Congratulations and may Allah receive you in Heaven”. What pressure will the Government bring to bear on the Palestinian Authority to ensure that this kind of encouragement to violence is stopped?
– TE: The right hon. Lady is absolutely right. This is the sort of rhetoric I was referring to earlier, and it takes us into a very dark place. It is the sort of rhetoric that President Abbas should be condemning straight away. I will visit Israel and the west bank shortly, and I will certainly raise these matters to ensure that this kind of encouragement and incitement to violence is stopped.
Commons Oral Answers
- Steve McCabe: What discussions has FCO had with the Israeli government on the detention of children; and what steps has Foreign Secretary taken to encourage that government to reduce the number of Palestinian minors held in Israeli prisons?
- Hilary Benn: What advice does the Financial Conduct Authority provide to UK banks and building societies offering mortgages on properties in the Occupied Palestinian Territories?
Nos 2-3 Commons Written Answers
MONDAY 11 JANUARY 2016
- Christian Matheson: What export licences have been granted to UK manufacturers since 2010 to export (a) military and (b) police-related equipment to Israel?
- Hilary Benn: What estimate has DEFRA Secretary made of the (a) number and (b) proportion of goods imported into the UK labelled as products of Israel that are from the Occupied Palestinian Territories?
- Hilary Benn: What proportion of fruit and vegetables imported into the UK have postcodes that show that the produce originated from the Occupied Palestinian Territories?
- Hilary Benn: What marketing standards conformity checks are applied to produce from settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories?
- Hilary Benn: How many marketing standards conformity checks for consignments of fresh fruit and vegetables exported to the UK by Israel have not been accepted on the grounds that the products in those consignments originated in the Occupied Palestinian Territories in each of the last five years?
Nos 1-5 Commons Written Answers
- Lord Kennedy: What is HMG’s latest assessment of the situation in Gaza?
- Baroness Tonge: What representations are HMG making to the government of Israel regarding the attacks on the University in Tulkarem situated in Area A of the West Bank and their impact on students’ access to education?
Nos 6-7 Lords Written Answers