THURSDAY 5 MARCH 2015
[NB: The Lords Grand Committee debate on Palestine will take me a while longer; for those who can’t wait, here are the links: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201415/ldhansrd/text/150305-gc0001.htm#15030535000339
Hansard video: http://parliamentlive.tv/event/index/85b95e15-468d-4a8f-b5f0-bfddc85bc86b?in=13:00:00 duration 56 mins.]
- Jeremy Corbyn: What steps is Foreign Secretary taking to support cultural exchanges between artists and educators in the UK and their counterparts in Gaza?
Commons Written Statements.
- Baroness Tonge: What action are HMG taking to prevent the Israeli demolition of the Arab village of Hiran in the Negev in order to replace it with an Israeli settler village?
- Baroness Tonge: What representations have HMG made to the government of Israel concerning the destruction by Israeli forces of a pipeline in the northern Jordan valley built to provide water to Palestinian communities?
- Lord Hylton: What assessment have HMG made of the listing by the government of Israel of Palestinian houses in East Jerusalem for demolition?
- Lord Hylton: What assessment have HMG made of the disqualification of Hanin Zoabi as a candidate in the forthcoming elections in Israel?
- Lord Judd: What representations have HMG made to the government of Israel and what response have they received concerning the second update by UNICEF issued in February 2015 on its report of March 2013 entitled “Children in Military Detention”, with reference to the alleged ill-treatment of children during arrest, transfer, interrogation and detention?
- Lord Judd: What assessment have HMG made of the reported use in Israel of solitary confinement for children held in military detention?
- Lord Judd: What assessment have HMG made of the reported methods of transportation used in Israel for children held in military detention?
- Lord Judd: What assessment have HMG made of reports by UNICEF that children in military detention in Israel have been made to sign untranslated written confessions in Hebrew?
- Lord Hylton: What assessment have HMG made of the reported wounding of Palestinian photo-journalists by the Israeli Defence Force?
- Baroness Tonge: What assessment have HMG made of the impact on the situation in Gaza of issues relating to the control of Gaza’s off-shore gas; and whether it is United Kingdom foreign policy to back Israeli control of that resource?
- Baroness Tonge: Do HMG and other European Union governments plan to discuss Mr Blair’s call for a “radical change of approach” from Israel in respect of Gaza; and are there plans for a joint European Union visit to Gaza at ministerial level?
- Baroness Eaton: What is HMG’s assessment of the impact of the closure of the Rafah crossing by the government of Egypt on the reconstruction programme in Gaza?
Lords Written Answers
WEDNESDAY 4 MARCH 2015
- Roger Williams: What recent discussions has Foreign Secretary had with the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs on the legality of Israeli actions in occupied Palestinian territory; and will he make a statement?
Commons Written Answers
TUESDAY 3 MARCH 2015
- FCO Questions:
– Margaret Ritchie’s question as tabled: What criteria will the Government use to determine the right time for the UK to recognise Palestine as a state?
– Tobias Ellwood: We want to see the establishment of a sovereign and independent Palestinian state, living in peace and security alongside Israel. We have been clear that the UK will recognise a Palestinian state bilaterally at a time when we judge it best to help bring about peace.
– Margaret Ritchie: I thank the Minister for his answer, but does he not see that constantly saying that the UK recognition of the state of Palestine should be conditional on negotiations between Israel and Palestine in effect gives Mr Netanyahu or his successor a veto over the UK’s sovereign decision to recognise Palestine, especially as that Prime Minister is making a very divisive speech in Washington today? How can this be right?
– TE: Although I understand the hon. Lady’s passion—we have debated this matter in the House on a number of occasions—I hope she appreciates that such recognition is not simply a tick-box exercise but a strategic tool, which will have consequences when implemented, and which is therefore best used at a time when it will advance the process and leverage positive change.
– Crispin Blunt: The previous Foreign Secretary said that we were in the last chance saloon for the two-state solution. If the Government wait long enough, there will be no opportunity for a two-state solution and the question will then be completely irrelevant.
– TE: I am sad to say that I agree with my hon. Friend, as many of the ingredients that we witnessed in the build-up to last summer’s conflict are beginning to re-emerge. If we are to avoid another significant and punishing conflict, all parties must come together immediately after the Israeli elections are complete and a new Government are formed, to address these grave challenges.
– Ian Austin: There is no legalistic or bureaucratic route to Palestinian statehood and it cannot be imposed from outside. We will see a viable Palestinian state—the two-state solution that we all want—only as a result of proper negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians, which Britain should be doing everything it can to foster. We need to see the demilitarisation of Gaza, Iran no longer sending rockets to Hezbollah and Hamas, and Britain promoting organisations such as Project Cherish, the Parents Circle-Families Forum and Middle East Education Through Technology to bring together people on both sides who want peace.
– TE: I am not sure that was a question, but I certainly agree with the spirit of the hon. Gentleman’s comments. We want the Palestinian Authority to assert itself in Gaza, not just have a technocratic Government. We want the Palestinians to end the political stalemate with Hamas, as he implies, but we also want Israel to allow the free movement of people, particularly the politicians, into Gaza, and to increase trade between Gaza and the west bank.
– Duncan Hames: The Minister is right—we have debated the subject a number of times. The House also voted by an overwhelming margin in favour of recognising a Palestinian state. Under what circumstances does he consider that the timing of such an announcement should be at odds with the sovereign will of the House?
– TE: As I said in my initial reply, this is not just a tick-box exercise. It is not something that we debate in Parliament and then move on to the next subject. There are real consequences of when we choose to recognise the Palestinian state. We want to be part of that process and to advance it. When we can leverage positive change, we will do so.
– Sir David Amess’ question as tabled: What recent assessment has Foreign Secretary made of progress with the middle east peace process?
– Philip Hammond: I have to be candid with my hon. Friend: progress has stalled pending the Israeli general election on 17 March. The British Government strongly supported US Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts to reach a final status agreement and were disappointed that the parties did not make more progress in 2014. I have discussed many times with Secretary Kerry, most recently when we met in London on 21 February, what the next steps will be. We will press the US to revive the initiative and all the parties to resume serious negotiations as soon as possible after the Israeli elections, and I urge them to be ready then to step up and show the bold political leadership that will be necessary to achieve peace.
– Sir David Amess: I am glad to hear that my right hon. Friend will join me in asking for renewed international pressure on Hamas to disarm and renounce violence. Does he agree that unless that happens it is difficult to envisage a unified and prosperous Palestinian state existing alongside Israel?
– PH: My hon. Friend is right that for an enduring solution Hamas must disarm and be prepared to accept Israel’s right to live in peace, but Israel must also stop making illegal settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. We need to keep up the pressure on both sides if we are to get a sustainable solution.
– Sir Gerald Kaufman: Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that one of the most positive possibilities for advancing peace in the middle east would be the success of the international negotiations with Iran on its nuclear projects? Will he take this opportunity to make it clear that any attempt to disrupt those talks by the Israeli Prime Minister when he addresses the United States Congress later today would be bad for the whole of the middle east and bad for Israel too?
– PH: My reading of the US Congress is that it probably does not need much encouragement to instinctively be very sceptical about the process of dialogue with Iran on the nuclear dossier. However, some small progress is being made there, and I would very much regret any attempts to destabilise or derail that process. On the wider question, settling the Israel-Palestine issue is the big roadblock to a more enduring peace in the middle east.
– Sir Richard Ottaway: Does the Foreign Secretary think that peace will not be forthcoming until Hamas renounces violence and can speak with a single voice? In Israel, we have seen the emergence of a moderate centre ground. Does he think that either condition is going to happen?
– PH: I am going to be slightly careful about the second part of my right hon. Friend’s question because Israel is two weeks away from a general election, so I do not want to speculate about different parts of the political spectrum. What is clear is that there needs to be a broad-based movement within Israel that seeks peace, understands that trade-offs are required in order to achieve peace, and places the greatest premium on getting an acknowledgement of Israel’s right to live inside peaceful pre-’67 borders in perpetuity.
– Angus Robertson: Is it true that Tony Blair is still a so-called middle east peace envoy? What progress has he secured on the ground, and do the UK Government still have confidence in his efforts?
– PH: It is true that Tony Blair remains the Quad envoy to the middle east. Mr Blair has made a large number of visits to the region; most recently he has been in Gaza. He continues to engage, and I have no doubt that his role will be kept under constant review.
– Sir Menzies Campbell: May I take my right hon. Friend back to the question of settlements, which it is accepted throughout this House are wholly contrary to international law? More to the point, the continual encroachment by the Israeli Government makes it impossible for East Jerusalem to become the capital of a Palestinian state. Can he conceive of any circumstances where a leader of the Palestinians would be able to accept a peace arrangement based on giving up East Jerusalem?
– PH: I think that is highly unlikely. As my right hon. and learned Friend knows, the Government’s position is that that should not be the case. I have said in this House before and I will say again that settlements are just buildings. Buildings can be built and buildings can be removed, and we must not allow illegal building to stand in the way of a sustainable solution if it can otherwise be found.
– Gareth Thomas: I am sure that the Foreign Secretary agrees that the middle east peace process will be more difficult to restart if reconstruction in Gaza continues to proceed as slowly as it is currently. What further efforts, if any, will Ministers be making to speed up the delivery of aid, including British aid, that was promised by the international community at the Cairo conference, before they hand over the challenge to this Front Bench on 8 May?
– PH: If I may say so, I think that the hon. Gentleman is getting a little bit ahead of himself there.
We have a good track record on the delivery of our aid pledges in respect of Gaza. A number of other countries have made very forward-leaning aid pledges but they have not yet been followed through. So there is a problem with money, but there is also a physical problem of being able to get materials into Gaza and get works progressed. That is caused partly by the security situation in Sinai and the Egyptian response to that, and partly by the situation between Israel and the Palestinians in Gaza. I do not think, honestly, that we are going to get much progress before the Israeli general election, but as soon as that election is out of the way, this has to be a major priority.
– Jim Cunningham’s question as tabled: What reports has Foreign Secretary received on displacement of Bedouin in Southern Israel?
– Andy Slaughter’s question as tabled: What representations has Foreign Secretary made on the potential demolition of the village of Umm al-Hiran in Negev?
– Tobias Ellwood: We are deeply concerned about proposals to demolish Bedouin villages. We are monitoring the situation closely, including talking regularly to organisations that work with those communities.
– Jim Cunningham: In an earlier answer to an Opposition Member, the Foreign Secretary said that we were talking only about buildings in relation to the peace process. He forgot to say that in order to facilitate the peace process, we have to get people out of those buildings, and that is the big issue. May I push the Minister a little further? There are a number of impending demolitions of villages to make way for Israeli settlements. Will the Minister discuss that issue with the Israeli Government, urge them to reconsider the upcoming evictions and demolitions due for next month, and instead consider villages co-existing side by side in the spirit of peace?
– TE: I agree with the hon. Gentleman, but the displacement issues in southern Israel, and the potential demolition of the Umm al-Hiran villages, are not in the occupied Palestinian territories but in green line Israel. That is a slightly separate debate or concern—if I can put it that way—to the illegal settlements that have been put forward, but nevertheless we are concerned and are having a dialogue with Israel about that.
– Andy Slaughter: I welcome the Minister’s words, but may I urge on him a sense of urgency and purpose—urgency because the demolition order for Umm al-Hiran may be given in two weeks’ time, and purpose in the sense that action is needed? Will he ask the British ambassador to visit the village, and will he invoke the EU-Israeli association agreement that makes favourable trade relations dependent on Israel’s respect for human rights?
– TE: As I clarified, that is a different matter to the debate about the occupied Palestinian territories, but nevertheless we want a robust planning process that adequately addresses the needs of the Bedouin communities. We must keep pushing for that dialogue.
– Sir Bob Russell: Will the Minister confirm that the displacement of the Bedouin constitutes ethnic cleansing?
– TE: Again, I reiterate the difference between the two issues: one concerns the illegal settlements, and the other is a planning matter that we have raised concerns about. I visited the E1 area, which is where much of the attention is currently focused, and we have discouraged the growth of settlements in that area. Were the plans to go ahead, we would have a break between the Hebron and Bethlehem conurbations, and that would effectively end the middle east peace process.
– Sir Tony Baldry: Is the displacement of the Bedouin from the E1 area contrary to international humanitarian law—yes or no?
– TE: It is contrary to international law in that sense, and any nation has obligations when dealing with occupied territories and their occupants. We are discouraging Israel from further build, but the land swaps will be integral to any future long-term peace agreement. That is why we are in this quagmire.
– Rehman Chishti’s question as tabled: What recent assessment has Foreign Secretary made of the extent of Iran’s financial and material support for Hamas and Hezbollah?
– TE: We have serious concerns about Iran’s support for militant groups, including Hezbollah and Hamas. That includes financial resources and training, as well as the supply of military equipment.
– Rehman Chisti: I thank the Minister for that answer. As part of our talks with Iran on its nuclear programme, will there be a specific condition on Iran to stop sponsoring and harbouring terrorism, whether that is supporting the Houthis in Yemen, interfering in Syria, interfering in Iraq with its militias against the Sunnis, or supporting Hezbollah, to ensure that we have a long-term solution, not a short-term fix?
– TE: Discussions around a nuclear solution are separate to those other matters, but my hon. Friend is right to raise the issue. Iran is having a destabilising effect in the region, and that is a violation of UN resolution 1747 which makes illegal the export of weapon systems and armaments from Iran.
– Louise Ellman: Iran arms Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza, and it now threatens to arm Palestinians on the west bank who currently support President Abbas. In view of the Minister’s previous reply, what specific representations have the Government made to the United Nations about that flagrant breach of UN resolutions?
– TE: The hon. Lady will be aware that the Prime Minister had his first meeting with the Prime Minister of Iran at the United Nations General Assembly and very much put those points down. She is right that Iran must question its role in the region. It must ask itself whether it wants to be a part of the problem or a part of the solution. We have spoken about Hamas and Hezbollah. Hezbollah is effectively propping up the Assad regime, because he is losing the officer class, which is depleted because of the war.
– Bridget Phillipson: What his priorities are for the 28th session of the UN Human Rights Council in March 2015.
– David Lidington: Our priorities include the renewal of UN mandates on Syria, Burma and Iran, increasing international attention on Libya, Ukraine and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, responding to UN reports on Gaza and ISIL activity in Iraq, and thematic resolutions on freedom of religion or belief, combating religious intolerance, and privacy. My right hon. and noble Friend Baroness Anelay is representing us at the session.
– Grahame M Morris: We know that 163 Palestinian children are being held in Israeli military detention, and that many are being held inside Israel in direct violation of the fourth Geneva convention. What representations is the Secretary of State making to the Israeli authorities with a view to ending that brutal aspect of the illegal occupation?
– PH: We routinely make representations to the Israelis on all aspects of illegal conduct—of which that is just one example—and we will continue to do so.
– Fiona MacTaggart: The Minister, the hon. Member for Bournemouth East (Mr Ellwood), earlier said that he did not feel it was right to do anything about the Israel-Palestine situation until after the Israeli election, yet given that none of the major parties in that election is committed to withdrawal from the occupied territories, is not now the time to say that Britain intends to recognise Palestine?
– PH: If only it were that simple. I understand that the hon. Lady’s point is well made, but I can tell her exactly what any such statements now will do: they will play to the hard right in the Israeli elections. That will not make a settlement more likely; it will make it less likely.
Commons Oral Answers
- David Mowat: What recent assessment has Foreign Secretary made of the likelihood of a two-state solution emerging in the Middle East?
Commons Written Answers
MONDAY 2 MARCH 2015
- Palestinian groups, entities and persons mentioned in Treasury statement on key asset-freezing activity during the last quarter of 2014.
Commons Written Statements
- Philip Hollobone: What assessment has Foreign Secretary made of the extent to which Hamas is attempting to rebuild its terrorist infrastructure in the Gaza Strip?
Commons Written Answers