FRIDAY 28 FEBRUARY 2014
1. Ann Main: What steps is DfID Secretary taking to ensure UK aid to Palestinian social assistance programmes is not used to compensate convicted terrorists?
2. Ann Main: What assessment has DfID Secretary made of the role of UK aid to Palestine in encouraging climate conducive to achieving peaceful resolution to the conflict?
3. Ann Main: How much do HMG give annually in aid directly to the PA and how does DfID audit how such money is spent?
4. Rushanara Ali: What provisions are in place to prevent water contamination and provide access to drinking water in Gaza?
5. Rushanara Ali: What assessment has DfID made of the availability of fresh drinking water for Palestinians in Gaza?
Commons Written Answers
THURSDAY 27 FEBRUARY 2014
1. Motion to Take Note of recent developments in Syria and the Middle East.
– Baroness Warsi: Progress on MEPP desperately needed, given its importance to millions of Israelis and Palestinians and international peace. “In the past month, more than 30 Palestinian protesters were injured by Israeli live ammunition, while two Israeli soldiers were injured. Both Israeli and Palestinian security forces have foiled terrorist attacks on Israel, allegedly planned by individuals in the West Bank. Attacks by settlers on Palestinian property also continued.”
– Lord Palmer: Declaring his interest as LDFoI vice-president, he speaks about Israel having given medical treatment to some 700 Syrians. “The IDF even set up a field hospital specifically for the purpose of treating Syrian refugees”. One of the “sub-crises” within the overall crisis of Syria, has been “the condition of the 20,000 in Yarmouk, a Palestinian refugee camp in south Damascus”.
– Lord Howell of Guildford: Dwells on the “vast new gas reserves” identified in the east Mediterranean. “In the case of Israel, the reserves have been found and are being used. They have a very significant effect on the whole pattern in the area. Cyprus and Israel want to work together to develop them.” Further: “The acquisition of gas resources by Israel is changing its attitude as well to what can be done in the way of supplying gas, certainly to Jordan and Palestine. Indeed, it has already signed contracts, oddly enough, to supply gas back to Egypt—the other way around from the pattern that used to exist five years ago.” [ed: no mention of Gaza gas fields]
– Lord Stone: Having just returned from Israel and WB, attests to “great efforts” going into the peace talks: “Despite the scepticism, movement is happening. Even though the timeframe may need to be extended, a positive process will be agreed by the middle of this year.” Further: “Were Israel and Palestine and Jordan and Egypt to find their feet in the next few years and begin to work and trade together, they could serve as a light to the nations that surround them.”
– Lord Wright: Humanitarian crisis engulfing Syrians and Palestinians in their refugee camps is one of the worst we have seen for some time. Asks minister for an update as to whether UK and European efforts on “the continuing disgrace of Israeli settlement policy on the West Bank” have met with any positive response. “What representations have we made about the addition of 35 further settlements as national priority areas, or the demolition of Palestinian homes by the Israeli armed forces in the Jordan valley over the past three months?” Commends EU decision “to prevent all EU states from co-operating, transferring funds, or giving scholarships or research grants to bodies inside these illegal settlements, adding: “ Indeed, I hope that the Government will not oppose the idea of any further sanctions if, as appears likely, Mr Netanyahu continues to ignore our representations.”
– Lord Lamont: Compares Iran’s interest in Hamas and Hezbollah with the US interest in Bahrain: “I think Iran’s links towards Hezbollah and Hamas, which occupy a very different space on the political Islam spectrum, ought to be looked at in the context of Iran’s own security concerns. It regards its links with Hamas and Hezbollah as assets.”
– Earl of Sandwich: Mentions “the desperation of Palestinians in the besieged camp of Yarmouk.”
– Lord Marlesford: Israel-Palestine situation entering even more serious phase. “It continues to drop its poison into the region and more widely, providing the leitmotif for the jihadists and making it ever harder for moderate Islamic interests, such as Fatah, to negotiate a long-term solution.” In Israel the WB is not a top domestic issue; most Israelis have never been there and have no wish to do so. “The politics of a Palestinian state are not an easy option for Prime Minister Netanyahu, especially while there is relative calm.” Kerry’s commitment to two-state-solution gaining support in US. “Originally, Kerry set a nine-month framework for results. That was six months ago. There are concerns that President Obama may be about to announce changes to the terms of reference, which, far from moving towards a solution, could close options and escalate instability on the West Bank, providing welcome sustenance for Islamists.”
– Lord Alderdice: British foreign policy seems to see “engagement” in military and force terms; it waits to see what America does. “In fact, on some issues—particularly the Israel-Palestine question—that is the answer I have received when I asked officials at the Foreign Office what precisely is our policy. ‘We will wait and see what John Kerry says, we will wait and see what happens, and then we will support it‘”.
– Lord Hannay: Israeli-Palestinian talks seem marginally less hopeless. “Perhaps it is finally dawning on the two sets of protagonists that they can no longer count on the unquestioning support of their external backers. The fact that Prime Minister Netanyahu has been criticised for even contemplating the possibility that some Israeli settlers might find themselves living in a Palestinian state is surely a welcome first and a sign that some new thinking may be starting to percolate.” Asks whether HMG are encouraging the US to make some proposals or ideas for a comprehensive settlement, without which the two sides cannot break the deadlock. “Would it not also be valuable if something was said in public, including about the contribution the EU might make, and also about the sort of relationship that a post-settlement Israel could hope to have with the European Union, a relationship which is obviously extraordinarily important to Israel in the longer term?”
– Lord Luce: The long-suffering people of the ME deserve positive progress towards the removal of “the long-standing sore in the Middle East—Israel and Palestine“.
– Lord Bach: “On Israel and Palestine, all I have to say from the Front Bench is that we fully back Secretary of State John Kerry in his search for a negotiated settlement. We know that the Government back him too. We particularly admire his persistence and patience. The provocative actions from all sides are much to be regretted. We urge Her Majesty’s Government to continue to give solid support, as we are sure they will, to the Kerry initiative.” [extract]
– Baroness Warsi: “We do not recognise the Occupied Territories, including the settlements, as part of Israel and we are advising British businesses to bear that in mind when considering their investments and activities in the region. This is, of course, a voluntary guide and it is ultimately a decision for individuals or companies whether to operate in settlements or the Occupied Territories, but the British Government would neither encourage nor offer support to such activity.” [extract]
2. Counterterrorism Practices – Question for Short Debate tabled by Lord Hylton:
– Lord Hylton: “It is worth noting that the United States has followed Israel in its policy of targeted killings of supposed enemies. Between 1995 and 2012 Israel assassinated at least 61 men in the Middle East outside its own borders, and no doubt others before and after those years. Israel thus lowered itself to the level of the notorious medieval Old Man of the Mountain, the patron of the Assassins. I hope that the US will see that assassinations have not stopped terror attacks, or even defeated national resistance. Neither has administrative detention, as the Israelis describe it.” (extract)
Lords Grand Committee
WEDNESDAY 26 FEBRUARY 2014
1. In “Iran (Joint Plan of Action)” debate, tabled by Matthew Offord, both he and Jack Lopresti said Iran continues to support “terrorist activity“, mentioning Hamas by name.
2. Rushanara Ali: What representations has Foreign Secretary made to Israel on its meeting its obligations under the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access?
3. Rushanara Ali: What recent assessment has Foreign Secretary made of the consequences of Israel’s Gaza blockade?
4. Laurence Robertson: What recent discussions has Foreign Secretary had with Israel on the treatment of Palestinian children; and will he make a statement?
5. Nadine Dorries: What assessment has DfID Secretary made of the goal set by the Palestinian National Plan to modernise the Palestinian education system?
6. Nadine Dorries: What steps is DfID Secretary taking to monitor the PA’s commitments on the educational goals set by the Palestinian National Plan?
7. Nadine Dorries: What assessment has DfID made of the effectiveness of the funding given to the PA for improving educational progress?
8. Nadine Dorries: What steps does DfID take to ensure that UK aid funding does not help promote anti-Semitic or otherwise inappropriate material in schools in the Palestinian territories? [Alan Duncan: (extract) “We welcome the 2013 Council of the Religious Institutions of the Holy Land (CRIHL) report’s finding that incitement and extreme negative characterisations are very rare in both Israeli and Palestinian textbooks.”]
9. Nadine Dorries: What plans does DfID have for determining future funding to the PA?
Nos 2-9 Commons Written Answers
TUESDAY 25 FEBRUARY 2014
The House of Commons International Development Committee held a two-hour session this morning on the UK’s Development Work in the Middle East.http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Main/Player.aspx?meetingId=14945
The first hour was devoted to Syria, with these witnesses: Amir Abdulla, Deputy Executive Director, UN World Food Programme, Nigel Pont, Regional Director, Syrian Response, Mercy Corps, and Jehangir Malik, UK Director, Islamic Relief.
The second hour, from 01:04:38 onwards, was devoted to Palestine, with these witnesses:
John Ging, Director, Coordination Response Division, OCHA; Margot Ellis, Deputy Commissioner-General of UNWRA; and Daniel Levy, Director, Middle East and North Africa Programme, as well as the think-tank European Council on Foreign Relations. As he stresses at one point, he (Daniel Levy) speaks as someone who negotiated for the Israeli side at Taba.
Questions were put by the following MPs: Sir Malcolm Bruce, Chair of the Committee; Michael McCann; Fabian Hamilton; Sir Peter Luff; Chris White (not in any order).
All the Qs & As on Palestine were extremely relevant and valuable and I would recommend everyone interested in Palestine to listen them. This was the first time I have heard a committee session broadcast on the public network where the core issues about Palestine were so openly discussed. I will transcribe two sections, beginning with the one of considerable topicality. It begins @ 01:46:51.
“(Sir Peter Luff): On a practical question, would it help the Palestinians: Soda Stream – Israeli Occupied territory, good or bad?
“(Daniel Levy) You don’t mean as a product?
“(SPL) No, no, I don’t mean that. Sally (evidently a slip for Scarlett) Johanssen tells us that.
I mean as a role model to help Palestinians into employment.
“(DL) I can’t put myself into the place of a Palestinian, but I think many, most people would balk at the idea that benevolent (sic!) occupation is a path to Palestinian enfranchisement, fulfilment of rights and even better life over time. Because I don’t think that has been the case. So I think, you know, all the studies show that the biggest impediment to Palestinian economic progress is not the absence of an Israeli-run SodaStream factory that can employ some tens of Palestinians or not. It’s the inability to control their own resources, their own land, 60 per cent of territory that they don’t have access to, their own external border arrangements and crossings, who they import from and export to; the fact that it’s a captive market tied to an Israeli market, with an order of magnitude of eighteen times, or fifteen times greater GDP per capita than the Palestinian market. Are there Palestinians employed in construction of settlements, in settlement factories, in settlement agricultural lands, who take home their pay packet as a consequence of working in that settlement entity? Yes there are. Do they and their family personally benefit? Yes, they do. Is this a long-term strategy, or even a medium-term strategy, that Palestinians can rally around as a way of fulfilling their potential? I don’t think anyone would make that argument.[Passage omitted: Margot Ellis talks about Israel wanting to control the Jordan Valley]
“(SPL) So are people like Christian Aid right when they call for a boycott of products from the Israeli settlements?
“(CL) I think it’s absolutely legitimate to say that there is a distinction between Israel, that we recognise in the ‘67 lines, and what goes on as Israeli activity beyond those ‘67 lines. When Europe signs trade agreements, it is signing them with Israel. It is not recognising the occupation as part of the entity it’s signing trade agreements with. Labelling, therefore, is absolutely legitimate. I actually make the case with Israelis: if you don‘t want Israel to be boycotted, allow consumers to distinguish, to say: I want to buy Israeli but I don’t want to
buy that. It’s each individual’s choice of conscience as a consumer as to whether they then buy a product or not. It’s their choice, and it’s facilitated by drawing that distinction.”
“(Michael McCann) In the years 2011-2015 DfID will provide 122 million pounds in direct funding to the PA through the World Bank. Do you think that’s a good idea?
“(Daniel Levy) For me it goes back to this question of what is the overall goal here. I think we have more or less four choices. One would be to basically acknowledge this is not a development question. You can’t build a state under occupation. We’ve tried to for 20 years. We have to roll up our sleeves and make some of the political hard choices that taking the approach we’ve currently taken have in a way made it easier to avoid. And then one can go one of two ways with that. One can either say: We are throwing good money after bad until Israel ends the occupation – if the 2-state model is the one we pursue. Therefore what leverage do we have with the Israelis? Those who follow the debates in the Israeli press closely will see that it’s not offers of greater partnership from Europe that grab the Israelis’ attention. It’s actually threats of sanctioning from Europe that get the attention of Israelis. So you constantly have this stream (few words omitted)… this stream of Israeli centrist politicians, those more embracing of two states, from the leader of the opposition, to Minister Tzipi Livni, who you may be familiar with, to former prime ministers Olmert and Barak, saying: If we don’t make peace, the world will impose costs on us, we will become a pariah – presumably, assuming that the Israeli public will respond if that starts to happen. So, that’s the kind of how does one use leverage with Israel.
A second alternative is to say: This isn’t a development, this isn’t worth supporting the PA; let’s go along with what apparently Israel is intending to do after almost 50 years of being in these territories: It’s Israeli; there’s not going to be space for a Palestinian state; there are hundreds of thousands of Israeli settlers beyond the Green Line; why invest in an alternative quasi-state structure for 20 years? Let’s say to the Israelis: We accept it, this is yours, it’s your responsibility; some people may feel less comfortable with Palestinians there not having full rights, some people may be more OK with that; but it’s up to you. And if there’s then – as again, as Israeli prime ministers, former prime ministers have suggested, an anti-apartheid campaign – which is what former PMs Barak and Olmert talked about it – we’ll have to decide how to relate to that. So, a kind of get on with it, we’re pulling back from this. I think there only two other options if one doesn’t want to go that path. One is you continue to do what you’ve been doing and look at this not as 20 years of failure, but as 20 years of keeping an option alive. Which is why you will be pulled into a blame game when you visit. Both sides will try to say to you: Ach, that side is doing this, that side is doing that. There is an asymmetry of power, which I think is the headline that one can’t avoid acknowledging. There is international law that comes into play, there is an occupying power and an occupied people. But both sides want to maintain this option – at the moment. The political strategy of the Israeli and Palestinian leadership is to say – let me put it like this: this is the least bad option. Let’s still have a degree of Palestinian self-governance and let’s try and not let this spiral out of control. (interruption omitted) Very briefly the fourth option: I think there are some ways in which you can tie the two together, the making some of this assistance more politically meaningful. I think that relates to things in Area C, things in East Jerusalem; and I think DfID is beginning to do some of those things. I think you have to keep it at a level that allows you to do everything else; but I think a little more leaning in that direction would be useful.
“(McCann) DfID is about poverty alleviation. And we supply direct budget to support a range of countries through our programmes, our bilateral programmes. We’ve also withdrawn budget support when governments in our opinion have misbehaved. So therefore, when it comes to the Palestinian Authority, with our 122 million pounds of direct support, and while President Abbas says that he opposes violence, and we’ve received evidence, irrefutable evidence, (word indistinct), and individuals who are convicted terrorists, who have killed Israelis, that he is paying prisoners’ families from budget support on a sliding scale, depending on how heinous the crime is, that the money is used through education to demonise Jewish people. And therefore, in any other set of circumstances it is difficult not to imagine that the British Government, through DfID would
withdraw budget support. So, the question therefore is – we’re in different territory here; is it just because of the political issues on the ground that we are continuing? And do you believe that the money is being well spent?
“(John Ging) I think Daniel has set out very well the political challenge and the political challenge of political leadership. But let’s now come down to what has been decided and what we’re trying to make work. So, from our perspective we would say that absolutely, DfID is making the right choice to invest, as it is directing its investment – through, in this instance – through the PA. It’s also correct that that must be challenged in terms of the integrity. And the issues that you highlight, they need to be addressed. Now, I would suggest that the prisoners who are in prison are paying the price of their crime. Their families should not be paying a price for the sins [sic] of their parents. So, if it’s a poverty alleviation programme then it should be on the basis of need for the children and whoever else are the dependents in need, irrespective of the crimes of their parents.[Passage omitted: elaboration and repetition]
“(JG) On the education programme, again, there has to be accountability within the education programme on both sides of this conflict, on both sides of this conflict, to ensure that education is not a tool of socialisation that actually radicalises, incites, enhances the animosity, the division, whatever. [passage omitted] Are the text books on either side ideal? No, they’re not. No. And there‘re been many studies on this. [passage omitted] But let’s not look at this in isolation. There are two parties in this conflict, and let’s address it in a way that ensures that the education that the kids are getting on both sides is the education that will create a better understanding, higher levels of tolerance. And one also has to accept and acknowledge that there will be a nationalism, you know, a historical perspective, there will be national pride, and so forth. That is also part of the education system in any country.
“(McCann) Yes, but the thing is: we don’t provide any money to the Israeli government; we provide it to the OPTs. (passage omitted) In terms of money being spent appropriately or inappropriately, not in poverty alleviation, then how do we hold the PA to account?[Omitted: Margot Ellis on how Palestinians and Israeli no longer know each other, meaning there’s a ticking time bomb for the potential of a 2-s-s, because the people-to-people connection is not there.]
“(Daniel Levy) Can I just address that directly for a moment? Because I’m quite sensitive to antisemitic stereotypes. Um, and I think it is something that has to be taken on. And you are right, you don’t fund the Israeli education system, so whatever one finds there is not pertinent to this conversation. But I think what is pertinent is – and what makes this a very distinct kind of funding pool – is that we’re not in a post-conflict peace, truth and reconciliation phase between Israelis and Palestinians. We are deep in the conflict. And the driving narrative on both sides is still a deeply destructive one. Now, does that mean one shouldn’t take a microscope to what is being done? It doesn’t. But it also means that one can’t de-Palestinianise what the PA does. Because that’s not gonna serve anyone. So, the idea that you could have, at this stage in the conflict, a PA that does not treat its prisoners in a certain way – I don’t think can exist with the reality we’re in. If you asked the Northern Ireland warring parties to disavow the people of violence at the wrong moment in that process, one would have undermined that process. And I think it’s a real challenge for international donors and for support for the PA. But one has to understand that we’re bringing, in some respects, post-conflict tools to bear in a space that is deeply still in conflict. And we de-Palestinianise the PA at our own peril. Because the less credibility and legitimacy we impose on it vis-s-vis its own public, to be honest, the less useful it is for the main purpose that it’s designed for, which is to be a vehicle to make a peace deal. And so I cannot be more sympathetic to the place your question is coming from, and I cannot be more cautioning of where one might go if one takes that logic too far.
“(McCann) I’m a bit (words indistinct) and I just want to make this point for the record: this is about being honest with the British people, about how their money is being spent. That’s what it’s about. Whether it’s correct or not is a different matter. It’s about… the way you’ve answered the question… you’ve expressed what that money is trying to achieve…
“(Daniel Levy) Except that money… as I understand it… there’s never been a GOTSCHA moment of DfID money going to a text book that’s been found to… or a – (at this point he is interrupted by the Chair who invites another MP to put his question).”
MONDAY 24 FEBRUARY 2014
1. Sir Bob Russell (in Ukraine, Syria and Iran debate): “When the Foreign Secretary refers to democracy, human rights and the rule of law, I trust that that applies to all peoples and nations. In the concluding paragraph of his statement, he referred to “intensive diplomatic activity… to ensure a more peaceful and stable world” and he specifically mentioned the middle east. Why, then, does Britain have double standards when it comes to the Palestinians?”
2. Sir Menzies Campbell: What steps is FCO taking to support peace talks and encourage all concerned parties to engage constructively in the negotiations; and will he make a statement?
3. Sir Menzies Campbell: What steps is FCO taking to support civil society in Israel and Palestine and groups which are campaigning for peace?
4. Alec Shelbrooke: What assessment has Foreign Secretary made of recent reports of rocket fire from Gaza into Israel? [Hugh Robertson: (extract) “We have received no reports of Israeli casualties in 2014. Israel has responded with several airstrikes this year, killing two Palestinians and wounding several others.“] Nos 2-4
Commons Written Answers
5. Baroness Tonge: How many UK military personnel annually travel overseas to be trained in urban warfare or counter-terrorism techniques by the IDF?
6. Baroness Tonge: How many Jewish students domiciled in the UK travel to Israel each year for military training?
7. Lord Hylton: What representations are HMG making to Israel about reported clashes between its forces and volunteers at Ein Hijleh on 6 or 7 February and the subsequent declaration of the area as a “closed military zone”?
8. Lord Hylton: Following the EU FAC on 20 January, and subsequent meetings, will HMG and their EU colleagues make representations to Israel and the PA regarding the benefits of reaching agreements?
Nos 5-8 Lords Written Answers