The pace of progress has been disappointing, but those involved with the Palestinian track are still edging forward. There is a prospect of agreement on holding elections and the accompanying Israeli withdrawal from west bank towns by the end of June. Mr. Yasser Arafat's moves to clamp down on terrorism have clearly had some positive effect.
Will the Foreign Secretary join me in expressing regret at the death in Shin Beth custody of Abd a-Samed Harizat, a Palestinian from Hebron who, although he had links with Hamas, was entitled to protection under Israeli law while in custody? Does the Foreign Secretary agree that while we are unanimously opposed to suicide bombing or terrorist activities as a way of moving the peace proposals forward, the best way to resolve the suicide bombers' terrorist campaign is to press ahead with the Palestinian elections as quickly and expeditiously as possible so that there can be a genuine democratically elected Government to represent the Palestinian authorities in the peace negotiations?
I am sure that the whole House would condemn all recent violence in these disputes, from whatever quarter. One good thing has shone through: despite all the difficulties and tragedies, both sides have committed themselves to press on with negotiations and not to abandon the peace process. As-the hon. Gentleman knows, the next step is to complete talks on elections and the redeployment of Israeli forces by 1 July. I hope that that will happen.
Will my right hon. Friend join me in condemning the Hamas murderers who seek to kill innocent civilians, derail the peace process and undermine the efforts of Mr. Arafat to secure peace in the region?
Does the Foreign Secretary agree that it was especially reprehensible that the Israeli authorities announced that 133 acres of Palestinian land in east Jerusalem were to be expropriated for building exclusively Jewish housing projects on the very day when it was announced that the Israeli army were to withdraw from the six Palestinian towns on the west bank? In the past, the Foreign Secretary has condemned Israeli building in the occupied territories. Will he now take firm action to ensure that that point is forcefully made to the Israeli Government, and that serious attempts are made to stop that project going ahead?
Yes. We believe, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made clear when he was there, that all settlement building should be stopped because it is illegal and an obstacle to peace. We are concerned about the decision to expropriate land in Jerusalem. It is contrary to United Nations Security Council resolutions and to the spirit of the declaration principles. We and our European partners have already pointed that out.
My right hon. Friend will recall that, at the time of the agreement between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organisation, many Arab states made substantial promises of aid. Does he agree that that aid, and the economic prosperity that it can buy for the Palestinians, is the best defence against extremism? What assessment has he made of how much hard cash has come from the Arab states in fulfilment of those promises?
I certainly believe that the flow of help for Mr. Arafat, now that he has administrative responsibilities, from his Arab brothers has been disappointing. They still have disagreements with him—as, indeed, do we because of his stance in the Gulf war—but it is important that he should be sustained in his efforts to run the Gaza strip, Jericho and eventually the rest of the west bank in a reasonable and business-like way. We have given him support and help in that, and the Arab world should do likewise.
Does the Foreign Secretary accept that the economic and financial aid package given in Paris last week to Gaza and to Jericho must be used for specific projects which will produce specific jobs and, therefore, improve the quality of life of people living in that region?
I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his appointment to the Opposition Front Bench. I entirely agree with him. The total European package—which is in addition to the British package, to which we have added from time to time—totals 500 million ecu over five years. It is for specific projects—education, housing, technical assistance, the rehabilitation of those who have been detained, and support for private enterprise in the territories.