Occupied Territories

Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Office – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 19th July 2011.

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Photo of Richard Burden Richard Burden Labour, Birmingham, Northfield 11:30 am, 19th July 2011

What recent assessment he has made of the political situation in the occupied territories.

Photo of William Hague William Hague The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

We welcome the progress that the Palestinian Authority in the west bank has made in building the institutions of a functioning state. We continue to press for credible negotiations to deliver a two-state solution. The Fatah-Hamas reconciliation agreement signed on 4 May has not progressed due to disagreements over the formation of the Government. We welcomed reconciliation in principle, but a new

Palestinian Government must be committed to non-violence, a negotiated peace and the previous agreements of the Palestine Liberation Organisation.

Photo of Richard Burden Richard Burden Labour, Birmingham, Northfield

For more than half a century, Israel has rightly been recognised as a full member of the United Nations, with internationally recognised borders delineated by the green line. That has not been seen as an impediment to a negotiated settlement—in some cases, it has been seen as a prerequisite to it. In that case, what is the problem with recognising Palestine as a full member of the United Nations as requested by the Palestinian people, with borders delineated by that same green line?

Photo of William Hague William Hague The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

This is of course the issue that may come to the UN in September. Whatever happens then, we must remember that to have a truly viable Palestinian state in control of its own territory, it is necessary to arrive at that by negotiation. It can be obtained only through successful negotiation with Israel, whatever resolutions are passed wherever in the world, including at the United Nations. We have reserved our position on the question of recognition. I discussed it again with my European Union colleagues in Brussels yesterday, and we have all agreed that we will reserve our position, partly because it gives us some leverage over both Israelis and the Palestinians as we urge them back into talks in the coming weeks and months. That is our focus at the moment.

Photo of Robert Halfon Robert Halfon Conservative, Harlow

Does my right hon. Friend agree that there should be no recognition of a Palestinian state while Hamas is part of the leadership, especially because of its rejection of the Quartet principles, no recognition of Israel, no renunciation of violence and no acceptance of the existing treaties?

Photo of William Hague William Hague The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

Our position on recognition is as I just set out. We have reserved our position for the moment. Hamas remains a proscribed organisation and I call on it again to release Gilad Shalit. I have stressed that we look to any new Palestinian Authority to be committed to non-violence, a negotiated peace and the previous agreements of the PLO.

Photo of Gerald Kaufman Gerald Kaufman Labour, Manchester, Gorton

Will the right hon. Gentleman join the very many Jewish supporters of Israel in Britain, the United States and Israel itself in expressing utter disgust at the legislation passed in the Knesset last week penalising those advocating boycotts, including a boycott of goods made in the illegal settlements in the occupied territories? Will he also agree that turning Israel into an authoritarian state—by limiting and damaging free speech—will not help the peace process?

Photo of William Hague William Hague The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

This is certainly the wrong way for Israel to proceed. The Knesset passed a Bill a week ago that would fine anyone proposing or supporting a boycott of Israel or Israeli organisations. The Government in no way support boycotts but are concerned about this law, which infringes on the legitimate freedom of expression. I understand that it will be challenged in Israel’s courts, and certainly it is not a law that we can support.

Photo of Bob Blackman Bob Blackman Conservative, Harrow East

A report is suggesting that Hamas has stepped up once again its rocket attacks on the state of Israel. Does my right hon. Friend agree that it would be utterly premature for the Government to sanction UN recognition of a Palestinian state until such time as the Palestinians and Israelis sit around the table and negotiate on all terms?

Photo of William Hague William Hague The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

The position on recognition is as I set out a few moments ago. However, my hon. Friend is right to stress the importance of returning to negotiations. The Quartet meeting last week did not reach agreement on a statement paving the way for that, but I discussed the matter with Tony Blair at the weekend and with my EU colleagues yesterday, and we remain hopeful that the Quartet can arrive at a statement that will form the basis for Israelis and Palestinians to resume negotiations over the coming weeks and months. That has to be the way forward.