Israel-Palestine Conflict

Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Office – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 22nd November 2016.

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Photo of Tobias Ellwood Tobias Ellwood The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

The Foreign Secretary regularly discusses matters relating to the middle east peace process with the US Secretary of State. At the UN General Assembly in September, I attended the ministerial meeting with other foreign leaders, and this issue came up when I spoke to John Kerry this Sunday evening.

Photo of Helen Hayes Helen Hayes Labour, Dulwich and West Norwood

The US election result has created a new sense of urgency in relation to the Israel-Palestine conflict. Will the Foreign Secretary set out what he is doing to secure a new UN resolution before 20 January, and beyond that date how the Government will be seeking to ensure that genuine progress is made towards a two-state solution and real and lasting peace for Palestinians and Israelis?

Photo of Tobias Ellwood Tobias Ellwood The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

For all the reasons I have spelled out before, there is a sense of urgency: the people of Palestine, and indeed the people of Israel, want this to happen. However, we have to wait for the new Trump Administration to embed itself, and we also make it clear that of course there is merit at the right moment in a balanced UN Security Council resolution which sets out the parameters for a workable, viable settlement leading to that two-state solution based on the clear and internationally agreed parameters, but it must command the full support of the Security Council.

Photo of Alistair Burt Alistair Burt Conservative, North East Bedfordshire

Thed comments in the House make clear the anxiety felt by colleagues on all sides that the peace process should not be allowed to drift still further. The greatest danger is not to keep bringing it forward, and we must keep trying to make sure that the parties most closely involved understand that they have worse enemies than each other now in the region. That is why this time must be taken either to put forward a new resolution or to support the French initiative, but certainly not to give people the sense that somehow this can just be managed and will go away.

Photo of Tobias Ellwood Tobias Ellwood The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

My right hon. Friend is wise in what he says. We need to ensure that we grasp this opportunity. President Abbas is actually somebody we can work with, and we should remember that he will not be there forever. What will happen after him is not clear, and we need to ensure that we can work towards a two-state solution, but I want to make it clear that as things stand at the moment, the situation looks very bleak indeed.

Photo of Louise Ellman Louise Ellman Chair, Transport Committee

Does the Minister agree that a resolution can be helpful only if it leads to direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians? Does he agree that it is most unhelpful that the Palestinian Authority has recently named a fourth school after Salah Khalaf, the person who masterminded the murder of 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics?

Photo of Tobias Ellwood Tobias Ellwood The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

I have commented on this matter before, and I absolutely agree with the hon. Lady that this is just inciting hatred and taking us away from the direction we want to go in. It is important that we should be able to get back to the table. We touch on these matters, but they are highly complicated. The role of Hamas in relation to the Palestinian Authority needs to be observed and considered. The other Arab nations can help in that regard. The difficulty is that the position that Prime Minister Netanyahu’s current coalition is working towards is also a consideration. The support of the United States is also critical. These are difficult matters, and I hope that, on the Balfour declaration anniversary next year, we will not be looking back 100 years. Instead, I hope that it will be a marker, and that we will be able to look forward to moving in a positive direction.

Photo of James Morris James Morris Conservative, Halesowen and Rowley Regis

Does the Minister agree that the central principle in the middle east peace process has to be direct talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians in order to reach a two-state solution? Does he also agree that those negotiations need to take place on the basis of no preconditions?

Photo of Tobias Ellwood Tobias Ellwood The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

I absolutely concur with my hon. Friend. However, there are some Israelis who believe that the Palestinians will never accept the Israelis’ right to live in peace in a Jewish state and that they are teaching hate and glorifying terrorists. They think that the west bank will simply be turned into Gaza. On the other side, there are Palestinians who believe that the Israeli Government will never give them the state that they are working towards. We need to bury those myths. That is not what the people of Israel or the people of Palestinian actually want.