What assessment she has made of the implications of demolitions in the occupied Palestinian territories in 2015-16 for her Department’s policies in that region.
The Department’s assessment, in line with long-standing British Government policy, is that demolitions are illegal under international humanitarian law, and that they undermine the credibility and viability of a two-state solution.
The Bedouin village of Umm-al-Hiran remains under threat from a demolition that would cast out 800 villagers, and the number of demolitions in the occupied territories in the first two weeks of January is almost four times greater than the number at this point last year. What support is being given to the people who are being driven out of their homes, and what message is being sent to the Israeli Government that such demolitions are completely unjustifiable?
The hon. Lady raises two important issues, the first of which is long standing. Along with our international partners, we continue to lobby the Israeli Government, who are undertaking the demolitions, to stop doing so, both because they are illegal and because they undermine the two-state solution.
The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my hon. Friend Mr Ellwood, had a meeting with the Israeli Defence Minister, Mr Lieberman, just before Christmas, and raised the issue of demolitions with him directly.
We are absolutely focused on supporting NGOs, but above all we are focused on investment in health and education. It is getting the natural capital right, and providing opportunities and hope for the Palestinians, that will lead to security and stability for both sides in the conflict.
Many of the demolitions occur because it is virtually impossible for Palestinians to obtain building permits. What legal support can the Department give to those who are contesting the process?
As I have said, DFID is focusing on health and education, but the Foreign Office has legal support programmes. This issue goes to the heart of the Israeli planning system, and involves controversies with the Israeli Attorney General. As my hon. Friend says, it is very difficult to obtain planning permission, which is one of the reasons why settlements are built and demolitions then take place.
Among the buildings that the Israeli authorities have demolished are community facilities, some of which have been funded and developed with money from the Minister’s Department. I would welcome his statement, but I think that we need action rather than words. Has the time not come to send Mr Netanyahu the bill for the demolition of structures funded by the British taxpayer?
The British taxpayer has not funded any structures that have been demolished by the Israeli Government. The European Union has funded structures that have been demolished by the Israeli Government, but so far it has not decided to seek compensation.[This section has been corrected on
We are conflating two different issues here. As the Foreign Secretary said yesterday, the Israeli ambassador has already apologised for that incident, and the diplomat concerned has been removed from his post and sent home. I think I have dealt with the overall questions of settlements and demolitions in my answers to the other questions.
The central story is that DFID is doing three types of things for Palestinian people. First, we are supporting Palestinian state structures, in particular health and education—doctors, teachers and nurses. Secondly, we are working on making sure that we can create a viable economy and employment, particularly through support to small businesses. Thirdly, we invest in human capital; in other words, we invest in making sure that the Palestinian people are educated, healthy and have opportunities for security and stability in the region in the short term. But in the long term there cannot be a two-state solution unless we address the needs of the Palestinian people.