West Bank

Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Office – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 21st November 2017.

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Photo of Julie Elliott Julie Elliott Labour, Sunderland Central 12:00 am, 21st November 2017

What recent discussions he has had with the Government of Israel on the status of Palestinian communities in area C of the west bank threatened with demolition.

Photo of Alan Brown Alan Brown Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Infrastructure and Energy)

What recent discussions he has had with the Government of Israel on the status of Palestinian communities in area C of the west bank threatened with demolition.

Photo of Alistair Burt Alistair Burt Minister of State (Department for International Development) (Jointly with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office), Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) (Joint with the Department for International Development)

We are seriously concerned by the continued demolition of Palestinian property by the Israeli authorities, which causes unnecessary suffering and is harmful to peace. We regularly raise this issue, and our embassy in Tel Aviv most recently raised our concerns with Israel in a joint démarche with European partners on 2 November.

Photo of Julie Elliott Julie Elliott Labour, Sunderland Central

I thank the Minister for his answer. As we know, we have recently seen a very clear indication from Israel’s Defence Minister about the intention to demolish the communities of Khan al-Ahmar and Susiya, and the military has issued a demarcation order signalling the intention to evacuate communities in the Jordan valley and E1 areas. Does the Minister agree that Israel must be held to account if those things actually take place?

Photo of Alistair Burt Alistair Burt Minister of State (Department for International Development) (Jointly with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office), Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) (Joint with the Department for International Development)

This is the subject of a continued conversation with the Israeli authorities in which we make it clear, as do others, that the threat to settlements is unacceptable. I have visited both places—Khan al-Ahmar some years ago, and Susiya quite recently—as have representatives from the embassy. We wait to see further developments. There is a lot of talk about further demolitions, but then the legal process holds them back. However, Israel can be in no doubt of our concerns about the demolition of Palestinian properties and the damage that that does for the prospects of a peaceful settlement.

Photo of Alan Brown Alan Brown Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Infrastructure and Energy)

The reality is that 100,000 hectares of Palestinian land have been taken for settlements and 50,000 homes have been demolished. Will the Minister at least call on the Israeli Government to lift the demolition order on the Bedouin village of Susiya, to which he referred? Will he put in place measures, such as guidance to UK businesses that they stop trading with illegal settlements, in a bid to break this cycle?

Photo of Alistair Burt Alistair Burt Minister of State (Department for International Development) (Jointly with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office), Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) (Joint with the Department for International Development)

We will keep our existing trade relationships, which allow customers to make their own decisions about where the goods they buy come from. We are making our position on settlements extremely clear, and we will continue to do so.

Photo of Bob Blackman Bob Blackman Conservative, Harrow East

I thank the Minister for his answers. When Prime Minister Netanyahu was in London recently, what discussions did my right hon. Friend have with him about face-to-face peace talks between the state of Israel and the Palestinians so that we can create a state of Palestine alongside a secure state of Israel?

Photo of Alistair Burt Alistair Burt Minister of State (Department for International Development) (Jointly with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office), Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) (Joint with the Department for International Development)

When the Prime Minister met Prime Minister Netanyahu on 2 November, she reiterated our continued opposition to settlement activity, and also encouraged him to make the most of the likely opportunities that will come up when the Americans bring forward the proposals they have been discussing privately for some months about the prospects of peace. This chance should not be missed by either side.

Photo of Ross Thomson Ross Thomson Conservative, Aberdeen South

This year marks 40 years since Egyptian President Sadat’s historic visit to Israel, which led to a lasting peace between Israel and Egypt. Peace has only lasted when Israel’s neighbours have reciprocated its goodwill gestures, with land swaps a key aspect of that. Does my right hon. Friend agree that there can be peace between Israel and Palestinians only following the resumption of direct peace talks in which issues including land borders can be resolved?

Photo of Alistair Burt Alistair Burt Minister of State (Department for International Development) (Jointly with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office), Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) (Joint with the Department for International Development)

The short answer is yes, but I do not think we should miss the 40th anniversary of the extraordinary activity that took place between Israel and Egypt. What we would give now for a similar gesture of peace on all sides to bring this long-standing conflict to an end.

Photo of Catherine West Catherine West Labour, Hornsey and Wood Green

Does the Minister believe, with particular reference to Israel and the west bank, that holding children in detention constitutes a breach of the United Nations convention on the rights of the child?

Photo of Alistair Burt Alistair Burt Minister of State (Department for International Development) (Jointly with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office), Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) (Joint with the Department for International Development)

We express repeated concerns to Israel about the treatment of children and ask it to adhere to UN principles on that. We continue to raise this matter of long-standing concern.