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Covid-19: Israeli and Palestinian Authority Co-operation

Foreign and Commonwealth Office – in the House of Commons on 11th May 2020.

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Photo of Stephen Crabb Stephen Crabb Chair, Welsh Affairs Committee, Chair, Welsh Affairs Committee

What recent reports he has received on Israeli co-operation with the Palestinian Authority in tackling covid-19.

Photo of Steve McCabe Steve McCabe Labour, Birmingham, Selly Oak

What assessment he has made of the effectiveness of Israeli-Palestinian co-operation in tackling covid-19.

Photo of James Cleverly James Cleverly Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) (Joint with the Department for International Development)

We welcome the ongoing co-operation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority towards tackling covid-19, a matter I was pleased to discuss directly with the Israeli ambassador to the UK and the Palestinian Prime Minister recently. UN agencies, the Israeli Government and the Palestinian Authority are working together to ensure essential medical supplies and staff reach the most vulnerable areas, including Gaza. We encourage continued positive interaction between Israel and the Palestinian authorities in their efforts to fight covid-19.

Photo of Stephen Crabb Stephen Crabb Chair, Welsh Affairs Committee, Chair, Welsh Affairs Committee

My right hon. Friend will be aware that the UN special co-ordinator for the middle east peace process recently praised the way the Israeli Government and the Palestinian Authority have been working together to tackle covid-19. Does he agree that that kind of practical co-operation—the building of trust and meeting shared challenges head on—is the way that peace will get built in the region? Will he step up his efforts to encourage genuine negotiations based on the two-state solution?

Photo of James Cleverly James Cleverly Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) (Joint with the Department for International Development)

In conversations I have had with both representatives of the Israeli Government and the Palestinian Authority I have praised the way they have worked together on this matter. I absolutely agree with my right hon. Friend that international co-operation is the way that we, as the international community, will fight it. As the Prime Minister said at the coronavirus global response international pledging conference he co-hosted in May, the race for a vaccine is not a competition between countries, but the most urgent shared endeavour of our lifetime. If the attitudes we bring into fighting this disease can be more broadly applied, I think the world would be a better place.

Photo of Steve McCabe Steve McCabe Labour, Birmingham, Selly Oak

I thank the Minister for his comments. Will he join me in welcoming the news that Israel has approved a $230 million advance payment to the Palestinian Authority, alongside coronavirus test kits, intensive care beds, ventilators, drugs and protective equipment? Is that not exactly the kind of behaviour we should welcome and encourage?

Photo of James Cleverly James Cleverly Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) (Joint with the Department for International Development)

I thank the hon. Gentleman for the points he makes. We have indeed commented positively to the Israeli Government on how they have worked with the Palestinian Authority. I made the same point to Palestinian Authority representatives on the way they have worked with the Israeli Government. It shows a pattern of co-operation that should be replicated. I hope it is a step towards building trust that will enable a sustainable peaceful solution to the situation in Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Photo of Wayne David Wayne David Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

Thank you, Mr Speaker. As has been said, there is encouraging co-operation between Israelis and Palestinians with regard to covid-19. I am sure the Minister agrees that that highlights how wrong it is for a new Israeli Government to pursue a policy of illegal annexation of large parts of the west bank. What are the Government doing to mobilise international opinion against that annexation?

Photo of James Cleverly James Cleverly Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) (Joint with the Department for International Development)

I welcome the hon. Gentleman to his place, although it is virtual. The UK Government have expressed, both publicly and to the Government of Israel, our concerns about reports of annexation, which we have consistently said we oppose and could be detrimental to the chances of the peaceful, sustainable two-state solution that we should all be working towards.