Occupied Palestinian Territories and Israel

Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office – in the House of Commons on 13th October 2020.

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Photo of Andrew Slaughter Andrew Slaughter Labour, Hammersmith

With reference to the resolution of the House of 13 October 2014, what steps the Government are taking to recognise the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel, as a contribution to securing a negotiated two-state solution.

Photo of Caroline Ansell Caroline Ansell Conservative, Eastbourne

What diplomatic steps he is taking to help secure peace between Israel and the Palestinian people.

Photo of James Cleverly James Cleverly Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

The UK is a strong supporter of Palestinian state building efforts. In 2019, we spent £81 million in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Part of that contribution is helping to build Palestinian state institutions; fostering private sector-led sustainable economic growth; and providing technical assistance to strengthen the Palestinian Authority’s financial management. However, such progress can never be a substitute for a political settlement, which is why the Foreign Secretary visited Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories in August actively to encourage Israel and the Palestinian leadership to renew co-operation and work together. I also discussed this matter with UN special co-ordinator Mladenov on 1 October.

Photo of Andrew Slaughter Andrew Slaughter Labour, Hammersmith

That is not an answer. Six years ago today, this House voted by 274 votes to 12 to recognise the state of Palestine. Three years ago, the Prime Minister, then Foreign Secretary, said that

“you have to have a two-state solution or else you have some kind of apartheid system”.

How can there be a two-state solution without two states? The UK’s recognition of the state of Israel shows that we respect its non-negotiable rights. Why should our recognition of the state of Palestine be a matter for negotiation? Are Palestinians entitled to less respect and fewer rights than the Israelis?

Photo of James Cleverly James Cleverly Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

As I have said, the UK Government have supported the Palestinian Authority in putting in place the building blocks for a future Palestinian state, which we recognise. We have been very vocal that our preferred option is a safe, stable two-state solution, with a prosperous and peaceful Palestinian state neighbouring a prosperous and peaceful Israeli state.

Photo of Caroline Ansell Caroline Ansell Conservative, Eastbourne

The middle east is changing before our eyes and the significance of Israel’s peace agreements with the UAE and Bahrain cannot be overstated. Does my right hon. Friend agree that this new development between Israel and her Arab neighbours changes the narrative, creates a new dynamic in the region, and gives rise to new hope for a peace deal?

Photo of James Cleverly James Cleverly Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

The normalisation of relations represents a move towards peace in the region, and the UK strongly welcomes that. We encourage other states to choose the same path, but, ultimately, there is no substitute for direct talks between the Palestinians and Israel, which is the only way to reach a two-state solution and a lasting peace. We do hope that normalisation can encourage dialogue between the parties and the UK stands ready to support such efforts.