Occupied Palestinian Territories: Humanitarian Situation

Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office – in the House of Commons on 2nd March 2021.

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Photo of Alan Brown Alan Brown Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Energy and Climate Change)

What recent assessment the Government have made of the humanitarian situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Photo of Andrew Slaughter Andrew Slaughter Labour, Hammersmith

If he will maintain the level of the UK’s funding contribution to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.

Photo of Joanna Cherry Joanna Cherry Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Justice and Home Affairs)

What recent assessment the Government have made of the humanitarian situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

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

The UK remains concerned about the fragile humanitarian situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, particularly in Gaza. The UK is providing £4.5 million in humanitarian assistance to the OPTs, including £1 million to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency’s emergency appeal and £2.5 million to the World Food Programme for cash assistance. The UK supports UNRWA as a vital humanitarian force in the region and the FCDO is running a prioritisation exercise across all its programmes to ensure that every pound goes as far as possible.

Photo of Alan Brown Alan Brown Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Energy and Climate Change)

The Minister rightly highlights forced evictions and demolitions breaking international law, but none the less, Israel continues with its evictions in Sheikh Jarrah and Batan al-Hawa. The proposed construction of 1,200 houses at Givat HaMatos is out to tender at the moment. Action is needed, not just words, so when will the UK Government implement trade bans on goods from illegal settlements?

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

The UK’s position on this issue is long standing and clear. We oppose the points that the hon. Gentleman has put forward. We raise the issue of demolitions regularly with our Israeli counterparts, and we will continue to do so at every opportunity.

Photo of Andrew Slaughter Andrew Slaughter Labour, Hammersmith

[Inaudible.]—aid budget implies the loss of a third in UNRWA funding, and there are rumours that the Government could be planning to cut twice that. UNRWA is responsible for almost 6 million Palestinian refugees, including the education of 500,000 children, the healthcare of 3 million and emergency food aid for over 1 million. Because of the occupation, Palestinians in Gaza, the west bank and surrounding countries rely on UNRWA for basic public services, so will the Minister give a clear and courageous answer and guarantee at least the current level of funding?

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

The UK Government regard UNWRA as an important partner in support of the people in the OPTs and surrounding areas. We are going through a prioritisation exercise at the moment, the outcome of which will be published in due course.

Photo of Joanna Cherry Joanna Cherry Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Justice and Home Affairs)

As schools around the world deal with the challenges of the covid pandemic, Palestinian schoolchildren face a further threat. According to the United Nations, 53 Palestinian schools in the occupied west bank are subject to Israeli Government demolition orders. Does the Minister agree that demolishing any school is wrong and that any such action should have consequences?

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

The UK regularly raises the issue of demolitions and our position on this is clear. We will continue to do so, and we will continue to highlight the importance of education, which remains one of the Government’s priorities.

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

The Israeli covid-19 vaccination programme is the best in the world. However, the Minister has indicated that Israel has a legal responsibility to ensure the health and wellbeing of Palestinians on the west bank. Will he therefore join me in urging the Israeli Government to work with the Palestinian Authority to ensure that Palestinians are vaccinated, as well as Israelis?

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

The UK is justifiably proud of the work it is doing on the international stage with regard to vaccinations, including through Gavi and the COVAX scheme. We are pleased to see the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority co-ordinating their work with regard to vaccinations, and we look forward to that vaccination programme rolling out not just across Israel but to the people who are living in the OPTs.