Middle East Peace Settlement — Question for Short Debate

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 8:24 pm on 14th January 2014.

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Photo of Baroness Tonge Baroness Tonge Independent Liberal Democrat 8:24 pm, 14th January 2014

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Soley, on securing this debate. I make no apology for confining my remarks to the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. The length of time that this has all taken has been one of the main factors in destabilising the Middle East. However, when the final whistle is blown on the talks taking place at the moment, the latest attempt to broker peace, I am not optimistic that we shall have very much to celebrate, and I have not met many people who are. At that point, I contend that the European Union, I hope supported by the United Kingdom, will suspend the EU Israel Association Agreement, depending as it does on Israel respecting the human rights of Palestinians.

John Kerry himself, as reported in Haaretz this week, has warned of moves to delegitimise Israel. He talked of a “boycott campaign on steroids” should talks fail, a point referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Weidenfeld. This boycott campaign is already happening. Settlement goods are being banned from some supermarket chains. Soda Stream, Ahava cosmetics, G4S and Veolia have all been suffering because of association with Israel. The largest water company in the Netherlands has stopped its collaboration with the Israeli water company Mekorot, Romania has banned its workers going to Israel from working in the settlements, and we know that universities here and in South Africa are increasingly calling for academic boycotts. Do we really want that? I certainly do not. Israel will become isolated from the international community and that would be a tragedy.

I want briefly to address an issue which has already been mentioned by the noble Lords, Lord Leigh and Lord Anderson. That is the question of the amount of aid that we pour into the Occupied Territories to support the administration and the police and the general civil service there. The ambassador here has often said that his people want to be free of aid and the occupation in order to run their own economy, the World Bank has pointed out recently that Palestinians could do just that if they were free of Israel’s iron grip on their resources, and, as the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, referred to, there has to be an investigation into corruption among the Palestinian administration. There is no question of that. Our aid money must be spent wisely.

Finally, if talks fail, we must insist that if Israel wants to go on occupying Palestinian land, it should pay for that occupation itself and not rely on the international community, especially the European Union, to foot the bill. We cannot let this injustice continue for another four decades.