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Palestine: United States’ Peace to Prosperity Economic Plan - Question for Short Debate

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:37 pm on 18th July 2019.

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Photo of Lord Collins of Highbury Lord Collins of Highbury Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (International Development) 3:37 pm, 18th July 2019

My Lords, I too thank the noble Lord, Lord Cope. He was absolutely right: this debate is about whether the cart has been put before the horse. When I recently met the PLO’s Secretary-General—the noble Baroness, Lady Morris, was there too—he stressed this point, making it clear that there can be no discussion about the economic situation without first discussing the political one.

As the noble Lord, Lord Cope, mentioned, and my noble friend Lord Turnberg has highlighted, Kushner’s plan completely failed to mention any of the key political factors that are barriers to Palestinian economic development, including the occupation of territories and lack of a Palestinian state; the security challenges to both Israel and the occupied territories; the settlements in the West Bank; US cuts to UNRWA and other aid programmes, as we have heard in the debate; and Hamas control of Gaza. These are all key factors that have to be addressed and discussed first.

The economic plan also fails to address the impact of the cuts that Trump has made to projects funded by USAID, which have had a devastating impact throughout the region in Palestinian areas, as well as in areas with high concentrations of Palestinian refugees. Even more galling was to see photographs of those exact projects in the published plan—that beggars belief.

In addition to the cuts to UNRWA, Trump has also cut other USAID programmes, including cross-border peace and reconciliation activities. I pay tribute to my noble friend Lord Turnberg, who has spent a great deal of time focusing on those inter-community activities which are building confidence on the ground between the two communities. They are essential ingredients to any sustainable peace. I would like to hear from the Minister about how we are doing more to support those initiatives on the ground, as well as protecting against some of the impacts of those US cuts.

As everyone has said, the best way of achieving peace in the Middle East is a two-state solution with a secure and viable state of Israel living alongside a secure and viable state of Palestine. I hope that the Minister will repeat that commitment and set out a way that we can deal with how it is to be delivered.