Occupied Palestinian Territories

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:55 pm on 29th April 2004.

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Photo of James Clappison James Clappison Conservative, Hertsmere 4:55 pm, 29th April 2004

I hope that the hon. Lady will accept that the occupation can be solved by peaceful negotiation, not by suicide bombs; I agree with the comments on that in the Select Committee report. That is the long-term future. I hear some of the criticisms that have been made, and I share some of them, but under international law Israel does have a right to self-defence; and when looking at self-defence, one has to judge the severity of the threat that Israel has faced.

Israel has faced an extremely severe threat in the form of suicide bombers coming from the occupied territories and elsewhere into Israel, causing substantial loss of life. Any Government would want to use their right to self-defence, and their people would expect them to do so, in the face of such a severe threat. That is the background against which we should judge this. I look forward to the day when there can be a return to peaceful negotiations, but there has to be a change in the Palestinian leadership.

I have two points to make in conclusion. First, it would be wrong to put the pressure on Israel alone. The pressure has to be put on both sides. Pressure must also be applied to the Palestinian side, through inducements and as much diplomatic pressure as possible, to come back to the negotiating table and to give up the suicide bombings. I do not believe that the Palestinian Authority have done all they could to restrain and prevent suicide bombings. There seems to be a suggestion that the al-Aqsa brigades organisation, which has directed suicide bombings itself, is linked to the Fatah organisation which is part of Mr Arafat's own political organisation. There has to be a much more robust approach on this. I look forward to hearing the Minister tell us what the Palestinian Authority have done to improve the security situation over which they have responsibility.

Secondly, I have asked the Government questions in the past about the aid that this country has given to the Palestinians to enable them to negotiate. That was commenced in 1998 when it was reasonable to give such aid to the Palestinians because a negotiation was taking place and there was still a good prospect of a peaceful solution. But we have continued to give them that aid since the year 2000. There have not been negotiations on the part of the Palestinians or what I would regard as a sufficient willingness to take part in such negotiations. Yet they are still receiving a substantial amount of aid—£9.2 million up to 2006—to support negotiations.

I would draw a distinction between money that is going to support negotiations and the technical and legal side of negotiations and funding that is going to support propaganda as a result of a general political case. I ask the Minister to look carefully at that funding. I have no problem with humanitarian aid to the Palestinians provided that it is strictly monitored and controlled. Why not switch some of that funding towards alleviating the real problems that the Palestinians face? We need a long-term political solution to this. There needs to be an even-handed approach that brings about the peaceful negotiations that we all seek.