Occupied Palestinian Territories

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:45 pm on 29th April 2004.

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Photo of Gareth Thomas Gareth Thomas The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development, Party Chair, Co-operative Party 5:45 pm, 29th April 2004

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his intervention. I get the gist of it. We think that the negotiations support unit is an entirely sensible investment in the peace process. Helping the Palestinians to prepare their position for the peace negotiations that we all want to see is an entirely good use of money. DFID's contribution will amount to about 3.5 per cent. of the overall assistance that we give the occupied Palestinian territories. I believe that it is a good use of our resources, and we intend to continue supporting that.

As the Select Committee drew attention to it, it is worth restating that, since the start of the second intifada, there have been more than 900 Israeli deaths and more than 3,000 Palestinian deaths. Quite apart from the appalling individual tragedies and their impact on families that are represented by those figures, the fear, the deeper insecurity, the lives that continue to be wasted and the knowledge that opportunities have been lost have undoubtedly been profound for both peoples. The conflict has had huge economic and humanitarian consequences, which have weighed particularly heavily on the Palestinians. Over the past three years, Palestinian poverty levels have tripled. About 60 per cent. of Palestinians are living in poverty, on less than $2 a day. Malnutrition is on the increase and far too many families depend on food aid. The despair among the Palestinians is increasing as the coping mechanisms for a society facing poverty are increasingly overstretched.

As the Select Committee's report made clear, the Israeli Government have imposed tight restrictions on the freedom of movement of Palestinian goods and of the Palestinian people. Closures and checkpoints together with the expansion of settlements and the construction of the barrier on Palestinian land have led to many Palestinians losing access to their livelihoods and to basic services such as health and education.