War against Terrorism

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 2:30 pm on 4th November 2004.

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Photo of Mr Donald Anderson Mr Donald Anderson Chair, Foreign Affairs Committee, Chair, Foreign Affairs Committee 2:30 pm, 4th November 2004

I agree with the hon. Gentleman. In Prime Minister's questions yesterday, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said that the issue is his priority. We know from the documents leaked to The Daily Telegraph that the theme of his senior adviser two years ago was to keep the issue of Israel-Palestine high on the agenda. There is now no excuse for not seeking to address it as best we can.

The Committee noted the failure by both sides to implement the measures outlined in the road map. We reiterated our concerns about the lack of significant progress on reforming the Palestinian security sector and about the illegal settlements and the security fence. Clearly, we have to take account of the fragile nature of the coalition in Israel, where certain rabbis are urging members of the Israel defence forces to consider disloyalty or defection in relation to Gaza. That is the political context in which Israel operates, and the coalition will have to be much broader if there is to be progress.

The Committee concluded that the road map may be fatally stalled and that time is running out fast for a viable two-state solution. Nevertheless, we believe that a resolution of the conflict is attainable, and the broad outlines are visible, as Mr. Maples has outlined on several occasions. Israel's planned withdrawal from Gaza is a welcome development, so long as it is seen as part of the road map—as a first step, not as an end station or a prelude to de facto annexation.

It is clearly important that the international community should work to ensure that the withdrawal from Gaza is fully consistent with a durable solution to the conflict. We need to provide assistance with post-withdrawal peacekeeping, together with Egypt and other key countries. What are we doing to provide such protection in this difficult transition period in Gaza?

The report reiterates its previous conclusion that the case for building a barrier along the green line would be strong and acceptable but to build it within the west bank is not justifiable, acceptable or legal, and gives rise to fears that Israel is doing it simply to annex land. Unilateral efforts to change facts on the ground in the occupied territories have been shown to be wholly illegal under international law. Actions taken so far have failed to stop Israel's construction of the barrier in the occupied territories.

We can understand by imagining the situation transposed to our constituencies how suicide bombings will enrage, anger and frustrate the peace movement in Israel; little seems to have been done by the Palestinian Authority about the propaganda that lauds the forces in question, or to prevent the infiltration. What more are the Government doing to impress on the Israeli Government the illegality of building the barrier in the occupied territories?

I concede that I have skated over a few of the key topics, and not mentioned, for example, the Russian Federation, our reflections on international law, or the international co-operation to tackle terrorism, including the attempt to relate more constructively to the Arab world. However, the broad range of subjects covered in our report reflects the Committee's view that the diverse threats to security posed by terrorism and failed states are or could become interconnected and therefore need to be countered as part of a coherent strategy.

The Committee will keep the matter high on our agenda and we intend to publish a further report on the war against terrorism next spring. I commend the report to the Chamber.