[John Bercow in the Chair] — Israel and Palestinian Territories

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 9:55 am on 27th February 2008.

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Photo of Martin Linton Martin Linton Labour, Battersea 9:55 am, 27th February 2008

Thank you, Mr. Bercow. I will do my best to draw my remarks to a close.

The transcript of the BBC interview is an absolute master-class in avoiding questions and it should be used as training material for Cabinet Ministers. The point is that there is no answer to the question why the Israelis continue to expand the settlements, and although they remain committed to the road map on paper, it is difficult to believe, looking at the size and number of the settlements and the infrastructure that has been put in place, that they will ever give them all up in practice.

The best thing that I can do in drawing my remarks to a close is to answer the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Riverside about terrorism. Terrorism is a very real threat. We visited Sderot, which is the one town within striking distance of Gaza and which has been suffering a rain of rockets ever since the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza. The Israelis have a perfectly legitimate point when they say that their fear, if they pulled out of the west bank, would be that they would get even more rockets from even closer to main population settlements such as Tel Aviv. I can understand that logic, but I would put another logic against it. They have allowed Gaza to become impoverished, with 80 per cent. unemployment and 80 per cent. reliance on United Nations food rations. That is why the rockets have kept coming. It is not an excuse, but it is an explanation.

If the same policy of impoverishment is followed, by the strangling of the economy of the west bank through the closures, which is what is happening at the moment, the same thing will happen in Gaza and Hamas will be elected there, as well. There are already terrible levels of unemployment among Palestinians in the west bank, and the same process is going on. It is vital that people in this country should understand, and that our Government should make it clear to the Israeli Government, how important it is—I look forward to the Minister's response on this—that they should stop expanding the settlements, in their and everyone's interests, as the first step toward removing them.