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Middle East (Business Initiatives)

Volume 529: debated on Tuesday 14 June 2011

10. What support his Department is providing to co-existence projects and joint business initiatives between Israelis and Palestinians. (59280)

The Department for International Development spends about £73 million in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories on a range of measures to promote peace through the conflict prevention pool and on economic development. The Foreign Office is spending some £70,000 this year on the kind of co-existence projects that the hon. Gentleman has mentioned, ranging from language development to courses and work inside Israel to help to bind communities together.

According to answers to written questions in January, only 1% of European Union aid to the Palestinians goes to civil society projects. What are the Government doing to ensure that a greater proportion of EU aid is spent on developing the co-existence projects that are so vital to the peace process?

The hon. Gentleman is right about the proportion spent, which I picked out for the answer that I have just given him. Sometimes it is difficult to separate these things out, category by category. For example, the £30 million that goes into the promotion of Palestinian economic development feeds into work on prosperity and co-existence issues. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is open to more project applications coming in for exactly such projects, and I will certainly work with the posts involved, in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, to see what more we can do to encourage the activities that the hon. Gentleman has mentioned.

Will the Government make it clear to the Israeli Government that an attack on any future humanitarian flotilla would be met by international condemnation?

May I gently remind the Minister that we are talking, narrowly, about co-existence projects and joint business initiatives?

I believe that I would be right in saying that we see events such as the reopening of the Rafah crossing in Gaza as an opportunity to help economic development and to encourage co-existence, because the greater the economic development on the west bank and in Gaza, the more opportunity there will be for both, and the less need there will be for anyone to be tempted to try to use a flotilla as a means either of bringing in produce or of making a political point.