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House of Commons Hansard
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03 March 2015
Volume 593
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7. What reports he has received on displacement of Bedouin in southern Israel. [907833]

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9. What representations he has made on the potential demolition of the village of Umm al-Hiran in Negev. [907835]

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We are deeply concerned about proposals to demolish Bedouin villages. We are monitoring the situation closely, including talking regularly to organisations that work with those communities.

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In an earlier answer to an Opposition Member, the Foreign Secretary said that we were talking only about buildings in relation to the peace process. He forgot to say that in order to facilitate the peace process, we have to get people out of those buildings, and that is the big issue. May I push the Minister a little further? There are a number of impending demolitions of villages to make way for Israeli settlements. Will the Minister discuss that issue with the Israeli Government, urge them to reconsider the upcoming evictions and demolitions due for next month, and instead consider villages co-existing side by side in the spirit of peace?

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I agree with the hon. Gentleman, but the displacement issues in southern Israel, and the potential demolition of the Umm al-Hiran villages, are not in the occupied Palestinian territories but in green line Israel. That is a slightly separate debate or concern—if I can put it that way—to the illegal settlements that have been put forward, but nevertheless we are concerned and are having a dialogue with Israel about that.

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I welcome the Minister’s words, but may I urge on him a sense of urgency and purpose—urgency because the demolition order for Umm al-Hiran may be given in two weeks’ time, and purpose in the sense that action is needed? Will he ask the British ambassador to visit the village, and will he invoke the EU-Israeli association agreement that makes favourable trade relations dependent on Israel’s respect for human rights?

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As I clarified, that is a different matter from the debate about the occupied Palestinian territories, but nevertheless we want a robust planning process that adequately addresses the needs of the Bedouin communities. We must keep pushing for that dialogue.

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Will the Minister confirm that the displacement of the Bedouin constitutes ethnic cleansing?

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Again, I reiterate the difference between the two issues: one concerns the illegal settlements, and the other is a planning matter that we have raised concerns about. I visited the E1 area, which is where much of the attention is currently focused, and we have discouraged the growth of settlements in that area. Were the plans to go ahead, we would have a break between the Hebron and Bethlehem conurbations, and that would effectively end the middle east peace process.

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Is the displacement of the Bedouin from the E1 area contrary to international humanitarian law—yes or no?

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It is contrary to international law in that sense, and any nation has obligations when dealing with occupied territories and their occupants. We are discouraging Israel from further build, but the land swaps will be integral to any future long-term peace agreement. That is why we are in this quagmire.