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Occupied Palestinian Territories

Volume 596: debated on Wednesday 3 June 2015

1. What recent assessment she has made of the humanitarian situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. (900060)

2. What recent assessment she has made of the humanitarian situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. (900061)

I would like to start by paying tribute to Charles Kennedy, who died a few days ago. Like many Members of this House, I not only found him to be a kind and generous man but had a huge amount of respect for him politically, and I and many others will mourn his passing.

The United Nations assesses that the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories is a protracted crisis with humanitarian consequences. Even before the latest conflict in Gaza, 57% of the population were food-insecure and 43% were unemployed.

First, may I endorse everything the Secretary of State has said regarding Charles Kennedy? He was a gifted politician and a genuinely friendly and funny man, and we will miss him.

Some 46 Palestinian Bedouin communities face displacement from their homes in the west bank to make way for illegal Israeli settlements. The Deputy Foreign Minister of Israel says it has the right to build anywhere in the west bank it chooses. My question to the Secretary of State is not whether she opposes that but whether she agrees that European companies have no business trading with illegal settlements east of the green line.

The hon. Gentleman is right that we oppose that illegal building of settlements, and he is shining a light on some of the decisions that companies themselves have to make about whether they will be part of that activity. It is up to them to speak for themselves, but the Government’s position in relation to those settlements is very clear.

May I welcome the right hon. Lady back to her post, which she fulfilled with great distinction in the previous Parliament?

We are all aware of the terrible situation in Gaza, where more than 100,000 people have had their homes destroyed and not one of them has been rebuilt. Will she use her office to persuade the Israelis that, from the point of view of humanitarian need and future peace, provisions should be brought in to rebuild the houses?

The hon. Gentleman rightly highlights some of the challenges in getting construction materials into the Occupied Palestinian Territories, particularly Gaza, to rebuild homes that have been destroyed. The Gaza reconstruction mechanism gives us a way to do that, and he will be pleased to hear that just under 90,000 people have now been able to get the equipment they need to rebuild their homes.

As my right hon. Friend knows, there is an urgent need for reconstruction in Gaza, but how can she ensure that materials such as concrete and scaffolding are not used to construct weapons that can be used against the state of Israel and its citizens?

We have been particularly concerned to play our role in managing that issue. DFID is helping to support the materials monitoring unit. That means we can check materials as they enter Gaza and check where they are stored, how they are used and how they are reused. So there absolutely are good controls in place to ensure the materials are used for rebuilding people’s homes and helping them rebuild their lives.

Does the Secretary of State welcome Israeli President Rivlin’s call for an urgent international effort to rebuild Gaza, but on the understanding that the hostilities perpetrated by Hamas against Israel must cease? Does she also agree that the continued incitement to violence by Palestinians against Israel must end?

Clearly, the only way people in Gaza, particularly children growing up there, are going to have a better future is if we have a two-state solution. That requires Israel, and the Occupied Palestinian Territories and its transitional Government, to be prepared to do what it takes to get a long-term settlement. That also means not doing things that get in the way of peace talks getting going again.