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Israel and Palestine

Volume 600: debated on Tuesday 20 October 2015

7. What assessment he has made of the implications for his policies of recent violence in Israel and the Palestinian territories. (901653)

We are deeply concerned by the recent violence and terrorist attacks across the occupied Palestinian territories and Israel. Our immediate focus is on urging all sides to encourage calm, take steps to de-escalate and avoid any measures that could further inflame the situation.

Does the Minister agree that there can be no justification whatsoever for random terror attacks on Israelis in the streets of Israel? They are just like us: normal people trying to go about their ordinary lives. We should be absolutely clear in condemning that sort of activity.

I absolutely concur with my hon. Friend and condemn the violence that has taken place across Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. There is no place for the sorts of terrorist attacks we have seen, and the effect they are having on innocent civilians’ sense of safety is appalling.

Are not the deaths of an Eritrean immigrant who was just murdered in Beersheba by Israeli thugs, the deaths of seven Israelis and the deaths of 40 Palestinians the direct consequence of Netanyahu’s refusal to grant freedom to Palestine, the illegal wall, the illegal settlements, the 500 check points and the persistent desecration of the al-Aqsa mosque by Israeli settlers? Will the Government take action to get Netanyahu to the conference table?

We recognise that there are frustrations due to the lack of progress towards peace, and we share those frustrations. The peace process was launched more than two decades ago, yet we still have not achieved the two-state solution that was envisaged, but there is absolutely no justification for the sorts of attacks we have seen.

25. Does the Minister agree that it certainly does not help that the Palestinian Authority encourages incitement against Israel? (901671)

President Abbas has condemned the use of violence and reiterated the Palestinian Authority’s commitment to reaching a political solution by peaceful means. We have seen tensions spike in the past, but it does seem different this time, with young people seemingly unafraid of death and brandishing knives, knowing what the consequences will be. The pattern so far has been one of lone wolf, low-tech attacks, but the escalation and the tensions are certainly worrying.

13. What discussions has the Minister had with the Israeli Prime Minister regarding the Gaza reconstruction mechanism? One hundred thousand people have been displaced, and no homes have been built since July. What are we doing about that? (901659)

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that Prime Minister Netanyahu visited recently. We have been making every effort to promote calm. The Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary have spoken to key regional leaders over the recent weeks, and British officials have been pressing both sides to take steps to de-escalate the situation.

22. What assessment has the Minister made about the significant damage to the holy site of Joseph’s tomb at Nablus, which was destroyed by up to 100 Palestinian rioters? (901668)

I strongly condemn the burning of the tomb of Joseph in Nablus. The basic right of freedom to worship in safety and security should be protected for all. We have called for a swift and transparent investigation into the incident and for those responsible to be brought to justice.

As Israeli civilians are being stabbed and murdered by Palestinians on virtually a daily basis, a Rafah cleric, in his sermon on 9 October, brandished a knife and called for Palestinians to slaughter Jews in a holy war. Is it not time that the nature of this incitement was recognised and combated if there is ever going to be hope for peace and justice?

As I say, the Foreign Secretary spoke to President Abbas last week. We are encouraging him to work with Prime Minister Netanyahu. We are also aware that the US is looking at the situation very closely, and Secretary Kerry is ready to visit the region when appropriate.

20. Earlier this month, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas proclaimed:“We welcome every drop of blood spilled in Jerusalem…With the help of Allah, every martyr will be in heaven, and every wounded will get his reward.”Does my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary share my concern that such provocative remarks have fuelled the recent wave of deadly attacks on Israel? What more can we do to help? (901666)

There has been too much provocation on both sides. The current violence underlines the fact that a lasting resolution that ends the occupation and delivers peace for Israelis and Palestinians is long overdue. We have been round this buoy many times. The Oslo accords seem in the far distant past, and the tensions are ratcheting up again. We call on both sides to come together.

Does the Minister agree that all murders and attacks on civilians are unacceptable? That includes knife attacks on Israeli civilians and also settler attacks on Palestinian civilians that have been running into the hundreds for several years now. Will he join Amnesty International, Israeli human rights organisations and the United Nations in expressing concern at the increasing use of live ammunition by Israeli troops and police, even when life and limb are not immediately under threat, because that fuels a lot of the tension that we are seeing now?

We can recall what has happened in the past when the violence has ratcheted up to the levels that we are seeing today. That is why we are urging all sides to come together to avoid what we have seen in the past.

Does my hon. Friend recall the words of our right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in his speech to the Knesset last year? He said:

“I will always stand up for the right of Israel to defend its citizens. A right enshrined in international law, in natural justice and fundamental morality”

Does my hon. Friend believe that it is now time for us to review our relationship with the Palestinian authorities? Would it not be better to pay directly to the projects themselves rather than through the Palestinian authorities so that British taxpayers could have a better assurance that the money is going to Palestinians rather than being siphoned off as a stipend to terrorists?

My right hon. Friend articulates the strength of the tensions and the need for us to come together. As I say, peace has eluded that country and the Palestinian authorities for years now. It is important that we take advantage of John Kerry’s offer to visit the region in the very near future.