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Israeli Election

Volume 606: debated on Tuesday 23 February 2016

10. What assessment he has made of the effect of the outcome of the March 2015 election in Israel on the peace process in that region. (903704)

Much gets said, as we know, during election cycles, and we were concerned by some of the statements that were made during the Israeli election. I was in Israel last week, and I can confirm that I had meetings with Prime Minister Netanyahu. He has made it very clear that he remains committed to the two-state solution.

It is more than 20 years since Oslo. There are now more than 350,000 illegal Israeli settlers in the occupied west bank and 300,000 illegal Israeli settlers in occupied East Jerusalem, and the Netanyahu Government continue to announce the building of more illegal settlements. Does the Minister believe that that will aid the peace process? If not, what is he doing about it?

The Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and I have made it very clear on the record that that is unhelpful and takes us in the wrong direction. During my visit last week, I visited some of the settlements that are developing. Although announcements of new settlements have slowed, the existing settlements are starting to grow, and that happens without people seeing it. There is an area to the north of Jerusalem called the Ariel finger, which, if it continues to grow as it is doing, will eventually link up towards the north of Jericho. That will essentially mean that there will be no two-state solution. We need Israel to show that it is committed to the process and stop the settlements.

13. On the issue of words, something that is regularly rubbished is the issue of incitement. We are seeing increasing incitement from the Palestinian Authority and on media such as Palestinian TV, some of which has been referenced by those committing knife attacks on civilians. Last week I visited a Jewish school in Brussels, where I heard some appalling stories of anti-Semitism being perpetrated in Europe, with people deliberately conflating Jews and Israel. Will the Minister condemn not only the incitement coming out of the Palestinian Authority, but the sort of attacks we are seeing in Europe as a result? (903707)

I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend that it is unacceptable for Israelis going about their business to be subject to some of the brutality and the murder we are seeing. Israel has the right—in fact, I would go further and say it has the obligation—to defend its citizens. We are seeing the anti-Semitism there, or such reactions, then reappearing, often through websites such as Facebook and so forth, in Europe or closer to home. We have been working hard with our international colleagues—the Prime Minister is very committed to this—to make sure that we stamp out anti-Semitism no matter where it is.

A clear majority of Israelis consistently support setting up a Palestinian state alongside Israel. Does the Minister agree that actions such as Hamas’s rebuilding the terror tunnels to mount attacks on Israeli civilians from Gaza make that less and less obtainable?

The hon. Lady is absolutely right. With some of the developments, it seems like déjà vu in the sense that we are going round this buoy again—rebuilding the tunnels, the aggravations, and then the missiles start to fly. Where does that actually take us? It is not a confidence-building measure, in the same way that building settlements is not a confidence-building measure. We need to make sure that we empower the Palestinian Authority to look after and take responsibility for the governance of Gaza. That is the way forward.

Surely there is a big contrast in the growth of extremism. The Israeli authorities deal with Jewish extremism—they investigate, they prosecute and they condemn—whereas the Palestinian Authority names schools after violent extremists, names sporting events after them and glorifies them on television. Will my hon. Friend take this opportunity to condemn absolutely the attitude of the Palestinian Authority and urge it to cease this senseless encouragement of violence?

My right hon. Friend makes a very powerful argument. It is important to see that affirmative actions can be taken on both sides to reduce tensions, but I would raise the specific matter of using words to inflame the situation. For example, the recent remarks by the Health Minister in the Palestinian Authority condoning the attacks that are taking place were unhelpful. That takes us in the wrong direction, so we should do things to encourage those involved to refrain from doing so, and take steps to encourage them to act as a consequence.