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Middle East

Volume 608: debated on Tuesday 12 April 2016

I visited Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories in February and I remain clear that a two-state solution is the only credible way to resolve the conflict. We continue to work closely with international partners to preserve the viability of the two-state solution and to encourage a return to meaningful negotiation.

In 2016, there has been an acceleration of evictions and property destruction on the west bank. By these continuing actions, the Israeli Government are showing complete contempt for the notion of a two-state solution—a fact recognised by President Carter. When will the Government update UK policy to reflect reality on the ground in this area?

During my meetings with the Deputy Foreign Minister and indeed with the Prime Minister, I found that they remained committed to the two-state solution, but my hon. Friend is right to recognise that measures are being taken and events are taking place that seem to take us in another direction. We need to ensure that people are able to come back to the table, and that we are able to make progress. There is no other solution to this. We cannot continue with the status quo.

Hezbollah is constructing a base in Syria to fire Iranian ballistic missiles into Israel. How seriously does the Minister regard that?

Again, the hon. Lady highlights the challenges that the region faces. We need to ensure that we work with the international coalitions to prevent such events from taking place. Iran is starting to take incremental steps towards greater responsibility in the region. Unless it is able to control Hezbollah and have an influence, we will see that this nuclear deal will mean little.

There have recently been two initiatives in the region: the extension of fishing rights for Gazan fisherman with Israeli co-operation, and the naming of a basketball tournament after a terrorist who killed 36 people, including 12 children. Which of those two initiatives does the Minister think is more likely to bring about a two-state solution?

My right hon. Friend highlights the dilemma that we face. We need grassroots initiatives on a low level such as extension of fishing rights, for which I have pressed for some time. Oil and gas reserves can be tapped into off Gaza, which will also help the economy. At the same time, basketball courts and, indeed, schools and streets are being named after terrorists, which does not suggest that the Palestinians are as serious as they should be.

The Minister will know that Israel is demolishing Palestinian homes and other structures at three times the rate at which it did so last year. I was in the region last week, with the hon. Members for Rochester and Strood (Kelly Tolhurst) and for Hazel Grove (William Wragg), and Lord Warner, and we saw that for ourselves. Given that a number of these structures are EU-supported and EU-funded, what are the Government going to do not simply to express concern but to hold Israel to account? What mechanisms are available to do so?

The hon. Gentleman highlights a challenge that we face. Britain has been working closely with Israel to change the approach that Israelis have taken on administrative detention. We have also funded and facilitated independent reports on the challenges that we face, and I raised this matter with the Deputy Foreign Minister, Tzipi Hotovely. I will continue to press Israel to move forward. Again, this takes us back —it is a retrograde step.

Question 7 would be a good start. No more today about the Israelis or Palestinians—the next question is about the Chagossians.