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West Bank

Volume 617: debated on Tuesday 22 November 2016

6. What discussions he has had with his Israeli counterpart on steps being taken to maintain order in the west bank. (907407)

Responsibility for security in the west bank is shared between the Palestinian authorities and the Israeli security forces, depending on whether we are talking about areas designated A, B or C. In my discussions with the Israeli authorities, I have encouraged this area to be transferred from C to B and B to A.

Israel and the Palestinian Authority continue to work together closely to maintain security in the west bank. Last month, however, a Palestinian Authority police-officer-turned-terrorist shot and wounded Israeli soldiers. Does the Minister agree that security co-operation is vital to maintaining stability, and will he join me in condemning the wave of attacks against Israelis that we have seen over the past year?

I join my hon. Friend in condemning those attacks, and I would encourage President Abbas and others in the Palestinian Authority to do so as well. We should not forget that more than 30,000 Palestinian Authority security forces are working with Israeli defence forces to provide that security, and the Israeli defence forces rely on that to ensure that the west bank is kept as safe and secure as possible.

Does the Minister agree that the best way forward for both Israel and the Palestinian people would be a revival of the middle east peace process involving direct talks between the Israeli Government and the Palestinian Authority, and does he agree that all efforts should be directed towards achieving that?

I entirely concur with the right hon. Gentleman. We have done our best to bring the parties back to the table, but, as he will know, there have been a number of difficult months. We need to ensure that there are confidence-building measures, and that people do not incite violence, which takes us further away than the direction of travel that he suggests.

In his lucid way, my right hon. Friend outlines the challenges that we face in Israel and, indeed, the west bank. It is important for us to ensure that the security measures of which we spoke in the context of the initial question are able to build that confidence so that we can bring people back to the table. I hope this is something that the American Administration will want to lean into.

As we approach the centenary of the Balfour declaration, we must renew our commitment to both aspects of that historic statement: the preservation of the state of Israel as a safe and stable national home for the Jewish people, but also the protection of the

“civil and religious rights of…non-Jewish communities in Palestine”.

With that in mind, will the Minister make it clear today that the United Kingdom Government oppose proposals to legalise outposts in the west bank retrospectively, or to build new illegal settlements?

We had a very frank and thorough debate about the history and context of the Balfour declaration only last week. However, the hon. Lady is right to say that the role that the settlements are playing undermines the message that is coming from Israel, and leads people to ask whether Israel is serious about a two-state solution. The longer the settlements continue to be built, the more difficult it becomes to envisage the possibility of such a solution.