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Israeli Settlements

Volume 621: debated on Tuesday 21 February 2017

8. Whether he made representations on Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories during the recent visit of the Prime Minister of Israel to the UK. (908810)

Yes, indeed. I met Prime Minister Netanyahu and repeated the historic UK position, which is that we believe the settlements on the west bank are illegal and constitute a barrier to a peaceful settlement in the region.

President Trump has caused great concern for peace in the middle east by dismissing a 20-year US commitment to a two-state solution. Will the Foreign Secretary confirm that the UK remains committed to a two-state solution and will redouble its efforts?

Yes, I certainly can—and, if I may say so, I think the hon. Gentleman misrepresents what the US President said.

21. Were the representations on settlements set in the context of Hamas fully restoring its military strength to levels before 2014—an illustration that peace does not entirely depend on this one issue? (908824)

We are aware of the preparations being made by Hamas in Gaza and we remain very concerned about the situation. It underscores the reality that while Israel is of course at fault for the expansion of settlements in the west bank—we have made that absolutely clear—on the other hand nobody should underestimate the very real security threat facing Israel. We are firmly on the side of the Israelis as they face that threat.

Is the Foreign Secretary aware that just two days ago dozens of stop-work orders, which are usually regarded as precursors to demolition orders, were distributed in the village of Khan al-Ahmar, including to a primary school that serves over 170 children from local Bedouin communities? He may or may not know that the school is being visited by a large number of hon. Members from this House, and that if demolitions take place there to make way for settlements the chances of a viable Palestinian state will disappear. Is he making representations on this matter, and what action will he take to ensure that Mr Netanyahu heeds those representations?

I, of course, deplore demolitions, although, as the hon. Gentleman will appreciate, there is a difference between settlements and demolitions taking place in the west bank and demolitions within green line Israel.

Does my right hon. Friend think that our opposition to settlements is somewhat diluted by treating all settlements equally? The Oslo accords and the late President Arafat recognised that there would be land swaps. Would it not be better, as the Prime Minister said, to concentrate on new settlements and leave the existing settlements for a final decision?

The Government’s policy is unchanged. We regard settlements as illegal insofar as they are in occupied Palestinian territories. Members will be absolutely clear that sooner or later—I hope sooner rather than later—there will be a deal and an understanding that involves land swaps. As my right hon. Friend rightly says, we will have to show some sense when it comes to doing that deal.

20. I am going to give the Foreign Secretary another opportunity to answer the question from the hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Richard Burden). The Israeli civilian administration personnel and police arrived at Khan al-Ahmar and served 39 stop- work orders, including to a school. An entire community is about to be forcefully displaced. What representation has he made to his Israeli counterpart on this matter? (908823)

I refer the hon. Lady to the answer I gave a moment ago. My hon. Friend the Minister will be going to Israel very shortly. When we have got to the bottom of the exact complaint she is making, I am sure he will raise it.

Alongside concerns about the rearmament of Hamas and the rebuilding of its network of cross-border terror tunnels, does my right hon. Friend share the growing alarm at the new activities of Daesh in the Sinai desert, which, together with the activities of Hamas, point to the prospect of further violence in the region and a new wave of terror attacks on innocent Israeli citizens?

My right hon. Friend is completely right. What he says underscores the need for a regional solution that brings together all the states surrounding Israel to do a deal that brings the Palestinians, finally, to the table, and brings concessions from the Israelis.

Is not the truth of the matter that the Israeli authorities have at no stage over the years ever wanted a viable independent Palestinian state? President Trump’s inane comments have strengthened the ultras in Israel. What encouragement can one give to the Palestinian people in view of the continuing destruction of their homes and the building of settlements by Israelis?

Every Israeli Prime Minister in the last 20 years has supported a two-state solution, and that is the right way forward. It is the policy of the UK Government and remains the policy of the US Government. The difficulty will be to get a deal that not only allows the creation of the Palestinian state that I think everybody wants to achieve, but protects the security of the state of Israel.

But last week President Trump said very clearly on televisions across the world that he could “live with either one” of a two-state or one-state solution. I am sure the Foreign Secretary agrees it is deeply disappointing that the President could casually disregard so many years of international consensus on a possible peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinian people. Did Mr Netanyahu give any hint at his recent meeting with the Prime Minister that he too was prepared to live with a one-state solution? If so, what was her response?

Let us be absolutely clear. As both the President and Prime Minister Netanyahu, and indeed the Palestinians, have said, there needs to be dialogue, but at the moment I do not think that the Palestinians are committing to dialogue in the way they could and should be. It takes two to negotiate. We have seen no progress over the last eight years. Let us not rule out the possibility of progress today.