The British deputy ambassador met Israel’s Europe director on 13 March to discuss the new immigration rules, and we continue to push for clarification from Israel on the impact on UK nationals. We have updated our travel advice for Israel.
UK citizens such as Hugh Lanning, the chair of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, have already been refused entry because of this ban, which has been widely condemned, including within Israel itself. The advice on the Foreign Office’s website says that people should contact the Israeli embassy. Should not the Foreign Secretary be contacting the Israeli embassy to say that people should not be restricted from travel to Israel and Palestine simply because they wish to enforce international law due to the ban on goods from settlements?
We have of course offered to provide consular assistance to Mr Lanning. He did not in fact request our support, nor did he seem to need it. As the hon. Gentleman will know, Israel’s immigration policy is a matter for Israel. We firmly oppose boycotts—the boycott, divestment and sanctions approach—against Israel, as I am sure he does too, although clearly it is a two-way street.
Is there not a need to be even-handed? Many countries have banned people from entering and are indeed deporting people. Does not this underline how right the Government were to warn the UN Human Rights Council of its disproportionate bias against Israel?
My right hon. Friend is absolutely right in his verdict on the UN Human Rights Council. I thought it was absolutely preposterous that there should be a motion condemning Israel’s conduct in the Golan Heights when, after all, we have seen in that region of Syria the most appalling barbarity conducted by the Assad regime. I think that was the point the UK Government were rightly making.
The Foreign Secretary says that he is seeking clarification from the Government of Israel. What questions is he actually asking them? In particular, has he asked what kind of activity would lead to someone being denied entry, particularly given that the Foreign Office’s own website discourages financial and commercial dealings with settlements? Is he saying that someone who advocates that is likely to be denied entry to Israel? Has he asked that question?
We are of course seeking clarity about exactly how the law would be applied in practice, although, as the hon. Gentleman will appreciate, the Israeli Government, like our Government, already have very wide discretion about how to apply their immigration laws.
A Foreign Office Minister has previously described the situation in Hebron as apartheid and settlement endorsement as a form of extremism. Can the Secretary of State tell the House whether the Minister for Europe and the Americas, the right hon. Member for Rutland and Melton (Sir Alan Duncan), would fall foul of the new law if he attempted to travel there?
I do not believe that my right hon. Friend has said anything of the kind or called for any such boycott, and nor do I believe for a second that he would be interrupted if he chose to go to Israel. I must stress that the policy of the Government is unchanged. We remain opposed to illegal settlements and we believe that they are an obstacle to peace. I have said that many times already in this House, but I am happy to repeat it to the hon. Lady.
Has the Foreign Secretary had any indication that such a ban might be extended to those who advocate a ban on goods from the occupied Golan Heights? Does he agree that the UK Government’s refusal to support a resolution at the UNHRC condemning the occupation of the Golan Heights increases that likelihood?
With great respect to the right hon. Gentleman, I have made very clear what I thought was the profound absurdity of denouncing Israeli conduct in that region at a time when we are seeing absolute barbarism conducted by the Assad regime against the people of Syria.