Skip to main content

West Bank

Volume 631: debated on Tuesday 21 November 2017

10. What recent discussions he has had with the Government of Israel on the status of Palestinian communities in area C of the west bank threatened with demolition. (901949)

13. What recent discussions he has had with the Government of Israel on the status of Palestinian communities in area C of the west bank threatened with demolition. (901952)

We are seriously concerned by the continued demolition of Palestinian property by the Israeli authorities, which causes unnecessary suffering and is harmful to peace. We regularly raise this issue, and our embassy in Tel Aviv most recently raised our concerns with Israel in a joint démarche with European partners on 2 November.

I thank the Minister for his answer. As we know, we have recently seen a very clear indication from Israel’s Defence Minister about the intention to demolish the communities of Khan al-Ahmar and Susiya, and the military has issued a demarcation order signalling the intention to evacuate communities in the Jordan valley and E1 areas. Does the Minister agree that Israel must be held to account if those things actually take place?

This is the subject of a continued conversation with the Israeli authorities in which we make it clear, as do others, that the threat to settlements is unacceptable. I have visited both places—Khan al-Ahmar some years ago, and Susiya quite recently—as have representatives from the embassy. We wait to see further developments. There is a lot of talk about further demolitions, but then the legal process holds them back. However, Israel can be in no doubt of our concerns about the demolition of Palestinian properties and the damage that that does for the prospects of a peaceful settlement.

The reality is that 100,000 hectares of Palestinian land have been taken for settlements and 50,000 homes have been demolished. Will the Minister at least call on the Israeli Government to lift the demolition order on the Bedouin village of Susiya, to which he referred? Will he put in place measures, such as guidance to UK businesses that they stop trading with illegal settlements, in a bid to break this cycle?

We will keep our existing trade relationships, which allow customers to make their own decisions about where the goods they buy come from. We are making our position on settlements extremely clear, and we will continue to do so.

I thank the Minister for his answers. When Prime Minister Netanyahu was in London recently, what discussions did my right hon. Friend have with him about face-to-face peace talks between the state of Israel and the Palestinians so that we can create a state of Palestine alongside a secure state of Israel?

When the Prime Minister met Prime Minister Netanyahu on 2 November, she reiterated our continued opposition to settlement activity, and also encouraged him to make the most of the likely opportunities that will come up when the Americans bring forward the proposals they have been discussing privately for some months about the prospects of peace. This chance should not be missed by either side.

This year marks 40 years since Egyptian President Sadat’s historic visit to Israel, which led to a lasting peace between Israel and Egypt. Peace has only lasted when Israel’s neighbours have reciprocated its goodwill gestures, with land swaps a key aspect of that. Does my right hon. Friend agree that there can be peace between Israel and Palestinians only following the resumption of direct peace talks in which issues including land borders can be resolved?

The short answer is yes, but I do not think we should miss the 40th anniversary of the extraordinary activity that took place between Israel and Egypt. What we would give now for a similar gesture of peace on all sides to bring this long-standing conflict to an end.

Does the Minister believe, with particular reference to Israel and the west bank, that holding children in detention constitutes a breach of the United Nations convention on the rights of the child?

We express repeated concerns to Israel about the treatment of children and ask it to adhere to UN principles on that. We continue to raise this matter of long-standing concern.