We remain seriously concerned about the continuing demolition of Palestinian property by Israeli authorities, and our embassy in Tel Aviv raised our specific concerns about it with Israel in November last year. Israel’s treatment of vulnerable Palestinian minors held in military detention also remains a human rights priority for the UK. I raised our concerns with the Israeli authorities during my visit to Israel in August last year, and will continue to do so.
The Israeli Prime Minister’s party has just voted for the annexation of the west bank. The Israeli Attorney General has said that new laws must take into account the possibility of application to the occupied territories, and 46 Bedouin communities are still threatened with eviction. When will the UK’s approach change? When will it join other EU countries in calling for aid to compensate for the demolition of EU-funded structures and an end to trade with illegal settlements?
The whole issue of settlements brings into question the whole point of pursuing a two-state solution, because none of these issues will be dealt with unless we make progress on that. We are pressing for that of course, but in the meantime we continue to support those who are concerned about demolitions and settlements. We continue to make the case to Israel that these are barriers to peace, among other barriers to peace, but unless there is a conclusive settlement soon, these issues will get worse.
Does the Minister share my outrage at the continued detention of 16-year-old Ahed Tamimi in Israel, in violation of article 76 of the fourth Geneva convention, and will he raise this issue, and our concerns about it, with the Israeli Government?
I know both the Tamimi family and Nabi Saleh, and it is a very unhappy incident all round. The truth is that the soldiers should not be there and the young woman should not have needed to do what she did. It is sad that two young people who ought to be friends are caught up in a situation in which, because of the failure to deal comprehensively with what is happening on the west bank and in Israel, we cannot come to a settlement. We have indeed made representations. It is important that Israel follows through the law, as it is entitled to do, but when we see the whole incident on video it tells us that this should not be happening and we should be working hard to get a settlement to this issue, so these young people do not have to continue to do what they are doing.
The biggest current obstacles to advancement of the middle east peace process include Hamas’s rearmament drive in Gaza and the long-standing issue of Palestinian incitement. What steps has the Minister taken, alongside his international counterparts, to assist the Palestinian leadership in becoming a viable partner for peace with Israel?
There are many obstacles on the way to peace, and certainly one of them remains incitement among some in the Palestinian community, but efforts being made for reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas have to conclude with a process that has led to acceptance of Quartet principles, and we hope that that will provide one further step forward.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the only way to resolve the issue of land borders is through the resumption of direct peace talks without preconditions?
Yes, and efforts are continually being made to move forward with the peace process. We await proposals being brought forward by the US envoys very soon, but sooner or later both the Palestinians and the Israelis have to sit down together, because only they can come to the answer they need.