Skip to main content

Israel-Palestine Peace Process

Volume 641: debated on Tuesday 15 May 2018

7. What recent discussions he has had with his international counterparts on prospects for the peace process in Israel and Palestine. (905287)

11. What recent discussions he has had with his international counterparts on prospects for the peace process in Israel and Palestine. (905291)

At this highly sensitive time in the region, there is an urgent need to restart the peace process between Israel and Palestine. We regularly press both parties to resume direct negotiations towards the two-state solution.

Last week, the Secretary of State suggested that President Trump could be in line for a Nobel peace prize. Does the Minister welcome the move by the US to relocate its embassy to Jerusalem, and does he agree with the White House today that the 52 Palestinians killed and more than 2,200 wounded in yesterday’s violence in Gaza were the responsibility of Hamas?

In answer to the first question, our position is known: we did not agree with the decision, which is a sovereign decision, of both the United States and Israel to move the embassy. We have no plans to do anything similar. In relation to the second question, there is an urgent question after Question Time, and we will go into the difficult circumstances of the past few weeks. I will be happy to deal with that question then.

May I push the Minister a little? Why has he not called for the United Nations Security Council to be recalled so that it can look at this situation? Does he agree with the Secretary-General that there should be an inquiry into what has been happening over the last six or seven weeks?

The House may not yet be aware, but there will be a UN Security Council meeting this afternoon or this evening in relation to this matter. The UK has already said that it supports an independent investigation into the circumstances of what has been happening, and we will continue to take that position.

The simple truth is that the realignment of power in the middle east between Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates and their now closer friendship with Israel in this increasingly Sunni-Shi’a divide has left the Palestinians marginalised, and in danger of being marginalised further. Will my right hon. Friend, following the 100th anniversary of the Balfour declaration, restate categorically the United Kingdom’s commitment to the Palestinian people and rule out moving the British embassy to Jerusalem?

In answer to the second part of my right hon. Friend’s question, as I have indicated, that is the United Kingdom’s declared position: we are not moving our embassy. On the wider issues, as we will discuss later, the United Kingdom’s commitment remains to a just settlement of this issue which recognises the need to respond to Palestinians’ concern at the same time as ensuring the safety and security, and the existence, of the state of Israel. That remains our position.

When the Hamas Prime Minister has said, “We will take down the border and we will tear out their hearts from their bodies,” what are this Government doing to build international pressure on Hamas to renounce violence and disarm?

The United Kingdom regards Hamas as a terrorist organisation. It is proscribed and we have no dealings with it. It speaks for itself in relation to its threat to the state of Israel, and that should always be remembered in issues where Hamas is involved and is exerting pressure on the population of Gaza to do its bidding.

Does the Minister agree with the Foreign Secretary that Trump’s Jerusalem embassy move is a “moment of opportunity” for peace?

I always agree with my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, because all circumstances in the region, and even the tragedies of yesterday—we will get on to this—have to be used as an opportunity for a springboard to peace, rather than further confrontation. We have made our view clear on the embassy. We did not agree with it, but it is a reality now. It will not be our position, and we will continue to work for peace in the region.

Yesterday was the worst day of violence in Gaza for four years. Will the Minister look at yesterday’s violence and agree with me that the embassy move was reckless and irresponsible and stoked tension? Does he also agree, in terms of long-term peace, that there is a need for an impartial and independent investigation?

In relation to the second part of the question, I have made it clear that the UK supports an independent investigation into what has happened, and I repeat: the move of the United States embassy yesterday was not supported by the United Kingdom. We do not see that as being conducive at present to peace in the region, and the timing, of course, was incredibly difficult.

The Minister has already mentioned the importance of face-to-face negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Would he please say how important that is for the future of the area?

The events of yesterday were the culmination of many things, but one of the things they were the culmination of was the failure of respective leaders over time to grapple with the situation and to realise how urgent and desperate it has become. The situation in Palestine and Gaza and the occupied territories will not simply be managed; it will get worse unless it is grasped and something is done to make it better.

At this moment of abject crisis, following yesterday’s events in Gaza and west Jerusalem, the Palestinian people are sorely pressed to retain hope and faith in a two-state solution. Will the Foreign Secretary give them some hope and faith today by choosing this moment officially to recognise the state of Palestine, and will he lead a global effort to persuade other countries to do the same?

We have said before that we will recognise the state of Palestine at a time when it is most conducive to securing peace in the area, but the hon. Lady is absolutely correct in saying that the absence of hope and the increase of despair in the area is of great concern to all of us and needs to be recognised and dealt with.