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Israeli-Palestinian Peace Plan

Volume 648: debated on Tuesday 30 October 2018

11. What discussions he has had with his US counterpart on the proposed (a) content and (b) timeline for a US-brokered peace plan for Israel and the Palestinians. (907353)

12. What assessment he has made of the implications for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process of the Human Rights Watch report, “Two Authorities, One Way, Zero Dissent: Arbitrary Arrest and Torture under the Palestinian Authority and Hamas”, published in October 2018. (907354)

I discussed the proposed United States peace plan with the US President’s middle east envoy, Jason Greenblatt, on 28 September in New York. The Foreign Secretary discussed this with the special adviser to the US President, Jared Kushner, on 22 August. The UK remains committed to a negotiated settlement leading to a two-state solution based on 1967 borders, with Jerusalem as a shared capital.

I am glad the Minister has made that commitment, but does he agree that the time really has come for a re-energising and reinvigorating of a two-state solution? Will he personally take a lead in that? Surely what the world expects from both sides is restraint and statesmanship, with Hamas stopping the constant rocket attacks and Israel drawing a halt to the west bank settlement programme?

I am grateful for my hon. Friend’s questions. The need to keep the middle east peace process at the forefront of the world’s mind is perhaps greater than ever. Just because it has gone on for so long, that is no reason why it should slip away. I absolutely assure my hon. Friend that, everywhere I go and in every conversation I have in the region, they know that the middle east peace process will come up because the United Kingdom must not let it be as it is, because there will no peace or security for either the state of Israel or its neighbours unless the issue is finally resolved.

After a comprehensive two-year investigation, Human Rights Watch has concluded that

“Palestinian authorities routinely arrest people whose peaceful speech displeases them and torture those in their custody.”

Will my right hon. Friend condemn that deplorable abuse of power and make appropriate representations to the Palestinian Authority?

We read with great concern the report that my hon. Friend quoted. We do not provide any funding to the agencies mentioned in it, although we do support other areas of the security sector. We have raised our concerns about this issue with the Ministry of Interior and continue to encourage the Palestinian Authority to respect human rights and to ensure that complaints of mistreatment or arbitrary detention are properly investigated. We continue to work with the authority to improve the performance of the security sector.

Has the Minister considered the political implications of the recent tragic events at the Gaza border, where Palestinians are encouraged to believe that they have a right of return within Israel’s internationally recognised 1948 boundaries? That makes a two-state solution impossible.

What I can and should say to the House is that it has been clear in recent weeks that Hamas has much greater control over the demonstrations at the border than it had at the start of the summer. Hamas has in effect completely taken over the committee that was responsible for the protests and the march on the right to return, and it is now taking people, including children, to the border. That is a practice that must end. The situation at the Gaza border is very grim. It will take both sides to realise that there can be no future unless Gaza and the west bank are included in the overall settlement for which we work so hard.

Is not it incredible that earlier we had a discussion about the terrible situation in Gaza in which the word “Hamas” was not mentioned once? Is not it the case that the only way in which that terrible situation will be alleviated and improved is through progress being made on a peace process, and that the only way that that is going to happen is when Hamas lays down its weapons, stops using resources that should be used to build houses, hospitals and schools to dig tunnels and to make rockets to fire at civilians in Israel, and stops the incendiary attacks that have caused 1,000 fires on the border?

As the hon. Gentleman knows, although very often Members on one side of the House or the other tend to raise issues of greatest concern to themselves and ignore the other side, the United Kingdom Government have been clear about the responsibilities in Gaza. I just mentioned Hamas in my previous answer—but I understand the point—and it is very clear that Hamas has significant responsibility for the events in Gaza. None the less, Israel also has some responsibility for the restrictions and the issues in Gaza, which is why, as the hon. Gentleman rightly said, none of this will be settled by one side or the other; it will be settled only by the comprehensive agreement that we are all working so hard to achieve.