The decision by the Israeli authorities to designate six Palestinian NGOs, and the evidence that forms the basis of those designations, is a matter for the Government of Israel. The UK maintains its own criteria for designation. We continue engagement with a number of those organisations on human rights issues and respect the role that NGOs and civil society organisations play in upholding human rights and democracy.
We are in contact with the Alliance for Middle East Peace regarding its concept of an international fund. The Minister for the Middle East and North Africa, my right hon. Friend the Member for Braintree (James Cleverly), met it on 8 September to discuss that.
It has been more than five weeks since Israel designated six well-known and respected Palestinian NGOs and human rights organisations, and there is still no credible evidence to justify it. The EU has said that it has received no new evidence and no convincing answers to its queries. Does the Minister share my concern that the designation of these NGOs is a clear attempt to silence the peaceful defence of Palestinian rights, and will she call on the Israeli Government to immediately revoke the designation?
As I set out, the decision to designate these six Palestinian NGOs is a matter for the Government of Israel. The UK maintains its own criteria for designation. We continue engagement with a number of these organisations on human rights issues and respect the role of civil society organisations in upholding human rights and democracy. As I say, it is a matter for the Government of Israel, but we have our own position.
On the creation of an international fund for Israeli and Palestinian peace, the Government have previously said that they have not yet committed to join the fund because the US has
“not yet approached us to discuss it.”
Why has the Minister not shown some initiative and contacted United States Agency for International Development administrator Samantha Power about taking one of the two international board seats to support this exciting opportunity for collaboration?
As I mentioned, the Minister for the Middle East and North Africa met the executive director of ALLMEP on 8 September, and UK officials are in contact with it to better understand the concept of the international fund. The UK Government share the objective of increasing understanding and dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians.
I listened carefully to the Minister’s answer and I have to say, frankly, that it was entirely inadequate and wholly unconvincing. It is telling that, in answering the previous question, the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Vicky Ford), praised the role of NGOs in other countries, yet we are seeing NGOs being shut down in the state of Israel on entirely dubious legal grounds, with no evidence base, and the UK Minister seems to be washing her hands of the matter. I am offering my support to the UK Government, as are Labour Members. Surely we must do more to create and help save the civil space within the Israeli-Palestinian dialogue. These six NGOs are fulfilling that. Have the UK Government seen the evidence, and will they commit to helping to keep that civil space open?
As my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary mentioned, civil society is important. We continue our engagement with a number of these organisations on important human rights issues, and we respect the role of NGOs and civil society in upholding human rights and democracy.
Most of us on the Conservative side of the House welcome the Government’s decision to proscribe the so-called political wing of Hamas, but will my right hon. Friend outline the pact that has been drawn up following the visit of the Israeli Foreign Minister to the United Kingdom a couple of days ago?
As my hon. Friend said, the Foreign Secretary hosted the first UK-Israel strategic dialogue with Israeli Foreign Minister Lapid. They held substantial discussions on how to broaden and deepen our bilateral relationship, including by co-operation across science, technology, trade and innovation.