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Israel and Palestine

Volume 691: debated on Wednesday 9 May 2007

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What consideration they have given to lifting the embargo on the Palestinian Authority since the formation of the new Unity Government by Hamas and Fatah. [HL3520]

There is no embargo on the Palestinian Authority, but the UK, together with other donors, has redirected its financial assistance directly to the Palestinian people. The EU does this through the temporary international mechanism. The EU has provided more financial assistance (over €680 million) to the Palestinian people in 2006 than it did in previous years. As my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary made clear in a Statement issued on 17 March,

“we will judge the Government by its platform and actions and respond accordingly”.

The 23 April General Affairs External Relations Council recalled,

“its readiness to work with and to resume its direct assistance to a Palestinian government whose policy and action reflect the Quartet principles (commitment to non-violence; recognition of Israel; and acceptance of previous agreements, including the Roadmap)”.

There are obvious steps that the Palestinian National Unity Government could take, such as securing the release of Corporal Shalit, halting the firing of rockets into Israel by Palestinian militants, and improving law and order in Gaza.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What discussions they have had with the World Bank and United Nations concerning the transparency of the temporary international mechanism. [HL3521]

While the UN has endorsed the temporary international mechanism (TIM), it does not have any role in its operation. All non-salary support to key Palestinian Authority ministries is run by the World Bank under window 1 of the TIM, following World Bank procurement guidelines. The UK monitors the procurement process on a monthly basis and has provided a procurement expert to the office of the president to ensure transparency. Humanitarian payments under window 2 of the TIM are contracted and paid for directly by the European Commission (EC) and meet UK agreed EC guidelines. The UK was closely involved in the design of the social allowance element under window 3 of the TIM, ensuring it had satisfactory checks and balances in place. This includes tracking each and every payment and conducting terrorist checks on individuals receiving payment. UK officials also conduct regular meetings with the EC to ensure its guidelines are being followed. A review of the TIM will take place this month that will include an assessment of the transparency of the TIM.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What recent discussions they have had with the Government of Israel concerning freedom of movement and access to trade across the security border for Palestinians. [HL3522]

We regularly call on both parties to implement the 15 November 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access. We have repeatedly raised our concerns about movement and access with the Government of Israel. Israel’s closure regime has a devastating effect on the Palestinian economy. Economic hardship and unemployment contribute to the Palestinians’ frustration and make a comprehensive settlement more difficult to achieve. We therefore welcome the ongoing dialogue between Israeli Prime Minister Olmert and Palestinian President Abbas and their most recent meeting on 15 April to discuss movement and access issues.

My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary raised movement and access concerns with Israeli Defence Minister Peretz during her 5 to 7 February visit to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The 23 April General Affairs External Relations Council recalled,

“the utmost importance of the full implementation of the Agreement on Movement and Access … It urges that Rafah and all other crossing points, notably Karni, be re-opened and remain open”.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What progress has been made towards the release to the Unity Government of Palestine of the tax revenues still being withheld by Israel. [HL3523]

We welcome Israel’s transfer of US$100 million of Palestinian customs revenue to President Abbas. We hope that this will be a first step towards the resumption of full transfers to President Abbas. The 23 April General Affairs and External Relations Council reiterated its call on Israel,

“for the immediate resumption of the transfer of withheld Palestinian tax and customs revenues, directly or through the Temporary International Mechanism”.