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UN Security Council: Israel and Palestine

Volume 758: debated on Tuesday 6 January 2015

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what action they will take to support a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine, following the rejection of the Jordanian resolution at the United Nations Security Council on 30 December.

My Lords, we remain convinced that the best way to secure a two-state solution is through negotiations underpinned by clear international parameters. Events of recent days have only made that goal more difficult. We are therefore urging the parties to avoid steps which damage the prospects for resuming meaningful talks. In the coming weeks, we will continue to work closely with international partners to promote an environment conducive to peace.

I am grateful to the Minister for that reply—no surprises there, then. I hope that the Minister agrees that we have a historic responsibility for Palestine. Is she aware that a growing number of prominent Israeli academics and politicians support the Israeli peace initiative, which is based on the Arab peace initiative of 2002? Does she agree that we should now take the lead with our European partners in imposing a time limit for the creation of the two states based on that plan, with sanctions applied to both parties if they fail to achieve a solution?

My Lords, my noble friend points to her request that deadlines should be imposed. In the past, deadlines have never proved to be the opening of a door to a lasting peace. Clearly, she is right to draw attention to the fact that there are many, both in Israel and in the Arab states, who are working hard to achieve a peaceful outcome. The Arab League and the Arab states have a key role in the peace process, and the Arab peace initiative, through its offer of a normalisation of relations between Arab states and Israel in the event of a comprehensive peace agreement, is an important signal of the benefits that peace would bring to the entire region. It needs to be a comprehensive peace agreement. The advantage of a resolution in the United Nations Security Council, if we are able to achieve it, is that one could achieve a peace that is not only signed but delivered and endures.

My Lords, apart from continued drift and deterioration, does the noble Baroness agree that the only real alternative to a two-state solution is a one-state solution which would, for demographic reasons, mean the end of democratic Israel? In the light of the fact that Secretary Kerry has tried very hard but failed, does she see any prospect of any initiative from the United States over the next few years? Otherwise, the prospects appear very bleak indeed.

My Lords, I hesitate to disagree with the noble Lord’s tenet that Mr Kerry has now failed, but I do disagree with that reading of recent events. I believe that Mr Kerry is determined to continue to take the peace process further. It was regrettable that the United Nations Security Council was unable to achieve a resolution. We continue to believe that negotiations for a two-state solution are the only way forward. We are aware that both Netanyahu and Abbas are ready to continue negotiations. It is important that that process is allowed to continue and that we now have a period where people take stock of what has happened over the past few days and quietly consider how we may constructively move that peace process further.

My Lords, the Israeli President has said that he believes that it is completely wrong for the Israeli Government to withhold taxes which are due to the Palestinian Authority. Can my noble friend tell us what pressure the United Kingdom Government are putting on the Israeli Government to pay that money, which is due to the Palestinians?

My Lords, we are indeed deeply concerned by the decision made by Israel to freeze the transfer of $130 million of tax revenue. It is against international law and it certainly contravenes the 1994 Paris protocol signed between Israel and the PLO. I can tell my noble friend that we press Israel to reverse that decision.

My Lords, can the Minister outline whether any aspect of the UN Security Council resolution which was rejected last week was inconsistent with UK policy, international law or previous UN resolutions?

My Lords, I am sure that the noble Baroness will have read the full document, which I would hesitate to do here because it is three pages long. The document is three pages long because it is a complex matter and the United Nations Security Council should be asked to look at these matters in detail over a sensible time period. Regretfully, the United Nations Security Council members were not given the opportunity to have the normal discussion and come to conclusions, so there was not a full discussion on each of the propositions within it. The imposition of a deadline for Israeli withdrawal from the Occupied Territories at the end of 2017 stood there without any of the other issues which need to be resolved. Because it was not possible to have a full discussion about all the issues in it we were, regretfully, not able to support that resolution. What we support is the fact that we should now go forward with the United Nations Security Council, have a full and meaningful discussion about it and secure a resolution to which all members can not only sign up but then keep.

My Lords, does my noble friend the Minister agree that progress towards a two-state solution has been set back by those who have been seeking immediate recognition of Palestine as a state while it is controlled by a terrorist organisation with links to ISIL, and whose aim is the total destruction of Israel, and that progress can only really be achieved through negotiation with those genuinely wanting a peaceful solution, supported by the international community?

My Lords, I am of course aware that there are those on both sides of the argument who find it very difficult indeed to move this matter forward but I am advised, and have every belief it is right, that President Abbas is a man of peace and wishes to continue negotiations. Prime Minister Netanyahu has made it clear that he wishes to continue in those negotiations. It is clearly going to take still more work at the United Nations before we can reach a resolution to which all can subscribe, but against the bleak background that my noble friend paints I would paint the background of key players who want to achieve the right result—peace for that region.