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House of Lords Hansard
06 March 2018
Volume 789


    Asked by

  • To ask Her Majesty’s Government what action they are taking to promote coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians.

  • My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper. In doing so, I refer the House to my non-financial interests recorded in the register.

  • My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his Question. Ultimately, the only way to achieve coexistence is through a negotiated two-state solution that ends the occupation and delivers peace for both Israelis and Palestinians. This is why the UK continues to support renewed peace negotiations between the parties. The UK is also supporting work that helps create the necessary environment for a two-state solution, including by providing up to £3 million over three years to support coexisting programming.

  • I thank my noble friend the Minister for her Answer. I warmly welcome last week’s announcement of the impending visit to the region of His Royal Highness the Duke of Cambridge—a first official royal visit to Israel and a great way to celebrate its 70th anniversary. I also welcome the Government’s support for coexistence programmes, which lay the foundation for peace. For example, Israeli doctors and nurses at the charity Save a Child’s Heart have provided life-saving surgery for over 2,000 Palestinian children at the Wolfson hospital in Holon, which many Members of your Lordships’ House have visited. Does my noble friend agree that the Government should support projects such as this?

  • Save a Child’s Heart is clearly doing admirable work. We recognise that its programmes have been commended by a number of UK parliamentarians. The UK supports of coexistence work to foster understanding between communities on both sides of the conflict to help support the necessary environment for a just and peaceful two-state solution.

  • My Lords, any bridge-building on our part—I am sorry.

  • It is good to see noble Lords so excited about these things. DfID’s £3 million co-existence programme will facilitate interaction between youth leaders and religious communities and strengthen co-operation in the health sector. This will help Israelis and Palestinians to work together to achieve tangible improvements in their lives and build understanding between people. There are currently no plans to fund Save a Child’s Heart as part of DfID’s coexistence programme. DfID’s programme will help tackle a neglected tropical disease with co-operative engagement from health academics and senior health representatives for the well-being of both populations. We welcome the announcement of the forthcoming visit to the region of His Royal Highness the Duke of Cambridge.

  • My Lords, does the Minister agree that two-state solutions do not have a happy record and simply turn latent ignorance and prejudice into lasting enmity? We look at the partition of India into two states, when several million people were killed immediately and tens of millions were displaced. Closer to home, we can look at the island of Ireland and the conflict that has resulted there. Would it not be much better to look for the commonalities and common aspirations of the two communities and build on those rather than to divide a country and then have permanent enmity?

  • I thank the noble Lord for his question. He does well to remind us of historical difficulties, which make it hard to achieve peace in difficult circumstances. However, we firmly believe that ultimately, the best way to promote coexistence is through a just and lasting resolution that ends the occupation and delivers peace for both Israelis and Palestinians.

  • My Lords, the Minister recognises the importance of coexistence, which has been supported by the status quo nunc, established at the Sublime Porte by the Sultan in 1852, which has maintained coexistence between the Christians and the other communities in the Old City of Jerusalem since that date through times of war and peace. Following the welcome announcement after the recent crisis of discussions between the municipality of Jerusalem and the State of Israel and the heads of churches, will the Minister comment on how Her Majesty’s Government will support those discussions to bring about a re-establishment of the status quo and the continued flourishing of those churches, with their charitable work for coexistence?

  • I thank the most reverend Primate for his question. It is not our place to comment on internal Israeli and property matters. However, we have concerns over Israeli legislation when it is applied to the Occupied Palestinian Territories, including east Jerusalem. The consul-general in Jerusalem and embassy in Tel Aviv are following matters closely. These are complex issues but we will do all we can to help the situation.

  • My Lords, does the Minister accept that, while both peoples need to learn to coexist, coexistence and military occupation are not easily compatible? Can she reassure the House that no project will be funded that will in any way normalise occupation or undermine Britain’s long-standing opposition to settlements as illegal under international law?

  • I thank the noble Baroness for her question. We continue to press the parties on the need to refrain from actions that make peace more difficult. Settlement construction is a significant barrier to achieving this goal, as are terrorism, incitement to violence and the refusal by some to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist. The UK’s position is clear, and our long-standing position on the Middle East peace process is clear too. We support a negotiated settlement, leading to a safe and secure Israel living alongside a viable and sovereign Palestinian state, based on 1967 borders with agreed land swaps, with Jerusalem as the shared capital of both states, and a just, fair, agreed and realistic settlement for refugees. This will be difficult but we must try.

  • My Lords, I welcome what the Government have attempted to do in funding projects, but we should be trying to amplify that work by working with our allies to ensure that they, too, make similar funding arrangements, working with the European Union and, not least, the United States, which has indicated that it will stop a lot of funding for Palestinians. Just what are the Government doing to ensure that others join us in this good work?

  • I thank the noble Lord for his question. Our Government will work with all our allies to make sure that everything we do, we do together to make the situation better.