To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the treatment of Palestinian children by the Israel Defense Forces.
My Lords, we continue to have strong concerns about reports of ill-treatment of Palestinian minors in Israeli military detention and regularly make representations to the Israeli authorities. Most recently, officials from our embassy in Tel Aviv raised our concerns with the Israeli Ministry of Justice on 6 June, and we continue to seek improvements to Israeli practices. We also regularly press Israel on its use of live fire, particularly against children.
I thank the Minister for that reply, but Israeli soldiers are still firing directly at unarmed children 200 to 300 metres away from the Gaza fence, using high-velocity bullets aimed at their knees. I get my information from volunteer doctors from this country who go out there from time to time. Unlike ordinary bullets, these cause very severe bone and tissue damage and suck dirt and fabric remnants into the wounds. Reconstruction is impossible because of the lack of supplies, antibiotics and even morphine. It means that more than 200 young people, half of them children below the age of 18, have had limbs amputated in Gaza in the last year. Before he tries to blame Hamas, will he tell us why the IDF has to use such ammunition on children for crowd control?
My Lords, I have already made it clear that we have constantly and consistently raised the issue of the use of live ammunition against children with the Israeli authorities. The noble Baroness will also be aware that, during my last visit to Israel, I raised this issue directly when I met the Justice Minister, particularly the issue of children in detention. From the UK Government’s perspective, my honourable friend the new Minister for the Middle East recently made Israel and Palestine his first visit, during which he announced additional funding of £1.6 million to the World Health Organization, which will go towards alleviating humanitarian suffering, particularly in Gaza.
Will the Minister equally disapprove of the way Hamas uses children? In Gaza recently, children were given the day off school and bussed to the fence. They were bribed and used as human shields. They have been used as suicide bombers, and rockets are deliberately placed in kindergartens. Does the blame not lie equally with Hamas, if not more so?
My Lords, anyone anywhere in the world who uses children as human shields or in such a despicable manner is to be condemned. I have consistently said that it is the Government’s position that the situation with Hamas cannot continue. Hamas failed to recognise the State of Israel, failed to negotiate and failed to recognise the right of Israel to exist. Let us get that on the table. Let us get the right of recognition of everyone in the region to exist and we will move forward practically and productively: we will save children’s lives, if it is done with the right ambition in mind.
My Lords, hundreds of Palestinian youngsters have been encouraged by the terrorist organisation Hamas to commit acts of provocation against Israeli forces but, when arrested, they do not have the benefit of lawyers and are tried in military courts. I am a lifelong supporter of the State of Israel, but is Britain reminding the Government of Israel of the vision of its founders, who would be appalled by this abuse of human rights?
Again, the issue around the children is deplorable and I condemn that unequivocally, along with anyone who uses children for any such means, whether they seek to indoctrinate them or use them for extremist causes and put them in the front line. Such children need to be protected. The United Kingdom Government provide assistance in this regard, not just on this issue of detention but in terms of legal representation, and we continue to lobby the Israeli authorities on the specific conditions of the detention of minors. I believe, according to my most recent figure, that there are currently 205 children from the Palestinian community in detention in Israel.
My Lords, does the Minister agree that, in spite of tensions in the Middle East, including the pressure on the Iran nuclear deal, the world must focus on seeking to bring about a resolution to the Israel-Palestine conflict? Does he agree that any resolution such as the Jared Kushner plan, which apparently seeks a settlement without involving the Palestinians in the discussions, cannot be the route to take?
I totally agree with the noble Baroness that any plan for alleviating the plight of the suffering, albeit an economic plan, must include a political settlement. Our position is clear: we need to see a viable two-state solution to resolving the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians. We will continue to lobby and campaign for that.
My Lords, would my noble friend agree that, while the Israel Defense Forces are not perfect, the obsession with focusing on them—despite their being the most moral and professional army in the Middle East—is very strange? At the same time, one must also focus on, for example, the Palestinian authorities having more than 30 schools named after terrorists who have murdered Israelis. These issues have to be looked at as well.
As we have consistently made clear, Israel has a right to self-defence. We have also repeatedly called for Hamas to stop firing rockets into Israel. Whether a life is lost on the Israeli side or on the Palestinian side, we are equally appalled. We must work towards a resolution of that conflict. It has gone on far too long.
My Lords, the fact is that the hyperbole of President Trump—the “deal of the century”—will simply not happen if the PLO and the Israeli Government do not sit round the table together. Peace talks need to involve everyone. What are Her Majesty’s Government doing to ensure that we work with our allies to get everyone round the table to talk for peace?
My Lords, let me assure the noble Lord that we were represented at the recent Bahrain conference. The point the noble Lord makes about ensuring that all parties to the conflict, including the Palestinians and Israelis, get around a table to find a two-state solution, with a secure, viable and progressive state in Israel—recognising its security issues—and at the same time a state for the Palestinians, should also be the primary objective. We continue to work on that.