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West Bank

Volume 629: debated on Tuesday 17 October 2017

5. What estimate he has made of the number of instances of demolitions, settlement expansion and land appropriation in the west bank. (901175)

We are gravely concerned by demolitions, by the eviction of Palestinians and by the increased pace of settlement advancement, including the discussions this week of plans for 3,000 new settlement units to be constructed on the west bank. Such actions undermine both the physical viability of the two-state solution and Israel’s commitment to it.

I thank the Minister for that answer. I recently visited the communities of Khan al-Ahmar and Susiya in Area C of the west bank, both of which are under threat of demolition. I was surprised that both have received significant investment from the EU and therefore from the British taxpayer. Will the Minister tell me what representations he has made to the Israeli Government about that?

I visited Susiya in August to talk to members of the community about the pressures that they were under. We maintain a continued interest in legal arguments in relation to both Khan al-Ahmar and Susiya, and we regularly make it clear to the Israeli authorities that activities there and other settlement actions are deeply concerning, and undermine the intentions that we all have for a viable two-state solution and a movement towards peace.

I join the Minister in agreeing that such settlements are not in any way conducive to peace, but does he agree that what is required in the end is a negotiated settlement involving the other countries in the region? That will inevitably involve an element of land swap, which the Palestinians have accepted in the past.

It does and, as many of us are aware, the outline of the parameters of a peace agreement, including some degree of land swaps, is known. However, the encroachment in recent years of Israeli settlements on areas well beyond those anticipated to be part of a future land swap undermines the credibility of the so-called commitment to that answer.

17. It is 100 years since the Balfour declaration promised not just a Jewish homeland but to protect the rights of non-Jewish communities in Palestine. What I saw on the west bank during my recent visit amounts to conquest by concrete and totally undermines any possibility of a two-state solution. With Palestinian reconciliation providing new impetus, will the UK Government recognise their responsibility to re-establish a meaningful peace process? (901188)

We work extremely hard to play our part in fulfilling that second half of the Balfour declaration. I met one of the negotiators appointed by President Trump at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, and I was recently in Israel to talk to people there. We believe it is absolutely essential to make progress on the middle east peace process, which is not something to be managed but something to be solved, and the United Kingdom is bending all its efforts to seek to do so, particularly in this sensitive year.

23. [R] Does the Minister agree that Hezbollah poses a serious threat to Israel’s security and presents a significant barrier to peace in the middle east? Does he share my concern about recent reports that Iran has been constructing rocket factories for Hezbollah in Lebanon, and that the terrorists now have weapons capable of hitting any part of Israel? (901194)

The short answer is yes. Hezbollah appears to have been rearmed in recent years, and the conflict in Syria has provided the opportunity for Iran to supply more weapons—and more dangerous weapons—to Hezbollah. The possibility of a confrontation remains high. Those who have been committed to violence should renounce that commitment and make progress on reconciliation among the Palestinians on that basis, and all the parties involved should seek the peace we all want in the region.