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Israel and Palestine

Volume 643: debated on Tuesday 26 June 2018

7. What representations he has made to his Israeli counterpart on the proposed demolition of Khan al-Ahmar village in the west bank. (906041)

16. What recent discussions he has had with his international counterparts on prospects for the peace process in Israel and Palestine. (906050)

25. What recent representations he has made to his Israeli counterpart on Israeli settlements in the west bank. (906059)

We support a negotiated two-state solution. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary spoke to President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu on 16 May and reiterated the need for progress. We remain concerned by proposals to demolish Khan al-Ahmar and by new Israeli settlement plans. The Foreign Secretary urged Israel to reconsider when he met Prime Minister Netanyahu on 6 June. I visited Khan al-Ahmar in May and afterwards raised our concerns with my Israeli counterparts and with the Israeli ambassador to the UK.

In his discussions with his Israeli counterpart, has the Minister made it clear that the forcible transfer of communities under occupation in area C, such as Khan al-Ahmar, would constitute a breach of international humanitarian law and, furthermore, effectively end the prospect of a viable Palestinian state?

When I made a statement about that, I drew attention to the point the hon. Gentleman mentioned in the first part of his question about how it might possibly be construed. In relation to the second part, if there is further development in that area, it does indeed call into question the viability of a two-state solution.

Does the Minister accept that the forcible transfer of Khan al-Ahmar would effectively bisect the west bank and make the price of peace that much higher? Does he also accept that the refusal of the British Government to recognise a state of Palestine makes it harder for the human rights of the Palestinians to be heard?

I am not sure about the second part because we do raise issues of human rights, particularly in relation to settlements and the like. On the first part, yes, the concern about the location of Khan al-Ahmar—its close proximity to E1 and the possibility of development there being a bar to contiguity—is indeed a concern for the whole of the international community. It is still possible for any demolition not to go ahead.

There is clearly a systemic issue at the heart of this. Residents of Khan al-Ahmar are being forcibly removed and the village demolished. As the court judgment says, the homes have been built without consent, but there is no means of getting consent because permissions are systemically denied to Palestinians. It is a Catch-22 situation that leaves families in a perpetual state of homelessness. How can such a policy be deemed fair or reasonable, and what influence can my right hon. Friend bring to bear to resolve it?

The concerns that my hon. Friend raises have been at the heart of the discussions on this. Israel has a judicial system. It is true that concerns about the possible demolition of Khan al-Ahmar have been raised in the Israeli courts for a lengthy period, and it has not gone ahead, as others demolitions have not gone ahead. We continue to appeal to the Israeli authorities that, despite their judicial system, the Government can make a decision in relation to Khan al-Ahmar, and the problem in relation to finding building permits in area C is well known.

So far this year, the Israeli authorities have demolished 27 donor-funded structures in east Jerusalem and on the west bank. Can the Minister comment on whether any of these structures were funded by the UK?

I am not aware of any. The EU has made some claims for compensation in relation to structures, but not the UK. Again, the hon. Lady emphasises the problem in relation to settlements and structures. These are difficult issues in relation to the context of Israel and the occupied territories, and we believe this could be dealt with in a different way.

As always, we condemn any terrorist attack. Hamas’s policy on Israel is well known. We have no contact with Hamas and, until it moves on the Quartet principles, it is unlikely to play a serious part in the future of Gaza.

Regarding the prospects for peace, stability and good relations in the region generally, what discussions have there been with the American Administration about the forthcoming peace plan for the area, and what does the Minister make of those who would dismiss the plan even before it has got off the ground?

No one should dismiss any possibility for the peace plan. This is a first-term President who has expressed his determination through his envoys to bring something forward. There is concern that nothing has come forward yet, but it is a question of timing, and various parts of the plan have been spoken about with different entities. It is important, if it comes forward, that it be given every chance of success. The region and the world cannot wait forever for a resolution to this issue, and we would wish the prospects for a settlement well when the plan comes forward.

Will my right hon. Friend join me in welcoming the landmark visit today by His Royal Highness the Duke of Cambridge, the first member of the royal family to officially visit Israel? The visit underlines the deep bond of friendship between the two countries.

Yes indeed. The Government are delighted at the visit of His Royal Highness the Duke of Cambridge. It is an important opportunity for His Royal Highness to promote the strong relationships between the British, Jordanian, Israeli and Palestinian peoples.

Does the Minister consider that Hamas organising a march of return to areas that have been part of Israel since 1948 is likely to move us any closer to a negotiated two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians?

The answer is probably not. Everyone knows that the right of return will be dealt with in the ultimate negotiations in relation to an agreement. There are legitimate reasons to protest in Gaza, and there is also illegitimate exploitation of those reasons.

It has been widely reported that the Foreign Secretary intends to convene an imminent summit with Jared Kushner and other interested parties to lay out the red lines that the Government will apply when evaluating the Trump Administration’s Israel-Palestine peace plan. Will the Minister of State tell the House in clear terms today what those red lines are?

No, I will not. There is plenty to do in relation to this without me setting out any red lines that may or may not be extant.