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Israel and Palestine

Volume 653: debated on Tuesday 22 January 2019

9. What recent assessment he has made of the effect of renewed rocket fire from Gaza into Israel on the political and security situation in that region. (908702)

Rocket fire and attacks on Israel from Gaza remain unacceptable and damaging to any prospect of eventual peace. We continue to urge Israel and the Palestinian Authority to resume direct negotiations towards a two-state solution, and we remain in regular contact with many parties on this important issue.

Last year more than 800 rockets and mortars were fired from Gaza into communities in Israel. Does the Minister agree that we must not forget that Gaza is run by Hamas, who are not our friends but an internationally proscribed terrorist organisation? Will he update the House on what help we are providing to Israel in its fight against terrorism?

We never forget that Gaza is under the control of Hamas, and that other military groups operate there. As long as there are terrorist attacks on Israel from Gaza, the situation will remain impossible to resolve. We will continue to support very strongly the right of Israel to defend itself.

What is the Government’s assessment of the report by the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs about the rise in Israeli attempts to delegitimise human rights organisations operating in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, particularly humanitarian non-governmental organisations, and the negative impact that that has on their ability to represent Palestinian rights and organisations?

Israel, as a democracy in the middle east, has always prided itself on ensuring that those groups have the freedom to operate there, even if they challenge the Israeli Government. It is very important to the United Kingdom that that tradition is maintained, particularly at a time of crisis. The west bank needs those who are able to interpret the situation and speak honestly, both to the Palestinian Authority and to the state of Israel, and the more political space there is to do that, the better it will be all round for the prospects of peace.

The recent discovery of tunnels from Lebanon into Israel has caused much concern. It is important that they are dealt with on both sides of the border. There is no reason for that work to continue, either by Hamas in the south in Gaza or by Hezbollah in the north in Lebanon.

Does the Minister agree that Malaysia’s decision to ban Israeli athletes from participating in Malaysian sporting events is shameful and that such attempts to single out the world’s only Jewish state come from a place of deep prejudice does nothing to advance the cause of peace?

The United Kingdom does not agree with this decision of the Malaysian Government. It does nothing to assist the worldwide recognition of Paralympians. I know that my right hon. Friend the Minister for Asia and the Pacific will take that up directly.

Further to the question of my hon. Friend the Member for Morley and Outwood (Andrea Jenkyns) on materials that are sent to Gaza for building homes, but are being diverted to build terror tunnels, what action is my right hon. Friend taking to ensure that our aid is used to build homes for people in Gaza rather than terror tunnels?

The principal control of materials flowing into Gaza is of course exercised by the Israelis, with their concerns about dual-use material. We are in regular contact with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency to make every attempt to ensure that such materials are not diverted. Ultimately, there is no future for Hamas and for Gaza unless they stop the terror tactics and the diversion of materials, and respond to the Quartet principles and make peace.

In the past year, 186 Palestinian civilians have been killed on the Gaza border and no Israelis. More than 23,000 Palestinian civilians and 16 Israelis have been injured. Should not the focus be on ending the blockade of Gaza and, indeed, the occupation that has gone on since 1987?

Virtually every statistic from the area cries out for the need to resolve this issue. We have spoken about it in this House for decades. There are arguments and counter-arguments, but in the main, the misery continues, either for those who feel under attack from terrorist sources or for those who feel the humanitarian impact of political decisions made elsewhere. That is why the United Kingdom is so wedded to—and determined to see—a middle east peace process for all.