Urgent Question):To ask the Secretary of State if he will make a statement on the proposed middle east peace plan that was announced by President Trump this week.
I thank the right hon. Lady for her urgent question. As the Foreign Secretary made clear in his statement on Tuesday, the Government welcome the release of the proposal by the United States for peace between Israelis and Palestinians, which clearly reflects extensive investment in time and effort. A peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians that leads to peaceful co-existence could unlock the potential of the entire region and provide both sides with the opportunity for a brighter future.
Only the leaders of Israel and the Palestinian territories can determine whether the proposals can meet the needs and aspirations of the people they represent. We encourage them to give the latest plan genuine and fair consideration, and to explore whether it might prove a first step on the road back to negotiations. The UK’s position has not changed. Our view remains that the best way to achieve peace is through substantive peace talks between the parties, leading to a safe and secure Israel that lives alongside a viable and sovereign Palestinian state, based on 1967 borders, with agreed land swaps, Jerusalem as the shared capital of both states, and a just, fair, agreed and realistic settlement for refugees.
Our first priority now must be to encourage the United States, Israelis, Palestinians and our partners in the international community to find a means of resuming the dialogue necessary for securing a negotiated settlement. The absence of dialogue creates a vacuum, which fuels instability and all that follows from that.
Thank you, Mr Speaker, for granting this urgent question. Before I begin, may I take a brief moment to apologise to my colleagues on the SNP Benches for the language I used in the heat of hustings last week? Debating the middle east is a salutary reminder to me that there is no place for hatred in our politics, and also that on almost every foreign policy issue, including this one, we have opposed the Tory Government together. I am sorry for what I said.
Later this year, we will mark 25 years since the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, who, like Egypt’s Anwar Sadat, was murdered because of his efforts to bring peace to the middle east; two leaders who had the courage to risk their lives to end decades of bloodshed in their region. What we saw instead at the White House on Tuesday was a betrayal; a desecration of Sadat and Rabin’s sacrifice. Trump and Netanyahu are two corrupt racist power-crazed leaders coming together not in the interests of peace, not to promote a two-state solution and not to end violence in the middle east, but simply to further their chances of re-election by doing the opposite. What a bitter irony that the next US presidential election will take place on the day before Rabin’s 25th anniversary, with Trump trading on the politics of division that Rabin tried to reject and treading all over the legacy of peace that Rabin left others to follow.
Let us make no mistake: this so-called peace plan has nothing in common with the Oslo accords. It destroys any prospect of an independent, contiguous Palestinian state. It legitimises the illegal annexation of Palestinian land for settlers. It puts the whole of Jerusalem under Israeli control. It removes the democratic rights of Palestinians living in Israel and removes the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their land. This is not a peace plan; it is a monstrosity and a guarantee that the next generation of Palestinian and Israeli children, like so many generations before them, will grow up knowing nothing but fear, violence and division. Trump and Netanyahu care nothing about those children’s futures; they care only about their own.
The only question—the urgent question—I have today is why on earth are our Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary just going along with this sham of a peace deal by actively welcoming it and saying that Palestine should get behind it? That is a shameful betrayal of decades of consensus, across this House and from one Government to another, that we should unswervingly and neutrally support progress towards a two-state solution, a prospect that this plan permanently rips away. I ask the Government: why are they supporting this plan? Why will they not, for pity’s sake, recognise the independent contiguous state of Palestine while there is still one left to recognise?
I thank the right hon. Gentleman—the right hon. Lady. Actually, I have made that mistake before, Mr Speaker. I apologise once again, since we are in the mood for apologies this morning, to the right hon. Lady.
The right hon. Lady has made her points in her own way and I commend her for her rhetoric. I spent last night actually reading the plan. It is a large document. I do not know whether she has done more than just skim through it and read the remarks of her researchers, but I have actually read it. This has been years in gestation. America is one of our closest allies, and I think we owe America and its President at least the time to consider this plan.
That said, this is not our plan. What the right hon. Lady should have done is consider the remarks of our international friends and partners on this plan. She would have found, if she had bothered to take note of them—I have a gist of them written here—that the UK position, iterated by the Foreign Secretary in his statement on Tuesday, is right in the mainstream of international opinion on this document. At the moment, we have a vacuum in which there is no negotiation. We want to see a return to negotiation, and we need something that will get us going in that respect. If this plan, with all its faults and foibles—every plan has them—enables us to get around the table again, that has to be a good thing.
I welcome my right hon. Friend’s support for getting peace talks going. Will he confirm that no less than five Arab countries have already welcomed this proposal as a basis for restarting talks between the Palestinians and the state of Israel? Will he therefore commit the United Kingdom to helping the Palestinians to get around the table with the state of Israel and deliver peace in the middle east?
It is clear that peace in the middle east needs to be negotiated by the parties concerned, and I think everybody understands that. My hon. Friend is quite correct; I have a list of countries from across the world that have commented on the proposal, and I have been road-testing our statement against some of those comments. We have comments from Saudi Arabia, Egypt—we will come back to that—the United Arab Emirates, EU High Representative Borrell, the E3, Spain, France, Germany, Sweden and Australia. They all welcome this as the basis for talks and negotiation.
It’s a betrayal!
The right hon. Lady can chunter as much as she likes, but she needs to understand where we sit in the mainstream of international opinion on this matter, which is as I have described.
I thank the right hon. Lady for her most sincere apology, and I extend an invitation to her as my plus one for tomorrow night’s London SNP Burns supper, at which I am sure she will have a great time. That sounds like a threat, doesn’t it? I am sure that she will have a great time and be welcome none the less.
On the issue at hand, I have to say that I agree with much of what the right hon. Lady said. The Minister can cite as many people as he wants who have come out in some guise or another to support this plan, but I am with the former Israeli defence chief of intelligence and military attaché to Washington, Amos Yadlin, who has said that this is “not a peace plan”, and that it is not
“even a basis for a peace plan”.
This simply will not do. I get that the United Kingdom Government find themselves in a tough position, but simply uttering the words
“this is not our plan”
will not cut it.
The Prime Minister of Israel has made it clear that he will unlawfully annex the Jordan valley—Palestinian land. Annexations are unlawful because they fuel conflict. If the Government can get that right on Crimea, why on earth can they not get it right in this instance? Can I ask the Minister what he is doing to make sure that no undue pressure is applied, either by Israel or by the United States Government, on the Palestinian Authority to accept a plan that delivers neither peace nor prosperity for anyone involved?
I wish that I was able to be at the hon. Gentleman’s Burns night supper. Indeed, I wish to God
“the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!”
We could go on.
On the subject of annexation, which I think is the burden of the hon. Gentleman’s question, let us be clear. Annexation would be illegal under international law. Some of the rhetoric we saw in the aftermath of the release of this document “Peace to Prosperity” was perhaps overdone and overblown, and it has been reined back on overnight by a number of those who claimed that that would happen in the immediate aftermath of the release of the plan. The UK Government’s position on annexation is, as he knows, very clear, and it is completely compatible with what others say and maintain on this matter: annexation—that is to say, Israel commanding space that has not been negotiated and agreed internationally—would be illegal.
Will my right hon. Friend update us on what conversations he has had with UN partners and with the UN Secretary-General’s office?
May I congratulate my hon. Friend on his recent success? The UN General Secretary has made a statement that is in keeping with most of the comments made internationally yesterday and overnight. He welcomes this as a point of dialogue and is insistent—we have discussed this with him and others—that we need to get back around the negotiating table. I do not think that anybody really accepts—certainly not on the part of the UK Government—that this is a perfect plan by any means. It could be baby steps towards a negotiation, but it has to be a negotiated settlement that eventually falls out of this. Clearly, this has not been negotiated, so those who suggest that it is in some way a final settlement are way far of the mark. This clearly has to be the subject of a great deal of further work, but if it is the catalyst for negotiation, I suppose we have to welcome it in that stead.
The Minister is an intelligent man. He must see how intellectually dishonest the position he is taking is. On the one hand he is saying that the UK Government’s position has not changed and they are against annexation, but this plan endorses that and makes it possible. He should not hide behind what others say. This country has an historical responsibility to Palestine, and he should stand up for what should be this Government’s policy.
It is not a question of hiding behind what others say. Generally speaking, it is a good thing to be in the mainstream of international opinion. I would have thought that the hon. Gentleman would be quite keen on that. I have already read out some of the comments made over the past 36 hours or so, and most of them say that they want to see a negotiation between the parties. At the moment, there is none—there is a vacuum. What we have is this document, launched this week, and if this can be baby steps towards something that makes sense in the future, I would have thought that most of us would at least welcome that as part of a process.
We are dealing with one of the world’s longest-running and most complicated conflicts. Does the Minister agree that if these proposals represent a step towards negotiations and an acceptable agreement, we should give them fair consideration?
It would be unwise to completely dismiss out of hand something of this nature, created and built by one of our closest allies, but that appears to be the position of those on the Opposition Front Bench. We need to get to a position where we have the start of a negotiation. That is, as I have said, baby steps, but if we can see a way forward to the start of a negotiation, that would be a good thing.
This is not a plan. This is a scam. The Minister wonders why those of us with Palestinian family, but also anyone else who believes in the international rules-based order, are suggesting that our Government should reject it. This is an insult. The Palestinians were not consulted during its wide gestation. This is not the best of us. We should reject it outright.
I remind the Minister of our Prime Minister’s words when he was Foreign Secretary:
“What we are saying is that you have to have a two-state solution or else you have a kind of apartheid system. You have to go for a two-state approach, that is the long-standing position of the government”.
This plan is not the basis for a viable two-state solution. Does the Minister therefore accept that these are baby steps, to use his words, towards an apartheid system that we should reject outright?
I think the hon. Lady needs to be a little careful with her language, if I may say so. If I may quote the EU High Representative—this is important, particularly in the context of the hon. Lady’s party and our incipient departure from the European Union—he said:
“Today’s initiative by the United States provides an occasion to re-launch the urgently needed efforts towards a negotiated and viable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict”
He is welcoming this—[Interruption.] Yes, he is. I could read out any number of comments made along those lines by international leaders over the past 48 hours. The important thing is that this may be the start of a process after a very long period of stand-off between Palestinians and Israelis. If that proves to be the case, I would welcome it.
I join the Minister in heartily congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge and Malling (Tom Tugendhat) on his thumping victory on the Foreign Affairs Committee, and I thank both him and my hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Wight (Bob Seely) for the way in which the contest was conducted.
My right hon. Friend might want to remember what our manifesto said. It said that Britain would be
a champion of…the rule of law, human rights, free trade, anti-corruption efforts and a rules-based international system.”
Yesterday we welcomed the release of a proposal—which we described as serious—that ignored the Palestinians’ right to self-determination, the 1967 borders, international humanitarian law, and repeated United Nations Security Council resolutions, the last of which the United Kingdom signed up to in December 2016. I have to say to my right hon. Friend that this is an annexation plan. Annexation is going to start on 2 February—and there is the map.
I thank my hon. Friend for his remarks. Of course we welcomed the release of this plan, which has been worked out over several years. That is not to say in any way that we endorse its contents. Let me emphasise that our position, stated in our manifesto and elsewhere, has not changed. Indeed, that position has been reflected among most of our friends and allies in the region and elsewhere. According to President Macron,
“France welcomes President Trump’s efforts and will carefully study the peace plan”.
That is exactly where we stand on this matter, and that is not endorsement.
I am shocked by some of the comments that are coming from the Government Front Bench. Britain has a long history of sometimes standing up for what is right in the world, and sometimes shouting about what is wrong. This plan is wrong. It is an annexation plan. It takes 60% of Palestinian land, it will not lead to peace, and it does not give the Palestinian people rights over their security, their borders or their water, to name just a few. What we need is a true plan to look at a two-state solution. The Government should be shouting that this plan, if implemented, would be a flagrant breach of international law, and would not bring peace to Palestinian people or Israeli people.
The hon. Lady has made her case very powerfully, but this is a plan. It is not in any way an agreement. We need to get back to negotiation between Israel and Palestine. This peace plan has been a long time in gestation. It is not agreed, and in order for it to work, it must be agreed between Israelis and Palestinians.
All of us on these Benches welcome the Government’s commitment to the vision of a global Britain post-Brexit, but if “global Britain” is to be anything more than a strapline, it surely means a commitment to an international order that is founded on the rule of law. My right hon. Friend has already said that the British Government would not acquiesce in the illegal annexation of land that is already illegally held. Can he confirm that he has communicated that position to the American Government?
Yes. Of course we have done that consistently. We have made our position clear consistently to the Americans and to others, and our position has not changed.
I think that the Minister’s telling the only British Palestinian in this place to watch her language is regrettable. He should think about that, and apologise.
I was ashamed of the Prime Minister’s support for the President’s disastrous and self-serving deal of the century. It is disastrous because it sets in statutory stone 50 years of occupation and institutionalised discrimination, and it is self-serving because it distracts from his, and his pal the Israeli Prime Minister’s, legal difficulties. When will someone in this Government stand up to the White House and condemn this ridiculous and unworkable plan?
The hon. Gentleman has made his views very plain. Our position would be that we need to get back round the negotiating table. If that provides a starter for 10 for some, that is a good thing. It has been well thought out; there is no doubt about that. He can doubt the intentions of President Trump if he wishes to, but I would recommend that he reads the document—[Interruption.] That is very good, if he has. He will therefore understand, although he might not agree with it, that it is certainly very well thought through. On that basis, it would be a reasonable start for negotiations—[Interruption.] We are not going to make any progress at all unless we get round the table and negotiate a solution in this matter.
Whether one likes it or not, this plan recognises the new realities, which are that the Palestinians have fewer and fewer friends and that every time there is something with the words “peace” and “plan”, they will be offered less and less land. I just want to check with the Minister: are the Government endorsing the plan, or are they simply welcoming a document relating to the middle east that has the words “peace” and “plan” on it?
We are welcoming the release of the plan, but we are in no way endorsing it. That is not really for us to do; it is a matter for agreement between the two principal parties affected by it. In this, we appear to be on exactly the same page as all the countries that I have read out, and, it would appear, as the great bulk of the international community.
May I urge the Government to have the courage of their convictions and to stand up for what has been the long-standing policy of successive British Governments on the essential elements of a peace plan for the middle east? This proposal fails a number of the tests, and the Minister knows it. Surely he recognises that an attempt to impose something on one of the parties simply cannot be the basis on which negotiations can begin.
Yes, and that was essentially the burden of the Foreign Secretary’s statement on Tuesday: for this to work, it has to be negotiated between the principal parties. I have to underscore and reiterate the fact that our position has not changed in that regard. That is to say, as the right hon. Gentleman has heard many times before, that we want to see a two-state solution based on 1967 borders, with Jerusalem as a shared capital and a proper settlement for refugees.
Can the Minister confirm that the UK will continue to call for an end to all actions and hostilities that undermine the viability of a two-state solution? Specifically, will he look to invest in track 2 negotiations, which is where the UK’s expertise could genuinely make a meaningful difference to securing peace in the region?
I thank my hon. Friend for her question. I can tell her that we will go further than that. Although it is not a solution to the situation, which is intolerable, we are putting a huge amount of resource into the Occupied Palestinian Territories right now, through the Palestinian Authority and through the United Nations Relief and Works Agency—UNRWA—in order at least to try to do our bit in stabilising what would otherwise be a completely impossible situation, pending a definitive solution that would restore peace to the middle east.
The former Foreign Secretary, now the Prime Minister, had planned to convene a summit of European and Arab Foreign Ministers with the Trump Administration to lay out their red lines for the Trump Administration’s peace plan. Can the Minister of State tell us whether that summit ever took place? If not, why not, and what were our red lines?
I thank the hon. Lady for her question. I hope she has been watching closely the reaction of leaders, particularly in the region—from Saudi Arabia, from Egypt, from the UAE and, yes, from Jordan. If she has, she will have noticed that, broadly speaking and in the round, they are supportive of the fact that the plan has now been published and they look forward to its being—possibly, potentially—the start of a negotiated settlement that would deliver on the imperatives that I have just repeated to the right hon. Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn).
Will the Minister join me in condemning antisemitism in all its forms, both here in the UK and around the world, particularly when it is veiled in the cloak of anti-Zionism?
I will answer that question very succinctly: yes, of course, I condemn antisemitism in all its forms.
I welcome the potential for a peace plan, and we must accept that. Christians are being attacked, persecuted and killed across the middle east, so what is being done within the peace plan to assist and help persecuted Christians in the middle east directly?
The hon. Gentleman has a great deal of experience in such matters. He will forgive me if I do not answer for the peace plan, because it is not the UK Government’s plan. We can welcome its publication, and we can welcome the process that may follow, but we cannot be answerable for the contents of the plan.
The US peace plan calls for a just solution for Jewish refugees expelled from Arab lands—my father’s family were forced to leave Libya shortly after the creation of the state of Israel—as well as a fair solution for the Palestinians. The plight of 850,000 Jewish refugees is key to understanding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Will the Minister welcome the recognition of the historical injustice against hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees?
My right hon. Friend is of course absolutely right. The refugee issue is sometimes not necessarily associated with Jewish refugees. I remember reading a good book on this subject called “Uprooted”—he no doubt has a copy—that explains the situation exceptionally well. Of course, any settlement needs to include Jewish refugees as well as Palestinian refugees.
This is not a peace deal; it is an annexation plan. If another country wanted 60% of our territory and full control of our borders, natural resources and national security, we would not see that as a peace proposal; we would see it as a declaration of war. What will the Government do to enforce international law if annexation goes ahead?
This Government uphold international law. Our position on annexation is very clear, and I do not need to repeat it.
I welcome the prospect of negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians and note that the Palestinians are involved almost immediately. Will the Minister confirm that the UK Government’s position remains that all existing and future Israeli settlements in occupied territories are illegal under international law?
Annexation is clearly illegal. We continue to use every means available to ensure either that it does not happen or, if it does, that there is an appropriate international response. We uphold international law, and the law is perfectly clear.
The Minister talks about baby steps towards negotiations, but does he not recognise that these are giant strides away from the talks we need? All of us who have visited the west bank know that the illegal settlements are designed to undermine the viability of a Palestinian state. Legitimising those settlements will therefore destroy any hope of a just peace. Can he not say so unambiguously and reject this plan?
What I can do is reiterate our position, which has not changed and which I have trotted out twice already this morning. This is not our plan, we welcome the fact that it has finally been published, and we hope that it may form the basis of negotiations.
I commend my right hon. Friend for both the content and the measured tone of his statement, which was in some contrast to the words of the shadow Foreign Secretary. This plan is clearly not a final outcome, but it is a proposal. It is not a question of whether we endorse it, but progress needs proposals, and we should welcome it for that reason. Will he confirm that the British Government will do everything they can to continue to help facilitate progress based around the principles he set out and the two-state solution?
I thank my right hon. Friend for being a voice of reason amidst the clamour. This is not our plan. It is almost as if the UK Government had published it, but this is not a UK Government plan.
You welcomed it—
We have welcomed the fact that it has been published, as the right hon. Lady knows full well. Since there is a complete stand-off between the parties at the moment, we need to get the parties back around the table with, I hope, the active involvement of America, which has a long history of trying to facilitate and broker agreements between the parties in this particular region. We need to get back to a position in which we can get a negotiated solution. This may well not be the solution, but it may be just about the start of it.
This so-called peace plan should in no way be welcomed by the UK Government. It legitimises the annexation of Palestinian land and the building of more illegal settlements. As we know, that would breach international law and UN resolutions. I am not sure why the Minister is not condemning the plan, as he rightly should, under the principles of international law. Will he now condemn this peace plan?
With respect, the hon. Lady needs to read the peace plan. She will not find within its pages anything to legitimise annexation, which has been spoken about following the publication of this plan. I note that those who made those remarks are now rapidly winding back. I make it clear that the UK Government oppose annexation, which is contrary to international law.
My right hon. Friend is right that we need to get back to negotiation, and the UK has an important role to play in that. Baby steps, as he calls them, need to be viable to develop into adulthood, and these, I am afraid, are not. When I last went to the region, the two-state solution was regarded by many as dead. How does he think a two-state solution is realistic when the Palestinians do not get even part of East Jerusalem and are confined to outside the city walls, and when there are no plans to remove those Jewish settlements that are illegal under the Oslo accords?
I am grateful for my hon. Friend’s comments. I reiterate the point that this is not our plan, and we are not endorsing it. I suspect he will have gone through this, as I did last night, and made his own annotations about its faults and foibles, and it may well be a long list, but at least the plan is something on the table. At the moment we have no negotiations or talks at all. He will be familiar with both the west bank and Gaza and the terrible situation that people face in those territories, and he will want to do something about it. The only way to do something about it is to get back to political talks and negotiation.
Setting the terms of the plan so far in favour of one side without the participation of the other, and then attacking that side for not participating, is not a negotiation. It is a fait accompli, isn’t it?
It is not a fait accompli because the parties have not agreed to the plan. The only way there will be agreement is through negotiation, and there are not even talks at the moment.
There will not be any progress unless we accept the reality on the ground, which is that no democratically elected Israeli Government of any complexion will accept the division of Jerusalem or withdraw from the settlement blocs. Whether we like it or not, that is just the reality. May I urge my right hon. Friend to continue in the mainstream of European opinion, as he and this Government are, and cautiously welcome this as a basis for starting negotiations?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. This is a long-winded business, and I suspect it will go on and on for some time. I thank him for welcoming the fact that we have welcomed the publication of this plan. Our hope, alongside all our European friends and allies it would appear, is that this may be the start of a renewed process. In that light, we have to welcome it.
Is there not a danger that all the countries that say they welcome the plan but do not endorse it will start sounding as if they are hypocrites or two-faced? In the end, the only thing that is likely to achieve success in the middle east is if both sides of the argument feel they have an investment in a potential future and an element of hope. If they feel that all the countries of Europe, including the UK, are hypocrites on this, there will not be any hope.
I disagree with the hon. Gentleman. It is right that the international community, particularly so soon after the publication of this thing, should at least welcome the fact that it has finally been published and urge both parties at least to have a conversation about the future. Ultimately, that is the only way we will get some sort of settlement that brings equanimity to a very troubled region.
Anybody who has visited the region recently and spoken to Palestinians and Israelis will have been struck by a growing sense of despondency about the peace process, with nothing happening at all. So does my right hon. Friend agree that the value of this intervention from President Trump this week is precisely in creating a catalyst for talks and discussions? Will he join Arab states in encouraging the Palestinian leadership to sit down, get around the table and have a proper discussion about peace?
My right hon. Friend is correct on that. I think this is why so many of our friends and partners across the world have been cautious and moderate in the language they have been using about this plan, using it as a prompt to urge both parties to get back around the table to try to find a way forward.
Does the Minister agree that this proposal, which offers Palestinians barren and inhospitable desert land, and a tunnel between the west bank and Gaza, is a fundamentally unserious one, which has been drafted without Palestinian input? What representation will he make to US counterparts about the urgent need to include Palestinian diplomats in a discussion about their future peace settlement?
I am certainly not going to get drawn into the detail of this plan, but I would say that in all the conversations we have had with our US friends and allies, and others, we have made it clear that a solution to this has to be negotiated and agreed by both of the principal parties to this dispute.
Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the settlement expansion and the demolition of Palestinian property in the west bank is undermining the peace process?
I certainly can do that. We have lost no opportunity to condemn that behaviour. Every time we speak to our Israeli interlocutors we hammer this home: it is completely unacceptable and it must stop.
Any successful peace plan is likely to need land swaps based on the 1967 borders, but does the Minister accept that those swaps have to be agreed by both parties? When looking at the map that is proposed for a Palestinian entity, does he not see fragmented bits of land, joined in some cases by a very narrow corridors? Does he not see a map that is completely unsustainable and one where those corridors could be cut at any time by Israel at a moment’s notice?
I certainly agree with the hon. Gentleman that any land swaps need to be agreed—that is self-evident. I am also surprised at how the map looks. It is a challenging map to examine and one has to understand the geography on the ground in some intimate detail in order to get to grips with it. Sometimes simple maps are the best, are they not? I am no cartographer, but the map that has been produced is quite a challenge to understand.
I share the Minister’s position that to welcome something is not to endorse what is in it, and certainly not the aspects that run counter to long-held UK policy. But the plan contains a proposal for a new Palestinian entity to receive up to £50 billion of international investment. Would such a proposal increase the peace and prosperity in the region?
I certainly think there is a need for investment in the region, and opening up the region politically is, obviously, key to that—without that it is difficult to see how the lives of Palestinians are going to be lifted. That is going to require a great deal of money, but as we made clear at the Manama conference, with others, money is not the first step in this; the first step has to be political.
Does the Minister not accept that the imposition of this so-called “plan” is the worst possible context for any form of negotiation? Can he think of another example of an independent and viable state that is an archipelago of non-contiguous lands, where the state has no control over its coastal waters, its airspace or its security? If he cannot think of such an example, why should the Palestinians accept this as the basis for the beginning of talks?
The aim is clearly to have a peaceful settlement that enables a two-state solution. Clearly, that has to be a viable state and the hon. Lady has identified some of the characteristics of a viable state. We have not endorsed this, but we have welcomed its publication and we hope it will be the start of negotiations that will lead to a solution that both parties to this dispute can accept.
There is a fundamental point on which the Minister needs to be pushed, which is whether he will make it absolutely clear from the Dispatch Box today that Britain still abides by all the international laws and UN resolutions that have ruled that the annexation of Palestinian land and the building of settlements is illegal, and therefore must be condemned, not legitimised in the form of this plan.
We stand by the existing UN Security Council resolutions, of which there have been 100 since 1946. They remain extant until they are replaced by others.
The Minister has said that it is a well-thought-through plan; how, then, can he make the case for the fact that the Palestinians have not been involved in the plan at all? How can that really be well thought through? Is that really the case?
Well, I think it has been well thought through. It has been three years in the making and is extensive. The hon. Lady makes her own point in her own way. It is not a UK Government plan, but we do welcome its publication as the potential start for negotiation between the principal parties.
To welcome something that is not going to go anywhere is the equivalent of doing nothing. Surely, given this country’s historical involvement in this part of the world, the Government should convey to the United States, as a critical friend, the message that the plan has no prospect of going anywhere. It is not going to bring the Palestinians to the table. We should be reiterating our policy and making that clear.
What I think we should be doing is encouraging both parties to get around the negotiating table and talk, which they are not doing at the moment.
How can a plan that has not included one side, offers no concessions to one side and proposes as a destination a state without any of the real aspects of sovereignty as we understand it, be the basis for meaningful negotiations? Does this plan not risk prolonging the conflict? It will play into the hands of extremists who say that violence is the only way forward. I have to say that it is depressing to see a British Minister reduced to reading out what other countries have said, rather than sticking up for British policy, the British national interest and a real and meaningful peace.
The UK is not the only country with an interest in the region. Sometimes, we have an overblown sense of our importance. It is important that we work with partners towards a negotiated settlement. We are one of many. The comments that we have seen over the past 36 hours from our friends and allies in the region and further field are very much in line with the remarks made by the Foreign Secretary on Tuesday. I think that is a comfortable place to be.
The Minister spoke of maps and the difficulty of understanding the proposed map, which does not make clear the extent of the water crisis that already exists in the occupied territories and that in my view—I have seen other coverage of this—will only be exacerbated, with the implications for the Jordan valley. Will the Minister comment on whether he thinks the plan, which I know is not his, will either help or hinder the water crisis in the occupied territories?
I thank the hon. Lady for her question, because she is absolutely right: in the context of this particular piece of geography, water is key. To be fair, if I can be, about the plan, it is called a “conceptual map”, which to me means that it is not a definitive map. It seems to me that in any talks that may now happen, water is going to be absolutely key to what eventually transpires, and the hon. Lady is right to make that point.
I have to notify the House, in accordance with the Royal Assent Act 1967, that the Queen has signified her Royal Assent to the following Act:
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