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Middle East

Volume 707: debated on Tuesday 25 January 2022

1. What recent discussions she has held with (a) the Government of Israel and (b) representatives of the Palestinian Authority on supporting the peace-building process. (905224)

13. If she will take diplomatic steps to support the creation of an international fund for Israeli-Palestinian peace. (905236)

My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary met the Israeli President Mr Herzog and the Israeli Foreign Minister Lapid during their respective visits to the UK in November. I also recently discussed the situation in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories with Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Roll and Palestinian Prime Minister Shtayyeh.

The Foreign Secretary made clear her commitment to the Abraham accords at the Gulf Co-operation Council-United Kingdom Foreign Ministers’ meeting on 20 December. The UK is working with Gulf partners to help deliver shared prosperity and security for Arabs and Israelis alike. We support the objectives of the US Middle East Partnership for Peace Act and we will continue to engage with the US to identify opportunities for further collaboration. I outlined the UK’s support for increasing dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians at the Alliance for Middle East Peace’s “light the way” gala on 12 December.

Meanwhile, evictions and demolitions continue in East Jerusalem aimed at eradicating Palestinian presence from the whole basin, with a cemetery desecrated to make way for a Jewish national park and new settlements planned that are designed to smash the concept of a two-state solution. When will the UK Government actually take actions to demonstrate that violations of international law do indeed have consequences?

The UK enjoys a close and important relationship with Israel, and that enables us to raise important issues such as settlement demolitions directly with the Israeli Government, which we do. The UK’s long-standing policy is to pursue actions that support the creation of a viable two-state solution, and that will remain the focus of our engagement with both the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

If anybody wants to see something genuinely positive and uplifting in foreign affairs, they should look at the Abraham accords and the fruit stemming from them in the remarkable growth in trade, investment and people-to-people contact between Israel, the United Arab Emirates and other Arab states. Given the UK’s excellent relations throughout the Gulf region and our bilateral ties with Israel, does my right hon. Friend agree that we are well placed to help foster the growth of the Abraham accords’ fruit? Will he look at how he can encourage other states to embark on the same journey of peace and friendship with Israel?

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right that the UK enjoys excellent relations with all the signatory nations to the Abraham accords. Indeed, I was in Bahrain when the first ever Bahraini ambassador to the state of Israel was announced, and it was genuinely a joyous occasion. The UK will continue to support the Abraham accords and greater joint working between the states in the region. Ultimately, that is the best way to pursue peace, prosperity and freedom for all.

In 2017, I had the opportunity to visit Israel and Palestine, and what I saw in the west bank really shocked me. We must never see a return to last year’s violence. Will the Minister renew our commitment to an international fund for Israeli-Palestinian peace, based on the model of the International Fund for Ireland, and update the House on our international efforts to make the fund and lasting peace a reality?

The hon. Lady makes an important point about the relationships between Israelis and Palestinians. The UK has, does and will continue to support and facilitate people-to-people contacts and cross-community contacts as well as ensuring that the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority also have a good working relationship. That is and will remain a foundation stone of our foreign policy in the region.

With regard to ALLMEP—the Alliance for Middle East Peace—we have had discussions with the United States of America, and I have had discussions with representatives of the organisation. We will continue to explore what role the UK might play in the future delivery of that.

The successful conclusion of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians is key to bringing peace to the region, yet Hamas publicly condemn peace negotiations and has committed itself to Israel’s destruction. Does my right hon. Friend agree that until Hamas disarms, Israel cannot be expected to negotiate with a terror group which calls for its very destruction?

Hamas has not proven itself to be good for the Palestinian people. The simple truth is that its aggressive posture and threats to eradicate the state of Israel have harmed relations between Israelis and Palestinians. We wish to see a viable two-state solution with Israelis and Palestinians living side by side in peace, prosperity and freedom. Hamas has long been a roadblock to that. We call upon it to set aside its violent ways and pursue a path to peace.