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International Fund for Israeli-Palestinian Peace

Volume 712: debated on Tuesday 26 April 2022

4. What diplomatic steps she is taking to ensure that the UK has a role in the international fund for Israeli-Palestinian peace. (906605)

6. What diplomatic steps she is taking to ensure that the UK has a role in the international fund for Israeli-Palestinian peace. (906607)

We welcome the US’s Middle East Partnership for Peace Act and the proposals for increased international funding for Israeli-Palestinian peace. We share the objective of advancing economic, social and political connections, and peaceful co-existence between Israelis and Palestinians. We stand ready to co-ordinate and collaborate further.

The recent attacks in Israel and the violence in Jerusalem and Gaza are a reminder of how urgent it is to support projects that bring Israelis and Palestinians together. Can the Minister now confirm to the House when the UK will join the board of the international fund for Israeli-Palestinian peace?

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her question. UK officials remain in close contact with the US Government about how our existing peace-building projects and funding can better support the goals of the Act. We stand ready to co-ordinate and collaborate further, including regarding the advisory board, as additional information about their plans and priorities become available.

Recent violence in the west bank and in Israel itself underlines the need for an international fund for Israeli and Palestinian peace, but such a fund will not just happen. It actually requires positive support from Governments around the world, including and especially this Government, yet the truth is that our Government are paying only lip service to it. When will the Government remember the success of the International Fund for Ireland and learn the lessons of that success?

As I say, what we all want to see is a safe and secure Israel, and we want to have a two-state solution that enables us to do that and also delivers Palestinian self-determination. We are working with the US Government on these projects and the funding that can support the Act, and as and when we have more information about the plans and the priorities, we will co-ordinate with them.

The last few weeks have seen spiralling tension and violence in Israel and Palestine, with a dozen Israelis killed in a spate of horrific terrorist attacks and more than 20 Palestinians killed in response, including the senseless killing of a teenager and a human rights lawyer. We remain resolutely committed to the goal of a two-state solution, but it feels a very distant prize at present. Can I ask the Minister what she is doing to try to remove the barriers to peace, including ensuring respect of holy sites such as the al-Aqsa mosque, preventing Hamas rocket attacks, ending the expansion of illegal settlements and finally recognising Palestine as a state?

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his question, and we are deeply concerned about the very fragile security situation. We are working actively with key partners, including members of the UN Security Council, and both parties to encourage de-escalation of tensions. As he says, there have been some horrific attacks, and we do want to see the situation de-escalated. We are having those conversations to ensure that we play our part in preventing further escalation.

The UK’s funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees was cut by more than 50% last year. UNRWA provides essential services to Palestinian refugees in the west bank, Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, but it has been described as “close to collapse” due to funding shortfalls. Can we truly say, as Ambassador Allen stated to the UN Security Council in 2018, that

“the United Kingdom strongly supports peace”

between Israelis and Palestinians when it simultaneously sells arms to one side and cuts humanitarian aid to the other?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. As I have said, we are committed to a two-state solution as the best way to deliver Palestinian self-determination and a safe and secure Israel. My right hon. Friend the Minister for Europe and North America announced last year that we are providing £27 million to support UNRWA, including £4.9 million for its flash appeal following the Gaza conflicts in May.