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Violence in the West Bank

Volume 742: debated on Tuesday 12 December 2023

1. What assessment he has made of the implications for his policies of recent increases in violence in the west bank. (900589)

19. Whether officials in his Department have had discussions with their counterparts in Israel on the recent escalation of violence in the West Bank. (900607)

The Government have made it clear that settler violence and the targeting and, on occasions, killing of Palestinian civilians is completely unacceptable.

As calls for an urgent ceasefire in Gaza and an enduring peaceful resolution in the region continue, we must also remain opposed to the violence taking place in the west bank. To that end, does the Minister share my view that settlement building in the west bank and across the Occupied Palestinian Territories is unacceptable and unlawful and must stop immediately?

Yes. The hon. Lady will know that the position of the Government is and has been for many years that those settlements are illegal. I am pleased to be able to confirm that for her.

The same question could be asked again: it is unlawful, but what are the Government going to do about it? Does the Minister think that one day we might actually see some prosecutions in relation to those violations of international law?

On the point about settler violence, if that is what the hon. Gentleman is referring to, we believe that it is not good enough just to arrest those responsible. They need to be both prosecuted and imprisoned.

The problem is that there are key figures in the Israeli Government who are stoking this violence, with the Finance Minister publicly declaring that there are “2 million Nazis” in the west bank. What representation is the Secretary of State making to Israeli counterparts to demand a far more robust response to this violence?

I can tell the hon. Lady that the Prime Minister spoke about this directly with Prime Minister Netanyahu on 5 December and he made clear that we welcome Israel’s recent comments condemning instances of settler violence, but that Israel must take meaningful action to stop it.

Another day when the Foreign Secretary is unaccountable, in the middle of a war that could still get even worse. West bank violence is rising, Hezbollah have attacked Israeli positions and Israeli airstrikes have hit towns in south Lebanon. A widening of this conflict is in no one’s interest, and all parties must show restraint. While he is absent from this place, what steps is the Foreign Secretary taking to prepare for further escalation and to deter all parties from full-blown regional war?

First of all, I fully understand that the right hon. Gentleman wishes to have close contact with Lord Cameron as the Foreign Secretary, but he will be aware that he is in almost continuous contact with the Foreign Secretary by text and WhatsApp—indeed, Mr Speaker, if he was in any closer contact it would probably be a civil partnership.

On the substantive point about the widening of the conflict, the right hon. Gentleman will know that, very early after 7 October, the Prime Minister moved a British military asset to the eastern end of the Mediterranean, first to try to ensure that, if there were any arms being moved, we would know about it, and secondly to have eyes on what was happening. British diplomacy, along with that of our like-minded allies and friends, is devoted to ensuring that the conflict does not widen.

The UK is providing logistical and surveillance support to the state of Israel. Has any evidence come to light that gives concern about the commission of war crimes in the west bank or in Gaza?

Britain is providing some overflight of Gaza to help us identify, and move forward the issue of recovering, the hostages. That is exactly the right thing to do.

To repeat the question, has any evidence come to light that gives concern about the commission of war crimes? Can the Minister assure us that any such evidence that comes to light will be sent over to the International Criminal Court in response to its call for evidence under article 86, with which the UK is surely bound to co-operate?

The hon. Gentleman will know that it is not just the Government but many different organisations that are seeking to identify what is happening on the ground, and the extent to which international humanitarian law is being abided with. Any such evidence will undoubtedly be put before the relevant authority—the courts that he mentioned, specifically—if such evidence is available.