Month: June 2013

Hague rules out action on settlements

Dummies on question about legality of trade ban
Calls on Abbas to join talks “without preconditions”
“Lamentable lack” of action on children
FCO questions Tuesday June 18th
William Hague again ruled out taking Government action against trade with illegal Israeli settlements and refused even to say whether he believed the Government had the powers (under EU and GATT trade rules) to ban trade with illegal settlements.
He also repeated his request to the Palestinians “to enter negotiations without pre-conditions” which would mean starting talks while the Israelis are still building illegal settlements on Palestinian-owned land.
His answers will harden the prognosis that there is virtually no chance of a breakthrough when US Secretary of State John Kerry pays his fifth visit to Jerusalem and Ramallah at the end of this week.
Hague said there would be EU action on labelling so consumers are better informed, but the only chance of any progress will be if EU governments exert economic pressure on Israel to reinstate the freeze on settlement building that was lifted in September 2010 – leading to the breakdown of talks.
The Foreign Secretary repeated his refusal to curb the £195 million-a-year EU imports that sustain Israel’s illegal settlements, telling Grahame Morris MP: “I do not believe that imposing a ban on settlement goods will promote peace”.
When he was asked explicitly by Richard Burden MP whether it would be within the law for the UK to ban settlement trade, he dummied: “The question before us is not so much about what would be within the law as about what best promotes peace”.
He then agreed with Conservative Friends of Israel vice-chair James Clappison MP that Palestinians should drop their insistence on a settlement freeze: “We encourage the Palestinians to enter negotiations without pre-conditions.”
Palestinians continue to refuse talks without a settlement freeze because:
  • Insisting that Israel stops building settlements is not a “precondition”. It’s the law.
  • The Israelis agreed to this before the last set of talks. Why sit down to talks with someone who isn’t even doing what they agreed to before the last set of talks?
  • In the 20 years since the Oslo peace talks started, the Israelis have taken Palestinian land with impunity, doubling the number of settlers to 550,000.
  • Talks without a settlement freeze are a trap. They allow the Israelis to win by doing nothing.
  • It’s inherent in the idea of negotiations that you can’t change the parameters in the middle of talks.
  • You can’t move goalposts in mid-football match, so why allow Israel to build settlements in mid-talks?  
  • Israel is building its own preconditions in bricks & mortar and calling them settlements.
  • Palestinians already dropped their claim to 78% of mandate Palestine in 1988. They can’t be expected to give up more.

Nia Griffith MP asked about progress on the treatment of Palestinian children in the Israeli prison system since the publication a year ago of the Foreign Office-funded report on “Children in Military Custody”.  Independent reports have shown that limited progress has been made on only two of the 40 recommendations in the report.

The MP said the lack of reform had been “lamentable” and called for deadlines on specific issues such as the use of audio-visual recordings in all interrogations. Middle East Minister Alistair Burt said he would “continue to press on the matter”.
David Ward MP said that if the Foreign Secretary could not support a Government ban on trade with illegal settlements, he could “provide some moral leadership by saying that he will personally agree to boycott such goods”.

Moral leadership was not, however, forthcoming: “I am not in close control of the fresh produce purchased in the Hague household, since certain of my other duties interfere with that. While I am Foreign Secretary, I do not expect to have that onerous responsibility placed on me.”

Israelis demolish 247 homes – Minister

Israeli army knocks down Palestinian homes paid for by international donors – David Ward MP

Ministers answered three questions on Palestine at Oral Questions to the Secretary of State for International Development today. 

*8 Mr David Ward MP: What research her Department has undertaken into the humanitarian effects of the occupation of the West Bank?

Aid Minister Alan Duncan: We are deeply concerned by the impact of the occupation on the lives of Palestinians in the West Bank.  Reports from the UN and others clearly document poverty, displacement, constrained growth and the demolition this year alone of 247 Palestinian structures. 

David Ward (Bradford East) (LDem):  Those who have been to the West Bank and Gaza will be frustrated to constantly see international aid used to pay for buildings which are then promptly knocked down by the Israeli regime.  Is the Minister aware that, according to figures in the UN Humanitarian Monitor for April, there was a 30% rise in the number of Palestinians displaced by house demolitions and a total of 46 structures demolished by the Israeli army, which included five paid for by international donors.

Alan Duncan: The Government shares the Member’s concerns about the nature and scale of demolitions.  I am glad to say we have contributed to the constructionof a number of schools in Gaza where children will be educated – we hope without their premises ever being demolished.

Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con):  With the Council for European Palestinian Relations, I recently visited Palestinian refugees in Lebanon who had fled from Syria. Is the Secretary of State satisfied that the United Nations Relief and Works Agency is doing all that it can to help those people, who are living in miserable conditions?

International Development Secretary Justine Greening:  I thank the Member for that question, because that important aspect of the crisis is often not recognised. We have provided £5 million to UNRWA particularly to support its work with Palestinian refugees. That will support more than 350,000 Palestinian refugees in Syria, and will go on food parcels and other relief items.

Jim McGovern (Dundee West) (Lab): A member of my staff, Lee Butcher, recently visited Palestine. He was shocked and stunned to see how Palestinians are treated by the Israelis, for example having no water for weeks on end. What can the Government do to help those Palestinians who are suffering such pain?

Alan Duncan: We put as much pressure and argument as we can to improve the condition of Palestinians in Area C, and we very much hope that such issues will be addressed in the peace process, which we wish every success, as it continues over the next few weeks.

Latest from the West Bank

  • In the week ending June 3 Israeli settlers set fire to or cut down at least 1,220 olive trees in the West Bank, according to UN figures, and slashed tyres, sprayed graffiti, set fire to or threw rocks at Palestinian-owned cars in Jerusalem.
  • The number of Palestinians injured as a direct result of the conflict in the first four months of this year was 661, of whom 660 were civilians.

Latest from Gaza

  • In the week ending June 3, only one truck left Gaza carrying exports compared with an average of 240 a week before the blockade. The unemployment rate in Gaza is now 30% and 54% among women under 25.
  • Israeli naval forces have opened fire on Palestinian fishermen on a number of occasions in the last month to enforce a six-mile limit which has reduced the number of registered fishermen in Gaza from 10,000 to 3,500.
  • Over 100 Gazans have sustained permanent disabilities as a result of the outbreak of hostilities last November. The National Society for Rehabilitation in the Gaza Strip which cares for 1,700 people disabled by the conflict

Two-state solution update:

A minister in the Israeli government has stated what has long been obvious – that Prime Minister Netanyahu no longer believes in the two-state solution, if he ever did.  Opposition MPs have called for the minister to be sacked but so far he hasn’t been.

End your illusion: Israeli government will never implement a two-state solution, top official says

Proof – if it were needed – that for the British Foreign Secretary to merely condemn illegal settlements is pointless.  He’s condemned them 100 times already. Condemning is easy. The issue is what he’s going to do about it?