MPs now have a chance to quiz ministers on the last day of the session (DfID, July 17th) and on the second day of the September session (FCO, September 3rd).
With the chances of a renewed peace process now at an all-time low and with the US media ridiculing John Kerry’s claims to have made progress during his five visits to Jerusalem, the Kerry initiative appears to have run out of steam.
William Hague had so little to report from his visit to Jerusalem and Ramallah in June that he let Alistair Burt make it as a written statement (June 24th) which does little to discourage that view.
The Israelis could hardly have made their contempt more obvious. On the day before Kerry landed, they announced 69 new settlement houses at Har Homa. On his last day, as he was talking to President Abbas in Ramallah, they announced another 900, again at Har Homa.
They have done this before, most famously announcing plans for massive construction in the settlement of Ramat Shlomo to coincide with visit of Vice-President Joe Biden in March 2010.
Aides close to Kerry have admitted that his initiative will be dead if the two sides have not agreed to talks by the start of the UN General Assembly in September.
This turns the spotlight on to ACTIONS that the UK Government can take to pressure the Israeli government to stop building settlements by imposing the “incentives” and “disincentives” that Hague has long been talking about.
Despite his frequent condemnations of settlements as “illegal” Hague has ruled out any “boycott” or “sanctions” against the £190 million-a-year trade with the EU that keeps the settlements in business. Last month he told Grahame Morris MP: “I do not believe that imposing a ban on settlement goods will promote peace.”
But if the US can’t promote peace talks, it’s up to the UK to take the lead. And if the Israelis won’t respond to diplomatic pressure, the only alternative is economic pressure.
Last week week the moral highground was unexpectedly taken by McDonald’s Israel who refused to open a franchise in Ariel, deep inside Palestinian territory, on the grounds that it was not their policy to operate in settlements.
In apparent revenge Jerusalem soccer fans broke into a McDonald’s and attacked some of their workers. This was the team whose fans demonstrated against the signing of three Muslim players and who descended on a Jerusalem mall chanting “Death to Arabs” in March 2012.
The Foreign Secretary has never claimed to be conducting an ethical foreign policy, but he must surely see the irony of being upstaged in concern for human rights by McDonald’s.
The consensus among charities and campaigning bodies who support justice for the Palestinians is overwhelming that the only step that will have any impact now is a Government declaration that trade with the settlement is illegal – or at least guidance to business that settlement trade is inadvisable.