Month: July 2013

One liners on a settlement freeze

  • The starting point for talks must be 67 borders, not “facts on ground” built in breach of international law.
  • You can’t move goalposts in mid-football match so why allow Israel to build settlements in mid-talks?  
  • It’s inherent in idea of negotiations that you can’t change parameters mid-talks.
  • Isn’t Israel just building its own preconditions in bricks & mortar and calling them settlements?
  • Palestinians already dropped their claim to 78% of mandate Palestine in 1988. Surely you can’t expect them to give up more? 
  • Why is it seen as a “precondition” to insist Israel stops building settlements? It’s the law. 
  • Israel must observe existing agreements not to build settlements before new talks can start?
  • The Kerry-Blair plan will not work if Israelis keep building settlements. Will US have the guts this time to exert real pressure on Netanyahu?
  • Talks without a settlement freeze are a trap set by Israel so it can win by delay.

Bedouin ‘clearances’ in the Negev

Sir Bob Russell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) if he will make immediate representations to the government of Israel over its decision to set in motion the Prawer Plan for the removal of 40,000 Bedouin people from their ancestral homeland; [162732]
(2) if he will discuss with his EU counterparts making a co-ordinated approach to the government of Israel over its decision to set in motion the Prawer Plan for the removal of 40,000 Bedouin people from their ancestral homeland; [162733]
(3) if he will request that the US Government should make immediate representations to the Government of Israel over its decision to set in motion the Prawer Plan for the removal of 40,000 Bedouin people from their ancestral homeland. [162735]
Alistair Burt: We continue to follow closely Israeli Government plans with respect to Bedouin land claims and unrecognised villages in the Negev. We remain concerned by the possible relocation of thousands of Bedouin. I discussed the proposed legislation with Members of the Knesset when I visited Israel earlier this month.
Officials at the British embassy in Tel Aviv are in regular contact with Bedouin leaders and activists, and our ambassador has discussed the proposed legislation with relevant Ministers and parliamentarians. The embassy has also discussed this issue with EU and other partners in Tel Aviv.

Children in detention

Ian Lucas: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the answer of 18 June 2013 [OfficialReport, column 745] on Israel: children in detention, if he will make a statement on his discussions with the Israeli Attorney-General. [162177]
Alistair Burt: On 20 June, I met with Israeli Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. He was accompanied by a senior delegation, including Deputy Attorney-General Shai Nitzan and the Israeli ambassador to London. We discussed a range of issues including the treatment of children in detention, the use of live fire in the Gaza buffer zone and in dealing with non-violent protests and demolition of Palestinian property.
On the question of child detainees we discussed the recommendations in Baroness Scotland’s report. I welcomed steps that Israel has taken of late to reduce the gap between provisions for Israeli and Palestinian children including: raising the age of majority to 18; reducing the time period by which an arrested minor must be brought before a judge formalising the right of a parent/guardian to be present in court; and introducing a special court for minors.
We also discussed the need for further progress. In particular, building on the report’s recommendations, we believe it is important to ensure: systematic use of audio-visual recording when questioning children; an end to solitary confinement for children; and notification of arrest in Arabic to parents/guardians so that they can support children in the legal process.

Burt won’t answer boycott question

David Ward MP had question No 17 on the order paper which was not reached during the last FCO questions, but it has now been answered as a written question:

Mr Ward: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether the UK missions in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem purchase settlement goods. [160015]

Alistair Burt: Our overseas missions are obliged to follow UK and EU guidelines when purchasing goods and services from suppliers. These guidelines do not currently differentiate between products emanating from Israel or from the Occupied Palestinian Territories. However, we have ensured that UK procurement rules allow for human rights related matters to be reflected in the procurement of public goods and services.
Why is the Minister being so coy about his? Surely he could answer a simple ‘yes they do buy settlement goods’ or ‘no they don’t’?
Is he hinting that the UK missions are already operating a no-settlement-goods policy, but he doesn’t want to have to explain why he isn’t following their advice?
And how does his sit with his previous answer that FCO had not sought advice on the legality of banning settlement goods. He now says quite clearly that UK procurement rules “allow for human rights-related matters to be reflected in procurement”.

Only UK govt action will save talks

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.