Two well-timed questions to the Department for International Development – on demolitions from Ruth Cadbury (Lab) and on recognition from Tom Brake (Lib Dem) – yielded hints that the Government is getting even more frustrated with the Netanyahu government and is considering an initiative.
Ruth Cadbury said the Government had already made “representations” over home demolitions in February when the rate of increase had trebled, so what more effective action or sanction would they impose now that it had quadrupled?
Aid minister Desmond Swayne confirmed that the rate of increase “is now faster than at any time since calculations began to be made” and it was essential that the occupied territories should be governed in accordance with international law.
[Israel is currently breaking international law by annexing East Jerusalem, building settlements, building the wall on Palestinian land, carrying out punitive demolitions and by expropriating Palestinian land, water and mineral resources for non-military purposes.]
He admitted that the Government’s only planned response was to make yet more “representations” and added: “I know she wants to push me further and I entirely understand the strength of her frustration and anger.”
Tom Brake asked if it was not time that the UK recognised Palestine as a sovereign state given that any prospect of a two-state solution was fast disappearing.
The minister gave a response that made it clear that it was purely a question of judging the right moment and having maximum impact: “We can only recognise Palestine once. It is essential, therefore, that we do so at a moment where we will have maximum impact on any peace process. That is a fine judgment.”
[The French have said they will recognise Palestine by the end of this year if their new peace initiative is not off the ground by then and up to eight other European countries, including Spain, Ireland, Belgium and Luxembourg, are said to be planning to follow suit.]
- International Development questions
- Questions Wednesday March 16th 2016
Ruth Cadbury (Brentford and Isleworth)(Lab) (right): What recent representations she has made to the Israeli government on the effect of home demolitions in the West Bank on the humanitarian situation in that region.
Aid Minister Desmond Swayne: Their increase adds to the sum of human misery, undermines any prospect of a peace process and is contrary to international law. I have left the Israeli Government in no doubt about the strength of our disapproval; our embassy continues to do so.
Ruth Cadbury: The latest figures from the UN, from early this month, show that there have been 400 demolitions since the start of the year, more than four times the rate of demolitions last year.
The wave of demolitions is depriving Palestinians of their homes and their livelihoods and preventing European taxpayer-funded organisations from providing essential humanitarian support.
As the British Government made representations when demolitions trebled, what more effective action or sanction will the Minister impose now that demolitions have quadrupled?
Mr Swayne: She is right that the rate of increase is now faster than at any time since calculations began to be made, and it is essential that the occupied territories, and in particular Area C, are governed in accordance with the fourth Geneva protocol. We will continue to make these representations to the Government.
I know she wants to push me further, and I entirely understand the strength of her frustration and anger, but jaw jaw is better than war war.
Michael Tomlinson (Mid Dorset and North Poole) (Con): Will the Minister join me in condemning incitement to violence or glorification of violence on either side?
Mr Swayne: Absolutely. We are wholly opposed to incitement, and when instances of incitement are brought to my attention, I go straight to the telephone to raise the matter with the chief executives of those organisations and make absolutely clear our fundamental disapproval, and our requirement that things are put right.
Tom Brake (Carshalton and Wallington) (LD): With any prospect of a two-state solution fast disappearing, it is of course right that we recognise Israel’s right to self-defence, but is it not also time that we recognised Palestine as a sovereign state?
Mr Swayne: We can only recognise Palestine once. It is essential, therefore, that we do so at a moment where we will have maximum impact on any peace process. That is a fine judgment.
Mr Gregory Campbell (East Londonderry) (DUP): What recent checks have the Government made in relation to support offered in the West Bank to moneys that end up in the coffers of terrorist-supporting groups on the West Bank?
Mr Swayne: Absolutely none of UK British aid, multilateral or bilateral, ends up in the hands of terrorists.