Month: May 2019

40 MPs sign Andy Slaughter’s EDM on annexation: Check here: EDM #2344



That this House condemns any annexation by the State of Israel of any part of the territories occupied in 1967; notes it has already illegally annexed East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights; further notes that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu threatened during Israeli elections to annex part of or all of the West Bank; recalls that international law prohibits the acquisition of territory by force; believes that any such move threatens any solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict; and calls on the Government to make clear that any such Israeli annexation would entail significant consequences for UK-Israeli relations.


UK raises concerns over Trump and Netanyahu annexation threat

The UK raised concerns with Israel over Netanyahu’s  threat to annex part or all of the West Bank on April 30. It also raised concerns over  the US decision to recognise the Golan Heights as part of Israel on March 26.

New UK Minister for the Middle East, Dr Andrew Murrison, told the House of Commons that being America’s closest ally “does not prevent us from criticising it from time to time, but that is what being friends is all about”.

The SNP’s Tommy Sheppard ask what he will actually do if President Trump’s “deal of the century” includes proposals that support the Netanyahu administration’s plans to go ahead with annexation, but the  Minister replied: “I am not going to speculate on the matter he raises.”

Former Conservative minister Andrew Selous said that the ability of the UK to broker peace in the Middle East was undermined by “a perception that the West applies the rule of law partially…. So what steps are the Government taking to ensure that the international rule of law is applied equally to the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements?”

The Minister pointed to the postponement of the demolition of the Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar in Area C of the West Bank as an example of the effectiveness of UK diplomatic pressure, although the threat had been postponed, not lifted. “We urge Israel to convert that postponement into something permanent.

‘If Israel does something edgy, we’ll be keen to discuss that with them” – Minister

“In general we would support the Israeli Government, who are the only democracy in the Middle East and a firm friend of this country. Where we find that our friends are doing something that we consider to be edgy or with which we disagree, we will certainly be keen to discuss that with them.”

This did not impress shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry (Islington South and Finsbury) (Lab) who said little had changed in the year since the slaughter on the Gaza border. Netanyahu was now backing legislation to give himself immunity from prosecution and was attacking the freedoms of Israeli Arabs, ignoring the human rights of Palestinians in Gaza and completing the annexation of the West Bank.

“Does the Minister agree that now is finally the time for the British Government to take a different step by recognising the state of Palestine while there is still a state left to recognise?”

The minister gave the usual reply: “We support the two-state solution. When the time is right, that inevitably implies that we will support—recognise—the state of Palestine, but in the meantime ​we are engaged in building institutions that are necessary to sustain such a state.”

Ms Marie Rimmer asked the minister for international protection for the human rights of Palestinians given Netanyahu’s call for the annexation of part or all of the West Bank and Trump’s endorsement of the acquisition of territory by force.  In his reply Dr Murrison said: “We want to see a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders. I hope that makes our position clear.

In welcoming the new Minister for the Middle East to his post, Emily Thornberry pointed out it had taken the Government seven weeks to replace Alistair Burt after he resigned over Brexit and it was “a disgrace that, at a time like this, we should have 50 days without a dedicated Minister for such a critical region”.

Unlike most of his predecessors Dr Murrison does not appear to have been a member of either Conservative Friends of Israel or the Conservative  Middle East Council and there is no record on the House of Commons register of members’ interests of his visiting either Israel or Palestine.

The UK must stand by the Palestinians when they need us

Ask your MP to ask a question for Nakba Day

Foreign Office Questions
Tabling by Wednesday May 8th 12.30 pm
Questions Tuesday May 14th 11.30 am

With President Trump’s “deal of the century” due to be published at the end of Ramadan – just a few weeks away – his son-in-law Jared Kushner dropped a hint of what it may contain when he said on Thursday in Washington:  “What we need to start doing is just recognising truths – and I think that when we recognised Jerusalem, that is a truth – Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, and that would be part of any final agreement anyway.”

Israel’s strategy has always been to build “facts on the ground” in contravention of international law and hope that sooner or later the international community will accept them. For many decades it did not work. The whole world – including the US – refused to recognise East Jerusalem or any part of the West Bank as part of Israel.

But in the last few months the situation has changed. Last summer Trump recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and moved his embassy across the Green Line. Just last month he recognised the Golan Heights – a part of Syria under military occupation – as sovereign Israeli territory.

Netanyahu then said – two days before last month’s election – that he planned to “extend sovereignty” (in other words annex) all parts of the West Bank covered by settlements,  both the large settlement blocs close to the border and the “isolated settlements” deep inside the West Bank.

Are these the “truths” that Jared Kushner will want the world to recognise when he unveils the “deal of the century” in early June?  Will his plan allow Netanyahu to annex all the areas controlled by settlements (42%) or the whole of the area administered by the Israeli army – the so-called ‘Area C’ (62%)?

That would leave the Palestinians with between 12% and 8% of the territory of historic Palestine and roughly 50% of the population.

One  thing is already clear. Trump has gone back on the founding principle of the United Nations – and the basis of the entire post-world-war consensus – that territory can no longer be taken by military force.

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has already made it clear that he disagrees with Trump on Jerusalem and on settlements.  But will he stand up to Trump if he tries to pressure the Palestinians to accept his deal?

If that happens, then clearly statements in the House of Commons will not be enough.  Hunt will have to do something substantive if it wants to stop President Trump from steamrollering the Palestinians into submission.  The obvious weapon he has in his hands is the UK’s long-promised recognition of Palestine.

Recognition would have significant legal and diplomatic consequences, but it would have little tangible effect on the lives of ordinary Palestinians, so it would need to be strengthened with stricter “differentiation” against settlement products. It has even been suggested that Palestine should be invited to join the Commonwealth.  That invitation might well be declined, given the UK’s role in Palestine’s history, but it would send a powerful message.

The day after Foreign Office questions – May 15th – is the 71st anniversary both of the foundation of the state of Israel and the displacement of more than 700,000 Palestinian refugees to create a Jewish majority in the new state.  It is known as Independence Day in Israel and as Nakba Day (the day of the catastrophe) to Palestinians.

The 14th would be a good day for MPs to tell the world that they will stand by the Palestinians when they need us to stand by our principles.  Ask your MP to ask the Foreign Secretary a question on Palestine.  It needs to be tabled not later than 12.30 on Wednesday. If it is drawn in the ballot, it should be answered on May 14th – in time for Nakba Day.