Oral Answer on Monday 6th July 2020
1. Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime:
– Dominic Raab (Conservative, First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs): Mr Speaker, with permission, I would like to make a statement on the global human rights sanctions regulations. As we forge a dynamic new vision for a truly global Britain, this Government are absolutely committed to the United Kingdom becoming an even stronger force for good in the world. [excerpt]
– Afzal Khan (Labour): I too welcome today’s statement. Israeli annexations are a violation of international law and jeopardise any chance of a two-state solution. I would like to believe that a two-state solution is not a lost cause, but that is only possible if we speak up. I urge the Government to take action and condemn violations such as the recent bulldozing of a historic Muslim cemetery in Jaffa. Does the Foreign Secretary agree that such contempt for international law warrants sanctions? If not, could he please explain his reasoning?
– Dominic Raab: We certainly oppose not just the settlement building but other violations of international humanitarian law. The hon. Gentleman may have seen the letter that the Prime Minister recently published in the Israeli press, which made it clear that we are not giving up on a two-state solution. We oppose annexation and we want both parties to come to the table and negotiate a lasting settlement.
– Brendan O’Hara (Scottish National Party): Can the Foreign Secretary assure the House that the application of the sanctions regime will be transparently even-handed and will not be blind to human rights abuses carried out by or in the name of our so-called allies and friends such as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Israel or India, or indeed countries with which we are seeking to secure a post-Brexit trade deal?
– Dominic Raab: If the hon. Gentleman looks at the designations, he will see that we have answered that in the first round that we are making today. https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2020-07-06/debates/24B78A01-061C-48A8-AA92-8E53C17516E3/GlobalHumanRightsSanctionsRegime
Commons Oral Answers
Oral question to Foreign Secretary re- West Bank: Planned Annexation: on 30th June
– Tonia Antoniazzi (Labour): What recent representations he has made to the Israeli Government on their planned annexation of parts of the west bank. – Julie Elliott (Labour): What assessment he has made of the effect of Israel’s plan to annex parts of the west bank on human rights in that region. – James Cleverly (Conservative): The UK’s position is clear: we oppose any unilateral annexation. It would be a breach of international law and risk undermining peace efforts. The Prime Minister has conveyed our position to Prime Minister Netanyahu on multiple occasions, including in a phone call in February and a letter last month. The UK’s position remains the same: we support a negotiated two-state solution based on 1967 borders, with agreed land swaps, Jerusalem as a shared capital and a pragmatic, agreed settlement for refugees. – Tonia Antoniazzi (Labour): Current sanctions are clearly not working as a deterrent for Israel’s plan to annex the west bank illegally. Strong words at this point are a betrayal of the Palestinian people—they need actions. Can the Minister outline what action the Government will take against annexation? – James Cleverly (Conservative): The Government have maintained a dialogue with Israel. We are attempting to dissuade it from taking this course of action, which we believe to be not in its national interest and not compliant with international law. – Julie Elliott (Labour): In 1980, the UN Security Council condemned Israel’s illegal annexation of East Jerusalem and, in ’81, its illegal annexation of the Golan Heights. What lesson does the Minister think the Israeli Government took from the failure to see those Security Council resolutions adhered to? Are the UK Government abandoning the Palestinian people, as suggested in a recent open letter by UK charities?- James Cleverly: The UK Government remain a friend of Israel and also a friend of the Palestinian people. We have continued to have dialogue both with the leaders of the Palestinian Authority and with the Government of Israel, and we encourage them to work together to come towards an agreed settlement that will see a safe, secure state of Israel alongside a safe, secure and viable Palestinian state. There is still the opportunity for that negotiated settlement to be the outcome, and we will continue working with both the Israelis and the Palestinians to facilitate that. – Lisa Nandy: World leaders are warning of consequences should annexation go ahead, but the silence from this Government has been deafening, so much so that the Israeli newspaper Haaretz says that France is now the world’s “last, best hope” to stop annexation. This really is shameful. I raised my concerns with the US ambassador—has the Minister? Will he commit to a ban on settlement imports and recognise Palestine, as this House voted to do? Forgive me, I may have missed it. If he will not do those things, can he tell us what exactly he is proposing to do? – James Cleverly (Conservative): The UK remains a friend and ally to the state of Israel and a good friend to the Palestinian people. It is tempting—and I am sure it will placate certain voices on the left of the political spectrum—to stamp our feet and bang the table, but we will continue to dissuade a friend and ally in the state of Israel from taking a course of action that we believe will be against its own interests, and we will do so through the most effective means available.
– Alyn Smith (Scottish National Party): I listened carefully to the previous exchange, and I have much respect for the Minister, but I am not asking him to stamp his feet or bang the table—I am asking him to match the sensible position that he has outlined today on the illegal annexation of the already illegally claimed settlements with some actual action. No amount of warm words and sympathy are going to cut it in this discussion. My party, likewise, is a friend of the two-state solution. We are a friend of the Israeli state, and we are a friend of the Palestinians as well. We want to see a viable solution, but there is a lively debate that we can influence right now within Israel, and we need to put action on the table, not warm words and sympathy. Settlement goods should at the very least be labelled as illegal, and targeted sanctions need to be put on the table to focus the minds of the coalition. I urge him to act, not just talk.
– Mr Speaker: I hope, on his second question, the hon. Gentleman will be briefer. – James Cleverly (Conservative): My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has spoken with his opposite number and other members of the Israeli Government, as have I and indeed our Prime Minister. We are working to dissuade Israel from taking this course of action. There will always be voices in British politics that would jump at any opportunity to bring in sanctions and disinvestment. We do not agree with those voices, and we will continue to work towards a negotiated two-state solution, using the diplomatic means we have at our disposal. – Alyn Smith (Scottish National Party): I appreciate that answer, and I would urge more. When Russia illegally occupied Crimea, the UK Government, with our support, implemented sanctions with the international community. We need that sort of action now, and I would urge the Minister to greater efforts than we have heard today. – James Cleverly (Conservative): I reiterated the UK’s position at the UN Security Council on 24 June. I made it clear that annexation would not go unanswered. However, I will not stand at this Dispatch Box in order, as I say, to placate some of the traditional voices in criticism of Israel when the best way forward is to negotiate and speak with a friend and ally, in the Government of Israel, to dissuade them from taking a course of action that we believe is not in their own best interests.
UK Government affirms its position that Israel’s annexation plans of occupied Palestinian territory is contrary to international law.
Oral exchange between Boris Johnson and Crispin Blunt on 16th June 2020
-Crispin Blunt(Conservative): Our ability to exercise leadership in the relief of poverty, justice and the international rule of law will depend on those values. They will get an immediate test. In two weeks’ time, our ally Israel will annex elements of the Occupied Palestinian Territories. That will be a grave breach of international law. Surely we must try to divert Israel from that prospect with real sanctions if it breaches international law?
Boris Johnson (Conservative, Prime Minister): Yes, I believe that what is proposed by Israel would amount to a breach of international law. We have strongly objected. We believe profoundly in a two-state solution and we will continue to make that case.
In a response to a letter to the Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab from Caabu Chair Rt Hon David Jones MP, the Foreign Office and DFID Minister responsible to the Middle East, Rt Hon James Cleverly MP has affirmed the UK Government’s position that Israel’s annexation plans of occupied Palestinian territory is contrary to international law.
“The plan does not include provisions for unilateral action by either party, and the UK would strongly oppose any unilateral action by either party. As the Foreign Secretary made clear in his statement on 31 January, any unilateral annexation would be contrary to international law and damaging to renewed efforts to re-start peace negotiations.
The UK is a strong supporter of international law. We repeatedly call on Israel to abide by its obligations under international law and have a regular dialogue with Israel on legal issues relating to the occupation.” Read more
Question by The Marquess of Lothian on 11th June (HL5611)
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the plan submitted by the Palestinian Prime Minister to the United States, Russia, EU and United Nations on 9 June; and, following the remarks by the Minister for the Middle East and North Africa on 11 May (HC Deb, col 20), what steps they are taking to prevent the annexation by the government of Israel of parts of the West Bank.
Answer by Lord Ahmad (Conservative) on 23rd June
We welcome the proposals that the Palestinian Authority has made for renewed dialogue. We urge the parties to find a means of restarting negotiations, and avoiding unilateral action. The Foreign Secretary made clear our concerns about reports that the new Israeli Government coalition has reached an agreement, which may pave the way for annexation of parts of the West Bank, during a call with the Israeli Alternate Prime Minister Gantz on 20 May and Foreign Minister Ashkenazi on 2 June. We also reiterated our concerns at the UN Security Council remote meeting on the Middle East Peace Process on 20 May. The UK position is clear: any unilateral moves towards annexation of parts of the West Bank by Israel would be damaging to efforts to restart peace negotiations and contrary to international law. We will continue to press Israel and the Palestinians strongly on the need to return to negotiations to achieve peace and the realist action of a two state solution.
Question by Baroness Tonge (Independent) on 2nd June 2020 (HL5129)
To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon on 19 May (HL3850), what (1) conditions they require to have been met before they recognise Palestine as a state; and (2) what steps they are taking to support Palestine to meet those conditions. (HL5129)
Answer from Lord Ahmad (Conservative) on 9th June 2020
As I made clear in my answer of 19 May 2020 (HL3850), the UK will recognise a Palestinian state at a time when it best serves the objective of peace. Bilateral recognition in itself cannot end the occupation. Without a negotiated settlement the occupation and the problems that come with it will continue. The UK will continue to support a negotiated settlement leading to a safe and secure Israel living alongside a viable and sovereign Palestinian state.
Question by Baroness Tonge (Independent) on 28th April (HL3554)
Answer: Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Conservative) on 13th May 2020
As we made clear at the UN Security Council remote meeting on the Middle East Peace Process on 23 April, we are deeply concerned by reports that the new Israeli Government coalition has reached an agreement which may pave the way for annexation of parts of the West Bank. The UK position is clear: any unilateral moves towards annexation of parts of the West Bank by Israel would be damaging to efforts to restart peace negotiations and contrary to international law. We continue to work closely with international partners strongly advocating a two state solution and encouraging a return to meaningful negotiations between both parties.
Question by Baroness Tonge (Independent) (HL3849) on 05 May 2020
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the potential for the government of the United States’ proposals for peace in Israel and Palestine to result in the government of Israel revoking Palestinian people’s citizenship and swapping populated land.
Answer: Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Conservative) on 20th May 2020
A peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians that leads to peaceful coexistence could unlock the potential for the entire region, and provide both sides with the opportunity for a brighter future. Only the leaders of Israel and the Palestinians can determine whether US proposals can meet the needs and aspirations of the people they represent. But we encourage them to give these plans genuine and fair consideration, and explore whether they might prove a first step on the road back to negotiations. The UK would strongly oppose any unilateral action by either party. The UK position is clear: any unilateral moves towards annexation of parts of the West Bank by Israel would be damaging to efforts to restart peace negotiations and contrary to international law.
Question by Baroness Tonge (Independent) on 5th may 2020 (HL3881)
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the letter sent by 130 parliamentarians calling for sanctions to be imposed on the government of Israel should the annexation of the West Bank take place.
Answer: Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Conservative) on 18th May 2020
This letter is currently being considered and the Government will respond in due course.