British Parliament discusses ‘Israel and Palestinian Talks’ July 5th 2017

On 05 July 2017, from 4:03pm to 7:00pm the House of Commons Chamber discussed ‘Israel and Palestinian Talks’.

With Tobias Ellwood, the former Minister for the Middle East having moved to the Ministry of Defence, it was interesting to see him replaced by Alistair Burt (his predecessor) who addressed the meeting in the absence of the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.

There was brisk debate in which some 45 MPs spoke, and at the end Mr Burt summed up by thanking them for ‘speaking with great force in a short period of time about things that they know a lot about’.

A number of the speeches were partisan, but there were thoughtful and optimistic contributions, particularly from Crispin Blunt (Chair of the Conservative Middle East Council).

In his summary Mr Burt said:

“Overall, although the sympathies of colleagues for one side or another were occasionally clear, it was rare that those sympathies were not expressed without a recognition that there were issues on both sides. Although we have spoken about this a great deal, the recognition that the pain is serious and that we want to do something about it was clear for all”.

In reply to a question from Emily Thornberry, he said:

 “There is no change in our policy. The United Kingdom’s long-standing position on the map is clear: we support a negotiated settlement leading to a safe and secure Israel living alongside a viable and sovereign Palestinian state, based on 1967 borders, with agreed land swaps, with Jerusalem as the shared capital of both states, and with a just, fair, agreed and realistic settlement for refugees. I do not think any other state is going to tell me that that is not going to be our continuing policy; I assure her of that.”

He also said

“What are we going to do? We are going to redouble our efforts. We have to work with international partners and will continue to engage with those in Israel who are seeking such a solution. We recognise the concerns of those in Israel who fear for their security, and they are right to do so, as we have heard. We know well about the random attacks and the fears that have affected the people of Israel. Equally, there will be no ultimate lasting peace unless the hand is reached out and this time grasped by those on the other side, both in Gaza and on the west bank, to make something of this. The United Kingdom will be determined to do everything it can, and those of us who have a second chance at something that means a lot will have a really good go at this. I do not promise an answer, but I do promise an effort”.

He thanked:

The Opposition Front-Bench team for their contributions, in particular the short and thoughtful summing up from Liz McInnes

Crispin Blunt (the most recent Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee) made a thoughtful contribution.

Richard Burden, who spoke with extensive experience in this area.

Mrs Ellman who drew her speech to a thoughtful conclusion with a remark from Shimon Peres.

Jim Shannon and Tracy Brabin both made thoughtful speeches.

For their optimistic speeches: Mary Robinson, John Howell, for Paul Masterton and Douglas Ross, picking out a bit of the relationship with Israel which makes a difference and suggests that there is a future, and referring to neighbours such as Jordan that have made a contribution to peace in the area.

For their tough words for the state of Israel: Joanna Cherry, Ms Ghani, Patrick Grad, Stephen Kinnock, Andy Slaughter, Naz Shah, Wes Streeting and Tommy Sheppard. All of them referred to difficult things for the state of Israel to deal with.

For their harsh words for the Palestinian side: Theresa Villiers, Joan Ryan, Chris Davies, Dr Offord.

The full report can be found in House of Commons Hansard 05 July 2017 Volume 626, Column 1224