Your Member of Parliament for Harrow East

Andrew Percy MP

The West Bank

Bob utilised a Westminster Hall debate on the West Bank to draw attention to Israel’s history of dealing with settlements in relation to peace. In 2005, Israel destroyed the Jewish settlements in Gaza and withdrew from them. In 1982, in return for peace with Egypt, it withdrew from Sinai, destroying the settlements as part of the peace agreement. In fact, only last month, the outpost of Ulpana was ruled illegal by the Israeli courts. Israel has withdrawn from that and will demolish it.

The key point is that the Israeli Government will remove settlements once peace has been agreed.  Bob has been to Israel and the West Bank with the Conservative Friends of Israel, and has also been to Jordan, the West Bank and Israel with the Council for European Palestinian Relations. In light of these visits Bob has been able to conclude that the situation on the ground is dire. It is important that negotiations take place without preconditions.
Bob argued that East Jerusalem must be part of the negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israeli Government. The reality is that there are now more Arabs living in Jerusalem than ever before. The problem is that while the Palestinians fail to get round the negotiating table, and continue to set preconditions that will not be acceptable to the Israeli Government, settlement activity will continue apace. We have heard lots of statistics today. The reality is that just 5% of Area C is occupied by settlements. There will be a negotiation at some future time over whether that land is to be part of Palestine and the West Bank, or part of Israel, as a result of land swaps.

The key issue before us today is the need to encourage the Government of Israel and the Palestinian authorities to get round the table and Bob urged the Minister to do all that he can to persuade both parties to do so immediately. The position now is that Netanyahu is heading a coalition Government, which gives Israel certainty for the indefinite future. Under freedom of information requests, we have discovered that Foreign Office officials seem to have written off Netanyahu. That is wrong, and what we should be doing is encouraging him and his whole Government to get round the table with the Palestinians.

The Israeli coalition Government gives us the potential for a lasting and just settlement, and the opportunity for stability and peace. It is for the Palestinians to grasp this opportunity. It is right that they get round the table now, without preconditions, to ensure that they achieve that peace.

Finally, there is one significant gap in the Queen’s long reign: she has never paid a proper state visit to Israel or any part of Palestine.  Bob has written to the Foreign Secretary to prevail upon the Queen to make such a visit. After all, if she can go to Northern Ireland and shake hands with the Deputy First Minister from Sinn Fein why not go and seek peace in that great part of the holy lands of this world?

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