Committee publish report on Israel and Palestinian territories

26 July 2009

Foreign Affairs Committee publishes report on Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories

Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Mike Gapes MP said:

"We welcome the endorsement by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but we are concerned about continuing settlement growth, and the situation in Gaza.

"The Committee concludes that Hamas targets civilians in its attacks in Israel, while Israel’s military action in Gaza in December 2008/January 2009 was disproportionate. We welcome the establishment of the UN Human Rights Council’s inquiry into the conflict under Judge Goldstone. We call on the Government to give the Goldstone inquiry its full support and to press Israel to cooperate with it fully. We also welcome the Government’s decision to revoke some licences for arms exports to Israel, in light of the Gaza conflict.

"The Government is correct to support Israel’s goal of bringing rocket fire from Gaza to an end, but the regime of restrictions at the crossing points from Israel into Gaza helps to sustain the system of smuggling through tunnels under the Egyptian border which contributes to the presence of illicit weaponry in Gaza. It is unacceptable that Israel continues to deny unrestricted access for humanitarian assistance to Gaza.

"We welcome the public call by the British Government and the new US Administration for a freeze on all Israeli settlement activity. We believe that the EU should make any 'upgrade' of its relations with Israel conditional on Israel halting practices which are prejudicial to the achievement of a two-state solution.

"Quartet Representative Tony Blair is making an important contribution to Palestinian economic and institutional development. The Palestinian Authority has shown improved capacity to deliver increased security and manage the Authority’s economy and public finances. However, movement, access and administrative restrictions on the West Bank continue to represent a major obstacle to further Palestinian economic development.

"We see few signs that the current policy of non-engagement with Hamas is achieving the Quartet’s stated objectives. We therefore reiterate our recommendation from 2007, that the Government should urgently consider engaging with moderate elements within Hamas.

"We welcome the Government’s decision earlier this year to open contacts with the political wing of Hezbollah in Lebanon, as we recommended in 2007."

In its Report, the Committee also considers the role of Iran and the Arab League in relation to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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