Parliament debated the occupied Palestinian territories and I spoke in the debate on the “Regularisation Bill” legalising the illegal; the importance of the December UN Security Council motion; the need to end the policy of settlement and occupation if peace is every to be achieved; and what the British government should do to help bring about an end to he illegal settlements policy.
I thank and congratulate the hon. Members who secured today’s debate.
Little did we know when this debate was granted last week quite how prescient it would be. Just as the Israeli Prime Minister was flying back after his visit here, the Knesset was passing the so-called regularisation Bill. This Bill retroactively legalises over 50 illegal settlement outposts, 3,850 housing units and the expropriation of almost 2,000 acres of private Palestinian lands. In short, it legalises the illegal. I guess that, after alternative facts in Washington, we now have alternative facts on the ground, as defined by the Government of Israel.
This debate is not about being pro-Israel or pro-Palestine; it is about standing up for the values and norms that we hold dear. It is about upholding the rule of law and not shirking our responsibilities. Settlements fan the flames of discontent and grievance, driving us further from peace. They undermine the legal and moral authority of Israel, destroying the trust that will be required to reach any meaningful peace agreement. And they undermine the territorial integrity of a future Palestinian state, and the prospects of a viable two-state solution.
The continued expansion of illegal settlements does not just hurt the Palestinian people; it hurts Israel as well, because there can be no security for Israel without peace, and there can be no peace as long as there are illegal settlements. Anyone who doubts this just needs to see the situation on the ground.
I think of the father I met in Makassad hospital in the wake of the 2014 Gaza war, nursing his four-year-old son who had just lost both his legs in a rocket attack. I think of the Bedouin community of Khan Al-Ahmar, the residents living in perpetual fear of military demolitions and harassment from nearby settlers. I think of the 13,000 children from the Shuafat refugee camp in East Jerusalem, crossing multiple checkpoints, passing the wall and fearing harassment, just to get to school each day. I think of the 250,000 children across the Palestinian territories whom the UN identifies as in need of psychosocial support and child protection interventions. I think of the 10-year-old Gazan child who will already have witnessed three wars and nothing but the siege. What does the future hold for these children? What hope can we offer them?
When we boil all the issues down to their essence, the fact is that the presence of almost 600,000 Israeli settlers on land internationally recognised as occupied is what drives this conflict. Britain, as a key strategic ally, partner and friend of Israel, should be stepping up as a critical friend. That means ending direct support for settlements.
We should, in line with the UK guidelines, prohibit trade with companies and financial institutions complicit in the settlements and prohibit dealings with charities involved in illegal settlement projects. We must be consistent in our alignment with the universal principle of prohibiting trade with illegally annexed territories, as the European Union has done in the case of Crimea. That is why we must do all in our power to halt and reverse the settlements, and that is why we must support the motion.