Friday, 5 June 2020

Campaign response – Pressure the government to take action against Israel annexation plan

A number of constituents have recently written to me asking if I would call on the government to impose sanctions on Israel in view of latest developments in the contentious region. I want to thank you for taking the time to contact me on this important matter and I hope they will find my response below helpful.

The lack of progress made in the Middle East peace process is concerning but it is not unfair to say that this is in part due to the current pandemic and the importance that countries are placing on prioritising their response to it.

Furthermore, recent cooperation we have seen between Israelis and Palestinians in coordinating their response to COVID-19 is commendable and demonstrates that positive engagement between the two sides is possible.

The UK is the fourth largest donor country to the Palestinian Authority’s efforts to combat coronavirus, with over $1.12 million provided via the Inter-Agency Response Plan.

On the specific issue of Israeli annexation of settlements, while I believe settlement expansion to be counter-productive to the peace process, they should not be considered a permanent obstacle to peace. Not only does Israel have a history of removing settlements in the interests of peace, but both parties have accepted for decades, as per previous interim peace agreements, that a final two-state solution would include Israel retaining settlements in exchange for equivalent land swaps.

As a country renowned for its high-tech expertise and scientific discoveries, the UK benefits from Israeli innovation. Medicines from Israel save the NHS billions of pounds a year, and over 200 tablets or capsules made by Israeli pharmaceutical company Teva are taken by patients in the UK every second.

Sanctions on Israel and the wider boycott campaign therefore stands to be damaging for UK-Israel bilateral relations and the wellbeing of our populations.

As a supporter of the State of Israel, I celebrate the UK’s record trade ties and flourishing partnership in medicine, technology and academia with the country. I may not always be in agreement with the actions of its government, but that does not detract from the fact that Israel is the only true democracy in the region and a strong bilateral partner to the UK.

At the same time, I am proud to be a friend of the Palestinian people. I look forward to the day when Palestinians can enjoy the security of a sovereign state upon the successful conclusion of a negotiated two-state solution. This will require difficult compromises from the leaders of both parties, but it remains achievable.

What is clear, above all, is that the need for a renewed peace process is more urgent than ever. Our Government remains committed to a two-state solution through direct negotiations, and all parties involved as well as the international community must step up efforts without delay.