15 June 2021
Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office Questions

James Cleverly, Minister for the Middle East and North Africa, responds to MPs’ questions on a two-state solution in the Middle East, the 0.7% overseas development assistance target, and 12-years of quality education for all.

Middle East: Two-state Solution

Hilary Benn (Leeds Central) (Lab)

What recent assessment he has made of the prospects for a two-state solution in the Middle East. (901234)

Dame Diana Johnson (Kingston upon Hull North) (Lab)

If he will support the creation of the International Fund for Israeli-Palestinian Peace. (901240)

Peter Gibson (Darlington) (Con)

What diplomatic steps he is taking to support peace between Israel and the Palestinians. (901244)

The Minister for the Middle East and North Africa (James Cleverly)

The UK remains fully committed to a two-state solution as the best way to permanently end the occupation, deliver Palestinian self-determination and ensure Israel’s Jewish and democratic identity. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary visited Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories on 25 and 26 May for talks with senior leaders to reaffirm this commitment. We welcome the ceasefire in Israel and Gaza, and we are working with partners in the region to find a durable solution to the conflict. We also look forward to hearing more from the Alliance for Middle East Peace and the US Government about the international fund’s objectives and the projects it will support. Once more information is available, we will consider options for UK involvement.

Hilary Benn [V] 

As the Minister has said, for many years there has been widespread international support for a two-state solution, but he will know that a growing number of voices now say that the window on this is closing rapidly, and that if it does, Israel will have to accept full and equal civil rights for all Palestinians. In the light of this, what policy would he encourage the new Government formed this week to pursue?

James Cleverly 

We congratulate the new Government on their formation and look forward to working with them in pursuit of the almost universally held goal in this House and across the international community of having a secure, sovereign, prosperous Palestinian state alongside a secure and stable and safe Israeli state. Ultimately it is for the Government of Israel to make decisions about these policies, but, as has been the long-standing position of the UK Government, we will work to support any and all actions which are complementary to or part of the process towards making that sustainable two-state solution through political negotiations a reality.

Dame Diana Johnson [V] 

Despite hosting the G7 in Cornwall this weekend, the Government have yet again missed the opportunity to make global Britain a reality in the middle east by not seizing the initiative for UK leadership of the international fund for Israeli-Palestinian peace. Why did the Government pass over that opportunity, and is there any prospect of the UK stepping up and leading that exciting new project with the United States?

James Cleverly 

I pay tribute to the right hon. Lady for her passion for finding a peaceful resolution to this situation; it is our shared goal. As I said in my answer, we will look at the detail of what this programme seeks to deliver, and as yet all the details are not available to us. We have always looked favourably on programmes that bring about peace but we want to make sure that they are effective and, as I have said, once we have more details we will assess our contribution or collaboration.

Peter Gibson [V] 

Over the last few weeks I have been contacted by many constituents who are distraught at the loss of civilian life on both sides. Will my right hon. Friend reassure them that the UK continues to work with both sides to avoid future conflict?

James Cleverly 

My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary travelled to both Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories shortly after the most recent scenes of violence. We enjoy good relations with both the Palestinian Authority and the Government of Israel, and we will of course be working with the new members of the Israeli Government to pursue the long-standing UK policy of finding a sustainable, peaceful two-state solution. I have no doubt that I speak on behalf of my right hon. Friend when I say that our efforts in this area are undiminished.

Wayne David (Caerphilly) (Lab)

May I begin by expressing my sympathies to the families of the HALO Trust staff who lost their lives in Afghanistan? They were killed by an armed group while on a mission clearing land mines; they were extremely brave people and we pay tribute to them.

The British consul in Jerusalem recently visited his neighbours in Sheikh Jarrah. In support of the Palestinians he said that the threat to the community

“grows more acute by the day”.

He correctly stated that,

“Settlement activity & associated evictions & demolitions”

in East Jerusalem

“are illegal and undermine prospects for peace.”

Those are powerful words but what is needed is action, so what do the Government propose to do to ensure that Palestinians in East Jerusalem can live in peace and security, and that the rule of law prevails in East Jerusalem?

James Cleverly 

The UK Government’s position on demolitions, settlement expansion and annexation is clear and long-standing. As I have said, we enjoy good bilateral relations with the Government of Israel and are able to speak with them frankly and firmly when we believe that their actions are counterproductive to a peaceful two-state solution. We will continue to do so, but ultimately the resolution to this long-standing challenge will be through negotiations between the Government of Israel and the leadership of the Palestinian Authority, supported—perhaps even facilitated—by their friends in the international community, such as the United Kingdom.

Topical Questions

Harriett Baldwin (West Worcestershire) (Con)

I congratulate the Foreign Secretary and his whole team on delivering such a successful G7 summit in Carbis Bay. I welcome the generous contribution to the replenishment of the Global Partnership for Education. May I ask for an assurance that as our economy recovers, we will revert to 0.7% of GNP for overseas development assistance, and that our contribution represents merely the foundation of our ambition to ensure that every child in the world gets 12 years of quality education? (901282)

The Minister for the Middle East and North Africa (James Cleverly)

I thank my hon. Friend for making those points. I can assure her that in all the conversations we have about our commitment to Africa and to the broader world, ensuring 12 years of quality education for girls remains the top priority. We recognise that, as the Prime Minister has said on many occasions, it is the Swiss Army knife for global problems, and it will remain a high priority for us, both in this part of the world and more broadly.