Thank you for your recent email regarding Israeli settlements and UN Security Council Resolution 2334.
The UK Government’s position on this issue is clear: such settlements are illegal under international law, an obstacle to peace and make a two-state solution, with Jerusalem as a shared capital, harder to achieve. Ministers consistently urge the Israeli authorities to cease all settlement building and to remove illegal outposts, as required under international law and in fulfilment of Israel’s obligations under the Roadmap. I am pleased to see that Israel has just in these past couple weeks taken enforcement action to remove one such settlement.
According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in the OPTs, about one third of land within the outer limits of settlements is privately owned Palestinian land. Illegal settlements are therefore reducing the amount of land, including agricultural land, available for Palestinian use, and restrict access to water sources. Settlements also contribute to the fragmentation of the West Bank and impede movement and access around the West Bank, making it difficult for Palestinians, particularly those who live close to settlements, to move around and to access agricultural land, or to travel for employment purposes.
However, I must also say that neither I nor the UK Government supports the singling out of Israel, nor the politicisation of UN institutions by the Palestinians. Britain is a true friend and ally of Israel and I am proud of the role that Britain played in creating a homeland for the Jewish people. Israel is an example to the rest of the world for overcoming adversity and defying disadvantages. It is a thriving democracy and a beacon of tolerance and I am pleased that the UK is Israel’s second largest trading partner.
Furthermore, we must recall that settlements are far from the only problem in this conflict. To focus only on one issue is not the best way to negotiate peace. It is right therefore that the resolution also makes clear that the Palestinian Authority must maintain effective operations aimed to confront those engaged in terror and the dismantling of terrorist capabilities. The people of Israel deserve to live free from the threat of terrorism, with which they have had to cope for far too long.
I firmly believe that the UK Government’s determination to support a two-state solution is the only way to give the Palestinian people the state that they need and deserve, and the Israeli people the security and peace they are entitled to.
Unfortunately I am not able to attend the debate mentioned owing to prior commitments and other business in the House, however I hope this will clarify my position and that of the Government.