Cleverly: I’ve urged Israelis and Palestinians to ‘take steps to end cycle of violence’

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Cleverly: I’ve urged Israelis and Palestinians to ‘take steps to end cycle of violence’

Foreign Secretary came under pressure from MPs on Tuesday to explain what the government was doing to try to end violence that has led to further bloodshed in Israel and the West Bank

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

Palestinians clash with Israeli troops during an Israeli army raid in Jenin in the Israeli-occupied West Bank March 7,2023. REUTERS/Raneen Sawafta
Palestinians clash with Israeli troops during an Israeli army raid in Jenin in the Israeli-occupied West Bank March 7,2023. REUTERS/Raneen Sawafta

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly has said he “urged” his Israeli and Palestinian counterparts to “take steps to de-escalate and avoid a cycle of violence” during talks last week.

The minister told MPs that as a result of the UK’s “very strong bilateral relationship with Israel he was able to raise issues such as settlement expansion and the demolition of Palestinian homes where “we disagree”.

But Cleverly came under sustained pressure from MPs from all sides of the House during Tuesday’s foreign questions to intervene further in an attempt to stop the violence of recent months, that has led to the deaths of numerous Israelis and Palestinians.

The Conservative MP Sir Desmond Swayne suggested that when he attempted to “raise issues” at a recent meeting with Israel’s deputy prime minister and chief negotiator “simply stormed out of the meeting.”

To the approval of several MPs, Swayne added: “Does the time come when simply raising issues isn’t enough?”

Cleverly responded: “Well it’s better than not raising them, I would suggest.”

James Cleverly answers questions from Jeremy Corbyn on Israel

For Labour, Fabian Hamilton noted the “appalling murder of two Israelis” and then the attacks on the West Bank village of Huwara that followed.

Hamilton called for the UK government to pressure Israel to “condemn and crack down” on settler violence.

The foreign secretary said:”There has been condemnation of these actions from within the Israeli system… there has been a recognition of this action being illegal.”

The SNP’s Stephen Bonner said he wished to “pay respect to all Palestinian and Israeli victims” of the recent violence, before accusing settlers in the West Bank of operating “a culture of impunity” when it comes to “crimes committed”.

He then asked the foreign security what “the government is doing to end widespread and systematic discrimination against Palestinians”?

Responding, Cleverly said: “In my recent conversations with the Israeli foreign minister I raised concerns about the speculation of settlement building on the E1 territories within the occupied Palestinian territories.

“I am now pleased there has been a moratorium on such expansions because to do so I think would be damaging to the prospects of a two-state solution.”

Fabian Hamilton

During the 15-minute-long debate Tory MP Bob Blackman raised concerns about the rise of the Lions Den terror group, alongside other militant Palestinian Islamic groups such as Hamas.

Blackman said the group’s emergence “is clearly a threat Israel’s security, and indeed the Palestinians as well.”

“Addressing terrorism is something we will do with the government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority,” said Cleverly.

He stressed that neither Israel or the PA had any interest in “seeing terrorism flourish.”

But Labour’s Andrew Gwynne urged the government to build on its prior endorsement to an International Fund for Israeli and Palestinian Peace

He said:”Since then warm words have followed, but vey little action.”

Gwynne said there was a “desperate need with the deterioration of the situation” in the Middle East for the UK to “lead on that fund” and urged the minister to use the G7 summit in May to get other nation’s to commit to it.

Cleverly stressed that “people to people links between Israelis and Palestinians are incredibly important.”

But he said the UK remained in “close contact” with the United States on whether the Fund was the most effective use of spending to bring about reconciliation.

There was condemnation from Labour’s Andy McDonald of calls by Israeli finance minister Bezalel Smotrich to see the village of Huwara “wiped out.”

The foreign secretary said he had urged both Palestinian and Israeli officials to refrain from using inflammatory rhetoric.




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