International Development Questions in Parliament

International Development Questions – so I thought I asked an interesting question of our new Secretary of State. Sadly, it got a competent answer but not an interesting one. This is the exchange:

Lynne Featherstone (Hornsey and Wood Green) (LD): I welcome the Secretary of State to his role and wish him well. The stringent restrictions of movement that are imposed on the Palestinians continue to exacerbate the humanitarian position. They undermine all the aid and humanitarian work that is going on. What will the Secretary of State do to persuade Israel to remove those restrictions?

Mr. Alexander: When my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary last addressed the House, he made clear the three principles whereby we will move our work forward on the matter in the months ahead. He said that first, we would be unyielding in our support for finding a two-state solution; secondly, we should express a genuine willingness to work with all those who would renounce violence as a way forward; and thirdly, we need to continue to address the immediate humanitarian challenge while recognising the social and economic development needs of the Palestinians. It is right to place on record the fact that restraints on movement and access are a severe constraint on the capacity of the Palestinian economy to grow.

Although, of course, it is necessary to provide humanitarian assistance with immediate effect, there is no substitute in the longer term for a sustainable, developed Palestinian economy. For that to happen, we need the restrictions on movement and access to be removed.

I had been hoping for more. Because the simple mantra of a two-state solution etc (albeit I agree with it) doesn’t really answer the question I asked.

You see, right now when the Palestinians are having a hideous time in terms of movement, poverty, etc – I don’t think that the most constructive approach is to simply condemn Israel (albeit the wall position and the ongoing settlements are wrong) – but I want to find out what Israel wants, needs or could be persuaded by to remove those restrictions. Let’s try and see what Israel needs and what process would be acceptable. If there is nothing that will ever persuade Israel to lift restrictions through negotiation and agreement – then we would know where we are and can work out perhaps what next steps say the EU might need to take. (They are the biggest aid donor to Palestine and biggest trading partner of Israel). I have always felt that there is a way through this – and the people of both countries desperately need the international community to find this way through and hold both safe on that journey.

0 thoughts on “International Development Questions in Parliament

  1. What do Israel want?That’s easy! A permanent end to the use of terrorism as a tactic. Agreement to abide by the terms of the Geneva Convention. Credible assurance that lifting movement restrictions will not be used to bring in more weapons and explosives. For the Palestinian Authority to agree to and abide by the terms of the Oslo Accords signed by Arafat, the very treaty that founds the PA’s legitimacy, which involves renouncing terrorism, recognising Israel’s right to exist within secure borders, and participation in talks to negotiate a final resolution. Or even just a significant portion of all that, with the rest to come later.A much harder question to answer is what would persuade Israel to lift restrictions knowing that the terrorism against their civilians will continue, that it will allow the Mujahideen to re-arm, that Hamas will not have to concede a single point, abide by any legal restraints, and will be able to sell this as a great victory to encourage further violence in the hope of extracting yet more concessions. Which will in due course also be granted.How much money are the lives of their people worth?That is what you would be told, anyway, were you to ask the Israelis.The problem is that Hamas’ international political position is strengthened the more the Palestinians suffer, so long as it can somehow be laid as Israel’s door, so they have no incentive to give Israel anything they want. (Moreover, they’re probably still in national mourning over the death of Farfour.) Your best bet of lifting restrictions is therefore to threaten the Israelis with something worse than a continuation of the rockets and bombers. Damage to their economy with trade sanctions, withdrawal of military and technical aid for their defences. Faced with a choice between immediate and delayed national anihilation, they will no doubt choose to delay it.(Incidentally, I couldn’t help noticing you included Hamas and Fatah gunmen shooting it out and throwing each other off tall buildings in a mild seeming “etc.” They also pose some quite significant problems for the ordinary Palestinian. I don’t believe that condemning them for it is at all constructive, so perhaps we might ask each of them what they would accept in exchange for stopping it?)