I have recently received many emails from constituents with grave concerns about the building of illegal Israeli settlements on the West Bank and in East Jerusalem. I was unfortunately unavailable to attend the debate on settlements earlier this month, but this is an issue which I also have strong concerns about.
Since 1967, over one hundred Israeli settlements have been built in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, as well as dozens more outposts which are not officially recognised by the Israeli authorities. These settlements are both illegal under international law and pose a serious obstacle to longstanding peace between Israel and Palestine.
Despite continued UN Resolutions reiterating the illegality of settlements, earlier this year Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu announced that the permits for 566 new homes will be approved in several existing settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
In terms of the peace process, these settlements have become “facts on the ground” – fundamentally changing the face of the West Bank and making it increasingly difficult for a contiguous Palestinian state to exist. As well as widespread reports of settler violence against Palestinians, these settlements also pose a threat to the stability and long-term security of Israel.
Both Israel and Palestine have the right to live side-by-side in peace and security, within internationally recognised borders. The international community should be doing everything in order to ensure this vision can be achieved, and this includes putting pressure on Israel to halt the creation of new settlements and settler homes in Palestinian territories.
I recently asked the Foreign Secretary about Israel’s favoured trade status with the UK and EU. While Israel continues to flagrantly ignore UN Resolutions and deny Palestinians basic human rights, the UK should revisit trade negotiations with Israel – as we ought to with any state that flouts international law.