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“Legalising the illegal and alternative facts on the ground” – Parliament supports motion on illegal Israeli settlements

MPs in Parliament approved a motion on Thursday 9th February 2017, to condemn Israel’s illegal settlement activity. Speaking during the debate, MPs from across the parties spoke about the impact that the illegal settlement activity had been having on Palestinians. With contributions from over 18 MP supporters of Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle East amongst the large number of MPs who spoke, there was widespread support calls that the UK government must no longer just condemn Israel’s settlement activity, but take action in response.

Louise Haigh MP, vice chair of LFPME, called on the Foreign Office minister, Tobias Ellwood MP,  to “condemn the land regularisation legislation that seeks to legitimise the illegitimate”. In her speech, Haigh referred to the comments of Senator Kerry who had described the Israeli government as one “more committed to settlements” than any other. She then went on to question why the UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, had chosen to distance herself from the comments made by Kerry and warned that the new American Presidency was in fact emboldening the Israeli administration.

Stephen Kinnock MP, who had previously written a chapter for this LFPME briefing on settlements, made a number of asks of the Government. Kinnock described the “alternative facts” on the ground and said that Israel’s regularisation Bill, was effectively legalising the illegal by retroactively legalising illegal settlements.

Kinnock said that “In line with the UK guidelines, (government should) prohibit trade with companies and financial institutions complicit in the settlements and prohibit dealings with charities involved in illegal settlement projects. We must be consistent in our alignment with the universal principle of prohibiting trade with illegally annexed territories, as the European Union has done in the case of Crimea. That is why we must do all in our power to halt and reverse the settlements.”

Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry MP, said that settlements “are a roadblock to peace and a violation of international law”. She said that she was “deeply disappointed that the Government continue to fail to recognise the Palestinian state.” She also asked the Minister “What thought have the Government put into how settlement goods could be separated from other Israeli goods, as many people do not wish to buy settlement goods? Are the Government doing any further work on that? How can we persuade British companies not to invest in settlement areas?”

The overwhelming support for the motion exemplified the strength of feeling across parliament over the increasing danger to peace posed by illegal settlements. As LFPME vice chair, Andy Slaughter MP said, “"The settlements are the embodiment of occupation. Everything else that is wrong in the occupied territories flows from those settlements.”