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UK Minister: We should not be 'hasty' to judge new Israeli government’s policies

March 18, 2015 at 3:42 pm

Today was the last chance before UK elections on 7 May for MPs to raise the issue of Palestine in the House of Commons. UK government action is crucial in light of the recent Israeli election results.

In the early hours of this morning, polls showed that Benjamin Netanyahu has been re-elected to lead Israel for the next four years and to form the next government. Netanyahu opposes the creation of a Palestinian state and was elected on a pledge to build more settlements. His policies will have grim humanitarian consequences for Gaza and the West Bank.

“We will have to wait and see what the new government’s policy is,” responded Minister for International Development Desmond Swayne on concerns raised in the House that Netanyahu does not support the two-state solution. During international development questions this morning Swayne acknowledged that the situation in Gaza is desperate and confirmed that the UK government remains committed to the two-state solution.

Lisa Nandy MP for Wigan asked about the government’s long-term plan in light of Netanyahu’s re-election, a prime minister who believes the continuation of the blockade on Gaza is “a good thing”. Nandy said that now is the time for Swayne to apply pressure on ministerial colleagues to “recognise the state of Palestine and end this appalling situation.” To which Swayne replied: “We should not be hasty.”

Movement restrictions damage Gaza’s economy to the point that 80 per cent of people living in Gaza are dependent on aid. At a conference in Cairo last October international donors pledged £3.4 billion for Palestinians in the wake of the war, which ruined thousands of homes and destroyed infrastructure in the Strip.

The UK has pledged £20 million in aid – a quarter of which Swayne says has been delivered and the remainder promised by the beginning of the financial year – to address the effects of the blockade, yet little of Gaza’s humanitarian crisis has been relieved since the end of the war.

Most of the UK’s contribution is delivered through UNRWA which Swayne judged to be an effective channel. As of this morning over 60,000 people have had access to building materials out of a need of in excess of 100,000. He said that it would not be long before all the aid pledged to Gaza reaches the Strip.

Michael Fabricant, MP for Lichfield, asked what controls are being placed on humanitarian aid to Gaza so that it is not used by Hamas for military purposes, Swayne said that one part of the Gaza reconstruction mechanism is the materials monitoring unit which ensures that material supplied, stored and dispersed are being used correctly.

“Isn’t the only solution to relieve the suffering of the people in Gaza, concerted international action to lift the blockade?” asked Grahame Morris, MP for Easington. Swayne replied: “We continue to make representations at all levels about movement restrictions but I repeat what I have said, we will have to wait and see what the new government’s policy is after it emerges from its coalition negotiations.”