Monday, January 28, 2013

The British Foreign Office Identifies Israel As "A Country Of Concern"

The British Foreign Office Identifies Israel As "A Country Of Concern"

The British government's attitude towards Israel is encapsulated in the letterthat prime minister David Cameron sent this month to former mayor of New York Ed Koch:
"Let me reassure you that the UK, is and will remain a firm friend of Israel. I share your deep concern about the recent inflammatory statements made by Hamas leaders, including Khaled Mesha’al on 7 December, denying Israel’s right to exist. The UK also utterly and unreservedly condemns the recent call for a third intifada and a suicide campaign by a Hamas official. Incitements to violence and terror are unacceptable. We therefore welcome President Abbas’ public rejection of these statements and acceptance of the State of Israel within 1967 borders.
We firmly believe that the people of Israel have a right to live peacefully and free from terror. But we also believe that the only sustainable way to achieve this is through a negotiated two-state solution. As friends of Israel, it is important we do whatever we can tto reach that ultimate objective: two states, living side by side, in peace. We ask Israel to stop building settlements because they are illegal under international law, an obstacle to peace and make a two-state solution, with Jerusalem as a shared capital, harder to achieve. They are, ultimately, not in Israel’s long-term interests. Simply building a fortress without a negotiated agreement with the Palestinians cannot deliver lasting security for Israel.
I do not share your analysis regarding the recent Palestinian UN General Assembly resolution. The UK’s position on this resolution was determined by the guiding principle of ensuring a rapid return to negotiations. Given this, we had asked Palestinian President Abbas not to move a resolution at the UN General Assembly in November. In the period prior to the vote, we engaged intensively to seek a commitment from the Palestinian leadership to return immediately to negotiations without preconditions and that they would not pursue immediate action in UN agencies and the International Criminal Court. In the absence of these assurances, the UK abstained on the vote.
We must now look forward. This year is an important one for peace in the Middle East. The UK will work urgently with the United States, our other international partners and with the Israelis and Palestinians to drive the peace progress forward before the window for a two-state solution closes forever.'
 In a report published last week regarding the situation regarding human rights round the world for the period October to December 2012 inclusive, the British Foreign Office identifies Israel as "a country of concern" (along with 27 other nations including such persistent human rights violators as Iran): 
'Israel’s inclusion [observes this account of the reportis likely to cause its incoming government  some concern, in light of its close British ally’s repeated cautions in recent months that Israel’s “illegal” pursuit of settlement expansion risks alienating its international allies....
The update of the climate between October and December 2012 concluded that despite Hamas receiving widespread condemnation from foreign leaders at the time of November’s escalation for instigating the exchange of hostilities, “the violence has resulted in a number of humanitarian needs, including a worsening of the already precarious humanitarian situation in Gaza”....'
This is what, inter alia, the FO report has to say:
'November saw a severe escalation of violence in Gaza and southern and central Israel....
The violence has resulted in a number of humanitarian needs, including a worsening of the already precarious humanitarian situation in Gaza.  Before the recent outbreak of hostilities, 80% of households in Gaza relied on humanitarian assistance and 44% of the population were food insecure.  Fuel, water and sanitation have been serious problems for some time and there are now critical shortages of essential drugs and medical disposables.    A UN Initial Rapid Assessment identified a number of additional emergency needs as a result of the conflict, including health, infrastructure and psycho-social care.  The psychological impact of the violence on both Israeli and Gazan citizens, particularly children, is a particular concern. In addition the European Commission Humanitarian Office (ECHO) assessed that 10,000 individuals living in north and north-east Gaza were displaced during the violence with an estimated 350-700 unable to return due to houses being destroyed or partially destroyed as of 26 November.

On 11 December, International Development Minister, Alan Duncan visited Gaza City to observe the impact of the airstrikes firsthand and announced an additional £1.25m in aid to be channelled through the Red Cross to address the humanitarian needs of people in Gaza affected by the conflict.'
 (Duncan it will be recalled, made the following outrageous statement a couple of years ago:
"The wall [Israel's security barrier] is a land grab. It hasn't just gone along the lines of the proper Israel boundary. It's taken in open land which actually belongs to Palestine.
Israeli settlers can build what they want and then immediately get the infrastructure so that takes the water deliberately away from Palestinians here." )
 Regarding settlements the report observes:
"The UK Government was concerned about developments relating to Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank over the reporting period. On 30 November, the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office announced that he would advance the next stage of the planning process for the area of West Bank land known as ‘E1’, thereby building illegally on the last remaining open space of land East of Jerusalem.  Announcements were also made to progress plans for the future construction of 3000 additional illegal settlement units in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.  Further settlement plans were advanced in East Jerusalem neighbourhoods including in Ramot Shlomo (17 December) and in Givat Hamatos (19 December).

In reaction to these announcements, the Foreign Secretary reaffirmed the UK’s position that “Israeli settlements are illegal under international law and undermine trust between the parties”. Commenting on the most recent announcements, the Foreign Secretary said that “this decision constitutes a serious provocation and an obstacle to peace.  If implemented, it would make a negotiated two-state solution, with Jerusalem as a shared capital, very difficult to achieve.”

The construction of a new settlement in ‘E1’ would, if implemented, have a severe impact on freedom of movement, limiting the ability of Palestinians to move easily along the length of the West Bank.  This would have an impact on the economic development, transport links and the ability of the Palestinian Authority to deliver services to its citizens.  Of particular concern is the impact settlement construction in E1 would have on the area’s 2300 Palestinian Bedouins, who would very likely be displaced if the plans were to be implemented."

Below, incidentally, is footage of the Jerusalem Post's Caroline Glick arguing the case for the settlements  recently (the entire debate, at a forum in London, where Ms Glick experienced hostility that shocked her, can be accessed here).