It was a Palestinian narrative

At the beginning of this week I was told by various senior Conservative sources that the JC's story about Alan Duncan's "land grab" video had been hugely embarrassing, but that his views were not shared by other government ministers. The appearance of the video had been an error, I was told, but the mistake would be rectified and a clarification of the true government position issued.

But the best the government could come up with was a statement from Mr Duncan's department, suggesting that his words had been misinterpreted.

Ministers are in a very difficult position on this matter because Mr Duncan was, strictly speaking, doing no more than expressing official UK government policy. It does believe that Israel has failed to keep to its borders in constructing the security wall, and it is opposed to settlement building and the implications for natural resources such construction brings with it.

The problem was that the language he used was straight from the lexicon of Palestinian resistance. Mr Duncan must have known this and so must his officials when they ignored Foreign Office advice not to post Mr Duncan's incendiary comments on an official government website.

At last year's Conservative Party conference Mr Duncan, who is known for his pro-Palestinian views, raised eyebrows by speaking at a pro-Palestinian event hosted by the New Statesman magazine and expressing his frustration that ministers could not speak to Hamas.

Alan Duncan's position has been seriously undermined by the incident and it is uncertain whether he will be able to survive in this highly sensitive post. His ministerial colleagues and British diplomats in the region will not easily forgive him for making their already difficult jobs a whole lot harder.

Last updated: 10:44am, August 25 2011