Israel behaving like Russia in Crimea, say peers

Foreign Office minister Baroness Warsi

Foreign Office minister Baroness Warsi

Britain has "serious concerns" about Israeli activity in the Palestinian territories, Baroness Warsi has told the House of Lords.

The Foreign Office minister said on Monday that Britain had "raised cases with the Israeli authorities" relating to the killing and injuring of civilians, policing of non-violent demonstrations, and treatment of child detainees.

Her comments were sparked by a question on Israel and the Palestinians asked by Baroness Tonge, who cited the cases of 44 Palestinians who she said had been killed by Israeli forces since last July.

Baroness Tonge highlighted an incident in which she claimed two Palestinian children were "shot in the legs before being beaten up" as they returned home from a football training session.

She asked the government to encourage football governing body Fifa to impose sanctions on Israel as a result.

The former Liberal Democrat peer also appeared to compare Israel's activity in the West Bank to that of Russia in Crimea.

She asked why Britain was "prepared to impose sanctions on Russia for breaking international law but not upon Israel, which has been breaking international law for decades?".

Baroness Warsi said Baroness Tonge "comes to these matters with great expertise" and assured her that Britain "takes these matters incredibly seriously".

There was concern, said Baroness Warsi, over the increase in violence in the West Bank in the past two years.

Labour's Lord Grocott also appeared to claim that Israel was comparable to Russia, saying that in terms of occupied territory, the Crimean issue had received a level of "urgency and committment" not seen in dealing with the Palestinian issue.

Crossbench peer Lord Hylton suggested Israel was guilty of "excessive force, the lack of proportionality and the almost complete impunity of the IDF when operating in occupied zones".

Lord Palmer of Childs Hill, Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel vice-president, raised the importance of securing a two-state solution, and warned of the consequences of current peace talks failing.

Economic issues between the Israelis and Palestinians were crucial, Labour's Lord Turnberg told the debate. He said Britain should concentrate on pressuring Palestinian leaders to continue negotiations.

Lord Dykes, a Liberal Democrat, said that while Israel was "a great country with a great people", it suffered from having "unfortunately... a very narrow-minded and reactionary government".

Baroness Warsi said the British government continued to support US Secretary of State John Kerry in his peace efforts but would also raise concerns about the IDF "at the highest level".

Last updated: 12:08pm, March 25 2014