Middle East Minister James Cleverly has criticised ‘’those voices in British politics who will jump at any opportunity to bring in sanctions and disinvestment’’ during a House of Commons exchange on Israeli plans for annexation in the West Bank.
The former Conservative Party chairman’s remarks came after Labour shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy said ‘’the silence from this government has been deafening’’ in relation to Israel’s plans and called for the Government to ‘’commit to a ban on settlement imports and recognise Palestine as this House voted to do.’’
Ms Nandy, who had called for a ban on West Bank settlement goods last weekend, added:’’Forgive me, I may have missed it, but if he won’t do these things can he tell us exactly what he is proposing to do?’’
But Mr Cleverly added: ’’It is tempting – I am sure it will placate certain voices on the left of the political spectrum – to stamp our feet, to bang the table.
‘’But what we will continue to do is to dissuade a friend and ally in the state of Israel from taking a course of action which we believe will be against their own interest. And we will do so in the most effective means available.’’
The SNP MP Alyn Smith next suggested “only action and no amount of warm words is going to cut it in this discussion’’ before suggesting that ‘’settlement goods at the very least be labelled as illegal and sanctions must be put on the table’’.
Mr Cleverly insisted the PM, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and himself, had been ‘’working to dissuade Israel to take this course of action”.
He added: “There will always be voices in British politics that would jump at any opportunity to bring in sanctions, disinvestment.
‘’We do not agree with those voices. We will continue to work towards a negotiated two state solution using diplomatic means.’’
During Tuesday’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office questions session in the Commons Mr Smith then gave the example of the Russia’s illegal occupation of Crimea as an example of when the UK had implemented sanctions with the international community.
‘’We needs that sort of action now,’’ he added.
The Minister said:’’I reiterated the UK’s position at the UN Security Council on the 24th of June. I made it clear that annexation will not go unanswered.
‘’However I will not stand at this dispatch box in order to placate some of the traditional voices of criticism of Israel when the best way forward is to negotiate with a friend and ally, Israel to dissuade them to take a course of action not in their best interest.’’
He also repeated the UK government’s position –which he said Boris Johnson had made clear to Mr Netanyahu on multiple occasions – that it ‘’oppose any unilateral annexation which would be a breach of international law.’’
He added the UK supported a negotiated two state solution ‘’based on 1967 borders with agreed land swops’’ and with Jerusalem as a shared capital.
Labour MP Tonia Antoniazzi suggested ‘’current sanctions are clearly not working’’ to stop Israel going ahead with annexation which she said would be ‘a betrayal of the Palestinian people.’’
In his speech to the United Nations’ Security Council last week Mr Cleverly said annexation “risks signalling Israeli rejection of the very solution Israel and the international community agreed in 1947”.
He added that “the UK has been clear, in this Council and beyond, that unilateral action is unacceptable… Annexation could not go unanswered, and we implore Israel to reconsider.”
While criticising both sides, Cleverly specifically mentioned “settlement expansion, increases in demolitions, seizures, and worsening settler violence,” adding: “The UK has long urged Israel to end these counterproductive activities.”
He said annexation “has the potential to trigger regional instability, threatening Israel’s own security… It could have a real impact on Israel’s relations with the region, as well as the international community.''