British Government Views on Palestine, 13 August 2014

Gaza, 7 August 2014

Letter dated 13 August 2014 from Tobias Ellwood MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, to Sir Alan Beith MP (Lib Dem, Berwick upon Tweed) in response to a message from one of Sir Alan Beith's constituents.

Dear Sir Alan.

Thank you for your letter of 23 July to the Foreign Secretary on behalf of your constituent... about Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPTs). I am replying as Minister responsible for our relations with the Middle East.

I share your constituent's concerns about the current crisis in Gaza. The conflict has taken a terrible toll and a permanent end to the violence is required. We are shocked by recent attacks on UN schools in Gaza that have resulted in the deaths of innocent children. The UK condemns Hamas' rocket fire, and recognises Israel's right to take proportionate action to defend itself. We have urged Israel to do everything it can to avoid civilian casualties, to exercise restraint, and to act in line with International Humanitarian Law. This cycle of violence must be brought to an end. That is why the Prime Minister has made clear that we need to see an immediate unconditional ceasefire that stops the bloodshed.

The priority must be to achieve a lasting cessation of hostilities to prevent further loss of life. We are supportive of the efforts by Egypt and others for talks that offer a long term solution to the crisis. For a ceasefire to be durable there must then be rapid progress to address the underlying causes of the conflict, with a central role for the Palestinian Authority, and a strong one for the international community. We are working closely with international partners in Older to secure that goal.

We are also pressing for urgent measures to relieve the humanitarian suffering of those in Gaza. That is why we have provided £19.1 million in UK aid in response to this crisis. On 8 August DIFD announced they would be providing an additional £2 million to the Disasters Emergency Committee and on 4 August the Secretary of State for International Development announced £2 million in new funding for the UN Relief and Works Agency's Flash Appeal. This will help the UN provide a package of essential goods to the thousands of families sheltering in schools. In total, we have now pledged £6 million to UNRWA's appeal. On 1 August DFID activated the Rapid Response Facility for Gaza. This means pre-approved partners with a proven ability to operate in Gaza will now have access to a total of £3 million in new funding to provide rapid and direct emergency humanitarian assistance We are providing £3 million to the World Food Programme to provide food vouchers. This boost will provide emergency food vouchers for more than 300,000 people for one month, and we are also providing £2 million in medical aid. Finally, we have brought forward £3m in funding to the International Committee of the Red Cross to help them repair water infrastructure, deliver emergency medical services and protect the civilian population. But we are clear that a political solution is required to the current crisis in Gaza if we are to avoid this suffering happening again. I can assure you all UK effort is focused to that end.

Your constituent has referred to the prospect of a Palestinian application to the International Criminal Court (ICC). The UK is a strong supporter of international justice and the ICC. However, we believe that negotiations toward a two-state solution are the best route to ending the conflict once and for all.

The Middle East Peace Process continues to be one of our principle foreign policy priorities. The current events in Gaza only reinforce the need to take steps towards a lasting peace. The Israeli and Palestinian people deserve a just and durable peace that ends the conflict once and for all and the only way to achieve this is through negotiations. The UK stands ready to do all it can to support this goal.

TOBIAS ELLWOOD MP
Parliamentary Under Secretary of State

Photo: UN Photo/Shareef Sarhan