Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office


  Since our last report to the Foreign Affairs Committee the Middle East region has continued to suffer from acts of violence and terrorism. Since the start of the intifada at the end of September 2000 nearly 700 Palestinians and nearly 200 Israelis have been killed. The most horrific single incident was the suicide bombing of a popular pizza parlour in Jerusalem on 9 August which killed 15 Israelis. As Ben Bradshaw said in his statement after this attack: "There have been too many funerals. It is time for Israelis and Palestinians to call a halt to the bloodshed, and to make a positive choice for peace".

  The Israeli sense of insecurity has been reinforced by continued frequent drive-by shootings, sniping and mortar attacks on Jewish settlements. We condemn such violence by the Palestinians. Equally, however, we condemn Israeli use, in response, of excessive and disproportionate force, including the use of tanks, helicopter gunships and naval bombardments of Palestinian areas. These have inevitably led to many civilian deaths and injuries. We have urged both sides to show restraint.

  The Israel Defence Force (IDF) has also reoccupied Palestinian-controlled territory and demolished housing, olive trees and police posts which they claim were being used by the perpetrators of Palestinian attacks on the IDF or Israeli civilians. The Israeli Government has continued the practice of extra-judicial killings, which we consider to be illegal under international law. The imposition of restrictions on the movement of goods and people (the closures) and the destruction of Palestinian property and agricultural land have contributed to Palestinians' sense of frustration and hopelessness. These measures have caused widespread deprivation; they have undermined the provision of health, welfare and education services and have also obstructed humanitarian assistance. We have frequently urged the Israelis to lift these restrictions and end the destruction of Palestinian property.

  Our diplomatic activity, like that of our EU partners and the US, is focused on the early and full implementation of the recommendations of the Sharm El Sheikh or Mitchell Committee. We believe that the Committee's report, which was published on 21 May, offers the only route back to permanent status negotiations. Its publication was followed by the negotiation of the Tenet Accords, concluded on 13 June, which committed both Israelis and Palestinians to implement a security work plan to enforce the declared ceasefire. The announcement of and commitment to declared ceasefires and the meeting between Peres and Arafat on 26 September, raised hopes that the Tenet Accords and the Mitchell recommendations might be implemented. However, because of the recent escalation in violence, the ceasefire and the process of direct talks are under severe pressure.

  Since the beginning of October at least six Israelis have been killed. We condemn the murder of Israelis by Palestinians. The Palestinian Authority must do more to prevent such acts and to punish those responsible. The death of at least 20 Palestinians in the same period as a result of IDF fire reinforces the need for Israel to act with restraint. As the Secretary of State said in the House on 4 October, Israel's response to these appalling acts should be "neither excessive nor disproportionate". We call on both sides to redouble their efforts to enforce the ceasefire, implemented confidence building measures and resume talks.

  The terrorist attacks in the US on 11 September have underlined the need to reinvigorate the Middle East Peace Process (MEPP). There is and can be no excuse for terrorism, which must be rooted out. This means not only taking security measures, but also seeking to reduce the tensions which terrorists exploit. Israeli-Palestinian violence is unacceptable, not only for the deaths and injuries that it causes, but also because it encourages the despair, anger and frustration which terrorists can exploit.

  So it is vital, both in the context of our efforts to combat terrorism and the interests of the Israeli and Palestinian people, that we try even harder to promote a negotiated settlement based on UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 which recognises the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people and brings Israel and security within recognised borders.

  We are active in the search for a peaceful resolution in the Middle East and are determined to maintain our engagement. The Prime Minister, the Secretary of State, Mr Bradshaw and Lord Levy have all been engaged on the MEPP, through meetings in London, telephone conversations or travel to the region. The Secretary of State's visit to Jordan, Iran, Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Egypt between 24 and 27 September was followed by a further round of consultations by Lord Levy. The Prime Minister visited Cairo on 11 October. We have worked closely with our EU partners, the United States, Russia, the United Nations and the countries of the region to help create the conditions for peace. We will continue to do so. We support the strenuous and effective efforts of the EU High Representative, Javier Solana. The EU, through his efforts and those of EU Ministers, has become a valued and welcome partner to both sides.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

October 2001

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