1. The Foreign Affairs Committee has taken a consistent
interest in the Middle East, and has visited and reported on the
region regularly, in this and previous Parliaments. In 2007, we
published a Report on Global Security: The Middle East.
This was the first in our ongoing series of Reports under the
"Global Security" heading.
In early 2009 we decided to conduct a follow-up inquiry, focused
on Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPTs). We
were prompted to do this primarily by the conflict in Gaza in
December 2008/January 2009, and also by the advent of new governments
in Israel and the United States. (In what follows we refer to
our previous Report on the region as "our 2007 Report".)
2. As this was an exercise of limited scope, we did
not issue detailed terms of reference or a call for evidence.
We nevertheless received a number of written submissions, which
we print with this Report. We held three oral evidence sessions.
Two of these, with academics and analysts in February, and with
the then FCO Minister of State Bill Rammell MP in early March,
were held soon after the end of the Gaza conflict and before we
made a visit to the region. After our visit, we decided to take
evidence from the Representative of the Middle East Quartet, Rt
Hon Tony Blair, and did so at the beginning of June. We would
like to thank all those who gave evidence. A list of our witnesses
is provided at the end of this Report.
3. Our visit to Israel and the OPTs was made in mid-March
2009, exactly two years after our previous visit to the region.
Some Members were able to visit Gaza, as the Committee had last
been able to do in late 2005, and also visited Sderot in southern
Israel. Another sub-group of the Committee spent a day in the
West Bank, meeting Palestinians and Israeli settlers; and another
toured Israel's Lebanese and Syrian borders (including the Golan
Heights) and the Jordanian border in northern Israel and the West
Bank. We held meetings in Jerusalem, Ramallah and Tel Aviv, at
a time when the new Israeli government was being formed and negotiations
continued between Fatah and Hamas on the possible formation of
a new Palestinian national unity government. Our interlocutors
included Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and
Foreign Minister Riad Malki. We would like to thank all our interlocutors,
and staff at the British Embassy in Tel Aviv and Consulate-General
in Jerusalem, for facilitating our visit.
4. Our responsibility is to examine the work of the
Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). In considering foreign
policy issues, our focus must be on matters for which the UK,
and therefore the FCO, has direct responsibility or over which
it can exercise some degree of influence. In relation to the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict, the UK plays a role not only through its bilateral relationships
with key actors in the region, but also through its participation,
as an EU member state, in the Middle East Quartet. We reflect
this in our Report, in which we consider not only direct UK actions
but also the policies which the Quartet has pursued towards Israel
and the OPTs. The Middle East Quartet comprises the EU, Russia,
the UN and the US, and was established in 2002 to support the
Middle East peace process. The Quartet's Representative, Tony
Blair, told us that the UK "plays a part in two ways: on
its own account and through the EU".
5. The Quartet supports a two-state solution to the
Israeli-Palestinian conflictthat is, the creation of a
Palestinian state from Gaza and the West Bank, the current OPTs,
which would exist alongside Israel "in peace and security".
Mr Blair told us that that a two-state solution was "the
only solution that works", and that he did not know of any
in February, the Foreign Secretary, Rt Hon David Miliband MP,
said that the world was having "to peer into the abyss of
the idea of a two-state solution disappearing".
In assessing recent developments and policies in this Report,
our underlying concern was to do so in terms of their implications
for the achievability of the Government's stated two-state objective.
6. The structure of this Report is as follows. In
our first substantive chapter, Chapter 2, we discuss the December
2008/January 2009 conflict in Gaza, including its diplomatic and
humanitarian aftermath and the issue of possible violations of
the laws of war. In Chapter 3, we consider the question of British
arms exports to Israel. In Chapters 4 and 5 we discuss developments
on the Israeli and Palestinian sides, respectively, and relevant
Quartet, EU and British Government policies. In Chapter 6 we briefly
consider the roles of some further Middle Eastern states. Finally,
in Chapter 7 we consider the prospects for the two-state solution.
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1 Foreign Affairs Committee, Eighth Report of Session
2006-07, Global Security: The Middle East, HC 363 Back
We have subsequently reported on Global Security: Russia
(Second Report of Session 2007-08, HC 51), Global Security:
Iran (Fifth Report of Session 2007-08, HC 142), Global
Security: Japan and Korea (Tenth Report of Session 2007-08,
HC 449), and Global Security: Non-Proliferation (Fourth
Report of Session 2008-09, HC 222). We are completing a Report
on Global Security: Afghanistan and Pakistan. Back
We list our March 2009 meetings and visits in Israel and the OPTs
in the Annex. Back
Q 167 Back
Quartet Statement, Trieste, 26 June 2009, via www.fco.gov.uk Back
Q 181 Back
HC Deb, 24 February 2009, col 134 Back