MPs to ask questions to Minister for the Middle East, Tobias Ellwood MP included: CFI’s Parliamentary Chairman, Rt. Hon. Sir Eric Pickles MP, Oliver Dowden MP, Peter Bone MP, John Howell MP, and Neil Parish MP.
MP for Hertsmere, Oliver Dowden, asked the Foreign Secretary what assessment he had made of the implications for his policies of recent violence in Israel and the West Bank, and urged the FCO to be “absolutely clear” in its condemnation of the terror attacks: “Does the Minister agree that there can be no justification whatsoever for random terror attacks on Israelis in the streets of Israel? They are just like us: normal people trying to go about their ordinary lives. We should be absolutely clear in condemning that sort of activity”.
Middle East Minister, Tobias Ellwood replied stating that he agreed with Mr Dowden and condemned the spate of violence, he underlined: “There is no place for the sorts of terrorist attacks we have seen, and the effect they are having on innocent civilians’ sense of safety is appalling”.
Mr Ellwood said: “We are deeply concerned by the recent violence and terrorist attacks across the occupied Palestinian territories and Israel. Our immediate focus is on urging all sides to encourage calm, take steps to de-escalate and avoid any measures that could further inflame the situation”.
MP for Wellingborough, Peter Bone asked the Minister about the Palestinian Authority’s role in fomenting violence against Israelis: “Does the Minister agree that it certainly does not help that the Palestinian Authority encourages incitement against Israel?”
Mr Ellwood responded by stating: “President Abbas has condemned the use of violence and reiterated the Palestinian Authority’s commitment to reaching a political solution by peaceful means. We have seen tensions spike in the past, but it does seem different this time, with young people seemingly unafraid of death and brandishing knives, knowing what the consequences will be. The pattern so far has been one of lone wolf, low-tech attacks, but the escalation and the tensions are certainly worrying”.
CFI Vice Chairman, John Howell OBE MP, asked the minister: “What assessment has the Minister made about the significant damage to the holy site of Joseph’s tomb at Nablus, which was destroyed by up to 100 Palestinian rioters?”
Mr Ellwood said that he “strongly condemned” the burning of Joseph’s Tomb. He asserted: “The basic right of freedom to worship in safety and security should be protected for all. We have called for a swift and transparent investigation into the incident and for those responsible to be brought to justice”.
Neil Parish MP asked another question about PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s incitement to violence, stating: “Earlier this month, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas proclaimed: ‘We welcome every drop of blood spilled in Jerusalem…With the help of Allah, every martyr will be in heaven, and every wounded will get his reward.'”
He asked: “Does my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary share my concern that such provocative remarks have fuelled the recent wave of deadly attacks on Israel? What more can we do to help?”
Mr Ellwood replied stating: “There has been too much provocation on both sides. The current violence underlines the fact that a lasting resolution that ends the occupation and delivers peace for Israelis and Palestinians is long overdue. We have been round this buoy many times. The Oslo accords seem in the far distant past, and the tensions are ratcheting up again. We call on both sides to come together”.
CFI’s Parliamentary Chairman, Rt. Hon. Sir Eric Pickles MP, asked the Minister whether he believed it “is now time for us to review our relationship with the Palestinian authorities”.
Speaking about the salaries that Palestinian terror prisoners received from the PA, he said: “Would it not be better to pay directly to the projects themselves rather than through the Palestinian authorities so that British taxpayers could have a better assurance that the money is going to Palestinians rather than being siphoned off as a stipend to terrorists?”
Mr Ellwood stated in response that for the interests of peace “It is important that we take advantage of John Kerry’s offer to visit the region in the very near future”.
Click here to read the exchange in full.