Mr Ellwood’s comments came in response to a question from Conservative MP Lucy Allan during oral questions to the Foreign Secretary yesterday.
The MP for Telford praised security cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, stating that they “continue to work together closely to maintain security in the West Bank”. However, she said, last month “a Palestinian Authority police-officer-turned-terrorist shot and wounded Israeli soldiers”.
Lucy Allan asked the Minister: “Does the Minister agree that security cooperation is vital to maintaining stability, and will he join me in condemning the wave of attacks against Israelis that we have seen over the past year?”
The Minister for the Middle East replied: “I do join my Honourable Friend in condemning those attacks, and I would encourage President Abbas and others in the Palestinian Authority to do so as well”.
He underlined the importance of security cooperation, and said that “we should not forget that more than 30,000 Palestinian Authority security forces are working with Israeli Defense Forces to provide that security, and the Israeli Defense Forces rely on that to ensure that the West Bank is kept as safe and secure as possible”.
In response to a question from Labour MP Louise Ellman, the Minister condemned Palestinian incitement, stating that the PA practice of naming schools after terrorists is “inciting hatred and taking us away from the direction we want to go in”.
Mr Ellwood also called for the resumption of direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, noting that the centenary of the Balfour Declaration could mark a move to “a positive direction” in this area.
A number of Conservative MPs called for a return to direct negotiations, including former Middle East Minister Rt. Hon. Alistair Burt MP and James Morris MP, as well as DUP MP Nigel Dodds.
Conservative MP Maria Caulfield reminded the House that both Israel and Egypt share borders with Gaza, stating that while “Israel is often criticised for its strict control of the border with Gaza… Egypt has closed its border completely”.
She asked the Minister if he would update her “on any discussions he has had with Egypt about its border with Gaza”.
Minister Ellwood explained that Egypt’s border with Gaza is closed due to the challenges faced by extremism, with extensive tunnel systems between Egypt and Gaza used “to smuggle in Hamas equipment which was being used against Israel”.
He praised the “strength of the relationship between Israel and Egypt” in curtailing extremism, referring to the increased coordination between the two countries in recent years against regional threats including Hamas and ISIS.
Labour MP Ian Austin deplored comparisons of Israel to apartheid South Africa, stating that “in South Africa, black people were not able to vote, all political opposition was outlawed, and different races could not even get married. In Israel, there is freedom of movement, assembly and speech, all governmental institutions are integrated, and all citizens can vote”.
He called such comparisons a “disgrace and an insult to the Middle East’s only democracy, and to the black people who suffered under apartheid to hear Israel described as that”.
Minister Ellwood agreed that Israel is “a democratic country in a very tough neighbourhood”, asserting that Britain “stands by our friendship” with Israel.
He underlined: “We are an ally of Israel and long may that continue”.
The full transcript of proceedings can be found here.