Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 220-239)



  220. Have you a figure for the amount that is outstanding, approximately?
  (Mr Prentice) Half a billion.
  (Mr Bradshaw) Half a billion dollars.

  221. US dollars?
  (Mr Prentice) Yes.

Sir John Stanley

  222. Minister, I have three questions, if I may. Could you set out for us how the British Government sees the settlement between Israel and the Palestinians, in the context of the successful wider prosecution of the war against terrorism? Specifically, does the British Government see it as being desirable, or does it see it as being an essential prerequisite of the successful prosecution of the wider war against terrorism, to have first achieved a settlement between Israel and the Palestinians?
  (Mr Bradshaw) I think we would say it was highly desirable rather than an essential prerequisite.

  223. Do you see that there is any near-term prospect of achieving such a settlement?
  (Mr Bradshaw) As I said earlier in my remarks to your Chairman, I think that there is, amidst the destruction and the misery on the ground, this unprecedented level of international consensus which could—could—if we had a little bit of courage and leadership shown by both sides in the region itself, lead to a rapid change. I will give you one example. The mood, I believe, in the Palestinian Authority would change very, very quickly if ordinary Palestinians felt that Israel, under its current Prime Minister, was serious about a just political solution. I really do believe that. If you ask ordinary Palestinians, many of whom are intelligent, educated people, it is quite shocking some of the things they say about how they feel about the actions of suicide bombers, for example. If you then go on to ask them, if you study the opinion research that has been done, if there were political discussions going on that they felt would lead to a political solution, the mood could change very quickly. I think exactly the same could be said about public opinion in Israel. So I think the situation could change very quickly for the better, and of course it would be immensely helpful in the prosecution of the campaign against terrorism further afield if there were not the current situation in the Middle East, but I do not think one should be made conditional on the other. If you face threats that are very real in other parts of the world, you have to deal with them irrespective of whether you have resolution of a conflict somewhere else.

Sir Patrick Cormack

  224. But not in respect of the consequences?
  (Mr Bradshaw) No, absolutely, and of course those consequences would be taken into account.

Sir John Stanley

  225. The second question I want to put to you is could you spell out to us the British Government's policy towards the Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories? Is it the British Government's view that they should all be removed, or does the British Government contemplate a situation in which some, possibly the majority, might be retained, but within an independent and viable Palestinian State?
  (Mr Bradshaw) It is not a question of what we believe, Mr Chairman. Those settlements are illegal under international law. That is absolutely clear, and the issue of settlements would have to be dealt with in any final settlement. We hope very much that the agreements that were nearly reached at Taba could be built upon. There may well be the option of land swaps and the retention of some of the settlements in return for existing Israeli green-line land passing into a new Palestinian State, but the principle of the settlements has to be resolved, because they are, and have been, one of the most serious obstacles to peace.

  226. I appreciate that, and I understand the legal position, but I am asking what is the British Government's position? Does the British Government believe that the settlements need to be removed?
  (Mr Bradshaw) It is not up to us, with respect, to impose a settlement on the two sides.

  227. No, what is the British Government's policy position on the West Bank settlements?
  (Mr Bradshaw) Our policy is that the settlements are illegal, and what happens to them would depend on what the two sides agree in any settlement. We do not want to dictate in advance, and I do not think it would be helpful for us to dictate in advance, the parameters of any agreement that the Palestinian and Israeli sides might wish to enter into. We do not think that is helpful. As I have clearly stated, though, our view of the settlements is that they are illegal under international law, and it is highly probable, in my view, that the vast majority of them would have to go.

  228. The third question I want to put to you is one which is in the same area as Andrew Mackinlay covered earlier, but on a slightly different tack. The Government has been very strongly supportive of the establishment of an international criminal court, and the appropriate legislation has gone through Parliament as far as this country is concerned. I would like to ask you, with regard to the killings that have been taking place of Israelis by Palestinian suicide bombers and the killings that have been taking place of Palestinians by Israeli armed forces in the recent conflagration, does the British government consider that both of those might be matters that would be subsequently admissible before an international criminal court?
  (Mr Bradshaw) The problem there, Sir John, is that the International Criminal Court does not actually come into being until July, and it is not retrospective, so the question you are asking I am afraid is hypothetical. I think what we would say is that we condemn all illegal and criminal acts.

  229. I understand the point you are making about retrospection, but let me put it to you further on, then. If events similar to those that have been taking place in recent weeks, that I referred to, took place subsequent to the establishment of the International Criminal Court, does the British Government believe that those may be matters that would be potentially subject to reference to the International Criminal Court?
  (Mr Bradshaw) They may well be, but so far Israel has not ratified the International Criminal Court, so I think we may face some potential difficulties there.

Mr Olner

  230. Minister, given that the US provided almost US$2 billion worth of military assistance to Israel in 2001 alone, when Colin Powell goes back should he not turn round to them and say, "You're not having any more"?
  (Mr Bradshaw) Those, Mr Chairman, are really questions that you need to direct to the American Administration.

  231. But would you have a view on it?
  (Mr Bradshaw) Our view at the moment, as I think I have stated, is that we need to be concentrating all our efforts on trying to find a diplomatic solution, but we have a coincidence of factors which I believe give us an opportunity at the moment, and I am not convinced at this stage that the sorts of measures that you appear to be advocating by your question would be necessarily helpful in achieving what we want to achieve, which is actually a difference in the situation on the ground, a withdrawal, a ceasefire and return to meaningful talks.

  232. Actually the figure of US$2 billion in one year alone, in military assistance, makes some of the other figures which you were talking about earlier pale into insignificance about the rebuilding of Palestine. Surely is that not the biggest lever the Americans have in getting Israel to agree to a settled peace?
  (Mr Bradshaw) It is a big lever, Mr Olner, you are absolutely right. That is why I have said previously that American engagement in the Middle East peace process is absolutely vital. It would also be correct to observe that America has used its economic levers in the past to encourage Israel to make moves that it has regarded as being desirable. Really you could question as to when America feels that it should or could use those levers; they are a matter for the United States and not for the British Government.

  233. I would surmise that there would perhaps be a lot of difficulty in an American President getting through his Senate and Congress any reduction in aid to Israel. Would you not think that that position might well change if that US$2 billion worth of US military aid were proven to have murdered innocent civilians in Jenin and in the settlement areas in the Middle East?
  (Mr Bradshaw) It could change, but I would suggest to you that the signs from the United States do not suggest that that is about to happen. On the contrary, all the opinion polls across the Atlantic suggest overwhelming support not just for the Sharon Government's policies but also for American policy in the region. I am not aware of any signs that that is about to change dramatically.

  234. Given the very good news—or not the very good news, but the excellent report by Amnesty International on the UN fact-finding mission on what happened in Jenin, has the UK Government received a satisfactory explanation from the Israelis as to why access to Jenin and other places was denied for so long, particularly the settlement areas?
  (Mr Bradshaw) No. As I have already said, we have not received a satisfactory explanation about that or about very many other things that we have been concerned about.

  235. Could I ask if we have asked?
  (Mr Bradshaw) Of course.

  236. We did ask?
  (Mr Bradshaw) Of course.

  237. So the Israelis refused point blank to tell the UK Government what was happening in Jenin and other places?
  (Mr Bradshaw) I would not say that. Sometimes we are provided with explanations, but we do not find them particularly convincing.

Sir Patrick Cormack

  238. Mr Bradshaw, you have several times talked about things being a matter for the United States, and one completely understands why you have used those terms. However, we do have this very special relationship, we are principal partners in the grand coalition against terrorism, and therefore it is not really very satisfactory just to say that this is a matter for the United States. Are you absolutely convinced the United States is taking fully and properly into account the views of HM Government and the other partners in the coalition?
  (Mr Bradshaw) Yes, I am, and, as I said earlier, we make those views plain to the United States at every opportunity. It is not always the most effective way of conducting diplomacy to make those views plain in public, but of course we express our views forcefully to the United States. In the end, though, the United States will take its decisions based on what it sees as its own national interest.

  239. And, one hopes, the international interest. May I ask you one final question. You were very helpful in your answers to Sir John on the West Bank settlements. What is HM Government's position on Jerusalem? How do you think Jerusalem should eventually finish—as an international city or as a divided city?
  (Mr Bradshaw) Again, I am afraid I am going to repeat a lot of what I said in my answer to Sir John on settlements. The eventual status of Jerusalem is a question for final-status agreement, but our official position is that western Jerusalem is de facto Israeli territory and that east Jerusalem is occupied territory, and that we would expect any final settlement to build on the agreements that were already on the verge of being made at Camp David and Taba, that in effect mean that east Jerusalem would become the capital of a future Palestinian State. It is inconceivable to me that you could have a viable Palestinian State or that the Palestinian or indeed the Arab world would settle for anything less.

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