I propose to take Questions Nos. 35 and 53 together. As I stated earlier today, the Middle East peace process is a priority issue for me and for the Government, and I will continue to make every possible effort to engage constructively on this issue, through contacts with the parties, with relevant third states, with our EU partners, and with the UN. I have paid four working visits to the region in the past three years and look forward to doing so again when circumstances permit.
I share the strong view of this House that annexation would be a completely unacceptable step, and I have been completely clear on this in public statements and in private contacts.
Annexation of territory could have significant consequences for neighbouring countries. The League of Arab States, and many of its members, has been very clear in spelling out its firm opposition to it. A step which would so clearly undermine prospects for a two-state solution could have a negative impact on stability more broadly, and this is not in anybody’s interests. A solution involving two states for two peoples, living side by side in peace, is the only outcome for Israelis and Palestinians that we will support.
I do not see annexation as an inevitable development. It has not happened yet and that is why Ireland has not been forced to take actions in response to annexation. I firmly believe it would be against the interests of Israelis as well as Palestinians, and this is borne out by the fact that there is considerable unease about this proposal within Israel itself and within the Israeli Government. I do not believe the time for dissuasion is past, and my officials and I will continue our efforts in this regard, working closely with our EU partners who share our strong opposition to annexation.
Nor will I confine my efforts to deterring annexation. The status quo – the occupation, the construction of settlements, the destruction and demolition of Palestinian property, the limits placed on the development of Palestinians’ potential – is an abnormal and completely unacceptable situation.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House
I am very conscious of the suffering of the Palestinian people in Gaza, in particular, where the aspirations of young people are cruelly circumscribed by a blockade which has continued for far too long.
Let me reiterate my commitment to continue working to keep this issue high on the international agenda and to prioritise the Middle East peace process, amongst other issues, as we prepare to take up our seat on the UN Security Council in January 2021.