Alan Duncan calls for Israel to lift Gaza blockade.
Report on DflD questions on Palestine, October 31, 2012: A minister called on Israel yesterday to lift the five-year economic blockade of Gaza so that Palestinians can exploit their offshore gasfield in the Mediterraean and eventually pay their own way without aid from the international community.
International development minister Alan Duncan blamed the Israeli blockade for the high levels of unemployment in Gaza (28%) and the 540 roadblocks and building ban in Area C of the West Bank for the unemployment level there (17%).
He was responding to Conservative MP Andrew Turner who said: “More needs to be done to persuade Israel to remove the barriers that prevent Palestinians crossing the border in order to find work and more opportunities are seized to create work in Gaza and the rest of Palestine.”
He told him: “We support the IMF’s recent assessment that Israeli controls on external trade and access to Area C are a serious constraint on Palestinian employment levels.”
“We want people and goods to be able to cross border freely with the minimum constraint necessary to ensure Israel’s security.
“We want the Palestinian Authority to be able to exploit their own resources, such as the gas fields off the coast of Gaza, so that the Palestinian Authority can pay its own way and eventually require less support from the international community.”
Labour MP John Denham told him the cost of Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank, now in its 45th year, should be paid by the Israeli government and not by the EU, the largest international donor who gave a total of €459 million (£370m) to the Palestinians last year.
“Now that Israeli settlements are making a two-state solution impossible, what is the government going to do to make sure that the Israeli government pays for the cost of the illegal occupation, not the European taxpayer?” he asked.
The minister replied: “I understand the concept that he is suggesting somehow our aid subsidises the occupation. The solution is an enduring peace process by which a secure Israel can live alongside a viable Palestinian state, so that aid compensation or any kind of financial support is rendered less necessary.”
Another call to end the blockade came from Labour MP Richard Burden: “Fisherman are prevented by the Israeli blockade from fishing more than three miles off shore at the same time as fish can be imported though illegal tunnels, but the indigenous people of Gaza can by and large not afford to buy those fish. Wouldn’t it be better to end the blockade, open the crossings and close the tunnels?”
The minister replied: “Our funding aims to support the creation of an independent viable Palestinian state with a flourishing economy. Our assessment is that over time such a state would become self-sufficient and no longer require aid.”
Alliance MP Naomi Long pressed the minister to take steps to ensure that water is no longer used as a weapon against some of the most vulnerable people in the region.
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