David Cameron has branded Israel’s construction of illegal settlements on occupied Palestinian land as “genuinely shocking”.
The Prime Minister said that though he was a strong supporter of Israel, he had been taken aback by what had seen first hands on visits to the occupied territories in Jerusalem.
“I am well-known as being a strong friend of Israel but I have to say the first time I visited Jerusalem and had a proper tour around that wonderful city and saw what has happened with the effective encirclement of East Jerusalem – occupied East Jerusalem – it is genuinely shocking,” he told MPs in the House of Commons.
“What this government has consistently done and gone on doing is saying yes, we are supporters of Israel, but we do not support illegal settlements, we do not support what is happening in East Jerusalem and it’s very important that this capital city is maintained in the way that it was in the past.”
The Prime Minister had been asked by Labour MP Imran Hussain what the Government was doing “to prevent the infringement into Palestinian lives and land”.
The United Nations and the international community in general regards all of East Jerusalem, including the core Old City, as being part of the Palestinian territories illegally occupied by Israel.
The Israeli government has however approved the construction of homes and facilities in the area – in apparent breach of international law.
A United Nations sponsored conference held in December 2015 accused Israel of practicing ethnic cleansing against Palestinians living in the area.
The official UN press release for the International Conference on the Question of Jerusalem noted that “a policy of ethnic cleansing was pushing Palestinians out of the city”.
“Since Israel's annexation of East Jerusalem in 1967, it had implemented a comprehensive policy to deepen its control over the city by weakening Palestinian presence and ties there,” Shawan Jabarin, the general director of a Ramallah legal center told the conference.
Israeli security forces barricaded Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem late last year amid a series of knife attacks and car-rammings by Palestinians against Israelis.
The attacks took place in the context of clashes and tensions between the two groups. Around 25 Israelis and 149 Palestinians have been killed in the renewed clashes since September.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement that the Israeli occupation had led to “fear, humiliation, frustration and mistrust,” in the city, provoking the attacks.
In January of this year Foreign Office minister Tobias Ellwood condemned the Israeli Government’s decision to commission 450 new settlement homes in the West Bank, at the height of the latest wave of violence.
“We urge the Government of Israel to reverse this decision. It is important to focus on steps that are conducive to peace,” he said in a statement.
Earlier this month Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu commended the British government for its policy of banning public sector ethical boycotts, which would include boycotts of Israeli goods from the occupied territories.
“I want to commend the British government for refusing to discriminate against Israel and Israelis and I commend you for standing up for the one and only true democracy in the Middle East,” Mr Netanyahu in a press conference held to mark the visit of Cabinet Office minister Matthew Hancock to the country.
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