I am giving below the full text of the reply to me of 4th June 2009 by the then Minister of State at the Foreign Office. It is similar to many previous replies.
“Thank you for your recent letters about the issues of movement and access in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Palestinian prisoners and humanitarian access to Gaza. You also mention the attacks on UN premises in Gaza.
We share your concern about freedom of movement in the OPTs. As you point out, the continued Israeli regime of roadlocks and checkpoints, and the imposition of curfews, has a severe impact on almost every Palestinian in the OPTs. This restriciton of freedom of movement cannot always be justified on security grounds, and in those cases we have called on Israel to remove their roadblocks and check points. As you know, closures restrict access for medical personnel to those who need their services, they make it difficult for children to travel to school, and they hinder ordinary Palestinians when travelling to work. They create a lot of frustration and resentment. There are instances when Palestinians’ human rights have been violated at checkpoints; we call on Israel to put an end to such violations.
The effect of Israel’s closure regime on the Palestinian economy is indeed devastating. We agree that economic hardship and unemployment contribute to the Palestinians’ sense of frustration and make a comprehensive settlement more difficult to achieve. We have expresed our concerns to the Israeli govenrment on political, legal and humanistarian grounds, and will continue to do so.
The UK also continues to consider Issraeli setttlement building anywhere in the OPTs as not only illegal under international law but also a major impediment to the peace process. This includes settlement in both East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Apart from raising our concerns directly with Israel we are also looking a what practical steps we can take to discourage settlement expansion. As you know, our consistent position has been to support the 2003 Roadmap which is clear that Israel should freeze all settlement activity, including the so-called natural growth of existing settlements, and dismantle all outposts erected since March 2001. We will continue to press the Israeli governemnt, both in public and private, to fulfil the commitments they have made to themselves, the Palestinians and the international community, both in the Roadmap and again at Annapolis.
You raise the issue of Palestinian prisoners. We continue to monitor the situation with regards to all Palestinian prisoners both in Israeli and in Palestinian goals, including through close contact with the International Committee of the Red Cross. Most Palestinian prisoners have been tried by Israeli courts and have the right of appeal. However, we do have concerns about Palestinian prisoners who are being held without charge or trial. All Palestinian prisoners should have access to a fair trial and we call upon Israel to ensure that any actions are in accordance with international law. Let me assure you that we also monitor the treatment of inmates in Palestinian prisons in both the West Bank and Gaza Strip and raise our concerns about allegations of abuse. At that same time we applaud, and encourage, Palestinian Authority efforts to tackle the issue of security in the West Bank as an important Roadmap commitment.
I would like to assure you that the government continues to share your concern over the current humanitarian sitaution in Gaza. You will know that the UK has pledged nearly £50 million to help the people of Gaza. This follows our pledge of December 2007 to provide up to £243 million to assist the Palestinian Authority and people over three years. But pledges alone will not suffice. We are taking acation to prevent the smuggling of arms into Gaza and are urging the Israeli government to ease its restricitons on the crossings into Gaza to allow humanitarian and reconstruction assistance and trade goods in. It is not correct to suggest that we have not tackled the Israeli government directly on this. We have raised this at Ministerial level with the new Israeli government including during the Foreign Secretary’s recent meeting with the Israeli Foreign Minister. It will continue to be an urgent priority.
The UN Secretary-General set up a Board of Inquiry on 12th February to investigate incidents in Gaza affecting the UN. We are deeply concerned by the findings of the Board of Inquiry. The inviolability of UN installations should be universally respected. We understand that the UN Secretary-General will not be calling for a wider investigation. With this in mind, the Foreign Secretary made clear to the UN Security council on 11th May that it is important that Israel investigates each of the incidents cited by the Board of Enquiry.
The primary burden for investigating allegations against its forces rests on Israel itself. There are still some aspect of the Israeli investigations being carried out and we continue to urge the Israeli authorities fully to investigate the allegations made against their forces. Once the outcomes are clear w e will consider the results very carefully and assess whether we judge further action is necessary.”