Yuli Edelstein address at UK Parliament, 2 March 2016


Today, Yuli Edelstein, Speaker of Israel’s Knesset addressed MPs in a meeting hosted by the British Group of the Inter-Parliamentary Union.

This was the question I asked him:

Last year construction of 1,800 new housing units began in Israeli settlements in the West Bank. In the first six weeks of this year, 293 Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem and elsewhere in the West Bank have been destroyed by Israel. This has resulted in over 400 Palestinians losing their homes. That is already more than half the total number displaced in 2015.

In 2014 the scale of Israel’s confiscation of Palestinian lands around Bethlehem near the settlement in which the Speaker of the Knesset lives was described by the Israeli organisation Peace Now as “unprecedented”.

So I have two questions for the Speaker.

First, does he acknowledge that anyone internationally or anywhere else has any rights to say “stop” to Israel, or does he think it is entirely down to Israel’s own discretion about how much it carries on building with impunity?

Second, as Palestinians living in East Jerusalem and elsewhere in the West Bank are not afforded the same rights as Israelis, can I draw the Speaker’s attention to what one of his predecessors as Speaker of the Knesset once said?

Avraham Burg, who was a Knesset Speaker who actually lived in Israel rather than in a settlement in the West Bank, said that, going forward Israel can choose to be a democracy or it can choose continued occupation, but it cannot choose both. He was right was he not?

If I understood his reply correctly, Mr Edelstein said that while he accepted that some believe settlements are a major barrier to peace he does not share that view. He claimed there is already a freeze on settlement expansion and that the only building taking place is to accommodate demographic change.

I am still awaiting answers from Mr Edelstein to the actual questions I asked.

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Richard Burden

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I was Labour Member of Parliament for Birmingham Northfield between 1992 and 2019 and a former Shadow Transport Minister. I now chair Healthwatch in Birmingham and Solihull, and the West Midlands Board of Remembering Srebrenica. I also work as a public affairs consultant. I am an effective community advocate and stakeholder alliance builder with a passion for human rights. I am a trustee of the Balfour Project charity and of Citizens Advice Birmingham, and a former Chair of Medical Aid for Palestinians.

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