the rate of population growth is much higher than in any other part of thecountry, with an increase of 4.75% per year. The Israeli Government not only condone illegal development but encourage it,providing incentives, subsidies and funding for housing, education andinfrastructure, including special roads and water connections. According to aPeace Now report from 2006, 40% of the land—or 3,400 buildings—on whichsettlements have been built in Area C is privately owned by Palestinians.
Andrew Percy (Brigg and Goole) (Con):
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that,at most, about 5% of the west bank consists of settlements, and most of themare in settlement blocks? Does he not accept that the vast majority of thesettlements are along the peace line and that, to get to peace, land swaps willbe required? Most of those settlements are more than likely to come into Israelanyway.
That does not alter the facts on the ground. Owing to the roadnetworks, the various infrastructure around the settlements and the inability of Palestinians to go into that territory without a permit from the Israeliauthorities, 40% of the land is effectively taken up by the settlements.
Mrs Helen Grant (Maidstone and The Weald) (Con):
I congratulate thehon. Gentleman on securing this important debate. I, too, have recentlyreturned from a visit to the region. Someone remarked that because of theIsraeli settlements the whole of Area C looks similar to a Swiss cheese, which isa very good description. That lack of a contiguous, sustainable two-statesolution in the area is making peace very difficult to achieve.
I agree with the hon. Lady. There are less light words than Swisscheese for what is happening; it is very serious and damaging to any potentialsolution. She is absolutely right.
Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con):
I refer the Chamber to mydeclaration in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests.I take the issue of settlements seriously, but listening closely to the hon.Gentleman, I simply cannot understand his repeated reference to settlementstaking up 40% of the west bank. I have the United Nations “HumanitarianAtlas”, and there is simply no way that the Israeli settlements amount toanywhere near 40% of the west bank. May I ask him to ensure that he isquoting a correct figure?
I stand by the figure. I am not suggesting that 40% is built on; thatis not the issue. I am talking about the area of land that is restricted withregard to Palestinians. It includes the road network. The Swiss cheese effectwas mentioned by the hon. Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Mrs Grant). There are large areas to which the Palestinian community is denied access. That calculation is made, as I said, in a 2006 report by an Israeli human rightsorganisation. I want to make progress now, because the hon. Member forKettering (Mr Hollobone) will have his opportunity to speak later.
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On my visit to the west bank, I saw numerous examples of how the Israeli civilAdministration restrict any kind of development by Palestinians. Around 70% of