UK should impose sanctions on two far-right Israeli ministers, says Ed Davey

<span>Ed Davey returned on Wednesday morning from a visit to Israel.</span><span>Photograph: James Manning/PA</span>
Ed Davey returned on Wednesday morning from a visit to Israel.Photograph: James Manning/PA

The UK should impose sanctions on two far-right Israeli ministers who have pushed for more settlements on Palestinian land, Ed Davey has argued, saying this is vital to stop the fighting in Gaza spreading to the West Bank.

The Liberal Democrat leader, who returned on Wednesday morning from a visit to Israel where he had spoken to charities, politicians and relatives of Israeli hostages held by Hamas, said there was a risk of the prospect of a two-state solution collapsing.

The UK has already joined other nations in imposing sanctions on four Israeli nationals that it called “extremist settlers” who had violently attacked Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Davey said this should be extended to Itamar Ben-Gvir, the national security minister in Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, and Bezalel Smotrich, the finance minister.

Both are far-right hardline settlers who live in the West Bank and who have expressed deeply hostile and at times violent sentiments about Palestinians.

Ben-Gvir has past convictions for supporting terrorism and incitement against Arabs. For many years he had in his home a picture of Baruch Goldstein, an Israeli gunman who killed 29 Palestinians in Hebron in 1994.

Smotrich has argued that Israeli forces should operate a shoot-to-kill policy against Palestinian protesters who throw stones. Last year in a speech in Paris, he said there was “no such thing as a Palestinian nation, there is no Palestinian history, there is no Palestinian language”.

Davey, who held talks with Israel’s centrist opposition leader, the former prime minister Yair Lapid, said he was struck on the visit by the “deep trauma” caused by the massacre of about 1,200 Israelis and the abduction of 250 more by Hamas on 7 October, and by the subsequent Israeli attack on Gaza in which nearly 30,000 people have been killed and the bulk of the population displaced.

In this context, any increase in settlements or violence towards Palestinians around settlements could have dire consequences, he said.

“If it’s not checked very, very quickly, it could lead to an escalation in the West Bank,” he said. “But also, the settlements are a massive barrier to peace and to a two-state solution. I think we’ve got to take some strong action now. I think we’ve got to send the strongest possible signal.

“Because of the trauma there’s a sense the prospects for peace around a two-state solution have been reduced. However, talking to people it becomes ever more clear that a two-state solution is the only way forward.”

During Davey’s visit, which was mainly focused on East Jerusalem, part of the West Bank, he met a series of NGOs, hospital doctors and representatives of the UN. He also visited Re’im kibbutz, the site of the SuperNova rave attack by Hamas on 7 October, where about 360 people were killed.

He met Itzik Horn, whose two adult sons, Eitan and Yair, were among people abducted by Hamas from the Nir Oz kibbutz, where dozens of other people were killed.