§ 5.12 p.m.
§ Lord Chelwood rose to call attention to the situation in the Middle East: and to move for Papers.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper. I warmly welcome this chance to draw attention to the situation in the Middle East, and in particular to the 1191 Arab-Israeli dispute, which has long been a grave threat to world peace. Mr. Haig was surely right last week to describe the long-term implications of that dispute, and the risk that the Islamic revolution in Iran may spread to Arab countries, as very serious indeed. I am glad, my Lords, that this subject is not bedevilled, as so many are, by party politics; but, unfortunately, strongly-held loyalties and sympathies too often lead to "Arabs right or wrong" or "Israel right or wrong" attitudes. I cannot help feeling that this not only makes objective debate difficult but weakens the chances of finding a peaceful settlement—the settlement that we all want.
§ My main object today is not so much to argue the rights and wrongs on either side, but to appeal to the United States to review her past mistakes and failures and to adopt a fresh and more consistent approach. Despite anything that we can do with our European partners in the Community, Israel's very heavy dependence on America means that Washington holds the key to peace.
§ I am highy critical of America's blinkered approach. The illegality of the Israeli annexation and occupation of Arab land, including, of course, East Jerusalem, must be condemned without prevarication. The PLO cannot be airily dismissed as not "representative" of the Palestinian people, of whom there are four million, more than half of them being refugees. On her own admission Israel cancelled the municipal elections on the West Bank because the PLO candidates were going to sweep the board. To say that you will never talk to the PLO because they are "terrorists", as indeed some are, leads nowhere. Israel would not exist today if the Jewish Agency or Haganah had been airily dismissed as "terrorists" because of the activities of the Irgun and the Stern Gang, whose former heads, incidentally, are respectively Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Israel today. In short, under heavy pressure from the Zionist lobby and from Israel itself, America gives Mr. Begin the impression that he can get away with practically anything and suffer no penalties.
§ The unchanging ambitions of the Soviet Union in the Middle East, stemming from the strategic and economic importance of that area, pose a very serious threat indeed, I think, to legitimate Western interests and to Arab independence. Soviet ambitions, though, cannot be frustrated by supporting "Israel right or wrong" or by strategic co-operation with her. This simply forces friendly Arab countries, bitter and disillusioned, to turn reluctantly to Moscow for support. That is how I see it, anyhow. For them, Palestinian rights loom larger than their intense distaste for the Marxist-Leninist system. I think that the West has taken Arab goodwill for granted for too long, and especially that America has.
Previous Administrations in Washington, both Republican and Democratic, have come very close at times to getting their principles and their policies right. There was, for example, the Rogers Plan in 1970, under President Nixon when he was in the White House, which sadly came to nothing. There was the warm welcome right across the party board for the Brooking Report in 1975—an excellent report. There was President Carter's declaration in May 1977 that "the right of the Palestinians to have a homeland" was
among America's "binding policies"—and there I am quoting. In the same year, even more important, there was the joint American-Soviet declaration aimed at reconvening the Geneva Conference, which called for
mutual recognition of the principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity, and political independence by Israel and her Arab neighbours".
Commenting on it, Mr. Arafat, who found it "acceptable" (that was his actual word), also said that
the only possible solution was the existence of Israel and a Palestininan state under the joint guarantee of the Soviet Union and America".
§ That is a quote from the New York Times of 1st May 1978. But, sadly, under intense pressure from the newly-elected Begin Government and at home, America made a U-turn and it all came to nothing.
§ In 1980 America voted for Security Council Resolution 465, a far more comprehensive resolution than the often quoted Resolution 242, which makes no mention of Palestinian self-determination, simply regarding the Palestinians as refugees. But Resolution 465 was carried unanimously in 1980, though, again, sadly, America immediately changed course.
Camp David achieved Israel's praiseworthy withdrawal from occupied Sinai; it achieved peace between Israel and Egypt; but it deliberately fudged the self-determination issue, the issue of Palestinian self-determination. That was why other Arab countries—for example, I am thinking, in particular, of Jordan —and the PLO refused to attend, though I myself think they made a mistake; they could have attended. Nonetheless, the gallant President Sadat knew what he meant by autonomy when he told the Knesset that the Palestinians should have (and I quote) "their own state". Had Mr. Begin, listening that day, forgotten that in 1943, when he was head of the Irgun Zvai Leumi, speaking of Jewish aspirations he said,
rule means real rule, not just autonomy"?
§ I fear he had forgotten. I am afraid I see no future in Camp David without an injection of very new blood; and as for the "Jordanian option", which is so often thrown out as a possible solution, it has always been a mirage and, I think, always will be.
Now we have a new situation which, in my opinion, calls for new initiatives. I see some encouraging signs of fresh thinking in America, and in Israel, too. For example, there is the most interesting report from the Severn Springs Centre, as it is called, signed, among others, by Mr. Philip Klutznik, the President Emeritus of the World Jewish Congress, and by Mr. Harold Saunders, the well-known senior official of the State Department who is a former head of the Middle East Department of the State Department. This report states flatly that,
the Palestine desire for a state of their own must be fairly faced",
and that there is
no hope of peace without PLO involvement".
§ There is, too, the report by Senator Percy, chairman of the very powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, following his recent extensive visit to the Middle East. He found a willingness throughout the Arab countries (and he went to 14 as well as to Israel) to acknowledge Israel's right to exist behind secure and recognised borders, and concluded that 1193 there could be no peace until Israel withdraws from the Arab land occupied in 1967 in exchange for such recognition. I hope and believe—as I am sure most noble Lords do, if not all of us—that these are more than straws in the wind.
§ Other noble Lords will no doubt refer to the grim situation on the West Bank and in Gaza, but I have no time to go into it in detail. One-third of the land (and the best at that) and most of the water has been seized by Israel. The ferocity of the Israeli response to Palestinian civil disobedience is obviously intended to crush the Palestinian spirit and to pre-empt any kind of real autonomy. So it is, too, in the needless degree of force used by Israel against Lebanon, where the presence of some 6,000 United Nations troops for the past four years has not checked the killing of hundreds and the maiming of thousands of men, women and children, only a small proportion of whom can have had any involvement with the PLO at all. This is shocking.
§ While we must condemn absolutely Israel's refusal to comply with United Nations' mandatory resolutions, there are some encouraging signs that influential people in Israel are increasingly critical of their own Government's intransigence. We must understand also the genuine anxiety in Israel about their security, given a peace settlement—four wars in 33 years partly account for that. Incidentally—this is rarely mentioned—a recreated Palestinian state will suffer at least as great anxieties, perhaps more, about their security. It is disappointing that a bigger effort has not been made to explain the principles that would underlie the demilitarisation and policing of the sensitive areas after an Israeli withdrawal. I am thinking particularly of places like the Golan Heights which look down over Israel, an area that I know very well.
§ It is good to know that the European Community is willing to be among the underwriters of a peace settlement based on international guarantees, with the United Nations perhaps playing the leading role. In this context, Israel, I think, should be reminded that unless they succeed somehow in forcing large numbers of Arabs to leave the West Bank and Gaza and if their own population remains static (as it has for the last five years, if not longer) there will be very likely if not certainly, an Arab majority in what Israel calls Eretz Israel in 25 to 30 years. That is based on a recent report from Israeli and American statisticians. How much higher will the price be then than now? I should dearly like an answer to that question. Against this we must set the fact that, according to the World Zionist Organisation, Israel plans to settle another 100,000 Jews in occupied Palestine by 1985 and 1½ million in all—these are their figures—by the year 2010. What are we to make of this?
§ On the Arab side, one welcomes warmly the Fahd plan with its implicit recognition of Israel's right to exist and live in peace with her neighbours. This was made explicit by the Saudi Foreign Minister at a press conference a few weeks after it was launched. I welcome this, not least because it brings Saudi Arabia on to the centre of the stage. We must hope that Riyadh will get strong Arab support for any new proposals that they put forward on the same lines and, in particular, that they get the support of the Palestinians. It is welcome, too, where the Arabs are 1194 are concerned that Egypt seems likely to restore normal relations before long with most of the other countries of the Arab League.
As for the PLO, I pray that they will have the sense to negotiate before there is nothing left to negotiate about. As the Economist asked recently:
Could it be that Palestinian moderation is what Israelis fear?
It might be. The longer the PLO delays, I think, saying that it will respect Israel's sovereignty on condition that Israel recognises Palestinian rights, the less value will that trump card have. I wish that they would understand that. I hope that the PLO will stop attacking civilian targets—which is counterproductive as well as barbaric—and they surely would be wise to amend the Palestine national charter to make it clear that when Article 15 refers to:
the elimination of Zionism in Palestine",
they are deliberately making a distinction between an Israel bent on expansion beyond the pre-1967 cease-fire lines and an Israel wishing to live in peace with her Arab neighbours broadly within that boundary. This would tie up with Article 24 of the charter where the assurance is given that the Palestinians believe in:
the rights of all people to self-determination".
§ May I sum up. I believe that Her Majesty's Government have a major role to play in finding the path to peace. The work of my noble friend Lord Carrington in bringing our Community partners together in the Venice Declaration, is beyond praise. I hope that the European Community will not be afraid to give America a lead. The time is ripe for it. But unless America follows such a lead there can be no hope of peace. Rarely in complex situations such as this do self-interest and moral imperatives point in precisely the same direction. In this case they surely do, as much for America as for the European Community.
§ There must, I think, be a joint, determined and sustained international initiative with the Soviet Union joining in at the appropriate time. The right climate can be created, but a settlement cannot be imposed. Momentum must be kept up or peace efforts will die. That applies, in particular, if I may say so to my noble friend on the front Bench, to the Venice Declaration which has been there for a long time without any new threshing out. The Arabs are beginning to wonder whether we really mean what we say. I am sure that we do.
Arabs and Jews have much more in common than many people realise or admit. They can live side by side peacefully and happily, and that, I am absolutely certain, is just what most of them long to do. For us to wash our hands of their problems would leave Arab and Jew to stumble from one crisis to another with catastrophe at the end, perhaps even on a nuclear scale. I conclude by quoting a few words from a very distinguished Israeli statesman who said to me recently:
Nations and people sometimes take wise decisions—after they have exhausted all other possibilities".
§ Let him be proved right before it is too late.
§ My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.
§ 5.27 p.m.
§ Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos
My Lords, the House will be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Chelwood, for 1195 selecting this important subject for debate. The noble Lord knows the Middle East well and he takes a positive line with which everyone in the House may not necessarily agree, although we must have had sympathy with his final remarks. I approach the subject with humility and with caution, first, because the problems, as the noble Lord showed in his speech, are profound and complex and, secondly, because at the end of the day they must be resolved by the people of the Middle East themselves. The rest of the world is interested and also, to a large extent involved, for economic and historical reasons. I think it right for constructive initiatives to be taken to help towards a settlement; but permanent peace can be made only by the nations of the Middle East themselves. They must be the final arbiters of their destiny.
The three initiatives of recent years—the noble Lord has mentioned them—all had merit. Perhaps for the purposes of clarity I may look at them in chronological order. The Geneva peace talks, which were sponsored by the United Nations, implied the possiblity of a settlement agreed by the great powers acting together and using their enormous economic and military influence to bring pressure to bear on the countries concerned. This conference, which was convened and co-chaired by the USA and the USSR in December 1973, foundered in January 1974 and the talks were suspended sine die. This was a tragedy because a settlement underwritten by the USSR and the USA (as the noble Lord implied) would have guaranteed the best chance of a permanent peace. The USSR stands to gain nothing from instability in this area and they must be realistic enough to appreciate this.
Why, therefore, did the Geneva conference fail and why has it not been reconvened? As the House will know, the answer is that the parties could not agree on the role to be performed by the PLO. In this, as in so much else, finding a place in the jigsaw for the PLO is the continuing problem. The second initiative resulted in the Camp David agreement of September 1978. It was by any standards a substantial achievement; and on this I must disagree with the noble Lord. It can be argued that the difficulties remain, that the second part of the agreement, A Framework for Peace in the Middle East, still seems as far away as ever. But that is to overlook that peace was made between Israel and Egypt and the return of Israeli-occupied Sinai to Egypt last month was an historic event by any standards. Israel made a big territorial sacrifice. She also gained some assurance of peace on her southern borders. It is very much in the interest of both countries that they continue to show an understanding of each other's problems. Mr. Begin should not be unduly put out when President Mubarak seeks to patch up Egypt's differences with certain Arab states. An Egypt with influence in the Arab world is a more valuable friend to Israel than an Egypt cast into the outer darkness. We must not therefore brand Camp David as a failure.
The third initiative was conceived nearer home. The Venice Declaration has come in for a good deal of criticism, in part much the same criticism that was levelled at the Geneva Conference. The EEC leaders started with the UN resolutions (242 and 338) but 1196 modified 242 in a significant way, and this is where the trouble starts again. It states,A just solution must finally be found to the Palestinian problem, which is not simply one of refugees".This taken with the reference in the Declaration to the,legitimate rights of the Palestinian people",andits right to self-determination",has been taken to imply an endorsement of the Palestinian's claim to some kind of recognised homeland, though not necessarily in the form of an independent state. What the EEC leaders did in Venice in fact was to grasp the nettle. They said, in effect, that a mutual recognition by Israel and the Palestinians of each others right to exist in security is essential and a necessary precondition to any hope of a lasting settlement.
As we know, the reactions have been very mixed and the Israeli criticism has been the harshest of all. But I think one of the shrewdest comments came from Crown Prince Hassan of Jordan who wrote in his book, Palestinian Self-determination, that,for the PLO the withholding of recognition of Israel is an essential part of the negotiating process and that they see it as related reciprocally to an Israeli recognition of Palestinian rights".That gets close to the heart of the problem, but those who venture to discuss the implications of this two-way movement are likely to find themselves in deep water, as the EEC leaders quickly discovered.
Were they right to take this initiative? That is a question we in Parliament are entitled to ask, because the Government are involved and Ministers, including the Prime Minister, the then Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary, the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, and other Ministers have been engaged in talks on the Middle East, and there have been meetings between British officials and representatives of the PLO. My personal view is that the Community were right to take an initiative. The alternative is to allow the Middle East conflict to drift along with all its attendant perils; that is, a more serious war, with possible escalation into an engagement involving the great powers, although both are aware of the extreme sensitivity of the position. What is important is that the USA and the USSR should act in the interest of a long-term settlement and not of some short-term advantage.
Therefore, when 10 nations, all with good intention, some with close knowledge of the Middle East and a long association with its countries and with no objective save to help find some acceptable formulae to break the deadlock—for that is what it is—their efforts should be encouraged. This must be preferable to allowing the drift to continue. That is the road to ultimate disaster. It has already brought disaster to that unhappy country, the Lebanon, and it can well spread gradually into other countries creating total instability and ultimate chaos. No one will benefit from this.
One formula suggested is that a settlement without PLO participation should be sought, that is the continuation of the Camp David process moving towards a modus vivendi between Isreal and Jordan, the so-called "Jordanian option". This has its attractions and should not be dismissed out of hand, but there are also obvious dangers inherent in it. For example, a return 1197 to the pre-1967 borders would not help Jordan. The Palestinian Arabs of the East and West Bank have more in common than either group has with Amman. It is hard to believe that Jordan will desire to be associated with the West Bank Arabs. A reborn Trans-Jordan might not be a Hashemite Trans-Jordan for very long.
I have already referred to the possible resumption of the Geneva Peace Conference. There are powerful arguments for this. It would be in pursuance of UN Resolutions 242 and 338. A settlement would be underwritten by the USA and the USSR, and it is arguable that a permanent peace may not be possible without the support of both. Furthermore, there is much common ground between the Venice Declaration and the Geneva Conference. At some stage, if a settlement is to be found which will last, the great powers must agree; but that point has, unhappily, not yet been reached. But the honest brokerage which started in Venice is a valuable contribution to the effort towards peace which must continue.
For, one of the tragedies of a tragic situation is that no sooner does it seem that some significant breakthrough has been achieved than a setback occurs. No sooner has Israel fulfilled its pledge to withdraw from Sinai, than the talk is not of further negotiations, but of war. We hear talk that Israeli Forces will enter Southern Lebanon to wipe out the PLO. I am glad to learn in recent hours that the alert on Israel's northern border has now been called off. It could have the most serious repercussions, not least for Israel herself.
Egypt, in the person of President Mubarak, would be under extreme pressure from within and without to denounce Israel, and the goodwill between the two countries which has been fostered with such patience would be put to severe test. An invasion of Lebanon together with the increasingly strained relations over the West Bank would in all probability destroy that goodwill. That would be a calamity for all the parties concerned and for the world. Nor would an invasion achieve the objective; it would only serve to unite the Arab world and damage Israel's relations with the United States.
It would not destroy the PLO; it would not bring any nearer a solution to the Palestinian problem on which peace in the region ultimately depends. Surely therefore the arguments for restraint and also for seeking to restart the process of building a peace are overwhelmingly powerful. Violent activity by the PLO produces nothing but hostile reaction and continuing bitterness.
Israel has enjoyed great support throughout the world over the years—a support she fully deserved. But the possibilities we hear about—invasion and annexation of the West Bank—cannot help. Israel cannot depend for her survival on force of arms alone—certainly not over the longer term. I fear that she would become increasingly isolated if she depends solely on force of arms. Israel must complement her military capacity with diplomatic skills. That must be the road to peace.
It is interesting that the Community leaders identified the West Bank as the crucial problem to be solved and concentrated their efforts on this and not on Jerusalem or the Golan Heights. This is also where the Camp 1198 David negotiations have ground to a halt, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and this is the chief point of contention between Israel and Egypt. The Israeli fears of a potential Palestinian state here are obvious, and perhaps the Minister would care to comment upon the prospects of some agreement or progress on this critical point. It is probably the core of the problem which keeps the Arab-Israeli dispute alive, and the EEC were perceptive to identify it as the menacing obstacle it is.
Before I conclude, perhaps I should refer briefly to the unhappy war between Iraq and Iran which still drags on, but I realise that time presses on. One hopes that the Minister will have a word to say about this.
I end with two questions. Will the Palestinian Arabs recognise the right to self-determination of the Jewish nation and will Israel recognise the Palestinian Arab's equivalent right? The future of the Middle East depends on the answers to those two questions, and if the great powers can also in due course, under the aegis of the United Nations, guarantee a settlement, then and then only can a permanent peace be created.
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ Lord Byers
My Lords, there is not much in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Chelwood, with which I can agree but I am glad that he put down a Motion which covers the whole of the Middle East and not merely the Arab-Israel relationship. The whole of the Middle East, in my view, is full of explosive situations. No doubt the conflict within the Arab world will be referred to by others, but because we are limited to seven and a half minutes I will not enlarge on them.
The fact is that the Arab countries in the Middle East constitute a massive powder keg, but that their conflicts with one another, I believe, may well be far more dangerous than the Arab-Israeli dispute itself, because, after all, Egypt and Israel are well on the way to peace. But the Arab world today has the largest arsenal of arms and armaments outside the United States and the Soviet Union. The combined armoured strength of the Arab world, excluding Egypt, is about 14,000 tanks. The total number of tanks at the disposal of NATO, I am told, is 17,000. These are massive forces, and the source of much tension in the whole of the Middle East.
However, I shall not labour the point. I want to emphasise, in particular, that the Arab-Israeli relationship is only one problem within this vast area and what I really want to talk about, as the other two speakers have already done—I take an entirely different view—is the relationship of the Venice Declaration to the Camp David accord. I must say quite openly I very much regret that I do not see eye to eye with my own party over this aspect of the Middle East. I am not alone in that. But I think it is important that the views which many of us hold on this aspect of the Middle East should be expressed; and as president of the Liberal Friends of Israel, I feel it right to do so. I respect, of course, the views of those who support the Venice Declaration, but I believe them to be dangerously wrong, and I propose in a few minutes to explain why.
1199 Despite Mrs. Thatcher's assertion on 16th June 1980 that the diplomatic activity of the nine (as it then was) is intended to be complementary to the Camp David process, many of us see it, albeit unintentionally, as an undermining of Camp David, and it worries us very much. It is significant, I think, that the Venice Declaration does not mention Camp David. It is significant also that it caused scepticism and irritation in America.
As your Lordships know, Camp David has two parts: first, the return of the Sinai and its oilfields at very considerable loss to Israel. The traumatic cost is unquantifiable. In material terms, there were eight airfields left in the Sinai and two new ones have had to be built and installed in the Negev. A third is contemplated at great cost. The electronic early warning station on Mount Sinai is now Egyptian, as is the naval base at Ophira—not to mention the 1,000-mile network of good modern roads, power lines and communications. Israel has spent 17 billion dollars on developing the Sinai. Oil production at the rate of 2 million tonnes a year has been given up; and all this was sacrificed for peace, as envisaged under Camp David, Part I, and it has been done on time.
Camp David Part II dealt with Palestinian autonomy in the West Bank and Gaza. This contemplated:a peaceful and orderly transfer of authority",for the West Bank and Gaza. There would be transitional arrangements not exceeding two years. In order to provide full autonomy to the inhabitants, the Israeli military government and its civil administration would be withdrawn as soon as a self-governing authority had been freely elected by the inhabitants of these areas to replace the existing military government. They would then be well on the way to some form of autonomy.
That, I believe, is a clear concept; but Camp David did not stop there. It contemplated that Israel, Egypt and Jordan would agree the modalities of establishing the elected self-governing authority, and this, I believe, is what we should be supporting now, instead of blurring the process by the creation of the Venice Declaration, no matter how well intended. In setting up the political structure, it provided that the delegations of Egypt and Jordan may include Palestinians, "as mutually agreed". The five-year period begins when the self-governing authority in the West Bank and Gaza is established. It was further agreed that not later than the third year of the transitional agreement negotiations would take place to determine the final status of the area. From this it can be seen that what was described as the Camp David process is a long one, requiring much patience and compromise. It could be seriously diverted and delayed by such initiatives as that from Venice, which imported into the process three factors which are known to be complete anathema to Israel. The first was self-determination, quite clearly leading to the creation of a hostile independent state, if it is run by the PLO, on Israel's border. That is a recipe for aggression of we are not very careful.
Second was the recognition of the PLO as a precondition to negotiations. Thirdly, there was the flimsy guarantee for Israel of a United Nations force or guarantee which, as we have seen, has been totally ineffective in the past. I say this with great regret, but the United Nations is not the organisation that we set 1200 out to create in 1945 and 1946. We have ourselves seen only recently the weakness of the United Nations when it comes to the test. That is not an option which is going to appeal to Israel, particularly with 14,000 potentially hostile tanks in the whole of the Middle East.
I believe that it is not intervention by Europe that is needed—it is the reactiviation of the Camp David process on autonomy by the United States with Egypt, Israel and, hopefully, with Jordan being brought into the negotiations, as was originally envisaged. These are the areas, I believe, where initiatives are required within the Camp David structure.
§ 5.46 p.m.
The Earl of Oxford and Asquith
My Lords, in addressing your Lordships for the first time early in the debate but so late in life, I am very conscious of the convention that a maiden speech should not be controversial. I am equally conscious that the subject of this debate makes it no easy task for, although the situation in the Middle East has many facets, not all of them controversial, the problem of Palestine so pervades and bedevils that situation that it would be unrealistic not to focus attention on it. And Palestine is a problem on which opinions are deeply divided and feelings may run high. We have seen that already this evening even in the few speeches we have heard.
My own opinions about it, I must confess, are strongly held. Indeed, it is this fact which has led me to break my long habit of silence when attending your Lordships' debates. In deference to the convention, I am bound to leave unsaid much that I might have wished to say. I must ask your Lordships' indulgence in case, through inexperience or ill-judgment, I do say anything which I should more properly have left for a future occasion. It is certainly not my intention to be provocative.
Like the noble Lord, Lord Caradon, I was privileged as a young man to serve for several years in the mandatory government of Palestine—an administration with an honourable record, which brought great benefit to the land in the face of political difficulties not of its own making. I left Palestine on the last day of the Mandate in 1948—left it to anarchy, which led foreseeably to civil war, which in the broad sense has continued intermittently ever since.
Many of us at the time thought it wrong to have relinquished our responsibilities in the way we did and to relinquish them when the consequences were so foreseeable. Much that has happened since was not foreseeable, and certainly was not our fault. Nevertheless, I would plead that when considering what they might do to promote a just and peaceful settlement, the Government should remember that some, at least, of the problems which now beset the Middle East are the consequences, however indirectly, of what our country did or failed to do when we were the responsible power, and that with this in mind they should address the problem with greater urgency than they might otherwise have done.
So far, it must be admitted that we have played a rather muted part and have been content for many years to leave the initiative to the Americans. If I may venture an assessment which I hope is not too controversial, I would say that America's Middle 1201 Eastern policies have not so far been an unqualified success. Shuttle diplomacy, by Dr. Philip Habib and others, has no doubt staved off some immediate crises, but the more fundamental questions affecting Palestine have remained unresolved, and as long as this is so it is difficult to envisage any stability for the Middle East. Against this background, the so-called European initiative, in which the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, played so prominent a part, seemed to offer a bright ray of hope. It has been flickering very weakly of late. But I note, from answers given recently by the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, that it is by no means to be regarded as extinguished.
I have recently returned from the Middle East, where I took part in a delegation of European parliamentarians visiting the Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Iraq. It was an interesting but, in many ways, a depressing visit—depressing not only because of the devastation and disunity which we found within the Lebanon, but because of the pessimism which we found on all sides about the prospects of Middle Eastern peace. We spoke with leading politicians, in all those countries, and although at the time of the Venice declaration some of them may have given it a tepid welcome, we were struck by the hopes for peace which had evidently been reposed in it, and the consequent disappointment that the European role had not been more actively pursued. Europe is thought, rightly or wrongly, to be so bound to American policies that there was now a serious likelihood of a drift towards Russia and greater reliance on Russian help. I know that we have heard all this about Russia before, and some may dismiss it as a case of crying wolf. There is a possibility, I fear, that this wolf may, sooner or later, turn into a bear.
Because of our talks with the political leaders, we naturally sought their views on the chances of a revival of Prince Fahd's plan, or of something on those lines. The plan is certainly not dead and the three-point plan put forward more recently by Syria bears an interesting resemblance to it. In any strict sense of the word, neither of these is, of course, a plan, but rather a framework within which future discussions might he held. Both, however, seem to offer the possibility that within these frameworks Arab recognition of the State of Israel within its pre-1967 frontiers might be negotiated. This, as many would agree, is a great step forward and could remove what has been regarded as one of the major obstacles in the path of peace. I believe that, in consultation with our European allies and with the Americans, we should now seek some way to fasten on to this opportunity and to build on it.
Of course, it is the Arabs themselves who must offer us a reasonable chance of doing so. As your Lordships well know, Arab rivalries may make it difficult for them to get very far without some degree of outside participation. Whether we look at these things in terms of Western interests or in terms of human sufferings, I believe that the present situation is so grave that it would be a mistake to regard Arab disunity as a reason for doing nothing. I believe that European diplomacy could have a vital part to play, and that its contribution should be made before any further explosion in the Middle East may lessen the chances of its efficacy.
§ 5.55 p.m.
§ Lord Kennet
My Lords, it is my duty and pleasure to speak first after the maiden speech of the noble Earl, Lord Oxford and Asquith, and to congratulate him, as I am sure your Lordships will, on the fact that, though the subject matter was indeed contentious, his own delivery and style and the content of his speech were of exemplary moderation. I think that the House will join with me in hoping that we shall hear from him often again on this subject and on others, both wider and narrower.
It is a bitter paradox that the Middle East, which is perhaps the part of the world least familiar with that human institution "the frontier", should now be the part of the world where the frontiers are giving rise to the greatest trouble and bloodshed, and the menace of continued bloodshed. If we remember that, from the Middle Ages until the end of the Turkish Empire, large tracts of it had no frontier at all, and if we remember that the cultures which grew up there were especially adapted to a world of mutual inter-penetration, where it was perfectly normal to find one village with one religion, the next village with another religion, a third village belonging to a different sect within the second religion and a fourth village consisting of persons of a totally different origin and culture and adhering to no perceptible religion at all, and that, meanwhile, caravans were crossing, each speaking different languages and crossing not only in the desert zones but also in the fertile zones, with perfect freedom among those settlements, we realise that it is not very surprising that these peoples have had difficulty in adjusting to such a rigid thing as a frontier in only 60 years, or whatever it is, since they were universally introduced.
They will have to keep continuing to adjust. There is no possibility of going back. One hopes, indeed, that this is particularly clear to the governments of Iran and Iraq, where, once again, the frontier is in violent motion; that Iraq will understand as best it can under its present government, or under a new one if the people there choose to change, the intrinsic explosiveness and thrust of resurgent Islam in its neighbour, and that Iraq may be among those Arab countries which will try to handle and to work out other forms of Islamic revival, if that is the wish of the people, which are less horribly unjust than the Iranian form has turned out to be in internal affairs, and less explosive towards its neighbours. Iran, we hope, will remember, in its turn, that it already has Arabic Khuzestan within its generally recognised frontier, which ought to be enough trouble for it, and will not go seeking any more.
The interest of Western Europe in the Middle East is, of course, as near an eternal interest as you can find in world politics. For quite a long time, the Arabs governed some of the Western European countries. After that, some of the Western European countries governed the Arabs for quite a long time. There is an historic inter-penetration there which, as is natural, given the trade links and the cultural links, gives Western Europe a special human and political interest in that part of the world which is not shared, and cannot be shared, by other powers to the West of the Middle East, except indeed the Maghreb as an extension of the Islamic world. The last bit of governing of the Arabs 1203 that was done by Western Europe was the British mandate in Palestine and the French in Lebanon and Syria—very recent, indeed.
If we look now at the relative interests of Western Europe and the United States in Middle Eastern oil—this is something which we should do and which we do not do enough—we find that Western Europe has twice the degree of dependency on imported oil that the United States has, and we find that the consumption of oil per caput in the United States is twice as high as it is in Western Europe. Therefore, the West European interest in Middle Eastern oil, by a simple sum, shows up as four times the United States interest. This is not to say that the United States does not have valid and worthy political and economic interests in the Middle East. Of course they do. But they are secondary to ours.
It is in this light that I should like to look for a moment at those twin institutions, as they are becoming now—the Camp David process and the Venice Declaration. In my opinion, the Camp David process has been almost a miraculous success—a quite outstanding success. However, it cannot go further than those matters which can be agreed between Israel and Egypt, with American help. That is very far. It cannot hope to settle the whole Arab-Israeli quarrel by itself, if only because not all the Palestinians live in Egypt. That is very far from the case. Not all the originally Palestinian Arabs who do not live in Israel live in Egypt. If that were the case, Camp David would be a sufficient vehicle for further progress. It is that which forces us to look at the Venice Declaration, combined with the natural European interests which I outlined a moment ago.
The way forward can be phrased in so many ways. It is not for us to find the way forward. We are only standing on the sidelines. Our interest is peace. Our wish and our sentiment is peace and cannot be anything else. We are outsiders. We do not suffer from any of the burdens, political and warlike, which are suffered by so many, though not all, of the Middle Eastern states at the moment. The best we can do is to be there and to be as helpful as we can, basing ourselves on our historic experience and on an enlightened view of what is at present our economic interest. In order to do that, I believe we should give equal play—they do not conflict—to the Venice Declaration and to the Camp David process. We should speak and think in a friendly way of both.
§ 6.3 p.m.
§ Baroness Gaitskell
My Lords, I have enjoyed every single speech which has been made today. This is a subject which enthralls me. I wish to make only a few points, because I have not had time to collect all my information and all my thoughts.
First, I want to touch on some of the myths which surround some countries, in particular Israel and the Palestinians. On the Palestinian problem and the European role, I find myself mostly in agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Byers, which is not unusual for me, though I have not heard him speak very much recently. Nobody mentioned oil in connection with the Palestinian problem and Europe except the noble Lord, Lord Kennet. It is as though oil did not make any 1204 difference to Europe's attitude to the problems of the Middle East. It made an enormous difference. Europe could not stand aside and let the Palestinians or the Israelis do everything that they wanted to do. Europe was far too worried about its oil position.
I believe that the Camp David agreement of 1978 which President Sadat put forward is a miracle. I had been in the United Nations for about 20 years. Right at the end of that time the Camp David agreement was put forward. Not many countries are ready to take a risk for peace. I said to the Egyptian next to whom I had sat for four years in the United Nations, "Is this not a miracle which has happened?" He said, "No". I was rather cross and said, "Do not talk as though you don't want it to succeed". He replied, "No, it isn't that, but I don't think that Israel will take a risk for peace". But it has happened. Israel has taken a great risk for peace. Indeed, Israel could not have taken a much bigger risk for peace.
Various myths surround these countries. People speak as though Israel had the largest number of arms in the world and as though Israel had millions of trained people in the army. This is definitely not true. It is a question of thousands against millions of Arab trained men.
Turning to the Venice Declaration, this was all very fine, but few people noticed that it was in Europe's interest. The oil made a great deal of difference to their attitude. The prospect of oil not coming to them freely, and continuing to come, influenced their thinking. We cannot kid ourselves that it did not make any difference.
I wish to congratulate the noble Earl, Lord Oxford and Asquith, on his maiden speech, which I found very interesting. The Israelis gave away Sinai. That was a real sacrifice. They went further, though this was hardly noticed except by the noble Lord, Lord Byers, who pointed out that the Israelis had given full autonomy to the Arabs in Judea, Samaria and Gaza. Until today this has hardly been noticed, let alone welcomed. It has certainly not been welcomed with open arms.
I was very interested in the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Chelwood. I shall have a small apology to make to him at the end of mine. Lord Chelwood thinks that the Americans are the people who will iron out all the problems in the Middle East. I am not so sure about that. I am not so sure that it is going to be left to them. Having thought about the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Chelwood, may I ask him whether he would sit down and talk with the IRA? The Palestinians have got a homeland. Camp David fudged the self-determination question and people approached the Venice Declaration with extraordinary naivety. The Europeans were not thinking just about Israel or the Middle East. They were thinking a great deal about themselves and the oil which they might lose.
I come now to the apology which I have to make to the House and to the noble Lord the Minister. On 6th April we had a discussion about the Middle East in which I pointed to some of the shocking things—horrific things—which the PLO had done. I said that it was in their covenant. I apologise to the House. I had the information in front of me, but I had forgotten that it was not in the covenant. I did not have the PLO covenant then. I had not seen it. I have it now.
1205 Anybody can get a copy of it now from the Labour Friends of Israel. Very useful it is too, because we now begin to know what we are talking about. As I said, the information was not in the covenant, but it was in about four of Arafat's main speeches. I feel that I have done my duty and I shall sit down.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ Baroness Elliot of Harwood
My Lords, I am delighted to take part in this debate. It is somewhat of an historic moment for me because I should like to congratulate the noble Earl, Lord Oxford and Asquith, with whom I have an association which goes back to his grandfather, who was in fact my brother-in-law. It is very interesting that we should be able to meet in the House of Lords during a debate of this kind. I did not know that he was going to speak, and I suppose that he did not know that I was going to speak either. I should like to congratulate him very much indeed, although I do not agree with everything that he said because, as the noble Lord, Lord Chelwood, said, those of us who are interested in the Middle East are generally interested because we feel strongly on one side or the other.
I agree with all that was said by the noble Lord, Lord Byers, and so I declare my interests, which are those of the state of Israel. On the other hand, no one has any particular quarrel with any of the Arab states. But they are always quarrelling with each other, and it is very difficult for Israel to exist in the Middle East as one small state surrounded by 14 Arab states, many of which are permanently or almost permanently at war with each other. What I do sometimes object to when I see the propaganda is that Israel, it seems, is so often given as one of the reasons why quarrelling goes on between the Arab states; it is put down to the fact that they are all deeply opposed to the state of Israel. But since Israel has no presence of any kind in any of those states, there is no reason why the blame should be almost permanently put upon Israel.
On the other side, the Israelis, as the noble Lord, Lord Byers, has said, have fulfilled their promise, which they made at Camp David. I so agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Gaitskell, when she said what a miracle that was. The Israelis have evacuated Sinai and the enormous development which they undertook there at a cost of millions of dollars. All this has gone to Egypt with the signing of the treaty and the policy agreed at Camp David. I think it is the turn of the Arab states to leave Israel to live in peace, surrounded as she is by hostile Arab states. But this has not happened, and there is continual pressure on Israel to give up more and more.
Here is a state only the size of Wales in which the skill and the hard work of the Jewish people has brought about miracles in land development, in scientific development (think of the great value of the Weizmann Institute) and in giving opportunities for Jewish refugees still under persecution in the USSR and other countries to come and live in freedom and in a democracy. Do not let us forget that in the Middle East, Israel is the one democratic state. There is very little democracy in any of the Arab states.
I am not in favour of a PLO state on the West Bank. Which nation would agree to allow avowed enemies, pledged to destroy that nation, to have land in the 1206 middle of its own territory? When I went to Israel before the Yom Kippur War, and after, two or three times, I saw how in many parts of Israel the Arabs and the Israelis lived happily together, with the Arabs having enormous opportunities which they would not have if it were not for the fact that Israel is in many ways such an advanced country. The PLO are continually stirring up disagreement and trying to subvert municipalities, and this seems to be getting worse rather than better when we all hoped that the results of Camp David would be reflected in other ways. Alas!, those hopes have not been fulfilled.
I believe that Israel has every right to keep law and order, otherwise chaos in towns and villages would bring disaster to the civilian populations in those countries. The problems of Lebanon are made more difficult by the actions of the PLO. In July 1981, Israel agreed to the proposals of the US special envoy to end hostilities on the Israel-Lebanon border—provided that the PLO and the other Arab states would agree and cease their hostilities. This did not happen. Lebanon today is still struggling to keep independent and is surrounded by hostile forces. This is where the trouble lies, and no one would expect Israel to stand by and do nothing to protect her frontiers.
Peace in the Middle East rests as much on the Arab states living at peace with each other, and recognising the state of Israel, as on anything else. Israel is as determined and anxious for peace as any country. If the PLO continue to stir up trouble in any neighbouring country as well as in Israel, then peace will be hard to achieve. The autonomy talks, the second of the proposals from Camp David, have been frustrated by the Arabs in the West Bank and Gaza who were invited to join in talks due to begin quite shortly after the Camp David agreement—talks to determine the final status of the West Bank and Gaza and their relationship with their neighbours. I understand that, so far, these talks have met with no response. Those of us who support Israel in the Middle East still hope that the Camp David spirit may revive, but in the meantime the Israelis must have the right to protect their country and to live in peace.
§ 6.16 p.m.
§ Lord Segal
My Lords, I too would like to congratulate the noble Earl, Lord Oxford and Asquith, on his maiden speech, for which we have had to wait quite a long time. I should also like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Chelwood, for initiating this debate. This debate is obviously opportune, for the more often and more fully the Middle East is discussed, the more hope there is for both sides to learn to understand one another and to learn ultimately to live peacefully together.
The Lebanese border was a border of peace until the PLO came there after they had been expelled from Jordan in that notorious "black November", and the sooner will it become a border of peace again once the PLO withdraws from it. The Venice Declaration did no good in singling out the PLO for special mention. It did not help the PLO, and only proved counterproductive, for it strengthened the hardliners in Israel on the eve of the Knesset elections and induced them to vote Mr. Begin back into power for possibly another four years. If he were to declare a general election now, he would undoubtedly be voted back with an 1207 even bigger majority. Indeed, the Venice Declaration may have precipitated the blowing up of the Baghdad nuclear reactor and the bombing of Beirut. With the gift of hindsight, we can only say that it yielded no positive result for the PLO. What is the situation today?
The Arab League is somewhat in disarray with Khorramshahr safely in Iranian hands with Syria as its ally, and with the Iraqis sadly driven back with their own allies Jordan, Saudi Arabia and all the Gulf States heavily committed to the losing Arab side. Today the Arab League is split down the middle and Arab unity—if it ever existed—is as far off as ever. Consequently, the PLO is in the doldrums, for its Arab's sponsors have troubles of their own. The cause of the Palestinians, nevertheless, still remains, and if only the PLO, which has reason to be grateful for a continuation of the cease-fire, would drop its terrorists policy, some peaceful accommodation might be reached to enable the Palestinians to achieve the fullest degree of autonomy.
Meanwhile, the great figure working for peace in the Middle East, President Sadat, has been removed from the scene, murdered by his own extremists. It is a sad commentary on assassination as an instrument of policy among the Arab states. I was with him in April of last year, at Lord Carrington's suggestion, two months before the Israeli elections. The British Ambassador to Cairo came with me. Then President Sadat expressed the hope of paying a second visit to the Knesset after the elections of 30th June were over.
I am sure that, had his life been spared, his second visit to the Knesset would already have taken place, and after the complete Israeli withdrawal from Sinai a lasting peace between the two great antagonists would have been cemented. For President Sadat passionately believed in peace as an end in itself. It was that belief that led him to Jerusalem in 1977 on his famous flight to the Knesset, an event unique in this century, if not unique in the whole of history. For he realised that the nearer Cairo comes to Jerusalem the greater would be the hope of peace in the Middle East. Never was that belief more true than it is today.
§ 6.22 p.m.
§ Lord Caradon
My Lords, I would wish first of all to congratulate, if I may, the noble Earl, who as a young man served, as I did, in the area of which we speak, We had no hand in making high policy in those days; nor have we now. But we did together in times of difficulty and danger risk our lives on behalf of all the inhabitants of the territories which at the time the mandated Government was administering. I am very happy to hear his very remarkable speech here this evening, and I believe that we all feel a sense of congratulation towards him.
Uppermost in our minds at this time, obviously, is the problem of the events that we read about and study day by day and hour by hour. I would just like to say this about those events. I hope that they will not lead us to weaken, certainly not to abandon, the processes of peace, the methods of peace. On the contrary, I believe that what has happened has made it all the more necessary for us to strengthen and support them. Indeed, as we see what is going on at the 1208 moment, surely we must all feel that there must be a better way of dealing with the disputes of the world.
As I turn from the Atlantic to Arabia, I would say one other thing, if I may. I had the pleasure and privilege of working for a number of years with our present representative at the United Nations, Sir Anthony Parsons. I met him when I was in New York recently, and I appreciate and understand his difficulties at this time. Having been in the same position that he now occupies, I would like to say how fortunate I feel our country is that we have representing us at this difficult time a man so fair-minded, so good humoured and so straightforward. I believe that the presence of Sir Anthony Parsons at this time in the United Nations is something for which we can be grateful.
I turn then to the subject of our debate. I feel, as many of us must feel, that it is unsatisfactory, if I may use such an unsatisfactory word, to debate matters of this kind when we have no opportunity of going back over the statements that have been made; we have no time to consider the matters carefully; we must select at random one or two matters on which we feel deeply, and watch the clock as we do so. I would like to say that of all the questions that we are discussing there is one which has scarcely been mentioned this evening which seems to me to be at the heart of the whole matter. It is the future of Jerusalem.
Here we have a situation in which Jerusalem, the whole of Arab Jerusalem, Palestinian Jerusalem, has been totally annexed, with no suggestion that there should be any change. This is a matter which to every Arab, every Moslem, in the world is of major significance. It was to President Sadat, most certainly, who said there could never he peace if there was going to be a permanent hold on Jerusalem by the Israelis. It is the same attitude of President Mubarak at this time. One cannot neglect a matter of this consequence, refuse to discuss it, even when it is the central matter of the greatest concern to both sides. I brought with me some quotations from people whom I greatly respect; from Mayor Teddy Kollek of Jerusalem, who spoke with such feeling and has indeed made such a contribution to the welfare and the beauty of the Old City of Jerusalem; and from Abba Eban, with whom I have worked closely in the past, who expressed the strength of his feelings. On the other hand, there is no Arab, no Moslem, Sadat, Mubarak or anyone else, who has not intense feeling on this matter, that their capital has been taken from them. Until we are ready to give our minds to a matter of that kind and to discuss it, then surely our debate is dealing with matters of much lesser importance.
I do not forget that 14 years ago we passed a unanimous resolution in the Security Council of the United Nations. We started off by stating the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war. We went on to call for a withdrawal of troops from occupied territories. These are phrases which have something of a ring in them, have they not? But what has happened since then. The resolution has been defied. We have drifted; we have delayed. The decision that the area should be left free from occupying troops has not been respected. Now we find a situation in which the territories concerned are occupied, and occupied not just temporarily, but permanently; 1209 practically 100 settlements have been established and the whole City of Jerusalem annexed, not merely occupied. So here we have a problem of intense difficulty, which is not even mentioned in the debate in this House. It seems to me an extraordinary fact.
I do not underestimate the intensity of feeling on both sides. I believe, however, there is a solution. It would be possible to have an Arab Jerusalem, an Israeli Jerusalem, and no barriers between them, with freedom of movement one way and the other, and freedom of access to the holy sites for everyone in the world. This is what we should be talking about, of the possibility of a settlement that brings people together. You will never get peace as long as one side is dominating the other by military pressure. I came back from Jerusalem the other day. It is 50 years since I went to Jerusalem. I have never felt that there was an attitude so bad, a danger so great, a worldwide danger so great as we see in the Middle East now, arising principally from this central dispute over the future of the Holy City. I saw it from every side. It was described by a correspondent from America who was there at that time as "brutalisation". That word stuck in my mind.
I shall not go further into this matter this evening, but I would urge that we give our minds to the possibility of finding, by international action, an answer to the problem which otherwise may divide and destroy everyone concerned even in the widest international aspect.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Lord Weidenfeld
My Lords, what I have found so remarkable in this debate so far is that nearly all contributions, even those with which one might find oneself at variance as regards argument and reasoning, contained elements that were constructive, helpful and even hopeful. I refer especially to the maiden speech of the noble Earl, Lord Oxford and Asquith. I congratulate him and hope that he will enlighten us more frequently in the future.
I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Byers, that the Arab-Israeli conflict, however important and pivotal it may be, must be seen in the context of other equally important issues and conflicts in the Middle East and must not allow us to derange our priorities or throttle our initiatives. The Iran/Iraq conflict is of paramount importance. The tremors of ascendant Moslem fundamentalism will be felt not only throughout the whole Arab world but wherever Moslems live—from Pakistan and the Islamic parts of Soviet Russia to Indonesia. The humbling of Iraq may please official Syria, but underneath the rift is wide. The recent Massacres at Hama at the hands of President Assad and his brother's civil guards has probably cost the lives of more victims than the three Syrian wars with Israel. And as the Lebanese tragedy persists, there, too, Arabs are killing more Arabs week by week than Arabs or Jews kill each other in overt or in covert fued.
If in this perspective the West Bank and Gaza are the scene of tragic strife, the causes are not quite as simple as they tend to be described in stereotype accounts. They are not just due to the frustrations of progress in the autonomy talks, the intransigence of all parties, provocations and transgressions, but at the very root is the consistent and continuing refusal of the 1210 Arab world to recognise the reality of Israel and make a genuine effort to establish peace. The only exception is Egypt, the only veritable power in the Arab world. And the only framework for a just settlement is, with all its faults, all its ambiguities, open-endedness and sluggishness, the peace process of Camp David.
It should be Britain's and Europe's primary task to endorse Camp David, and to build on it. The first part of the accord has been fully implemented. The second part is late in starting, but it could and it must be brought under way, and it should be our duty to use all our diplomatic resources and powers of persuasion to restore the confidence of the negotiators to bring other Arab States in, and to make them use their influence with Arab Palestine's local representative leaders without their having to fear retribution from extremists.
We must support President Mubarak's Egypt. Egypt's return to the Arab fold without conceding to the detractors of Camp David can only serve the cause of peace. Egypt's return to the Arab fold at the expense of Camp David could be a calamity for peace. We must support America and not hustle her by a false sense of hectic urgency, nor try to alienate her from an old ally and tilt her towards a movement of radicals whose whole inner outlook and worldwide allegiances are anathema to the American people. There is much ignorance abroad about the depth of America's commitment to Israel which is not. as many think, just due to electoral opportunism or the nimble footwork of the legendary Jewish lobby. No, there is a deep perception in America that Americans can trust the Israelis in the hour of need, and that Israel is perhaps the only country between Italy and Japan where democracy holds the sway and courts of law mete out justice if need be in defiance of the Government of the day.
Of course, there is much to be criticised in Israel's current policies, but there is also a strong Israeli opposition criticising and opposing these policies, as benefits a real democracy. But one-sided attacks from outside will only rally a people around a stubborn Government. In fairness, Prime Minister Begin has proved—and that, my Lords, is crucial—that he will respond to friendliness and peaceful intent. When President Sadat appeared before the Knesset of his own free will he was listened to with emotion and respect while reasserting every item on the list of Arab claims. Prime Minister Begin agreed the surrender of all Egyptian lands and delivered them for the price of formal peace.
The refusal of Palestinians to sit down to slow and arduous negotiations, the blunt refusal of the Arab states to encourage them, only widens the gulf, enlarges the vacuum and creates a breeding ground for extremist policies. The Venice Declaration, the European initiative of yesteryear, the push towards legitimising the PLO, have hindered, not helped, the peace process and among other side effects brought British-Israel relations to their most brittle state.
It is only fair here to pay due tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, and to say that his last act of statemanship which inevitably became submerged in the dramatic events leading to his resignation, was his fence-mending visit to Jerusalem. By all reliable accounts his visit and his frank and friendly talks with 1211 Mr. Begin were most successful. They cleared the air and, while important differences may still remain, he did a great deal to reforge old friendly ties.
One of the ground rules for all concerned must be to avoid pre-empting the outcome of Camp David by putting in the maximum bid today. Every time we say or hint or support someone else's claim that we are for a Palestinian state on the West Bank, we are pre-empting the Camp David accord where it is explicitly laid down that only after an interim period of five years should the parties decide on the ultimate status of the area. Consequently, when Mr. Begin on the morrow of his agonising experience of evicting his own settlers from Yamit, claims ultimate sovereignty for the West Bank, he is no more or no less liable to criticism than anybody else who calls for the establishment of a Palestinian state.
Jordan is the obvious natural partner to a meaningful negotiation. The King of Jordan reigns on Palestinian Arab soil and rules over Palestinian-Arab citizens, for his country and his people are part of that historic Palestine mandated after the First World War to Britain by the League of Nations. The King of Jordan, whatever might have been said to him at Rabat or since, still pays the wages and pensions of Arab civil servants on the West Bank, of teachers and judges. Without him, I personally believe there never will be peace. With him, I equally believe that the chances of compromise, military and territorial, are more than even. It may be said that it will be difficult, perhaps impossible, to make the King comply, but then I can assure your Lordships that it is much more difficult to impose the PLO as a valid interlocutor on the entire national consensus of Israel than to persuade the King of Jordan to enter the conference chamber and to resume his historic role.
The role of the Saudis is crucial. But, frankly, Prince Fahd's plan is far from adequate to serve as a sound basis. It sets out with apodictic firmness specific claims of their own side, and without even dignifying the other side by name treats its vital concerns with oracular obliqueness. If the Saudis were prepared to go out for real peace and not equivocate, they could indeed play a key role.
Let me conclude on a more optimistic note. Britain and Europe, beyond supporting the peace process of Camp David, have one most important and even noble role to play, one which transcends ephemeral politics and one which truly reflects the spirit of European humanism. It is to give the peoples in the area a direct signal that there is a feeling of care and concern about what could be the outcome of a settlement and the fruits of peace. It is the European spirit of Jean Monnet that is wanted today in the Middle East. For underneath all rhetoric and posturing, nationalistic as well as religious passion, there lies fear, insecurity, plain despair about the future. When Jean Monnet first talked about uniting Europe, creating bonds of interlocking interest for individuals and families as well as nations, he was met with incredulity and derision. But he persevered.
I think that Europe should commit itself to the material and moral participation and, in common with the United States, the underwriting of prosperity as well as security. They should spell out what can 1212 be done for the people on the ground if only they could come to terms. There are some weighty voices in Holland, France and Germany who have spoken in this vein. In more muted tones, individual Egyptians, Saudis, Lebanese and other Arabs and Israelis have spoken similarly. There could be a wide response; there could even be a groundswell. Why cannot we in Britain make this vision—this tempting vision—a genuine policy objective and turn it into a real new European initiative for lasting peace in the Middle East?
§ 6.40 p.m.
§ Lord Shinwell
My Lords, this casual, irrelevant and somewhat unrealistic debate, as I shall seek to demonstrate in the course of my few future observations, was relieved by a remarkable maiden speech by the noble Earl, Lord Oxford and Asquith. It was a speech which I enjoyed, not that I was in complete agreement with him. On the contrary, I was not. But I shall not enter into any argument with him on this occasion. My enjoyment derived from his presence, which reminded me of his grandfather in 1922, when I became a Member of another place and listened to the dignified, eloquent oration of Mr. Asquith. On frequent occasions following his oration I ventured to ask a few questions, most of which he disliked intensely. Anyhow, the noble Earl has made his maiden speech, and a right good speech it was; it was statesmanlike, although perhaps a bit cautious because of the time available to him; nevertheless, it was well worth hearing. We want him to speak again.
What is the unanimous desire of those who have taken part in this debate?—apart, that is, from the person who initiated the debate, who appears to have absented himself—
§ Lord Shinwell
My Lords, I thought that the noble Lord was hiding himself. He is present. The noble Lord's speeches, when he is engaged in discussing the Middle East, usually consist of giving the state of Israel a good kick in the teeth. What was he doing this afternoon? What was his purpose—to condemn Israel, and to condemn and criticise the United States of America for supporting Israel? He was actually suggesting that this arrangement—this financial, political, but not military arrangement—between the United States of America and Israel had created a situation in the Middle East which played right into the hands of the Soviet Union.
Let us deal with that situation. First, I come to peace. Iran and Iraq?—peace? You call it peace? Syria and Jordan—they hate each others guts. Iraq—which country in the Arabian set-up likes Iraq? Not even the PLO. As for the PLO, it is a collection of refugees who find themselves without much actual support, despite the fact that Saudi Arabia and other Arab states—probably the wealthiest in the whole world —treat the impoverished Palestinians with contempt and leave them in dire poverty. Peace in the Arab world, in the Middle East? Who is responsible? Is it suggested that if Israel was destroyed within the next few months or seriously weakened and was forced to return some of the occupied territories, as they are 1213 described, there would be peace in the Middle East? Of course not. Peace can only come about in the Middle East when the Arab countries themselves collaborate on some agreed propositions which are beneficial to each one of them. Does anyone here really believe that that is a possibility in the foreseeable future?
I listened to the noble Lord, Lord Caradon, who is an expert on international problems. But all the resolutions passed by the United Nations, and previously by the League of Nations, have had little or no effect. Past resolutions have never been implemented. That is the situation. I wish that those who have taken part in this debate had studied the history of the Middle East. I should like to suggest a book that they might read—the English translation of the Old Testament. They will discover that the situation in which Israel finds itself today has existed over a period of 4,000 or 5,000 years. It has always been in trouble. Sometimes Israel has led its tribes into battle and gained a victory; more often than not it has been defeated, humiliated and exiled. That is the history of the Israelis, although the terms used in the past was "the Jews", over a period of 4,000 or 5,000 years.
Efforts have been made to destroy Israel. Hitler tried it; he failed. But with what consequences. Russia has tried to destroy it and certainly sought to weaken it. Nevertheless, it survives. Many years ago when I was a Member of a Labour Government with responsibility in the military sphere, I paid a visit to the Middle East and went down to the Dead Sea. There I saw a piece of stone inscribed:Here is where the Romans defeated Israel".The following day I visited a monastery further up the hill and there I found a plaque. What did that say? It said:Here is where the Crusaders defeated the infidel Jews".The Romans went many years ago; so did the Crusaders. But the Jews still survive. They have survived in spite of Israel; they have survived in spite of the Romans; they have survived in spite of the Crusaders, with great respect to them and their aspirations and ideals. They will survive in spite of the speeches and the activities of men like the noble Lord, Lord Chelwood.
What was his purpose, anyhow, today? Was it not irrelevant? After all, we have a plate of trouble 8,000 miles away, and when it is over—and we all hope that it will be over very soon and victoriously for us (if I can use the term "victorious" in this connection)—we shall have to readjust our defence strategy in the naval sphere, in the aircraft sphere, in the construction of our weapons, in our relations with the Latin American countries, and in particular in our most sturdy relation with the United States of America. Then we shall be able to demonstrate that we are not under their control, but are an independent country with independent views. A great deal can be said about that.
When I mention the term "irrelevant", what do I mean? Is it wise to initiate a debate in these circumstances when we are engaged 8,000 miles away in the conditions that prevail there? Moreover, what do they expect the Government spokesman to say in reply to the debate? I will tell you. He will refer to 1214 Resolution 242. He will refer to the fact that it was unanimous, or practically unanimous—there were some abstentions, there was some opposition, but not very much. But it never has been implemented, and nor is it likely to be.
He will refer to the desire of the British Government to aid Israel, and also to ensure that there will be peace in the Middle East. He will even go so far as to suggest that it may be brought about as a result of the combination of the Common Market, the countries of the Ten supported by NATO, and that that could be a contributory factor in promoting peace in the Middle East. We have been told every time for several years that that is the answer. It is not the answer. I am not going to argue this question any further. I am going to make an assertion.
§ Lord Shinwell
I am coming to the end. I did note, however, that many of those who spoke exceeded their time, but I have no objection to that. I am not going to argue any more. I am going to make an assertion: do not provoke Israel any more. If we have to have an adjustment of our defence strategy we may require the assistance of Israel in the Middle East, in Europe, in the air, in the production of certain missiles and weapons. Do not provoke Isreal. Do not push them too far. Do not even push Mr. Begin too far. Do not assume that Mr. Begin is under the complete control of the United States of America. He has demonstrated over and over again that he wants to be independent; and why should he not be independent? Why should not the state of Israel be independent? Any why should we have debates—
§ Lord Shinwell
I am sitting down. Why should we have debates which, as I say, are irrelevant, unrealistic, and have no practical purpose so far as peace in the future is concerned?
§ 6.53 p.m.
My Lords, like many of your Lordships I welcome this opportunity to speak on the Motion tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Chelwood, particularly because I have had the privilege and pleasure of spending the greater part of the last 40 years in the Middle East, both in Army service and as a diplomat, during the course of which I have been able to serve in, and visit officially, every single Arab country, and there are 19 altogether. Let me say at the outset that I would be foolish if I considered myself an expert. On the contrary, the problems presented by this region are so numerous, so diverse, and so baffling in their complexity that after all this time I feel that I am only groping on the outer fringes.
Let me briefly refer to one or two problems which might well concern us in your Lordships' House, but which of course time does not permit me to discuss in any detail. In Libya, for example, we see Colonel Gaddafy, who has shown such a remarkable fondness for buoying up revolutionary regimes all over the 1215 world—in 31 countries, according to one American source. In the Sudan we have a serious economic situation. The economy there seems to be crumbling.
Further East we see the disintegration of that lovely country, Lebanon; a country which I knew way back in the 1940s. There, I feel, we have almost reached a Humpty-Dumpty situation. I feel, to my great regret, that all the world's horses and all the world's men will never be able to put that lovely country back together again. Further East still, we see a powerful communist régime entrenched in Southern Yemen. We see in Northern Yemen, where I recently spent four years, a régime which is under constant attack by subversive elements buoyed up by Eastern powers.
However, the noble Lord has asked us this evening to direct our thoughts towards the Middle East, and I shall do so. I intend to speak briefly about the Palestinians, about our responsibilities towards them, about their sufferings, and about their achievements. If I make what some of your Lordships will descrbe as a pro-Arab speech, let me assure you that I have the greatest respect for the Jewish people, and for the wonderful contribution they have made to civilisation in so many spheres—in the arts, administration, agricultural development, not to mention of course their martial skills.
We have a distinct responsibility for the Middle East. Many of your Lordships will be aware, indeed I would think almost all of you, of the circumstances of the Balfour Declaration of 1917. What some of your Lordships may perhaps have overlooked was that the area promised to the Jewish State, the national home for the Jews, by the Balfour Declaration was in an area which we had previously promised to the Arabs, in accordance with the exchange of correspondence between the Sharif Hussein of Mecca and Sir Henry McMahon in 1915–1916.
This problem was discussed almost exactly 60 years ago in your Lordships' House. In fact it was on 21st June, 1922. If you will permit me I will quote from the noble and learned Lord, my grandfather, who had studied this problem with the greatest care. What he said was this:If those documents",that is the Hussein-McMahon exchange of documents—are accurate, and I am bound to say that, upon the face of them, they appear to me to be perfectly sound, they show unmistakably that there has not been, as the noble Viscount, Lord Grey, suggested, something in the nature of casual inconsistency between different announcements at different times, but that a deliberate pledge has been given on the one hand, which has been abandoned on the other. No amount of examination and no amount of comparison will ever enable the two things to be reconciled, …".We cannot put the clock back. I would not of course wish to recommend it in any way. I have the greatest respect for the state of Israel. But I would put to your Lordships that we have a responsibility which the passage of 60 years cannot efface, and which our present preoccupation with the Arab-Israel problem cannot eradicate.
Let me deal briefly with the sufferings and achievements of the Arabs. Your Lordships are probably aware that there are now something like 688,000 Arab refugees in refugee camps out of a total population of 1,844,000. These refugees have been subjected, I am sorry to say, to the unfortunate activities of some aspects 1216 of the Israel Government. For example, only a short time ago a road was driven through a camp in the Gaza strip which destroyed 2,600 shelters. Over water rights, we have evidence from both British and French correspondents which indicates that 20,000 Jewish settlers are now consuming the same amount of water as 800,000 Palestinians. I would also remind your Lordships that there are now only four Israeli Arabs in the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament, which represents 3.5 per cent., as against 14 per cent., which is the total figure of Israeli Arabs in Israel.
As for the achievement of the Arabs, we have only to look around us to see what they have been, thanks to the superb education they received under the mandate. I would remind the House that the proportion of Arab graduates is 11 per 1,000 as distinct from four per 1,000 for the rest of the Arab world and eight and nine per 1,000 for Britain and France respectively. Wherever one goes in the Arab world one finds Palestinians, as administrators, judges and involved in agricultural development; their achievements have been superb. I assure the House that by no means all the Arabs are in favour of the extreme policies of the PLO. They detest them. They are a fine, generous, upright people who have made a great contribution to peace.
§ Lord Sandys
My Lords, I would point out that my noble friend Lord Belstead will have to rise at 7.20 p.m. Only a few minutes remain. I hope the noble Lord will draw his remarks to a conclusion.
I had in fact finished, my Lords. I would only add that I have been there and have seen it, and I hope I have not presented an exaggerated picture.
§ 8.2. p.m.
§ Lord Molloy
My Lords, in view of the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Sandys, I shall be as brief as possible. I, too, congratulate the noble Earl, Lord Oxford and Asquith, on his maiden speech and his very worthwhile contribution to the debate. I wish at the outset to thank the noble Lord, Lord Chelwood, not merely for introducing this important subject but for the manner in which he did so. It is a vital subject, but having attended many debates on it—in another place, in universities and elsewhere—one gets a little tired of them because many of the contributions are nothing more than emotional spasms from people either massively pro-Israel, for a variety of reasons, or massively pro-Arab. Yet the contribution we had from Lord Chelwood set the tone for the debate which has been maintained throughout.
I shall refer to certain happenings in the past which have been the causes of what is going on in the Middle East, in which my nation made no mean contribution in twisting, cheating and lying at times when the sort of people I come from had no say whatever in the running of Great Britain. I hasten to add that, while I shall refer to the past, I am not one who believes that the bawling of the past should drown the whispers of the future. Nevertheless, now and then we must glance back to see what progress we have made, and alas it has not been very great.
There has been much concentration on the Camp David accord. I am not sure what sort of accord it 1217 is exactly. I have made examinations and sought guidance and I have been driven inevitably to look at the comparison between the so-called Camp David accord and what happened when the invasion of Europe took place and there was the French Vichy accord. That was designed to pacify France so that our island would be a much bigger push-over for the aggressor in those days. We need to look at that carefully because some of us were appalled and annoyed at what happened then, and we must try to understand what other people who have had their lands taken from them by force and aggression, like the Falkland islanders, think. We must not believe that patriotism belongs only to the British.
It will be necessary to find a civilised solution, unless there are those who are so adamant that they want only total victory, and it does not matter, in their view, if over the next five, 10 or 15 years thousands of Israelis and Arabs are slain, until there is one decisive victor. That would be an appalling way, irrespective of the views one held, to try to find a civilised solution. I believe we can arrive at a civilised solution by acknowledging the fact that Palestinians exist and that their representatives at the moment are the PLO. We must not adopt the sort of Hitlerite attitude that was adopted towards the free French when they came to this island— it was also adopted towards the free Danes and the free Belgians—who were warned that if ever they went back when it was all over and the invader won, they would be eliminated. We should not adopt that sort of attitude. In saying that, I am being neither pro-Arab nor pro-Israel; I am being pro-commonsense, endeavouring to see the other fellow's point of view.
As I say, one cannot say that only we, the British, have a sense of patriotism. Our patriotism is so massive that we have sent a great fleet 8,000 miles to defend a few hundred people on the Falkland Islands, yet deny the PLO when they try to get their land back. One name could be affixed to us in a single word, and I do not want that to happen; I do not want the word "hypocrite" to be associated with the name of Great Britain, and that worries and frightens me.
There are many issues I should have liked to have gone into, but time does not permit. As I said about a previous issue, things like the Balfour Declaration are infamous and disgraceful episodes in our history. The massive working-class section of Britain did not even know what it was about. As is usual, neither did the massive ordinary peasant class, if I may use that phrase, Jewish and Arab, in Israel. Their contribution, as always, is just to die. We must try to find a better way because the next time—and how far are we from it?—it will not be a question of charging cavalry or even pressing a few buttons to sink a few ships. It may be the ultimate holocaust. I mention that word as one who was active in Europe because I was appalled and digusted by the attitude of people who were suffering the most appalling things simply because they were stupid enough to pick Jewish parents. I realise that my anger and bitterness at the loathsome behaviour of Europeans in those days was in respect of Europeans; I do not know of any Arab who was involved in building concentration camps or extermination camps. That is what grieves very many of the Arab people, who cannot understand why they 1218 should have suffered as they have, and we must acknowledge that as well.
We must try to realise that what we have been debating this evening is another cruel episode that did not begin with military action and will not end by military action. Perhaps our country will be able to start to trace the connection between the ending of the battle and the start of a new civilised era of peace for all. Let old homelands be restored and new homelands be acknowledged and respected in the hope that, between them, they will strike a new harmony of peace and understanding. The Minister has much to reply to already, but I ask him for an assurance that our Government will continue to strive for peace with justice and that we shall not be labelled hypocrites, because when someone invades and takes away an island connected with our country, that is aggression, and we do not give two hoots about who invades and annexes somebody else's land.
That is what I fear—that the good name of my nation is at stake. I hope that our Government will see that it is not stained in any way, and will go further than that. I believe that, if we are willing to try hard and keep a fair balance, we can bring to the Middle East, if we can create—I am not quite sure what the noble Lord is saying; I am willing to sit down. I beg the noble Lord's pardon; I thought that he was interrupting. He is still mumbling into his beard. If he has anything to say he should get up and say it, or keep quiet. That is quite fair, is it not?
§ Lord Sandys
My Lords, I think that perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Molloy, has a point here. He has overrun his time, and as there are only 10 minutes for the next two speakers, I think that the noble Lord, Lord Reay, should proceed.
§ Lord Molloy
My Lords, I was interrupted from a sedentary position by the Front Bench spokesman of the Liberal Party. I was going to say that our job, as I understand it, and which I would urge the noble Lord. Lord Belstead, to accept, is to try to bring understanding, to bring all peoples to talk—at some time they will have to talk—and create harmony in the Middle East between Israel and its neighbours, which is possible, and let them understand that that is the only way in which all of them can flourish in a fresh, new, decent part of the world.
§ 7.11 p.m.
§ Lord Reay
My Lords, like probably everybody else in the Chamber, with the exception of the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, I welcome the debate and congratulate my noble friend Lord Chelwood on introducing it. Incidentally, I think that it was an uncalled-for misrepresentation on the part of the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, to imply any desire on the part of my noble friend Lord Chelwood to see or to seek the destruction of Israel; on the contrary, I think that his desire to see the survival of Israel was plain from his speech, and I am sure that if tomorrow the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, re-reads the speech of my noble friend and respects the integrity of my noble friend, he will come to a different conclusion.
No one is likely to say that the prospects for a peace settlement in Palestine at the present time look 1219 good. Faced towards the West Bank, Israel is pursuing policies which, if taken at their face value—and I see no reason not to take them at their face value—will, if pushed to their conclusion, make any peace settlement by diplomatic means impossible. Since the Sinai handover the Israeli Government have repeatedly stated that no more settlements will be disbanded and that no more territory will be returned. The Government intend to accelerate their settlement policy and increase the Jewish West Bank population from a figure of 20,000 today to 120,000 within three years. Since 1967 they have already, for civil or military reasons, bought, expropriated, or declared closed almost a third of the territory of the West Bank. It is no wonder that the Arabs of the West Bank feel that Israel is already well into a policy of annexing the West Bank and that therefore unrest has exploded.
Any United States initiative seems likely to be limited to the framework of the final stages of the Camp David agreement; namely, talks on temporary autonomy, with a view to a permanent agreement on sovereignty. But the policies practised by Israel towards the West Bank, and its activities on the West Bank, including the dismissal of elected mayors, are not in any meaningful sense compatible with autonomy for the Palestinians. So it seems to me that the United States will need to go further and try to reverse Israel's present policies. Is there any chance that it will do so?
I think that there are some signs of a greater sense in the United States of what is at stake and of where their own interests lie in this matter. This perception has been particularly well expressed in a remarkable speech by Senator Charles Percy, now the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, delivered to the National Press Club in Washington in February. In the course of it he said:Israel cannot expect the United States to continue isolating itself from the world community to defend questionable or objectionable actions and policies.The single issue which creates the greatest strain in our bilateral relations and which is allowing the Soviets to make advances in this region is the widely held perception that the United States Government is not committed to a just and equitable settlement of the Arab/Israeli dispute, including a settlement of those grievances of the Palestinians that are reasonable and just.In virtually every substantive conversation I held in 14 Arab countries I heard the same refrain: 'The United States does not have a balanced Middle East policy. Until that occurs, we cannot be too closely associated with you'.In other words, the United States is finding that a strategic partnership link with the oil-producing states of the Middle East, however politically Western they may be in their inclination, is impossible until the United States alters its policy with regard to Palestine.
So far as Europe and Britain are concerned, I think that there is not much that they can now do in the way of taking an initiative, except that they should stick by the Venice Declaration. I do not think that there should be any question of abandoning or modifying it just because no progress is being made at the present time. In due course perhaps an opportunity may arrive for building on it, as my noble friend Lord Chelwood hoped, and as the noble Earl, Lord Oxford and Asquith, in what I may say was a most distinguished speech, also hoped.
In conclusion, I should like to say that if the aims of a just solution for the Palestinians are not achieved 1220 peacefully, then once again there is likely to be war. Today Israel may be militarily stronger than her foes, even all of them together. But what of tomorrow, or the day after? Syria has publicly set herself the objective of achieving a strategic military balance with Israel. The Financial Times reported yesterday that Syria planned to devote 60 per cent. of its 1982 budget to the armed forces; and the whole world has just witnessed two phenomena: first, what a medium-size country can do with modern weaponry; and, secondly, in the case of the victory of Iran over Iraq, what fanaticism can achieve, even against a better organised state. In the long run Israel may find, if she is not more careful and more far-sighted, that she won every battle except the last.
§ Lord Gladwyn
My Lords, the inability of noble Lords, or some of them, to keep within their allotted time, which is put forward for the good conduct of the debate, has given me exactly two and a half minutes to reply. That is obviously insufficient, and therefore under mild protest I shall not make any speech at all but will make way for the noble Lord, Lord Belstead.
§ 7.18 p.m.
§ The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Belstead)
My Lords, I should like to thank my noble friend Lord Chelwood for initiating this debate today, and I should also like to congratulate the noble Earl, Lord Oxford and Asquith, on his maiden speech. With long experience of the Middle East and of administration, the noble Earl made a most skilful speech on a highly controversial subject, and I join with other noble Lords in hoping that he will come to speak in our debates on future occasions.
It is right that in the midst of other pressing concerns we should continue to pay close attention to the situation in the Middle East, and I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, has felt that he did not have time to speak, because his advice on this, as on other difficult problems, is always a great help to your Lordships, and not least to me.
Successive British Governments have taken the view that peace and stability in the Middle East are essential not only for the peoples of the region, but also for our own interests. I thank my noble friend Lord Chelwood for the tribute that he paid to the efforts of my noble friend Lord Carrington in this respect. Our policy remains one of active involvement in the search for peace in the Middle East, and in particular for a negotiated solution to the Palestinian issue.
In June 1980 we and our partners in the European Community set out in the Venice Declaration two fundamental principles, and for the record I should like to repeat them. The first was the right to existence and security of all the states of the region, including Israel. The second was justice for all the peoples, which implies the recognition of the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people.
Israel's right to live in peace behind secure, recognised and guaranteed borders is a basic tenet of our policy. We understand the Israeli Government's reluctance to enter negotiations with the Arab side while the latter continues to be ambiguous in their policy pronouncements on this crucial point, and while attacks continue against Israeli territory. That is why the Government 1221 take every opportunity to urge the Arabs to reach agreement among themselves on a positive strategy for peace, including recognition of Israel.
My Lords, in this connection, we and our partners welcomed the eight points put forward by Prince Fahd last summer as a constructive contribution which implied readiness for a negotiated settlement and a willingness for peaceful co-existence with Israel. The noble Lord, Lord Wiedenfeld, was somewhat critical of the five proposals, but I must say that the Government were disappointed when the Fez Summit in 1981 failed to make a positive strategy within the Arab states. The need remains for a clear Arab demonstration of readiness for a peaceful settlement, and we very much hope that efforts to achieve this will continue.
The position of the PLO on the question of the acceptance of Israel is, rightly, studied with particular care, and has formed the very centre of the debate we have had today. I would just like to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Gaitskell, for her reference to the PLO covenant which certainly put the record straight on that particular point. The Venice Declaration makes clear our view that the PLO will have to be associated with negotiations for a comprehensive peace. Really, it is an inescapable fact given the evident support for the PLO among Palestinians. But at the same time, the PLO cannot expect to be seen as an acceptable negotiating partner; they cannot expect recognition of their own rights until they show an unequivocal readiness to accept the rights of Israel in the context of a negotiated settlement. Courage and imagination will be needed from the Arab side if we are to make progress towards the implementation of the first Venice principle, and the Israelis must show similar qualities if the other Venice principle is to be fulfilled and the Palestinian people are to be allowed to enjoy their legitimate rights. The denial of their rights is the core of the Arab/Israeli problem and future peace efforts will have to be addressed to it directly. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos, for putting the right emphasis on this absolutely essential point. The Ten's position is clear. We consider that the Palestinian people must be placed in a position by an appropriate process, defined within the framework of a comprehensive peace settlement to exercise fully its right to self-determination, and the PLO will have to be associated with the negotiations.
My Lords, the autonomy talks between Israel and Egypt aimed at transitional arrangements for the West Bank and Gaza, as we all know, are continuing. The Ten have consistently said they would not wish to cut across these talks, but the gap between the two sides, as I am sure all your Lordships know very well, remains wide. My noble friend Lord Chelwood expressed the view that some further initiative is now required. "The Venice Declaration has been around for some time" was in essence the message given by my noble friend and indeed, by the noble Earl, Lord Oxford and Asquith. But we continue to believe, as the Venice Declaration stated, that at some stage it will be necessary to achieve a transition to a wider negotiation in which the Palestinians can be involved.
That is an initiative which still has not been picked up. Venice was never intended as a blue-print for a negotiation. There is no substitute for mutual accept- 1222 ance between Israel and the Arabs that the security of one entails the security of the other. In answer to the noble Lord, Lord Molloy, I would like to say that we and our partners stand ready to help as far as we can in encouraging a process of compromise and confidence-building. We also recognise that the United States have a key role, and we will wish to consult closely with them as all sides look afresh at their policy in the coming months.
May I just emphasise a point which was not emphasised enough in the debate, except by some noble Lords who felt it was right so to do—that Palestinian self-determination would materially improve the stability of the region and the security of all its states, including Israel, because then Palestinian self-interest would demand co-operation, not confrontation, with Israel.
The noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, was quite right in saying that, now I would say a brief word about Resolution 242. The Ten have reaffirmed their commitment to Resolution 242 in the Venice Declaration. The Israelis remain committed to it. The underlying bargain is well known, that of peace and security for Israel in exchange for Israeli withdrawal from the territories she occupied in 1967. We were very glad to see the successful completion of Israel's withdrawal from Sinai on 25th April under the terms of the Egypt/Israel Peace Treaty. It was not easy for Israel, and Her Majesty's Government admire Israel's determination to carry through what I very much agree with the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos, and others of your Lordships was a vitally important result of Camp David.
But the continuing Israeli policy of new settlements and recent statements by Israeli leaders that no settle-ment will be given up, does put in peril the possibility of implementing Resolution 242. This and other measures taken recently are not consistent with our interpretation of Resolution 242, nor that of the United States Administration. I think it will make it the more difficult to reach a negotiated settlement in which Israel's interests are protected as well as Palestinian rights assured.
My Lords, there is no time to refer to Lebanon or to the appalling problems in Iran and Iraq, so before I finish may I just pick up the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Caradon, about Jerusalem. We have frequently made clear that we cannot accept the annexation of East Jerusalem by Israel. We made clear in the Venice Declaration that we will not accept any unilateral initiative designed to change the status of Jerusalem. Any agreement on the status of the city should guarantee freedom of access for everyone to the holy places. In saying that, I agree that the future status of Jerusalem is an extremely difficult point. It is one which can only be settled in the context of an overall settlement.
My Lords, may I try to end on a brighter note. The establishment of relations between Egypt and Israel and the withdrawal from Sinai have been encouraging reminders of what can be achieved if both sides show the political will to make negotiations succeed. As such, it is important as an example for the more difficult negotiations on the Palestinian problem. If it becomes possible for Egypt to be at peace with Israel, 1223 to develop warmer relations with the Arab States, then that, too, is to be greatly welcomed.
The experience of Egypt and her natural role as a leader in the Arab world should have a positive influence on the attitude of other Arab countries. At the same time, her policy on the Palestinian problem is an active and a positive one. Egypt and Israel together have shown what can be done. For our part, we and our European partners remain determined to help broaden the area of peace until a comprehensive settlement can be achieved.
§ Baroness Gaitskell
My Lords, if I may ask the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, one question before he sits clown: What about the PLO covenant? That is entirely set for the destruction of Israel. Here it is. The noble Lord can borrow my copy if he would like to.
§ Lord Belstead
My Lords, I did refer to the PLO covenant, particularly in the context of the words spoken by the noble Baroness, Lady Gaitskell. I think the noble Baroness might have been out of the Chamber just at that particular moment.
My Lords, I think I am right in saying that this debate does not finish until 7.43 p.m. If I am right in so saying, it occurs to me that the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, could easily give us the benefit of his advice for five minutes if he wishes to do so. Is that not possible?
My Lords, I am sorry, because I would have liked to hear what the noble Lord had to say.
§ Lord Gladwyn
My Lords, I understood that the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, would rise to speak at 7.20 this evening. Through the usual channels he gave me notice that he could give me a minute or two, which gives me only three and a half minutes to make a speech on the Middle East, which really is not enough.
§ 7.30 p.m.
In that case, my Lords, it merely remains for me to thank all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate. I think the number of noble Lords who have contributed to it is a clear indication of the importance we attach to this very difficult subject. I think we have had a useful and constructive debate. It is a pity it has been rather rushed, but speaking briefly does concentrate one's mind wonderfully. I should particularly like to congratulate the noble Earl, Lord Oxford and Asquith, on a maiden speech of rare quality which we all enjoyed. We look forward to hearing him on many occasions in the future. Finally, I should like to thank particularly my noble friend Lord Belstead for the speech which he has made, which was constructive, encouraging and balanced.
I do not intend to comment on any other speeches—I think that is not the right thing to do on this particular occasion—but I should like to say to the noble Lord, 1224 Lord Shinwell, for whom I have a very great liking and a very great respect, that he was being unfair to me. I believe that what my noble friend Lord Reay said will be shown to be correct. When he comes to read my speech and to study it with care he will find that not in any way did I suggest that I do not wish to see Israel survive. I wish to see Israel survive in peace, security and amity with all her neighbours, but not beyond certain agreed frontiers. I have always taken that view and I always will. The noble Lord was for once, I think, being quite unfair. With that one comment, for which I hope I may be forgiven, I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.
Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.