§ Lord Williams of Mostyn
My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat a Statement made by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister in another place. The Statement is as follows:
"With permission, Mr Speaker, I should like to make a Statement following my discussions with President Bush in Crawford, Texas. Normally, an informal bilateral meeting would not be the subject of a Statement. Exceptionally, because of the situation in the Middle East, I thought it right to come to this House and give honourable Members a more extended chance to put questions than Prime Minister's Questions affords.
"Of course, at Crawford we discussed many issues, including bilateral relations, trade issues, Afghanistan, India and Pakistan, Russia and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, Africa and energy policy. I am very willing to answer questions on these issues. But it is on the Middle East that I will concentrate. My right honourable friend the Leader of the House will also deal with this issue in the usual way in tomorrow's Business Statement, and there will be a further opportunity for debate next week.
"There are many situations, both at home and abroad, that are called a crisis when in truth they are not. In this case, it is hard to overstate the dangers or the potential for this conflict to impact far beyond the region itself. It is indeed a genuine crisis, and one on which all of us, in whatever way we can, small or large, have a duty to act.
"In the past few days, I have discussed the situation not just with President Bush but with President Putin, President Mubarak, President Chirac, Prime Minister Jospin, Prime Minister Aznar and others. I look forward to discussing it in depth with Chancellor SchrÖder of Germany this weekend. And my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary has been in constant contact with his counterparts.
"No one who has been following recent events on television could fail to recognise not only the seriousness of the situation but the scale of human suffering. In the past fortnight, there have been at least 55 deaths in six suicide bombings in Israel. Just 420 this morning, at least eight people died in a suicide attack on a bus near Haifa. In the West Bank, at least 230 Palestinians and 34 Israelis have died. More than 1,500 Palestinians have been injured. A million Palestinians live under curfew.
"There have been terrible human tragedies on both sides. Our hearts go out to the families of the victims, whether Israeli or Palestinian: the two Israeli women who went with their families to a cafe in Haifa and lost their husbands and children in an appalling suicide bomb attack; the Palestinian bell-ringer of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem who was shot and killed in Manger Square; and the 12-year old Palestinian boy who went out when the curfew was lifted to buy some milk and never returned—he too was shot and killed.
"Amid the suffering, there appears to be no strategy to end it, therefore no hope. Both sides must see that violence is not and never will be the answer. The solution to this crisis will never be reached if it is seen purely as a security or military question. There must be a political process too.
"I believe that the whole House will welcome President Bush's statement last week calling on the Israelis to withdraw from the Occupied Territories and the Palestinian Authority to tackle the terrorism. Without those basic minimum steps and without a proper ceasefire that sticks, we cannot even begin to get a political process restarted.
"What can be done? In summary, I can tell the House that we are taking the following steps. We are in close touch with the Israelis and the Palestinians, with the United States, with our European Union partners and with governments in the Arab world in the urgent search for a way of stopping the bloodshed and getting a political process restarted.
"We shall be seeking a UN Security Council resolution, based on Crown Prince Abdullah's plan, to promote such a process following Secretary of State Powell's visit to the region this weekend.
"We stand ready to help with monitoring both of detainees and of a ceasefire when one is established. I am convinced that this is a role that the European Union is well placed to undertake.
"We are also ready, together with our European partners, to help the Palestinian Authority to rebuild the infrastructure of the West Bank and Gaza, and work with it, too, in reconstituting its administrative structures. We are also ready to help it establish an accountable and transparent security structure that can co-operate with the Israelis and the wider international community to ensure peace and security in a Palestinian state and so underpin the stability of the region.
"In respect of stability in the region, let me say a word on Iraq. There will be many occasions on which to debate Saddam Hussein's flagrant breach of successive United Nations resolutions on his weapons of mass destruction. For the moment, let me say this.
421 "Saddam Hussein's regime is despicable. He is developing weapons of mass destruction and we cannot leave him doing so unchecked. He is a threat to his own people and to the region and, if allowed to develop those weapons, a threat to us also.
"Doing nothing is not an option. As I said in my speech in Texas, the international community should through the United Nations challenge Saddam to let the inspectors back in without restriction—anyone, any place, any time. If he really has nothing to hide, let him prove it.
"I repeat, however, that no decisions on action have been taken. Our way of proceeding should be and will be measured, calm and thought through. When judgments are made, I shall ensure that the House has a full opportunity to debate them.
"Returning to the more pressing matter of Israel and Palestine, at some time both sides will realise that no matter how much blood is shed and no matter how many lives are wasted, Israel will still be there and the Palestinian Authority will still be there.
"The initiative of Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, agreed by the Arab nations, is based on UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 1397. It is the only realistic basis for a solution—land for peace. The Israelis must allow a state of Palestine, secure in its own borders and, in exchange, the Palestinians and the whole Arab world must recognise and respect Israel's borders. A UN Security Council resolution restating those principles with firm international backing is the best way forward politically.
"The House will know that in the region, especially from the Israelis, there is much hostility to the idea of outside intervention. But the sad, simple truth is that the hatreds are too deep, the wounds too raw, for the two sides to be able to resolve this alone. The US is right to be engaged and to press both sides to change, and I am clear after my visit to the US for talks with President Bush that the focus and engagement that is required will be forthcoming. Colin Powell's visit to the region is welcome evidence of that.
"Both sides have heard many words of condemnation. I do not need to add to them here. I understand the anger of the Palestinians who see the steady encroachment of Israeli settlers who take their land from them in defiance of international law and successive UN Security Council resolutions. This must stop.
"But so must the appalling suicide bombings that have taken so many Israeli lives in the past few months. Palestinians have supporters the world over for their cause, but that support is weakened every time the suicide bombers act. Chairman Arafat must speak to his people and do everything in his power to stop these murderous outrages.
"Both sides know what needs to be done and they should get on and do it now. Real leadership is tested by tough decisions, not easy words. No 422 matter how strong the feelings, no matter how deep the hatreds, now is the time to pull back, to stop and to realise that the current strategy is going nowhere, that the time for violence is over and the time to get a peace process going overdue. The international community is ready to help. People the world over are willing us to do so. Whatever we can do to help, we will."
My Lords, that concludes the Statement.
§ 3.48 p.m.
§ Lord Strathclyde
My Lords, I thank the noble and learned Lord the Leader of the House for repeating the Statement. It was right and appropriate that we should adjust our procedures to allow the Statement to be made before the debate on Iraq. I also welcome the fact that the Statement was made to Parliament by the Prime Minister.
All of us will have heard the further news this morning of another appalling and inexcusable attack on civilians in Haifa and of further distressing violence around the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. When the perpetrators of violence fail to respect the sanctity either of innocent life or of sacred places, then more than ever it is the moment when statesmanship is needed from those in a position to lead.
We agree with the Prime Minister that there must be a stepping-up of efforts to help both Israel and the Palestinian people to find a resolution of this conflict. There is only one just outcome to this dispute: one in which two states, Israel and a viable democratic Palestinian state, can live together in peace and security. It will not be easy to get from here to there, but the alternative to an attempt to do so is too stark to envisage.
So like the Prime Minister, we wish the United States Secretary of State, Colin Powell, well in the round of negotiations that he is conducting in the region. We agree with him, with President Bush and with the UN Secretary-General, that Israel must end its incursions into cities in the Palestinian Authority territory without delay. However, we also agree that Chairman Arafat must use all his power and authority to end terrorism against Israel and to do so determinedly and unremittingly.
There can be no purely military solution to the dispute, whatever short-term successes may be achieved. We must acknowledge, however, that it is the duty of any government to protect their citizens from terrorism. The Israeli people are being subjected to a vile and orchestrated campaign of terror. Day after day, suicide bombers have killed innocent civilians, even children. There is no martyrdom in such bestial crimes. All those with spiritual and political influence must declare that the only reward for suicide bombing is eternal infamy.
In the light of what the Statement says about Iraq, can the noble and learned Lord the Leader of the House say anything about the possible links between Iraq and terrorism against Israel? In view of the debate that is about to take place, I shall add nothing about Iraq, save to say that I note that the Statement says 423 that no decisions have been taken on Iraq. Can the noble and learned Lord shed any light on a broad timetable of events, especially in respect of the role of the inspectors, against which Saddam must respond?
In line with our unequivocal demand for Israeli withdrawal, we believe that there is also a heavy responsibility on Chairman Arafat and the Palestinian Authority. They must play their part in creating the conditions in which meaningful negotiation can begin. Does the noble and learned Lord agree that the key to the peace process must be the short and long-term guarantee of Israel's security? What is the Government's assessment of Mr Arafat's willingness to guarantee Israel's security against future attack and of the ability of Arab states to assist in that crucial task? What is the Government's assessment of Mr Arafat's ability to influence the terrorists at all?
We support the Government in their readiness to consider the possibility of underpinning a ceasefire by holding out the prospect of significant economic aid to the West Bank. However, such aid must be dependent on a complete and unequivocal end to terrorism.
We agree that, following an end to the violence, the basis for any resumed dialogue should be the proposals put forward by Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. The plan contains the guarantee for long-term security for Israel, but, before we reach that stage, we need measures to ensure Israel's interim security. The two cannot be divorced.
The crisis will only get worse, unless two things happen without delay: an end to violence and guarantees of security. On these Benches, we will continue to support the Government and the Government of the United States in pursuit of those objectives.
§ 3.53 p.m.
§ Baroness Williams of Crosby
My Lords, I thank the noble and learned Lord the Leader of the House and the usual channels for enabling the Statement to he made, with some delay, before the forthcoming debate. That is the most logical way of doing things. I thank the noble and learned Lord the Leader of the House for being willing to innovate in that way. On these Benches, we appreciate the sensitive, thoughtful and responsive Statement that was made. Broadly, we share the position taken by the Prime Minister on the Middle East.
The tragedy is all the greater because the deeply gifted people of Israel could make a huge contribution to the prosperity and development of the whole region, were this terrible war to be brought to a conclusion. That conclusion must be reached on the basis of security for both sides and the recognition of the need for a state of Israel, protected and guaranteed by the international community, and a new state of Palestine, with the same kind of guarantees.
Can the noble and learned Lord the Leader of the House tell us whether the Government of Israel have taken any further steps in response to the plea made by President Bush and our Prime Minister to pull back from the occupation of the Palestinian territories? Will 424 there be recognition in that pull-hack that, if President Arafat is to be held responsible—as he should be—for trying to deal with the causes of suicide bombing, as well as the offence itself, he must have at least some authority over a Palestinian police force and over the headquarters of his security staff, so that he can take the action that the international community rightly demands?
Can the noble and learned Lord say something about whether the concept of a ceasefire can be linked directly to the Saudi Arabian proposal for joint recognition of the right of each state to exist and to the more detailed agreements reached in the past two years at Camp David and Taba? Those agreements deal with virtually all the outstanding current issues relating to the Middle East but have been allowed to slip because of the growing violence resorted to by both sides. What was achieved at Camp David and Taba came so close to a settlement acceptable to both sides that it would be a tragedy for the world if the international community were to make no attempt to revive the agreements reached by the two sides—excepting only the issues of the settlements and the future of Jerusalem—and put them together again.
The Prime Minister referred to the settlements. Can the noble and learned Lord say whether consideration has been given to asking Israel to desist from further building of settlements? Each settlement makes a final solution more difficult to attain and makes it more difficult for the Palestinians to accept that Israel has a genuine and serious desire to make lasting peace.
The Prime Minister made a welcome reference to the possible use of monitors. The European Union monitors are vitally necessary, as the European Union is perceived, to some extent, as being a neutral party between the two sides. General Powell, the Secretary of State, has already referred to the use of United States monitors. However, can the noble and learned Lord say whether consideration could be given to the possibility of bringing in monitors from moderate Arab countries? That would give the Palestinians a sense that their interests were being borne in mind by the monitors. The success of monitoring depends on the recognition that it is even-handed. The make-up of the monitoring team is crucial to the success of such a strategy.
§ 3.57 p.m.
§ Lord Williams of Mostyn
My Lords, I am grateful for the tone adopted by the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, and by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby. It is essential, if we are to have the continuing influence that both party leaders specified, that we present a front that not only appears to be united but is indeed united on fundamentals and principles.
Undoubtedly, Iraq has connections with various terrorist organisations. Some of those organisations are no longer active, others are still extremely active and causing mischief in the Middle East. There can be no doubt about that in the mind of any rational person. I cannot give the noble Lord, Lord 425 Strathclyde, a precise timetable for inspectors. It is true, as a matter of historical record, that Hussein has been dilatory and evasive for some years. That is why President Bush and the Prime Minister are right to be as firm as they are in saying that doing nothing is not an option and that action is necessary. If, as he claims, Saddam Hussein is not developing weapons of mass destruction, the easiest way to demonstrate that is to have independent inspectors.
The noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, asked whether I agreed that the key to the process was a short-term guarantee and a long-term guarantee, including contributions from the Arab states. The noble Lord is right. The initiative launched by Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia is a small ray of hope. There is no doubt that what he is contemplating includes guarantees of the existence of two viable states—to use the noble Lord's phrase—a viable Palestinian state and a safe and secure Israel.
I turn to economic aid. One of the purposes for Secretary Colin Powell's attendance at Madrid, which has been wholly misunderstood and substantially misrepresented, was to have a meeting of a quartet of powers and organisations—the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations. A full press communiqué was issued today and part of that deals with the rebuilding of Palestinian structures and institutions.
Secretary Powell said that he is discussing those questions with regional leaders. "The tools of governance", to use his phrase, will need to be rebuilt, as will, similarly, the security apparatus to work with Arafat's own population and the Israelis. He made the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, that investment will be needed. I believe that that is a positive communiqué from the Madrid meeting.
Secretary Powell will not be arriving in Israel until Friday of this week. Therefore, I have no further material to answer the first question posed by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams; namely, have the Israeli Government further responded beyond what I believe would be described by most people as a very limited and partial pull-back? I have nothing more definite that I can give, and it may be that there will be nothing more definite until 12th April. I simply do not know.
I have dealt partly with the noble Baroness's second question—namely, will it be necessary for Mr Arafat to have some authority over the police force—in the citation which I gave from Secretary Powell in answer to the wider question put by the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde. The noble Baroness, Lady Williams, asked whether the ceasefire could be, or ought to be, linked to the Saudi Arabian proposal and whether detailed matters are under discussion. They are and it seems likely that if one could have a United Nations Security Council resolution on the broad basis of the Crown Prince's proposal, that might be a fruitful avenue to explore.
As regards the further building of settlements, I believe that Her Majesty's Government have made it perfectly plain that many of the settlements presently 426 in existence are unlawful. Her Majesty's Government have also made it plain regularly that no further unlawful activity ought to be carried out by the Israeli Government in the context of further settlements being built.
I believe that the last question related to monitors. It is certainly true, as the Prime Minister said and repeated in his Statement, that we are perfectly happy ourselves to provide monitors and perfectly happy to work with an EU monitoring force. Speaking for myself, I believe that the noble Baroness's suggestion that monitors from Arab countries could perform a useful function, is certainly an imaginative and thoughtful one which ought to be given further consideration. I see the virtue of apparent evenhandedness in the selection of monitors.
§ 4.3 p.m.
§ Lord Wright of Richmond
My Lords, the noble and learned Lord has spoken of the need for future investment. However, can he give an estimate of how much of the European Union's past investment in the Occupied Territories, in terms of both physical investment and training, has been destroyed by Israeli incursions over the past few weeks?
§ Lord Williams of Mostyn
My Lords, I cannot give those details because the passage of time is so short. I can give an "of the order or figure—I am not pretending that it is detailed. We have complained in writing, via the Presidency, to the Israeli Foreign Minister, Mr Perez, expressing our concerns as regards the question of the noble Lord, Lord Wright. In that Presidency correspondence, the right is reserved to claim reparation for damage to EU-funded infrastructure and the estimate for damage to property funded by EU members states is 17.254 million euros. I know that that is not an entire answer to the question, which was a wider one, but I would stress that it is very early days in which to come to conclusions. Undoubtedly, from what one has seen with one's own eyes and from news reports, there has been substantial damage to material which has been funded by EU funds.
§ Lord Janner of Braunstone
My Lords, does my noble and learned friend agree that the only hope to an end to the tragedy for both sides is a return to negotiation and the eventual establishment of a Palestinian state which is prepared to live in peace with its Israeli neighbour? In that context, does he accept that those who negotiate must be both willing and able to deliver results? Does he consider, in that context, that Chairman Arafat's failure to control either the suicide bombings or the terrorism against civilians was because he could not stop it or he did not want to stop it? It must be one or the other.
§ Lord Williams of Mostyn
My Lords, I have no definitive answer to which alternative is right. The fact is that the Prime Minister plainly reiterated in the Statement, which I repeated to your Lordships' House, that Arafat must demonstrate by actions, not 427 words, that he is willing to control the criminal acts carried out on nationals—often, as said by the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, on innocent civilians, women and children included—by the suicide bombers. I agree with what was said earlier: that it is nothing to do with martyrdom; it is criminal murderous activity.
I agreed entirely with my noble friend Lord Janner when he spoke about negotiation for a Palestine state. I believe that that echoes the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde. There must be a guaranteed state of viability which is called the "Palestinian state". Equally, it has been a constant in governmental policy, ever since the foundation of the state of Israel, that the safety and security of the state of Israel is also necessary. It is not capable of being negotiated away and, in my opinion, not capable of being questioned.
§ The Earl of Onslow
My Lords, will not my noble friend—the noble and learned Lord, rather, even though he is nay friend —accept that terrorism does work? That is a very unattractive comment to make. It worked in Ireland in 1922; it worked in Kenya; and it worked in Nairobi. Above all, it worked to establish the state of Israel which was established by the forcible eviction of 1 million people from Palestine, started by the Dir Yassin massacre where 258 women and children were killed by Menachem Begin and the Irgum Zwei Leumi.
Israel was invented on the basis of hanging British sergeants in an orange grove in Beersheba and blowing up the King David hotel, and it achieved its objective by terrorism. Unfortunately, that is the way of the world, unattractive though it may be. The Palestinians have given an undertaking that they will accept a state of Israel which they felt, originally, was a canker introduced into their country.
We have to deal with the facts as they are and the only thing that has made Colin Powell go to the Middle East is terrorism, as defined. We must not kid ourselves by saying that terrorism does not work. Unfortunately, it does. Unfortunately, spilling the blood of innocent women and children does work. We must not pretend that it does not, however unattractive that may be. We have to address the results of this terrorism and try to ensure that we can achieve, as the noble Lord, Lord Janner, said, an established Palestine state. That must mean the dismantling of all settlements and a compromise over Jerusalem —and that is what the Palestinians have agreed.
§ Lord Williams of Mostyn
My Lords, recently I was in a troubled part of the United Kingdom and was reminded that there are two curses about memory. One is having a memory that is too long, and the other is having a memory that is too short. With all respect to the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, I believe that to focus one's attention on the destruction of the King David hotel more than half a century ago will not solve, or assist in solving, our present problems. The fact is that the state of Israel has an absolute right in international law—and, I would have thought, decency—to exist. The policy of Her Majesty's Government will always be to reiterate that and stand by Israel.
428 However, that cannot be a blank cheque for wrongdoing. If there has been activity which is unlawful, first, that must be criticised. Secondly, we must do our best to ensure that the sovereign government of a friendly state—namely, the state of Israel—are assisted in their present travails. Equally, those who live in what ought to be a state of Palestine have their individual rights. They have their rights in humanity; they have their rights under international law.
I think that we can both say that we are noble friends, but the noble Earl is being a little too simplistic by saying that terrorism works. That means the end of the rule of law and it means the end of the rule of international law. It means that the events of 11th September can be in some way justified or tolerated. I profoundly disagree.
§ Lord Richard
My Lords, I was very pleased to hear my noble and learned friend say that there would be recourse again to the United Nations Security Council to secure a resolution which firmly expresses the substance of the Saudi Arabian proposals. I assume that on this occasion the United States will support a resolution of the Security Council, unlike on many occasions in the past when it has not done so. Is there any indication at all that the Israelis would accept a future resolution of the Security Council, any more than they have accepted Security Council resolutions in the past?
§ Lord Williams of Mostyn
My Lords, I cannot pretend to give definitive answers in a situation that is moving very rapidly; indeed, it is changing by the hour. However, what I can say is that I am grateful for my noble friend's support, not least bearing in mind his very substantial experience in the United Nations. I think that the Government are absolutely right to try to build on the Crown Prince Abdullah plan, and to give it validity, legality and authority through the United Nations Security Council. I believe that the Government of Israel ought to recognise that the future is longer than next week and is longer than a few days of military incursions. Actions will resonate far into the future. One should remember that the people killing innocents in Israel are themselves quite young people. They are people who have come to the conclusion that these are actions which they can justify. Occasionally one has to ask oneself what has brought them to this state.
§ Lord Hurd of Westwell
My Lords, given what the Prime Minister and the noble and learned Lord have said this afternoon—wisely, I believe—and given that what we are seeing hour by hour is the Prime Minister of Israel and the Palestinian Government again testing to destruction the futile doctrine of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, is there not now a strong case for the United States and Europe, and perhaps the other members of the quartet, the United Nations and the Russians, to raise their ambitions? The United States in particular has a very powerful financial and political influence over Israel, which I have seen used 429 in the past—for example, in 1957—and more recently, while we all have influence over the neighbours of Israel. Instead, as has happened in the past, of focusing on a ceasefire—which perhaps could be achieved verbally with great difficulty but which we all know under the present circumstances would collapse after a week or two—is there not now something to be said for putting forward a European Union/United Nations/United States/Russian peace plan covering all the substantive issues? It would have to go rather deeper than the Saudi plan; I agree with what the noble and learned Lord said about that. We could then use what in the past we have often been inhibited about using—I think in particular of the Americans here—that is, all our financial and political strength to press such a plan home.
§ Lord Williams of Mostyn
My Lords, the question of sanctions, which formed a part of the question put by the noble Lord, Lord Hurd, was not, so far as I am aware, discussed at Madrid. It seems to me that the question of United States muscle—I put that rather gracelessly in words not as finely tuned as those of the noble Lord—is a matter for the United States Government. However, I would say that it seems to me that the determination of President George W Bush appeared to be adamant: if he does not get a suitably proportionate response, then the answer lies within the power of the United States Government.
The United States has already stated at Madrid that it is ready to provide some monitoring presence. Secretary-General Kofi Annan is pressing Lebanon, Syria and Israel to respect the Blue Line. I take the point made by the noble Lord that a ceasefire is only for the moment and is not an answer to the long-term problem. But, as the Prime Minister has said, the situation is so grave and one of such crisis that we need to look immediately to a ceasefire and then to a longer term peaceful resolution on the basis of Crown Prince Abdullah's initiative.
§ Lord Hooson
My Lords, as everyone knows, innocents on both sides have suffered from terrorism, increasingly so since more violent leadership has taken hold on each side. Has that not arisen because of the failure to implement resolutions of the United Nations Security Council? Should not most of the blame for that failure rest at the door, I regret to say, of our allies in the United States of America? That being so, has the Prime Minister obtained from President Bush undertakings that, in the future, United Nations resolutions concerning Israel will be backed by the United States?
§ Lord Williams of Mostyn
My Lords, I am not sure that I myself would say that "most of the blame" should lie at the door of the United States. I do not think that that is a fair historical summary. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister has said plainly that there is blame on both sides. I doubt that any 430 President of the United States would say that the US would always support future UN Security Council resolutions without studying the texts. However, I take the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Hooson—which echoes a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Hurd—that the United States is a very significant participant in these matters. The more closely it is involved with the European Union, and with the assistance of our Government, the better it will be. I also agree entirely with the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, that innocents are dying on both sides. I do not think that death chooses with any scruple.
§ The Lord Bishop of Oxford
My Lords, it was good to hear from the noble and learned Lord about the proposal for international monitors. However, the presence of international monitors assumes an agreement to be monitored. I wonder whether the Minister could go beyond that and ask whether there could be any role for an international force in order to help diplomats trying to broker an agreement. One of the most distressing and depressing features of the present situation is that policy on both sides is driven by a sense of desperation and despair. That will not lead anywhere. There must be some hope and I think that there can be hope only through decisive intervention from outside. I wonder whether there might come a time when there could be a role for a much stronger international force.
§ Lord Williams of Mostyn
My Lords, I shall deal with the points made by the right reverend Prelate in order. At the moment we are looking to civilian monitoring. Of course he is quite right to say that, unless we have Israeli and Palestinian agreement, a course of monitoring simply cannot work.
On the question of the imposition of yet further armed forces into the Middle East, I shall certainly take that on board with care and transmit it to my colleagues, although I do not really need to do so because my noble friend Lady Symons is seated next to me. At this stage I think that we ought to concentrate on seeing whether we can arrange a monitoring force which will depend on the consent of those who are to be monitored and some agreement about the cessation of violence. Otherwise there will be nothing to monitor.
§ Lord Lamont of Lerwick
My Lords, while I very much agree with what the noble and learned Lord said about the absolute necessity to be even-handed, is there not a slight danger that what the Government have said about settlement does not go far enough? Surely it is not simply a question of no further settlement? It is a source of real aggravation that there are now 500,000 to 600,000 illegal settlers both on the West Bank and in Gaza? This has been encouraged by the Sharon government and it has been a source of enormous provocation. It ought to be policy to encourage not only no further settlement, but the dismantling of some existing settlements.
§ Lord Williams of Mostyn
My Lords, I think that the noble Lord may have in mind the recommendation of 431 the Mitchell committee; namely, that at this stage Israel should freeze all settlement activity, including the further growth of existing settlements. However, to go back to his point of fundamental principle, if the settlements are unlawful—illegal under international law—then it is plain that they ought not to be allowed to continue and undoubtedly they are an obstacle to peace. I imagine that any Prime Minister of Israel, over whichever coalition he might preside, would find that there will be very significant internal domestic difficulties, but I do not dissent from the general thrust of the noble Lord's remarks. The difficulty here is that events are changing very quickly. It would be legitimate for the noble Lord to say that I am being weasel worded, but I am trying be as cautious as I can in order not to exacerbate the extremely critical situation that exists at the moment.
§ Lord Clinton-Davis
My Lords, does my noble and learned friend agree that it is unacceptable that one party should look at the other's proposals and then walk away immediately? That is precisely what Chairman Arafat did about two years ago. Does my noble and learned friend further agree that Chairman Arafat has to exhibit more than mere condemnation of what has occurred in Israel and must take active steps to ensure that no other provocation exists? In that way, discussions could take place—but not until such steps are taken.
§ Lord Williams of Mostyn
My Lords, there is no point in having discussions to which parties do not go in good faith and with the intention of at least making an effort to reach common ground. My noble friend Lord Clinton-Davis asked about Mr Arafat's power to impose discipline on those within his territory. If he does not have the infrastructure, the police and security forces to do so—and if tanks are destroying dwellings at the moment—it is very difficult. What I am saying may not be popular with everyone, but the fact that it is unpopular does not make it untrue.
§ The Earl of Sandwich
My Lords, is not Israel in breach of international law in another important respect—that is, its army's attacks on civilian members of independent non-governmental organisations such as the Red Cross, Médicines sans Frontières and others impartially involved in the conflict, who are unable even to drag the wounded away? Will there be a Statement by Her Majesty's Government on this issue? Does anyone listen to Statements by Her Majesty's Government?
§ Lord Williams of Mostyn
My Lords, people do listen. The reason for the debate is that people realise that the United Kingdom Government have a genuine interest in bringing about peace in this part of the world. The voice of the United Kingdom—I do not limit it to the Government—still has a good deal of power, respect and regard in the Middle East. Obviously if activities of the kind specified by the noble Earl are being carried out—I say "ir—they are plainly unlawful under international law.