§ 3.31 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Harold Macmillan)
This afternoon we are to discuss recent events and urgent problems in the Middle East. In the last few months these have taken on a new significance. Nevertheless, they are so closely linked with the political situation elsewhere, especially in Europe, that I hope I may be allowed some preliminary reflections.
It is just over forty years since Sir Edward Grey's famous saying, as he stood in the window of his room in the Foreign Office, watching the lamps being lit in the space below. Anyone who occupies that room must think of it. He said, "The lamps are going out all over Europe: we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime."
The First World War marked the end of an era—perhaps the happiest and the most secure that the world has enjoyed since the age of the Antonines. It has, of course, its detractors, but the further we move away from it the more, perhaps, we begin to realise its blessings. Whatever may be the final judgment of history, this is certainly true: the structure of the world was dealt a staggering blow by the First World War. It tottered; it might have recovered had it not been for the Second War following within a single generation. This time the stroke was almost mortal. A huge convulsion followed right through every part of the world. All the elements were thrown into the cauldron of fate. In the last ten years, these have been trying to settle into a new mould. We do not yet know its final form.
§ Mr. Pannell
I do not take orders from a dog fancier. Mr. Speaker, there are strangers in the Gallery using glasses.
§ Mr. Speaker
I am obliged to the hon. Member for drawing my attention to that. It is not allowed. Will the attendants please deal with it?
§ Mr. Macmillan
I do not know whether that is flattering or critical.
I was saying that during the period since the last war there have, of course, been varying phases. At one period, especially after the fall of Czechoslovakia, it seemed as if hardly any Western European country would escape the onrush of Soviet power and propaganda. Partly by overt military pressure, partly by the covert help of large Communist parties—the fatal Fifth Column—the westward march of Communism seemed likely to over-run the whole of Europe. This was prevented by the courage and foresight of those statesmen who called a halt and began to organise resistance. This salvage operation was covered by the protecting shield of American atomic power. Now the Soviets are halted in the West. They have even had to give ground in Austria. We believe that they may, with steady pressure upon them, be forced sooner or later to give ground in Eastern Germany. But this temporary stability—for that is what we have in the West—is not the outcome of the bomb alone. The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation is, of course, primarily a military alliance, but it is more. It has equal political significance, for it is a great Western comradeship of Governments and peoples who believe in freedom and are determined to preserve it from internal subversion as well as from external attack.
So much for the West. For somewhat different reasons, a temporary lull has appeared in the Far East. Problems in the Formosa Strait, which, the House will remember, six months ago occupied our thoughts and about which this House had almost daily the gravest anxieties, have fallen, temporarily at least, into the background. Tensions have been relieved, to use the jargon of the day; and negotiation, at least upon an informal basis, is taking the place of menaces.
In the chief areas of conflict, the uneasy truce has settled down for the time being into a kind of new pattern, whether it be in Korea, in Vietnam or in Laos. These solutions are by no means satisfactory to the unhappy inhabitants of these countries which have been partly seized by Communist aggression. Nevertheless, a sort of tie facto stabilisation has been secured in the Far East at the expense, of course, of varying degrees of partition.
828 In these conditions, with the West and the East temporarily stabilised, it is not surprising that the Middle East has leapt suddenly into the foreground of the picture. For here the situation is still fluid. Into this area, therefore, the struggle for power has been transferred. A new act in the drama opens; and, as the scene shifts, so does the interest of spectators and commentators.
Nowhere was I more conscious of this than at the recent conference at Geneva. Although not on the formal agenda, the Middle East was in all our minds and was the subject of many of our informal discussions. In entering upon this new struggle, or, rather, upon this new phase of the struggle, the Western Powers and the Communist Powers have in each case certain advantages and disadvantages. The Western Powers, especially Great Britain, have a long connection, political, economic and cultural, with the countries of the Middle East. There are many links and there are many memories of friendships and comradeships, both in peace and in war, extending over more than one generation.
Then there is the English language, which is more and more becoming the lingua franca of the Middle East. The House may be interested to know that English is the official working language of the Bagdad Pact Powers. This is so as a matter of practical convenience, since it is the language in which all the Prime Ministers and Foreign Secretaries can converse with each other.
On the other hand, in spite of all they have done for the people of this area, Western countries can be denounced, according to the fashion of the day, as colonialists, imperialists, and all the rest of it. The great benefits brought to many countries, especially Egypt and the Sudan, for something like three-quarters of a century; even the more recent help given to the Arab States, all these can easily be forgotten, or misunderstood, or misrepresented. This form of propaganda is an easy weapon in the hands of the Communists or the nationalists; and the Communists, here as elsewhere, are very clever at using nationalism as their tool.
Perhaps there is nothing very remarkable about this misrepresentation, considering that no one has misrepresented the work of Englishmen abroad 829 more cruelly than some of their compatriots. This is a very old tradition of English political life, but nowadays it has its dangers, for these calumnies are often accepted without argument or without rebuttal. Sometimes, however, the answer comes in a robust enough form. Here, I recall the words of the Prime Minister of Ceylon at the Bandung Conference:There is another form of colonialism, however, about which many of us represented here are perhaps less clear in our minds. Think, for example, of those satellite States under Communist domination in Central and East Europe—of Hungary, Roumania, Bulgaria, Albania, Czechoslovakia, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Poland. Are not these colonies as much as any of the Colonial Territories in Africa or Asia?In addition, the Communist Powers, led by Soviet Russia, from the material point of view have very substantial assets, which they are obviously determined to exploit to the full. For instance, if they are determined to promote an arms race in the Middle East they have considerable advantages. In passing, I would like to remind the House how eloquently, at Geneva, Mr. Molotov denounced the arms race in Europe, which he had just launched so successfully in the Middle East. The Russian armed forces, which were never demobilised to anything like the extent of those of the West, have now had ten years of maintenance at a very high level. The Russian Government have devoted to the design, development and production of weapons much of the scientific and technical talent of the nation.
As a result, with new weapons in the air, on the land and by sea, continually taking the place of the old, they have a large number of arms of all kinds which are obsolescent, or even obsolete, in terms of global war, and yet of the greatest importance and value in the balance of power in the Middle East. These they are using as pawns in this great game. First, they have a much larger supply, and, secondly, they are uninhibited by conscience, public opinion or parliamentary control; nor, so far as I know, is there a Soviet counterpart of the Comptroller and Auditor-General.
Apart from the field of armaments, they also have an advantage in the completely centralised machinery of their economic system. It is clear that they mean to use that power to the full. If they care to. 830 they can undersell or underbid any firm of the West, since the prices and financial conditions which they are able to quote need have no relation either to costs or to ordinary financial considerations. In addition, they are able to use barter on a large scale. These, then, are their advantages; large supplies of armaments and the complete control of their economic system—both of which they are ready to use ruthlessly and cynically for political, military and strategic ends.
On the other hand, there is an impalpable, uncertain thing, not material but rather spiritual in its content. which is against them. I am sure—and I think that every hon. Member in the House feels the same—that if some of the countries in this area ultimately fall to Communism it will not he from any love of it. The danger is that their leaders, some of whom are playing with fire, may get seriously burnt. It may be that Communism will be able—at any rate, for a time—to exploit nationalism by skilfully harping upon the real or fancied grievances of the past. Moreover, it is true—and it is one of the dangers of the situation—that some of the Governments in the Middle East may flatter themselves that they can effectively play off one side against the other, without perhaps realising the risks which they run. But I do not believe that the peoples of the Middle East will succumb to Communism of their own volition, or without a struggle. The principles of Communism are utterly repugnant to their traditions and to their way of life.
Meanwhile, in this area, two additional developments since the First World War have brought new complications. Nowhere in the world have there been such great changes, both politically and economically. From the economic point of view, the discovery of oil on a vast scale has made a tremendous impact upon the life and character of the problems of the Middle East. This can scarcely be overrated, either for them or for us. It has brought to them wealth on a scale utterly unknown before, and yet these favours have been very partially distributed. Some areas with small populations have become immense beneficiaries. There are others with large populations, much needing the use of capital resources, and able to use them if they had them, where no oil has been found.
831 There are some areas where this wealth has been wisely used for the benefit of the whole people and not squandered at the whim of a few. Perhaps the best example of a sound policy is to be found among our friends, the Iraqis. Here, about 70 per cent. of the oil revenue is today placed to capital account. Great developments have already been carried out and much more has been planned. It is a source of pride to us that it was a distinguished Englishman, for very long a Member of this House—Lord Salter—who was asked to preside over their latest plan.
The Iranian Government—whose bold adherence to the Bagdad Pact we all applaud and admire—are working upon the same lines. They are determined to invest and not to squander the proceeds of their oil revenue. But there are others who use it ill: whose rulers seem to care little for the future; who dissipate these enormous sums either in lavish expenditure upon themselves, or—what, perhaps, does greater harm—upon a wholesale system of corruption which spreads over the area. This, today, constitutes a most serious problem.
The discovery, then, of the oil and the problems that follow from it constitute the first great change which has come to the Middle East. But with the ending of the First World War there came political changes, which have brought with them their own complications. We all know the difficulties which followed in Europe on the break up of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the troubles which beset the successor States. We have recently seen some of the problems that have followed from the withdrawal of direct British responsibility for certain large areas of the world.
The successor States to the Turkish Empire were bound in any event to have had to struggle against many difficulties. There were the jealousies of the different Arab ruling families. There were countries with special complications, such as religious and racial minorities, and countries like Egypt, where the international importance of their situation and their responsibilities for the Canal raised special considerations.
To all these problems, which were bound to be the result of the First World War, there has been added the Palestine 832 problem. This was intensified between the wars by the Hitlerite persecutions. After the Second World War, new pressures and new dangers arose. Western statesmanship has been trying to calm the situation and to preserve peace, looking for an ultimate solution. We may all have failed to find the right answer. But at least we have looked for it in good faith.
Naturally, it has been easy for the Russians, when they decided to intervene to find profitable fishing in these troubled waters. They are not trying to solve the problem: they are trying to make it utterly insoluble. Given their purpose and their purely cynical approach, their intervention is not surprising. I have, indeed, sometimes wondered why they held off so long. What they have now started to do is to open up a new front, for that is what it amounts to. We must face this situation boldly and, if we can, skilfully.
I cannot conceal from the House the serious character of this new threat, but we must not be defeatist. All the cards are not in their hands. They have not before attempted an operation quite of this kind. Up to now, it has been fairly easy to spread their power bit by bit into neighbouring countries. This is quite a different proposition. In some ways it presents almost as many difficulties to them as it does to us. They may overreach themselves; they may even fall into traps of their own making.
Faced with this situation, with our interests and our friends threatened, what are we to do? I have seen it suggested that what we ought to do is to go about the world preaching neutralism. I think that this is the theme—or, I should perhaps say, one of the themes—of the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Cross-man). Of course, every country has to make its own choice. We respect neutralism where it is genuine and sincere—
§ Mr. Macmillan
—but that does not mean that we have not a right and a duty to organise our friends. Indeed, if we did not do that, there would not be much hope for the neutrals. There are no neutrals where there are no activists. There is just universal defeat and mass subjection.
833 In any event, Britain cannot surrender her duty and does not intend to surrender it. And so we must, I hope the House will agree, organise ourselves and our friends in the Middle East as we have in Europe. There have been many efforts to do this and they have ended up, I quite admit, so far, in many disappointments. It was hoped that we might have based a defensive organisation upon Egypt. That has not yet been possible. Nevertheless, in the Agreement we made with Egypt last year, we retained the right to reactivate the Suez Canal base in the event of external aggression against any of the Arab States or Turkey and, in the meantime, the facilities and workshops in the base are available.
What was the next step? The Turkish and Iraqi Governments entered into an agreement for mutual support, and out of this Turko-Iraqi Pact has sprung the concept of the Northern Tier. Britain, Pakistan and, now, Iran have adhered to this Agreement. The formal launching of the Pact took place, as the House knows, some weeks ago. To this initial meeting the United States Government sent observers of high rank, both military and political, and with the Bagdad Pact, both in its political, economic and military aspects, the United States is now officially and effectively associated. All these are important events.
The British Government's accession to the Pact was approved by this House without a Division on 4th April this year. It is true that certain hesitations were expressed, both as to its scope and as to its comprehensiveness. I think that the right hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) and the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison), who is to follow me in the debate, called the Turko-Iraqi Pact a "first step." It is true that they felt that something more should follow. But the House unanimously approved our accession. Something more has followed, and, perhaps, something more will follow.
In any case, no one has suggested, or no one suggested at that time, that we had no right or even duty to develop an organisation for mutual support and defence in that part of the world. No one said until quite recently that the Pact was provocative. That is a quite new idea, started by those critics whose motto seems to be "My Russia, right or wrong."
834 Now, it is asserted that the Russian offer of arms to Egypt is a retort to the Bagdad Pact. I do not believe a word of it. It is clear—indeed, obvious—from the very scope of the arms offer and of the many other manœuvres going on in the area that these are the fruits of very long and careful preparation. No, Sir, the Bagdad Pact was not too early. I almost feared that it might have been too late. At any rate, it was only just in time. Its character, like that of N.A.T.O., is defensive and non-aggressive. Its functions are not exclusively military. It is a union of like-minded people determined to defend their freedom, their economy and their way of life. On the economic side, there is much to be done. We have made a start. Already, the offer made by Her Majesty's Government to contribute all that they can to atomic power for peaceful uses in the area has struck the imagination of that part of the world.
The Bagdad Pact is not intended as a threat to Russia, and the Russians, of course, know it. It is not intended as a reply or a rebuff to Egypt. Why should it be? We believe, indeed, that there is a great field for continued co-operation between Egypt and the West if mutual understanding and good will can prevail. The Pact is not intended to split the Arab world. On the contrary, we hope that as conditions allow it may prove to be something to which the whole Arab world will rally.
Perhaps one of the most important aspects of the meeting at Bagdad was the public refutation of the insidious Soviet propaganda which is spreading so far. What is the basis of this propaganda? It is the assertion that there is an inherent divergence of interest and motive between Western and Asiatic peoples. Here in Bagdad, at any rate, was an example of the exact contrary, for here was inaugurated an equal and loyal partnership between Great Britain, with the United States as her associate, and four great Eastern Powers—Pakistan, Iran, Turkey and Iraq. I say that that is a striking and welcome demonstration of the fact that such a partnership is possible and can be fruitful.
It is true, of course, that there are many happy memories of working together in the past which bind some of us already, particularly in the case of our Pakistani and Iraqi friends. It is true that there 835 are many links between civilians who have worked together, between soldiers who have trained and fought side by side. But all this only serves to add to the testimony that the propaganda which tries to set the East against the West, and sow suspicion and hatred between men of different races and religions, does not always succeed. For here in Bagdad was a notable demonstration of the strength of the ties which may bind so many divergent peoples into a team.
Therefore, I say once again that this Pact is not complete, but it is a start. The more it is strengthened, the better it will be for the security and the progress of all the peoples of the Middle East. I repeat, it is not intended to divide the Arab world. I believe that, in the long run, it will unite it, and I say once more, when circumstances allow we hope that countries who now seem doubtful, or even antipathetic, may be willing to associate themselves with us and our friends, who are also their friends.
§ Mr. Macmillan
I said "when circumstances allow." That means, as things are, if and when we can get some solution of the Palestine problem.
Many of us in this House have long associations with one or other of the two sides in this dispute. Many of us have equal sympathy for both. Some of us have laboured in different ways to promote or preserve agreement. All of us know that the happiness and prosperity of the whole area depends upon agreement. Recent events have made us more conscious than ever of the need for rapid agreement, but, of course, we cannot hide from ourselves what are the difficulties.
I do not think that we can hide from ourselves the fact that the Arab world has, in the past, not really been ready to accept a final agreement. We must remember that from the Arab point of view the State of Israel was carved out of their territory, and that the hostility of the Arabs has caused the Israelis to believe that their very existence is threatened. Both sides are convinced of the rightness of their case and both are quick to impute insincere motives to those who do not give full support to either side.
836 Since the war the Western Powers have followed a sincere policy of trying to avoid or circumscribe trouble and to hold the balance as evenly as they could. This has been the policy of successive Governments in Great Britain, of both parties. It has been the policy which was expressed in the Tripartite Declaration of 1950. It is the policy which the three Western Powers have consistently tried to make effective through the machinery of the United Nations. It was a right policy, it was a fair policy and, for a time, it was a reasonably effective policy, for in the years immediately after the war these countries could, in fact, operate something like an arms control because they had for practical purposes an arms monopoly.
The Russian incursion has swept all this away and in these circumstances, and subjected to these temptations, one cannot altogether blame the Government of Egypt. There was an opportunity. It was tempting to take it. Alas, it may well prove that the other conditions which are likely to be inseparable from such a deal may turn out very badly for Egypt. But these statesmen must make their own decisions. We can only warn them that if they take part in this particular form of supper, they will require specially long spoons.
The incursion of Russia, the deliberate opening up of this new front, not only in Egypt but throughout the Arab world, by every kind of means—by offer of weapons, by offer of economic assistance, by widespread support of subversive organisations—all these, of course, have made a new and menacing situation. In our view, this cannot be put right by the Western Powers themselves deciding to send a balancing supply of arms to Israel. To enter upon this arms race at this stage, against the very considerable resources which the Soviet command, would, in our view, be foolish. The only thing we can do is to try to see whether some good cannot come out of all this evil; and we believe it can.
The Russians have tried to exploit the weakest point. They have tried to open up again this running sore in the life of the Middle East. Yet perhaps their methods are so crude and barefaced that the final result will be the opposite. Perhaps this intervention was needed to direct the minds of all concerned to what is the fundamental problem. Surely the 837 answer is not to put more and more arms into the Middle East in a frantic attempt to balance one delivery by another; the answer is surely to concentrate everybody's mind on the only thing which can bring prosperity and peace to all concerned, and that is a final settlement.
How should this settlement be sought? One way is through the Security Council of the United Nations or through the other machinery of the United Nations. For a long time past, as the House knows, the United Nations organisations in the field have been there helping to maintain the armistice. General Burns, to whom I think the whole House would wish to pay a tribute, is trying to ensure that both sides carry out the Resolution of the Security Council of 8th September for the separation of forces along the Gaza strip and the proposals of the Secretary-General of 3rd November for dealing with the situation in the E1 Auja demilitarised zone.
I am sure that if the situation should deteriorate General Burns will not hesitate to ask for a meeting of the Security Council, and, of course, the Western Powers could do the same. In view of some questions that have been asked on this point, I should add that any assistance in the way of staff or equipment which General Burns may require to discharge his duties, will have our full support. However, admirable as all this is for trying to keep the truce, I am not convinced that the United Nations is the right machinery at the moment for trying to turn the truce into a peace. That is really quite a different problem. Moreover, there is the difficulty that Russia seems much more concerned in causing trouble than in bringing peace.
I have seen criticisms by those who say that we ought to have brought Russia into our counsels and tried to hold four-Power discussions on these problems. I am bound to say that the recent experience of our talks with Mr. Molotov on this matter, first in New York and recently in Geneva, has not convinced me that this would be a prudent course to take. Apart from other arguments, it is this which is the weakness of the proposal for a general embargo on arms. Apart from the fact that an embargo would conflict with the spirit as well as the letter of the Tripartite Declaration and with our Treaty commitments to Iraq and Jordan, what real hope have 838 we of believing that the Soviet bloc would respond to the call for an embargo?
What is surely needed—urgently needed—and what everyone must really be wanting now to see, is a final settlement. For this purpose, I think that the speech of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister at Guildhall was singularly well timed. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] He said, in fact, what all serious and moderate people were beginning to say. He said that we must have peace and not war. He said that the only way to peace is through compromise. That is the plain truth. How else can agreement be reached except by compromise?
It does not help to deploy legal or historical arguments to try to show that one side is right and the other is wrong, for both are convinced of the justice of their cause. My right hon. Friend was not trying to make a judicial decision in a court. He was throwing out, as it was his right and duty to do, advice as to how the problem might be approached.
As the Prime Minister's words and his purpose become more understood, I believe they will receive—and, indeed, they are receiving—sympathetic attention from both sides. On the Arab side, I have heard for the first time many leading Arab figures who take the view that a final settlement must now be worked out. With the exception of the extremists—there are, of course, extremists on both sides—the serious Arab leaders have begun to realise that the State of Israel is something that they must live with and something that they must make sacrifices to live with.
On the Israel side, I feel sure that a more careful consideration—it is taking place—of what the Prime Minister actually said will lead to an acceptance of the thought that any compromise must involve some sacrifice from them, also. Then, how great the gain could he, not merely the immediate material gains, the end of the blockade and all that goes with it, but the gain in morale and the gain in peace of mind which would follow a final agreement. At present, all who live in the whole area are like men living on the edge of a volcano.
If, now that the time is ripe, a settlement could be reached, it would bring to the whole area a new sense of hope and new possibilities for the mutual happiness and prosperity of all concerned. The 839 Prime Minister's contribution has, at any rate, raised this question in a new light. Men are talking about it and thinking about it in the Middle East, and what we have now to do is to pursue the lead which he has given with patient and, I think it would be right to say, private negotiation.
Of course, Russia will try to break down any hope of a settlement. She will try to keep alive the hatreds and prevent the wounds from being healed. But do not let us play the Russian game. I believe that both sides are anxious to avoid this trap, and the fact that it has been laid so openly and so blatantly may perhaps, in the long run, lead to a different result from that which the Russians thought they would achieve.
In many quarters—this is one point with which I ought to deal—it has been suggested that a new security guarantee should be given to Israel. With the Tripartite Declaration of 1950, the three Governments have undertaken to prevent any violation of frontiers or armistice lines in Palestine. But even if it can be argued that a freely negotiated treaty would be more agreeable or more honourable to the Israeli Government than a unilateral declaration, I cannot persuade myself, and I do not think that the House as a whole will be persuaded, that to enter upon such a course at this particular moment is the best contribution we can make to the one thing that we want and that is a settlement. Could a guarantee against aggression, in addition to the long list of declarations and guarantees already given, finally settle this problem? It is a settlement which is, above all things, the crying need of the Middle East today.
§ Mr. Denis Healey (Leeds, East)
Would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that the best possible guarantee for Israel would be the implementation by the Western Powers of the promise in the Tripartite Declaration to supply her with all the arms required for legitimate self-defence?
§ Mr. Macmillan
I think that the Tripartite Declaration has been loyally carried out by the three Powers which signed it, and they intend to carry it out.
§ Mr. Macmillan
I cannot give the figures, because it would be absolutely contrary both to propriety and to the wishes of the countries concerned to do so.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Is it not obvious that it is impossible for right hon. and hon. Gentlemen to form a judgment on the matter of the balance of arms unless they have the figures supplied to them? If the Government are not prepared to give the figures, they are shielding themselves behind an alibi.
§ Mr. Macmillan
The right hon. Gentleman has held very high office in Governments which had much the same problem, and he knows that we are following exactly the practice of our predecessors.
I am afraid that I have kept the House very long, and I must now sum up. [Interruption.] If he is bored, the right hon. Gentleman has a remedy which I have not got; he can go away, but I have to go on.
To sum up the position of the Middle East, there are many difficulties. Some of the difficulties are the inevitable result of the changes which have come all over the world in the last forty years. The changes had to come, but the two wars enormously accelerated the pace. It was right, in my view, that British power and military authority should pass to peoples whom British policy had deliberately trained to be their successors.
But, of course, there are gaps. There is a gap in the North-West Frontier of India. The Bagdad Pact, when it is fully established, may help. There are troubles in Cyprus, which, ordinarily, would have been manageable, but which have become much more difficult owing to the new strategic importance of the island. At the same time, with the coming of the new wealth, the vast oil revenues have brought trouble as well as happiness since wealth can be misused as well as wisely used. Then there are the dangerous stresses in the Eastern Mediterranean, which will remain until Arab and Israeli peoples can reach a settlement.
Similarly in the Sudan, the process of the development of independence and self-government has not been without its troubles. Nevertheless, I feel sure that the House will agree that the more rapidly the process can proceed the better it will 841 be. For this reason the British Government have done everything they can to expedite matters both with regard to the plebiscite and with regard to the elections to the Constituent Assembly in the Sudan. In the Southern Sudan, about which many Members feel deep and natural concern, conditions are, I am happy to say, improving. The Equatorial Province is gradually returning to normal, but it will, of course, be some time before full confidence between Northerners and Southerners is achieved. The Sudanese Government, I know, are aware of the need to find a solution to this problem, but, unhappy as these events have been, I do not think that it is in the interests of people either of the North or South that we should allow them to be exaggerated. After all, all history shows us how painful the birth pangs of independence can be.
All this is true and there are new dangers just as the result of those events of which I have been speaking; but it is no good looking back nostalgically to the past. We cannot go back. We must go forward, and I believe that the work we are doing in the Middle East is the next logical step to the work we did in the past. In the old days, in many countries in the world under direct British rule and authority there were laid in the hearts of men respect for law, the beginning of parliamentary government, the concept of the equality of men before the law and the freedoms which we now regard as the marks of a civilised society.
Of course, those who are trying to undermine all this make a caricature of the relations through all those years between the West and the East. Of course, they seek to play upon the immature aspirations of newly-enfranchised peoples and, by misrepresentation and skilful propaganda, to make them their instruments before they make them their victims. But we ought not to be deterred. We must go along our own path and hold out the hand of help, but on a basis of free and equal partnership. We have this in the Bagdad Pact. We have this in S.E.A.T.O, just as we have it in Europe in N.A.T.O. In another form we have it in the Colombo Plan These partnerships we must develop and strengthen They must not be merely for military strength, but for political cohesion for economic growth and material prosperity.
842 It is not now a case of the authority of one people over another. The time for that has gone, although it had its place in the history of mankind. The time is now one for partnership and partnership is, after all, what the British people are offering to the world. Just as the old British colonial and imperial system is passing to the concept of Commonwealth, so the Commonwealth idea is extending beyond those countries who owe it formal allegiance and it may well be that it is the main rôle of the British people, with the active help and sympathy of our American friends, to be leaders in this concept. It is the ideal of a new society of peoples of all races and creeds held together by a common love of freedom and the spiritual as well as the material values and determination to preserve them.
§ 4.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Herbert Morrison (Lewisham, South)
The Foreign Secretary will agree that he has been heard with care, courtesy and attention by this side of the House, as well as by his own. I must say, however, that the longer he went on, the more depressed about the policy of the Government I became; the more did it seem that the Government have drifted into an unfortunate situation out of which they do not know how to emerge. We have listened to a speech which was a speech without a policy, a speech without a plan. It was a confession that as regards the Middle East, at any rate, the policy of the Government stands exposed as an utter failure. The policy suffers from weakness and also from a lack of positive character, and it has not been altogether honest as between one part of the Middle East and another. That must be admitted.
I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that in Europe we have seen examples of Communist colonialism. He said that the Soviet Union has just started a Middle Eastern arms race. I regret the intervention of the Soviet Union and its satellites into Middle Eastern affairs as much as do the Government, but I cannot say that the Soviet Union altogether started the arms race. We, as well as the Soviet Union, have our responsibilities in that respect. The Foreign Secretary took some comfort from the fact that when the Iraqi-Turkish Pact, to which we acceded, went through the House, it went through without a Division. That may 843 be a rather comforting observation, but there was very great criticism of the Pact from this side, and I will explain our position about that and other pacts.
There was an example of bias in what the right hon. Gentleman said about the creation of Palestine, as it was then called. He said that the Arabs, not unnaturally, felt that Palestine was created and carved out of Arab territory. That is a biassed statement. All of these countries, Israel and the Arab States, were carved out of the former Turkish Ottoman Empire. In that process of creating a whole series of what ultimately became independent Arab States, as well as the Palestine mandatory State—and I agree that some of the Arab States were mandatory States at the beginning—all were created out of the Ottoman Empire.
§ Mr. H. Macmillan
I am sure that the right hon. Member would not wish to misstate what I said. I did not say that this was my opinion and I did not use the words "not unnaturally." I said, and it is a point of fact, that the difficulty was that the Arab States regarded the Israel State as having come into being out of their territory and the Israelis took a totally different view. I did not say that it was my view.
§ Mr. Morrison
If the right hon. Gentleman wished to be scrupulously fair about it, he might have added that the Arabs were mistaken on the grounds which I have now indicated to the House. I submit that what he said in that respect was really biassed.
The right hon. Gentleman said that a final settlement must now be worked out and that certain Arab leaders were thinking that a final settlement must be worked out. I wish he would be good enough to tell us who are the Arab leaders—because that was a very encouraging observation—and on what terms the settlement should be reached. He said that Israel was ready for some sacrifices. He did not tell us what and he did not tell us who. I do not think that such statements should be made without evidence about them being given.
Let me make it clear that the Labour Party has no enmity towards the Arab peoples. We wish them well. We wish them greater prosperity than they now have. We wish that they may achieve 844 that progress and advancement without which their political institutions will not properly work, and we hope they may develop trade unions and labour organisations which will help their standard of life. I gather that some hon. Gentlemen opposite think that that is a dismal prospect. The truth is that if there were trade unions and a modern Labour movement in the Arab countries this danger of reaction and threat from the Soviet Union would be much less than it is at present.
The truth is that what is needed for the Arab countries, whom we on this side of the House genuinely wish well, as I am sure do hon. Members opposite, is a progressive development in their economy. There is vast territory. There are great possibilities for economic development both industrial and, in particular, agricultural. It can be done, I think, by co-operation between the Governments of the Arab States themselves, the countries of the West and the United Nations. One of the most urgent needs in the world and one of the things best calculated to prevent the infiltration of Communism in these countries is that there should be economic progress, economic development and industrial and economic prosperity.
It cannot be said that there is a shortage of land in the Arab countries. That cannot be said, as I will show. But there are in these countries extremes of riches and poverty. There are a limited number of very rich people at the top and masses of very poor, desperate people at the bottom. This is the raw material of Communism. The reason why, in our country and other progressive countries, including Israel, there is a lack of political Communism is that the masses of the people are better taken care of than they are in utterly backward countries.
This lack of economic development, these extremes of riches and poverty—and let not the party opposite forget it—are not only the raw materials of Communism; they are the raw materials of negative, reactionary nationalism as well. What have the Egyptians been doing for years? They have been telling their people, "We are very sorry that you are poor. We are very sorry that you have a rough time." and that the people to blame for it were the foreigners, including the British. It is just as, long years ago, some people in our own country used to say, when people were hard up, poor, 845 miserable and desperate, that it was the fault of the foreigners, whereas it was the fault of our own bad social system at the time.
Another point upon which we have deep sympathy with the Arab States is that of refugees—these many thousands of refugees who are in a terrible condition. They are in an awful state. They are having a rough time. It is right that the Western world should take an interest in their welfare. What is not right is to use the refugee problem as a partisan element in the dispute which is going on between certain countries in the Middle East.
The question is, "What are we to do about the refugees?" At present, this large body of refugees, especially in Jordan, who are often hungry, insufficiently fed and ill housed—if, indeed, they are housed at all—are going through a very difficult time. What is the United Nations doing about it? The United Nations deserves some credit for what it is doing, and so does our own country and the United States.
But what it boils down to is not a solution of the refugee problem. What it boils down to is outdoor relief. It is a sort of Poor Law relief in which the United Nations, through funds accumulated from the United States, our own country and others, is paying to the refugees moneys week by week, or month by month, as the case may be, or providing them with food and very primitive accommodation. This is not the solution; it is not the way out.
The way out is that steps should be taken, and should be pursued, for the permanent settlement of the refugees on the land, or otherwise. It may be said that that is an impossible proposition, and that there is not enough land. There are two answers to that. One is that it has been done in the State of Israel with—in relation to the small area—a very large population. These refugees have been settled from Europe, and many have come from Arab countries as well. We want the Arab poor people who are having a very rough time to be settled permanently by sensible and permanent arrangements. It is not true that there is a shortage of land. The total square mileage of the Arab countries is 1,639,300.
§ Mr. Morrison
I have been to Israel twice, once in, I think, 1936, and once last year. On my first visit I saw large tracts of territory in Israel that were sand and that had every appearance of being incapable of cultivation. On my second visit I saw that territory green, prosperous and growing crops. What has been done in the soil of Israel can be done in the soil of the Arab countries, which is much the same. Therefore, I submit to the hon. Gentleman that he is mistaken.
The area of the Arab countries is 1,639,300 square miles, and the population is 41,650,000. The area of Israel is only 8,048 square miles, and the population is 1,725,000. If the whole of Israel were given to the Arab States it would be a negligible contribution to the solution of the problem. I submit to the House that there is plenty of land in the Arab States, provided that it is cultivated in a constructive way, so that these problems may be solved. There ought to be settlement rather than outdoor relief.
§ Mr. Nigel Nicolson (Bournemouth, East and Christchurch)
The right hon. Gentleman seems to be suggesting that United Nations has done nothing more than provide day-by-day relief to keep the Arab refugees alive. In fact, since 1951 there has, in addition, been a capital sum of 200 million dollars available to the Arab States—
§ Mr. Nicolson
—to resettle the refugees, but, so far, all they have spent of that sum is 7 million dollars.
§ Mr. Morrison
I am much obliged to the hon. Gentleman. I did not go on to develop the point, because I am anxious not to be more critical of the Arab States than I need to be.
The Arab States ought to have been active in positively settling these refugees. I am not wholly blaming the United Nations, or the British Government, or the United States Government—not wholly, except that I think that we might have been a bit more lively about the matter than we have been. The blame largely rests on the Governments of the Arab States, and I understand that some of them have said that they do not want to do this, because it will remove their grievance, and they would sooner have a grievance than a solution. That happens among oppositions now and again, 847 and between oppositions and Governments. Sometimes an opposition would sooner have a grievance than a concession. I have seen that happen in the case of Conservative and Labour Oppositions in this House.
It is my submission that in the handling of the overall problem of the Middle East, it is time that the Western Powers spoke out that they carried out more education and more propaganda. What we really want is an overall economic and social board for the Middle East to administer the oil revenues and the United Nations aid, but we are not speaking out enough; we are not doing enough by way of education and propaganda. I assure the Government that if the Russians get their feet in. with military aid, and so on, there will be no lack of propaganda; and I do not see why the British Government and the other Governments concerned should not seek to educate all the countries of the Middle East in the solution of the grave economic problems with which they are faced.
My second charge against the Government is one of weakness. They have been weak in relation to Egypt. They were not weak in that respect when we were in power. When they were in opposition the party opposite were very much "after us" and indeed, in 1951, we only saved ourselves by a narrow margin, because the Opposition were so cross with us about some minor economic matter that we settled with Egypt. But that did not stop this Government—brave as they were in opposition—from conducting a "scuttle" out of Egypt.
The Government have been supplying arms to Egypt. They have made promises of equity in the supply of arms as between Egypt and the other Arab States and Israel. I wish to call the attention of the House to the following interchange with the Prime Minister on 22nd November, in which I and my right hon. Friend the Member for Blyth (Mr. Robens) took part. I asked the Prime Minister:Is there not a moral or other obligation on the part of Her Majesty's Government to maintain some sort of equity and fairness in the supply of arms between these unfortunately competing nations? Is it not the case that Israel should have a supply of arms which is roughly equitable in relation to the supply of arms to the Arab States together?848 The Prime Minister replied:The right hon. Gentleman is perfectly right in saying that we should try to maintain a balance of arms. Indeed, I myself gave that assurance to the House, and that is what we have done, without doubt, ourselves and to the best of our ability, with our French and American A1lies."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd November, 1955, Vol. 546, c. 1263–4.]With respect, unless the figures are given, I do not accept the assurance that a proper balance has been kept, or that there has been a supply of arms to Israel roughly equivalent to the aggregate supply of arms to the Arab States—which is the real claim made—or even to Egypt.
§ Mr. Godfrey Nicholson (Farnham)
Can the right hon. Gentleman give the House his estimated figures of the supply of arms, of the total quantity of arms and the military potential of the respective States?
§ Mr. Morrison
There were figures given in The Times indicating that the supply of arms was unfair as between Israel and Egypt. If the hon. Gentleman is putting to me that I should give figures about the military potential of these respective States, I think he is asking of me something which he should ask the Government. It is up to the Government. In any case, I think that would be difficult, and I am not sure that it is conclusive.
The present Prime Minister was not the only one who said something about this matter. Something was said by his predecessor, the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill). We are all glad to see the right hon. Gentleman in his place today. In view of his deep—and, if I may say so—very sincere interest in this problem we should be very glad to hear the views that he may possess expressed by him during this debate; but as to that we shall see. This is an occasion on which he might re-emerge as one of the great advisers of the House of Commons on an interesting problem. I was hoping to obtain some support for that invitation to the right hon. Gentleman from the Government and from hon. Members opposite. But they do not seem anxious to hear a speech from the right hon. Member for Woodford—which, I should have thought, would have been an encouragement to the right hon. Gentle-to "have a go."
This is what the right hon. Member for Woodford said on 11th May, 1953, and I 849 like his language better than that used by the present Prime Minister at a later date. The right hon. Gentleman said this, and I think I may say that I agree with what he said in every particular:Another most important factor in the Middle East is the State of Israel. Ever since the Balfour Declaration of 1917 I have been a faithful supporter of the Zionist cause. I have, of course, had periods of deep pain when shocking crimes were committed against our officers and men by the extreme factions in this intense and complex Jewish Community. But when I look back over the work they have done in building up a nation, in reclaiming the desert, in receiving more than half a million refugees hunted by terror from Europe alone, I feel that it is the duty of Britain to sec that they get fair play and that the pledges made to them by successive British Governments are fulfilled.The right hon. Gentleman concluded this passage by saying—and he was speaking for the Government here; he was the Prime Minister—Nothing that we shall do in the supply of aircraft to this part of the world will be allowed to place Israel at an unfair disadvaniage."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th May, 1953; Vol. 515, c. 894.]Well. I very much doubt whether the Government can honestly claim that that pledge is being maintained. We have not been fair in the distribution of arms as between Egypt and Israel. If the Government wish to challenge my assertion, I ask them to give us the facts and figures about it. Compare what was said by the right hon. Member for Woodford, and even what was said by the present Prime Minister, with what was said by the Foreign Secretary at Bagdad on 22nd November, 1955. He said:Britain was not going to try and outbid the Russians in providing arms for Egypt, nor would she try and balance deliveries by increasing the supply of arms to Israel. Egypt could not he blamed for seeking arms where she could find them, and it was not Britain's purpose to apportion praise or blame among other Arab countries likely to accept arms from the Soviet bloc. The main result of the Egyptian arms deal was, however, that Britain felt she must support her friends even more strongly than before.I think that that is rather a confused statement. Who are the "friends"?—that ought to be said.
This is what The Times said about the balance of supplies between Egypt and Israel on 7th October. Their Cairo correspondent wrote, in relation to the military strength of the countries of the Middle East: 850As a result of the arms shipment from this country Egypt had definite superiority over Israel in a number of important weapons of war.That evidence has to be taken into account as well. I have read what the Foreign Secretary said at Bagdad. What it meant I do not know, but I know that it is a totally different spirit, a totally different attitude from the observations of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford in the quotations that I have given.
So the Government have got themselves into a nice mix-up in which, this afternoon, the foreign Secretary has sharply condemned the Soviet Union and its friends for barging into the Middle East—and with that I agree. On the other hand, he indicated that he almost excused them, in the sense that he was not going to blame Egypt or the other Arab countries for taking the arms, or for ordering them, or for seeking them.
Undoubtedly, the Soviet Union means mischief. Undoubtedly, it seeks to make difficulties and troubles for ourselves in the Middle East. I think that we have either to get some agreement whereby there is fair equality of arms supplied as between Israel and the Arab States in the vicinity or generally, or we have to come to an agreement that nobody will supply any arms to any of them at all, or that we will refer the problem to the United Nations in some form whereby there shall be a settlement.
Constant reference is made to the Tripartite Declaration of 1950. I agree that it goes a fair way, but there is a great difference between the Tripartite Declaration of 1950 and, for example, the agreement between Iraq, Turkey and ourselves—what is now known as the Bagdad Pact. That agreement means that military preparations are being made against possible attack. There are no military preparations against possible attack in the Tripartite Declaration. Therefore, it seems to us that that is not a fair analogy, but I should like to know from the Prime Minister, when he makes his speech, whether the Government still firmly accept, together with France and the United States, if he can speak for them, the Tripartite Declaration and all the implications that are therein contained.
Now we have run away in another respect. We are weak in respect of the 851 Gulf of Aqaba. The Times, on 11th November, said that we had complained to the Egyptians about the subject of a British ship going through this gulf. Now, apparently, we have made a new agreement with Egypt about it. The Times Cairo correspondent, writing from Cairo, saidThe new agreement, whilst preserving British amour proper on the matter, nevertheless subjects British vessels to exactly the same controls as have been enforced hitherto…That is a nice state of affairs. When our ships have been stopped we have protested to Egypt against this, and now we are getting into a situation in which we have finally accepted the right of Egypt to do much the same thing as they were doing before.
I now come to the Agreements with the Arab States. Here let me say that I am not disposed to say other than that they are all right in themselves. The trouble is that the terms of the Iraq-Turkish Agreement, which were incorporated in the Agreement with which we followed up, specifically excludes Israel as a possible candidate for membership of the Pact. Therefore, while we do not object to collective security in the Middle East, we do object to provisions whereby Israel is specifically and categorically excluded.
Unless something like a similar agreement or agreements is or are made with Israel, we are doing two things. We are encouraging extremists in the Arab countries to seek aggressive action against Israel, and we are doing something else. We must remember that there are extremists in Israel as well—extremists who think that it is foolish for their Government to stand around while the Arabs are threatening to attack them, and while the Arabs are being extensively re-armed, partly by the Western Powers and partly by the Soviet Union, and therefore it would be better to have a preventive war and smash the Arab States, particularly Egypt, in the meantime.
That is a possible point of view. It is a dangerous point of view with regard to peace, and it is a point of view which is calculated to be encouraged by this series of treaties while we have no reciprocal treaty with Israel itself, because what we are doing is this—we are isolating Israel and leaving her in very great 852 difficulties. One must not take lightly what the Arab States are saying. I will give two short quotations, one from Colonel Nasser, the Prime Minister of Egypt, on 8th May, 1954. It is an extremist point of view based on the belief and the assertion that Israel has no right to exist at all. That is the point of view of some of them. He said:Israel is an artificial State which must disappear.There was another point of view put forward by the Prime Minister of Syria, on 3rd November, 1954. He said:Certain Arab leaders say that there can be no peace with Israel before the implementation of the United Nations resolutions…. I denounce such a statement, and I say that there is no connection between peace with Israel and the return of the refugees and the United Nations resolutions… Whether they return the refugees or not, peace must not be concluded with Israel in any form.That is the situation and the confusion of these one-sided talks and one-sided supply of arms is encouraging that point of view.
In our judgment, the time has come when, there having been the Treaty of Iraq and other Arab countries—of the basis and merit of which we do not unduly complain—we think that if their borders are to be guaranteed by us, or by us and other countries, it is fair, it is equitable, it is right and it is in the interests of peace that the borders of Israel should be similarly guaranteed by arrangements of this kind. Otherwise, there is a danger of war, which may lead anywhere.
Now I come to the speech of the Prime Minister, which I think was just about as careless as the speech of the Foreign Secretary at Bagdad. All sorts of explanations have been sought about it. There is not the least doubt that it has caused the gravest apprehension in Israel, not a great deal of enthusiasm among the Arab countries, and it has certainly caused a great deal of apprehension on this side of the House. Let us see what, according to The Times, the right hon. Gentleman said in the speech he made on 9th November at the Lord Mayor's Banquet. The Prime Minister is reported to have said:Can we not now move even a little further than this? The position today is that the Arabs take their stand on the 1947 and other United Nations resolutions. They have said that they will be willing to discuss terms with Israel on that basis. The Israelis, on the 853 other hand, found themselves on the Armistice Agreement of 1949 and on the present territories which they occupy.Between these two positions there is, of course, a wide gap, but is it so wide that no negotiation is possible to bridge it? It is not right that the United Nations resolutions should be ignored. But, equally, can it be maintained that the United Nations resolutions on Palestine can now be put into operation as they stand?The stark truth is that if these nations want to win a peace which is in both their interests they must make some compromise between these two positions.
§ The Prime Minister (Sir Anthony Eden) rose—
§ Mr. Morrison
It is all right, Prime Minister; I think it is coming, though it may be a mere matter of sub-editorial presentation. The report continues:I am convinced that it is possible to work this out, and if we could do so it would bring relief and happiness to millions. The sooner the better. If we fail to do so, none can tell what the consequence may be.I read that myself as an offer of mediation, of help by the United Kingdom Government. I quite agree that the Prime Minister did make such an offer and believed that France and the United States would be helpful also. I want to say this in observation. First, the statement is vague. But what are the facts? The United Nations Resolutions of 1947 were, of course, passed before the war against Israel. They were accepted by the Government of Israel. They were rejected by the Arab countries. Therefore, in a way, that wiped them out as far as the Arab countries were concerned. Then, in 1948, we gave up our mandate and the Arab countries made war upon Israel.
In the war, Israel did surprisingly well. To her credit may it be said, as well as to that of the Arab countries, she stopped hostilities in response to the appeals of the United Nations and the Western countries, but, as a result of the war, new borders emerged consequent upon direct negotiations between the Arabs and the Jews.
Those two events together—the rejection of the Resolutions by the Arab States and the war and its consequences—really make haywire of the Resolutions of 1947, which are no longer operative and no longer officially in existence. Consequently, the Prime Minister is, I think, wrong to mention the Resolutions of 1947 854 in the context in which he did mention them. I think, therefore, that it was natural that the Prime Minister of Israel should think that the Prime Minister of our country was proposing a compromise of a character which would involve substantial concessions of territory by Israel to the Arab States. It must be recognised that Israel is a small country. It is about the size of Wales, and both are vigorous countries. Israel is still willing to consider minor adjustments of the borders—I think that that is sensible; I would hope that the Arab countries would take the same view—but it was inevitable that they would be suspicious about what the Prime Minister has said.
What we have to work towards is straight and direct negotiations between the Government of Israel and the Governments of the Arab States. By all means let us be helpful in bringing them together. If I may say so, I think that we should avoid, if we can, Western countries themselves being parties to continuing negotiations between Israel and the Arab States. It is better to get them going into negotiations and then leave them to carry on with the negotiations and carry their own settlement. We can encourage, but we should lead to straight talks between Israel and the Arabs for the borders and for peace.
Sorry as I am to say it, because I do not take any pleasure in saying that Britain was wrong, Her Majesty's Government have been wrong about this Middle Eastern business. They have been wrong in a number of respects. They have been wrong about being weak in relations with Egypt. They have been wrong about a balance of supply of arms. They have been wrong in being, as I think, biassed and unfair vis-à-vis Israel and other countries. If the Government could point to an improvement in the situation in the Middle East and say, "As a result of our policy peace is more guaranteed and more secure and the outlook is better," there would be something to be said for the policy of the Government. The overall result of the policy of the Government is not that things are better, but that things are worse, less secure, and that the situation is more dangerous.
I would therefore say to the Government and their supporters—because their supporters can play a part in this—let them lead in a policy towards fairness, in 855 a policy which will promote good sense and economic understanding in all the countries of the Middle East, a policy which will lead to tolerance, co-operation, understanding, advancement and progress in a part of the world where all those things are possible.
§ 5.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Walter Elliot (Glasgow, Kelvingrove)
We find it a little odd that the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) should conclude his remarks by asking the Government to point to any place in the Middle East where relations have improved. I should have thought he had fresh memories of an area in the Middle East where as a result of his utmost efforts the position certainly did not improve but deteriorated very considerably and where now these relations are undeniably better. I do not know what he would have said if he had been Foreign Secretary at this time and had announced at the Dispatch Box that Iran had joined a treaty of alliance to which this country was a party.
The position of the right hon. Member when he was Foreign Secretary was very different. I still remember the rather poignant retort to him by my right hon. Friend who is now Prime Minister, in which he said that no doubt negotiations with Iran are always very difficult—that the negotiations of the right hon. Member were also very difficult—but that at the end of the negotiations by the right hon. Member we were out of Persia, whereas at the end of negotiations by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary we are in Persia. Surely relations over Abadan are one example of a point where conditions did improve.
We are, however, dealing with a very wide area and not with the question of Israel and the Arabs alone. I wish to say a word or two about that because for a long time I have had a great interest in that argument. For many years I enjoyed a personal friendship with Dr. Weitzmann, who was one of the great men of our time, and I do not in any way withdraw any of the things I have said in favour of the gallant experiment of the Zionist State in Palestine. But it would be a great mistake if we were to confine our remarks only to that quarrel today. Because this is a discussion on the Middle East—the hinge of the world. We 856 must not narrow and limit the debate merely to that orbit of the dispute between the Jews and Arabs.
We have listened with close attention to the speech of the Foreign Secretary. I think it was the wide survey he made which was specially interesting. We listened to the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South also, in general, with the greatest interest. He confined himself, however, rather closely to an analysis of the Arab-Jewish position and indeed to the situation of the rival disputants.
It is of no use, however, to lecture the Arab States and say that their oil revenues should be pooled for the benefit of some international cause, because it is extremely improbable that they will listen. I can imagine what kind of reply would have been given in the nineteenth century by any Minister here if it had been suggested that the revenues from coal in this country should be pooled in an international fund for the benefit of the backward areas of the world. The time for these grandmotherly admonitions has long since passed.
We are dealing with realities which must be watched very carefully, especially now that our minds are rather preoccupied with the incidents which are constantly taking place on the Israeli frontier. Even today we heard, on the wireless, news of one of the gravest of these incidents, which was the ripost of the Israeli forces to the shelling of the fishing boats on the Sea of Galilee. There was an attack by them on the Syrian outposts, with a casualty roll, according to the Israeli statement, of 55 dead among the Syrians. So far there is no account of these incidents from the Syrian side.
We must not under-estimate the importance of declarations which have already been entered into. The Tripartite Declaration is not weaker than the Baghdad Pact, but stronger. The words of the Declaration give this undertaking:The three Governments, should they find that any of these States was preparing to violate frontiers or Armistice lines would, consistently with their obligations as members of the United Nations, immediately take action, both within and outside the United Nations, to prevent such violation.That is a very strong declaration indeed, and I will turn to it again before I finish.
We should not at the present time under-estimate the importance, not merely to the Arab States but to Israel, of some 857 relaxation of tension. Does anyone suggest that a bucket of arms for Egypt, another bucket of arms for Israel, then another bucket for Egypt and then another bucket for Israel, will improve the situation there? Surely not. The shield of the area is in the Tripartite Declaration. But it might well have to be strengthened further.
The strain upon Israel in holding out a dumb-bell of armaments at arm's length will sooner or later terribly weaken her. It is not enough for us to say, "Let us have an agreement by which no one will supply arms to either State." The Russians have said that they will pay no attention to such an agreement. This part of the world which has always been a hinge of communications, has since become, in addition, a hinge of energy. Half the oil resources of the world lie under the soil there. Until we are released from dependence upon it by the development of nuclear power, this will remain a very grave preoccupation to all the world.
Of course, I do not deny that we have supplied arms to neighbouring countries as well as to Israel. Kipling, in the 1890s, saidSee'st thou the pride of Moab, the sword about his pathHis bond is to Philistia, in half of all he hath.As a piece of poetic foresight it would be very difficult to surpass, considering that at the time it was written Moab was a backward province of Turkey. The suggestion of Moab and Transjordan being an independent State, supplied with subventions from abroad, would have seemed like the wildest imagination in anybody but a poet. Yet at the present time, the forces of Transjordan are supported very largely by subventions from this country.
We have given guarantees to those countries as well as very strong guarantees to Israel. Our responsibility is great. Our statement that we shall take action if any attempt is made to violate those frontiers by force should be explored further.
A working party of the three States concerned—Britain, France and America —should be set up to elucidate their responsibilities and, if possible, to state clearly their intended aims. The Foreign Secretary said that anything that General 858 Burns asked for he would be only too happy to give. We should go further than that; we should make some attempt to picture clearly the liabilities which we have undertaken, and the mutual action which we should take in that respect.
And, by the way, does the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South think that our power to intervene would be strengthened if we left Cyprus? Does he think that if that staging point were abandoned we should be more capable of fulfilling our obligations under the Tripartite Declaration? I think not. The right hon. Gentleman should consider whether he and his Friends are not following two very opposite, two completely divergent courses, by suggesting on the one hand that we should be right to abandon altogether that great staging point and, on the other, that we should take a much more active view of our obligations towards Israel.
I shall not risk incurring the wrath of the House by trespassing unduly on its time by considering many of those difficulties; but we have also to consider the Bagdad Pact, the shield of this whole region. We should take much more vigorous steps towards the economic side of the alliance between Turkey and Iraq than has so far been achieved.
Why should we take all the stream of Iraq oil from the centre of that region to the coast, where it is carried away in ships? Let the pipe-lines also run north into Turkey, to develop the industrial resources of Turkey, or, if necessary, go on through Turkey to a port on the Mediterranean, when those pipe-lines would run through friendly instead of frequently hostile territory, as they do now. These would be great economic developments.
Some such steps will certainly need to be entered upon, because the difficulty with Turkey is that it is attempting to carry a modern State on a feudal economic basis. So far, the country has not yet been made strong enough to carry the industrial weight which is needed for a modern economy, either of peace or, if necessary, of war.
We in this country are dependent, and increasingly dependent, on supplies of liquid fuel, especially from the Middle East. It is reckoned that, before any very great length of time has elapsed, we may need the equivalent of perhaps 200 million tons of coal a year in fuel oil.
859 That is a very dangerous dependence for this country to be in on countries outside our own sphere of influence altogether.
We have been for many years now a country dependent for half the week on food which is grown outside this country. If we find ourselves dependent for half the week, or even for a quarter of the week, on fuel from outside, we shall be in a very dangerous position indeed. Until we find our programme for nuclear stations far more actively developed and more vigorously yielding than is indicated even in the most optimistic forecasts, we shall be constantly in a position of great peril for our industrial development, and shall need to go most carefully in regard to all the countries of the Middle East.
Therefore, why should we develop Egypt with our scanty resources? Why should we offer great sums to construct the High Dam at Assuan? I should have thought that it is not necessarily for us so vehemently to extend help, not perhaps to our enemies, but to our certainly rather cold-shouldering associates. If a dam has to be built, I would far sooner that it was the Volta Dam in West Africa, where a great development can be carried out, rather than that we should use such resources as are available to us in the further development of Egypt.
Let us develop the countries which are in the Empire. Let us develop the countries which are our friends, and especially, if we have money to spend in investment abroad, let us develop Turkey further. Turkey is the eastern anchor State of N.A.T.O., and N.A.T.O. is the reality of the modern world, especially after the recent statements of Mr. Khruschev and Mr. Bulganin. Whatever they were meant to do, their effect has been to nail together the N.A.T.O. pact with bolts of chilled steel. After these speeches, it must be taken that not merely the Governments but also the peoples of the West, are passionately attached to N.A.T.O. In this alliance Turkey plays an integral part.
Therefore, I am in favour of the Baghdad Pact and of linking Turkey with Iraq and Iran, and I am in favour of our association with them, and of developing a policy which will enable us to take positive steps and not merely the defensive action of pouring ammunition and guns into Israel against much greater supplies 860 coming to other countries from outside, which is no solution to the problem confronting us.
Furthermore, as I am sure Dr. Weitzmann would have counselled, Israel is a country to which peace is a vital necessity. He helped to found a familiar thing in the Mediterranean—one of the Mediterranean city States by the sea. But such a State will weaken as it passes inland from the sea. Venice weakened as it passed away from the sea, and the same thing happened in the case of Athens. These were States which rose to positions of power by the sea, and the strength of Israel lies in that same direction, and not in adventures in the hinterland, however attractive that course may seem to be at the time.
§ Mr. Elliot
The adventures of which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lewisham, South spoke. He said she could conquer neighbouring countries.
§ Mr. Elliot
The right hon. Gentleman said she might be tempted. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I am within the recollection of the House that the right hon. Gentleman said she might be tempted into a preventive war against her neighbours, which she would certainly win.
§ Mr. H. Morrison
No. All I said was, and it is nothing to be surprised about, not that the Israeli Government are going that way, but that there are extremist minority elements in Israel which advocate that point of view, just as there were extremist minority elements in the United States which took the same point of view vis-à-vis the Soviet Union.
§ Mr. Elliot
The right hon. Gentleman must not claim to be the only one to lecture foreign people from that Front Bench. Though it is only extreme opinion, I think it is extreme opinion running contrary to the interests of the State of Israel and to the advantage of Egypt.
§ Mr. Elliot
The right hon. Gentleman, who is one of the most pugnacious Members in the House, should not object to anybody else trying to damp down possible pugnacity.
§ Mr. Elliot
I am not encouraging them. If I quote the opinion of Dr. Weitzmann against them, surely I am not encouraging them? But let not Privy Councillors prolong the debate.
I am simply saying that any attempt to bring peace, instead of bringing an increase of tension, in the Middle East, is one that we must all back up to the maximum of our power. But that peace must be brought within a secure shield. That secure shield is, in the first place, the Tripartite Declaration, which should be strengthened, clarified and reasserted. I trust that the Prime Minister will be able to assure us of that tonight.
§ 5.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Hugh Dalton (Bishop Auckland)
I shall. I hope, set an example to others of Her Majesty's Privy Council by not speaking too long; and, indeed, we might all bear in mind Disraeli's famous advice to all hon. Members, not excluding Privy Councillors, that it is better that their colleagues should wonder why they speak so little rather than why they speak so much.
I found the Foreign Secretary's speech very disappointing, very hazy and very hesitant, and I hope that the Prime Minister, when he replies, will draw a firmer and clearer picture of the policy which he will take as a basis of discussion to Washington next month. With regard to Russian intervention to provide arms for Egypt, I have only two very simple observations to make. The first is that it cannot be wrong to discuss with the Russians what they are up to, and what they will agree to, and I gather that there have been some words exchanged—not many as yet—between the Foreign Secretary and Mr. Molotov. I hope there will be further discussions, and I do not prejudge the question how or where they should take place.
All I would go on to say is that, if the Soviet Union or any of her satellites supply any arms of any amount to any countries in the Middle East, to those countries we should supply no more arms. If Egypt is to get anything from the Soviet Union she should get nothing more from us—not a tank, not a gun. I go on to say that those supplies, which might otherwise have gone to those States now 862 dependent on the Soviet Union, should now be sent to States in the Middle East which are not dependent on the Soviet Union and, in particular, to Israel. Let Israel have the arms which would otherwise have gone to Egypt.
That is all I have to say on the Russian intervention, except to add the general remark that an arms race cannot be prevented by sitting still and not taking part. If others are running and one is sitting still, the only result is that the others win. I commend that advice to the Government in reply to the Foreign Secretary's remark that they are not going to stir up or take part in an arms race. If an arms race is on, somebody will win it.
I pass to the problem of the Arab refugees. I have said that I thought the Foreign Secretary's speech was hazy. I was astonished that he did not once mention the refugees—not once. I am very glad that my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham. South (Mr. H. Morrison) spoke so emphatically about them. They are the most shocking fact in the Middle East, and a heavy responsibility rests on those who allow them to rot without hope year after year—900,000 of them. Great blame in particular, rests on those Arab States who block concrete proposals at Geneva and elsewhere for large-scale schemes of resettlement.
Who is blocking the Johnston Plan? Mr. Eric Johnston, the most dynamic and patient of negotiators, a distinguished American citizen, has spent two long years trying to reach some agreement for the use of the waters of the Jordan and the Yarmuk, which would benefit both the Arab States contiguous to those two river basins, and would also benefit Israel. That agreement, I understand, has been accepted by all the technicians as a fair plan, and it has been accepted by Israel, but there are still Arab States which prefer that their fellow Arabs should rot in their present state of misery and despair rather than that they should be settled on the land.
There is great scope for resettlement schemes. My right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South said that there are wide spaces in the Arab States as compared with the little land of Israel, which is about the size of Wales—or even smaller. When he said that, he was challenged from the other side of the House, but following on what my right 863 hon. Friend said I put the same facts in slightly different terms. Is it realised that Egypt alone is more than forty times the area of Israel? Is it realised that Iraq alone is more than twenty times and Saudi Arabia alone more than one hundred times, the area of Israel? So one might go on.
In those areas nothing is needed but more water, in order that wide areas should be brought under cultivation. The Jordan waters are today largely unused or are not being put to the best use.
§ Mr. Dalton
We will not go into great details of geography. I shall give other examples. The noble Lord must not tempt me to break my Privy Councillor's oath.
What is the difficulty in harnessing the waters of Iraq? There are two great rivers there. Iraq used to be called the land between the rivers, as the noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South, with his classical education, knows. Iraq is a country far more suited to lead the Arab League in future than is Egypt—about which I shall have another word to say. Pseudo-Arabs, indeed, are the Egyptians; the Iraqis are much more the natural leaders of the Arabs. In Iraq there are great supplies of water, if they can be used, great supplies of oil, a rich soil—and a great shortage of manpower. The use of Arab refugee manpower could both substantially increase the produce of the land, and speed the great engineering works which now, thanks to the vigour and imagination of the Iraqi Government, are being, started.
With all these possibilities lying open, and many more—including those in Saudi Arabia about which the noble Lord is to tell us—there is no excuse for this great mass of miserable, unemployed, poverty-stricken and resentful human beings to continue in their present state. The Archbishop of York recently described those camps as "furnaces of hatred." If those furnaces could be damped down and the inmates of the camps dispersed to productive and useful work, it would be a work of mercy, of pacification and of economic development all in one, and how seldom do we find all these blessings together.
864 One more word about Egypt. Very warmly do I agree with the right hon. Member for Kelvingrove (Mr. Elliot). Why are we still giving preference to Egypt in any respect whatever, including, in this case, providing finance for the Assuan Dam? I agree with him that it would be far better to embark on other developments, equally costly, within our Commonwealth, or at least in countries which do not spit at and spurn us as do the Egyptians. It is not only that we have been humiliated. Attempts have been made to stop our ships going through the Suez Canal and the Aqaba Gulf, and we have been crawling round to find a formula that will allow our ships to pass through without too much humiliation, or without admitting the Egyptians' right to ask questions as to the cargoes and destinations of our ships.
We have fallen low indeed, but is it widely known that the Egyptians are also conducting a campaign throughout Africa, trying to stir up the passions of the African peoples against us? Is it widely realised in this House that the Cairo broadcasting station has been broadcasting, in a great many African languages, condoning Mau Mau? Is that known? Will anyone deny it? In the Observer on 27th November, a newspaper which is generally reliable on such matters—I was astonished to read a very full account—and I commend it to those hon. Members who have not read it—of the broadcasts of the Cairo wireless, by which our activities, both official and unofficial, are grossly misrepresented.
A programme extolling Mau Mau concludes with these stirring words:This is a picture of a struggling nation"—this is Mau Mau—fighting for her liberty and faced with death and imprisonment. In Kenya they are still fighting against colonisation by the white man. They are looking to us, to us sons of Africa.That is what some little creature is declaiming behind a "mike" in Cairo, in the name of Colonel Nasser, for in Egypt there is no democracy. Are these the sort of people to be trusted, to be encouraged, or to be financed by us at this time? My advice is to put them at the bottom of the list and keep them there.
I turn from that to a particular matter about which I earnestly ask the Prime 865 Minister to give us a little more information. There has been much said about it in the Press, but the Foreign Secretary did not refer to it. I am speaking of the possible future status of the Negev. That has been referred to in many quarters, and in many responsible newspapers, not only in this country, but abroad. The New York Times—a very well-informed paper with good correspondents everywhere—reported on 29th November from Cairo that one of the plans much talked about in official Egyptian circles was the desirability of that country obtaining at any rate the southern part, if not all, of the Negev in the negotiations about to take place.
It has been said—I am making no allegations; I am asking a question—that the Negev is one of the topics which are being quietly discussed at present, as the basis of a concession to be made by Israel in order to get the long-term permanent settlement which it is hoped might follow. Have the Government considered this possibility, and if so what do they think of it? Is it true that, in order to get a general settlement, the Prime Minister would favour putting pressure upon Israel to cede the Negev? That is the question I ask.
I must say that I share my right hon. Friend's view that the Prime Minister's speech, in which he spoke of the 1947 United Nations Resolution, was an unwise statement to make at that time. It is a matter of judgment, but that is how I feel about it. I feel that it has put the Arabs all agog. They think now that they are all going to get pieces of Israel. They may have misunderstood the Prime Minister, but that is what they think. If they are wrong, I hope they will be corrected. This has caused considerable perturbation in the minds of many in Israel.
I make this comment on this particular territorial adjustment, that the Negev is not included in the Arab State in the 1947 Resolution. It is outside the Arab State. It was given to the Jewish State, down to and including the Port of Elath on the Red Sea, which is now being blockaded by the Egyptians, and we, too, should be blockaded but for the shame-faced arrangement which we have entered into. It is, therefore, going far beyond even the most extreme suggestion which might 866 have been thought to be thrown out by the Prime Minister that, "You must bargain something between the 1947 boundaries and the present armistice line."
Under the 1947 Resolution, the Negev goes to the Jewish State, and I am not surprised that many Israelis, including Mr. Ben Gurion and Mr. Sharett, are very indignant that this suggestion should have been made. I hope that the whole suggestion is going to be denied. I hope that we are going to be told by the Prime Minister that it was never part of his view and that it is not his view now, nor the Government's view, that the Negev should be ceded, in any arrangement which we might seek to bring about, from Israel to Egypt, or even to Jordan.
This proposal is, of course, eagerly accepted by the Egyptians. They want the Negev for strategic reasons. They have got enough deserts of their own to play about with. The southern Negev is still largely desert. The Israelis hope that some day it may be cultivated and that it may be found to contain rich minerals, but at the moment it is as deserted as the mountains of the moon. I have been there and I have seen it. [Laughter.] I think my grammar is correct and that the interpretation of some hon. Members, though amusing, is incorrect. I have been to the Negev and I have seen it, and I have seen that it is as barren as the mountains of the moon are said to be.
The point is very simple. This desert may some day be turned to good economic use by Israel. It could certainly be put to strategic use by the Egyptians, if they got hold of it. It would enable them to cut the southern defences of Israel and to cut off Israel from the Red Sea. Israel is as much entitled to an outlet on the Red Sea as the Egyptians are. There was some trouble between them on the Red Sea long ago, which I will not recall now.
But this proposal suggests a certain historical event not so long ago. It recalls what happened at Munich. I will relate the resemblances with precision. I am going to remark upon the parts played by some who are Ministers now at that time, and it need not be thought that I am attacking them retrospectively—not at all. Mr. Neville Chamberlain at Munich carried to a conclusion a plan for taking away from a 867 little State territory which was essential to it—full of strong fortifications—and passing it over to a large State. The plan was to take territory away from a little democratic State and give it to a large undemocratic State. That was only one stage in the final destruction of the smaller State, and at the time when this dastardly deed was done, it was solemnly promised that we would guarantee the rump of Czechoslovakia that was left over.
Her Majesty's Government today have undertaken that they will guarantee whatever is left of any of these States, including Israel, when the agreements have been reached. That is a hateful historical parallel which is uncomfortably close. Neither the Prime Minister nor the Foreign Secretary condoned that grave offence. They stood up strongly and spoke against it in the House, as we did. And it was the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill)—and I am proud to say this in his presence—who led the cry of protest by all the decent elements in British public opinion against that betrayal of the Czechs. The words which have been quoted from his speech on 11th May, 1953, by my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South are very apt to be quoted in this debate. I beg the Prime Minister, when he goes to Washington, not to take with him, as a basis of discussion with President Eisenhower and Mr. Dulles, some project for a second Munich at the expense of Israel.
§ 5.48 p.m.
§ Mr. James Dance (Bromsgrove)
I crave the indulgence of the House in this my maiden speech.
The reason I wish to speak this afternoon is that during the war I had the privilege of serving for about three years in the Middle East, and so had an opportunity of getting to know the inhabitants there, and seeing some of their problems. I must admit that I was appalled on many occasions to see the abject poverty there. For that reason, I welcome the Bagdad Pact in that it embodies those countries of Turkey. Iran, Iraq and Pakistan. I believe that from this Pact may easily be 868 evolved a very much better standard of living for those people.
I feel that there are three factors which must commend themselves to hon. Members on both sides of the House. First, there is the fact that our good friend America is associated with this plan in the form of an observer—and we should all be extremely delighted that she is there—and recognises at least some of the difficulties which we find in the Middle East. Secondly, it is largely a peaceful Pact, and the only emphasis on the military side is that of security. The main emphasis is on the economic and financial side.
Finally, it is a Pact for mutual aid. Day by day it becomes more and more apparent that we in this country need larger quantities of oil, thanks to the ever-increasing expansion of our economy at home. Already, we have seen the results of the great work that has been done by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in coming to a settlement in Abadan, and the oil is flowing once again to this country. I am certain that much more oil can be brought to this country from these lands where it is so abundant, and I feel that this Pact will greatly speed the flow from the Middle East to this island.
Another aspect is the benefit which will accrue to the countries in the Middle East. By virtue of the very large income which will be earned from the royalties on the sale of this oil, they can, if they will, administer that income wisely—and I hope that they will continue to build a much better life for themselves. Through the building of houses and the development of their agriculture by a better irrigation system and many other similar advances they can, in the future, look forward to a standard of living such as they have never known in their whole history.
That is why, with all due humility. I urge the Government to persevere with this type of settlement. I very much believe that it is a type of negotiation, on peaceful lines, which will improve the conditions of the people themselves, will convince them that it is better to look to their old friends in Great Britain, the Commonwealth and the Western democracies rather than to flirt with other sinister Powers, who, by their actions, have conclusively proved that their one idea is the domination of the world.
§ 5.52 p.m.
§ Mr. E. Shinwell (Easington)
It seems that I am to perform the function of following hon. Members when they make their maiden speeches. It happened to me quite recently and I am now called upon again to undertake that very pleasant task. I feel that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen will share my opinion that the hon. Member for Bromsgrove (Mr. Dance) has not only displayed remarkable confidence but also a considerable knowledge of his subject, and there is not the least doubt that we shall listen to him on future occasions.
If I am required to advance a reason for intervening in the debate, I would say, first, that I have frequently asked Questions about the Middle East and in particular about Israel and, secondly, that although I am a member of the Privy Council, when I speak I do not require to change my geographical position but remain on a back bench. I will not detain the House for longer than is necessary and I will endeavour to emulate those who have gone before me.
Let us, first, clearly understand that in this issue affecting the Middle East are many complications. As the Foreign Secretary said, it is not merely a Middle Eastern question, for it concerns us in the West and certainly to a substantial degree the position of N.A.T.O. Whether we like it or not, the position of N.A.T.O. vis-à-vis the strength of the Soviet Union and her satellites is not as satisfactory as we should like it to be. I wish it were unnecessary to say that, but I rely upon the facts.
If it is possible in the Middle East, therefore, to inject a measure of defence or, at any rate, potential defence, then whether it is agreeable or disagreeable to others in this assembly, I, for my part, welcome it. The Bagdad Pact and even the Iraqi-Turkish Pact in my view embody potentialities not only in relation to defence organisation but also economic, social and cultural, and the more of that we have the better it will be, not only for the peoples of the Middle East but for the world at large.
I am bound to say that the argument that it is improper to promote defence pacts in the Middle East or to prepare bases of a defensive character to deal with aggression if it should arise—that it is unnecessary and provocative—does not 870 impress me in the least. The cold war in the West has diminished. Why? Not because the Soviet Union was anxious for co-operation. On the contrary, all the evidence points in the opposite direction. It is because of the resistance in the sphere of defence of the Western Allies, even though it is not completely effective.
I venture the opinion that if we are to resist infiltration by the Soviet Union in the Middle East—and I believe that it is to our advantage and to the advantage of the Middle East countries that it should be resisted—some measure of defence organisation is essential. I do not accept all the talk about Russian charm, good will and co-operation. We want more than talk. Again, I rely upon the facts.
That brings me to the topic with which we are intimately concerned in the debate—the position of the State of Israel in relation to the Arab countries. I do not blame the Russians, any more than the Foreign Secretary blamed them in his speech, for offering arms to Egypt or any other country in the Middle East which will accept them. We ourselves provided arms for Egypt—and when? After we had decided to evacuate the Canal Zone, in spite of the fact that we were very doubtful whether the Egyptian Government—the present or any future Egyptian Government—would reactivate the base in the event of aggression.
I say to the Prime Minister that I doubt whether he is in a position to tell the House that in the event of aggression taking place in the Middle East the Egyptians will fulfil the promises which they appear to have made about the reactivation of the base. The Egyptians have had far more out of the United Kingdom than ever we have had out of Egypt. When I reflect upon the facts of history, I am not at all sure that we derived any advantage from Egypt at all, but if any hon. Member cares to correct me I shall be glad to hear what he has to say.
I believe that the provision of arms by the Soviet Union to Egypt was inevitable because of their desire for Communist infiltration, but there may be harsh repercussions in the long run. May not it be that some of the arms, if not all the arms, which have been supplied to Egypt, through Czechoslovakia, on the inspiration of the Soviet Union, have found an 871 ultimate destination in North Africa? Is not that likely? I should imagine that if the Soviet Union desired to weaken N.A.T.O., its best means of hastening that process would be to strike a blow at France, through Morocco and North Africa. After all, France has already weakened N.A.T.O. to some extent by withdrawing a large proportion of her forces. It may be that Russia is playing a much more subtle and a deeper game than appears at first sight. We must be very careful about this matter.
Where are our friends in the Middle East? They are not in Egypt; that has been demonstrated in the course of speeches today—if it were necessary to demonstrate it. Iraq?—yes, so long as we are prepared to provide assistance. Jordan?—equally so. Recently, she has ventured to ask for further assistance. Who else? So far as I know, there is no country in the Middle East which has not obtained advantage from the United Kingdom in one form or another, with the exception of Israel.
I should like the Prime Minister to tell us why he makes a distinction between the State of Israel and any of the Arab countries. Israel has asked for nothing from the United Kingdom, either financially or in the form of goods, and when she has asked for arms she has been ready to pay for them. What assistance has been rendered to her? Far from assistance having been rendered, in various ways and by various devices we have placed obstacles in the path of Israeli development. I shall not enter into details, but it would be quite easy to furnish the evidence.
I now come to the crux of the problem, and I approach it by referring to the speech of the Foreign Secretary. Stripped of all the verbiage, clichés, and references to the Bagdad Pact—with most of which we are familiar—what did it amount to? He said, in effect, "No pact with Israel other than the Tripartite Declaration; no arms for Israel." Why? Presumably it is because the Arab countries would resent the provision of arms for Israel, and any pact of a bilateral character with her. If the Prime Minister, Foreign Secretary and the Government are to rely upon the terms of the Tripartite Declaration they will be displaying—I think I am entitled to say— 872 an almost abysmal ignorance of the potentialities of the present harsh situation in the Middle East.
The right hon. Member for Kelvingrove (Mr. Elliot) referred to happenings in the last 24 hours. There have been further incidents on the borders of Israel and Syria. These incidents have occurred almost every day and every night, yet the Foreign Secretary told us today, "No arms for Israel; no bilateral pact. Let us hope for the best and rely upon the good will and co-operation of the Arab leaders." That is not enough.
Much could be said about the Prime Minister's speech at the Guildhall, but I want to say only that it created a very bad impression. It certainly created profound depression in the State of Israel, although it probably afforded a great deal of encouragement to the Arab countries—at any rate, to Egypt. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will tell us, in clear and explicit language which everybody can understand, what he really meant when he talked about a compromise. I am not sure that it is wise to make such speeches at a Guildhall banquet. I am not imputing sordid motives to the right hon. Gentleman. I have no doubt that it was something more than a post-prandial speech, but I am not sure that the Guildhall is the appropriate place to make such a speech. It might have been more appropriate if the right hon. Gentleman, with such ideas in his head, in a tense situation of this kind, had told the House what he thought about the situation in a forthright fashion, so that hon. Members could reply to him immediately. No reply can be forthcoming at a Guildhall banquet. The impression created by his speech was a bad one—but it may have been a false one, which the right hon. Gentleman can correct.
I ask the right hon. Gentleman this simple question: what did he mean when he spoke of a compromise? Was he thinking merely of a rectification of the frontier—of minor adjustments? If so, there would be an effective and immediate response from the Government of Israel for, all along, they have expressed their readiness to consider, at any time, in negotiations with the Arab countries, the rectification of the frontiers on moderate lines. Was that what the right hon. Gentleman meant? If so, he could put 873 matters right at once by correcting the bad impression he created.
Or, when the right hon. Gentleman spoke of a compromise, did he mean that Israel should abandon a substantial portion of her territory, much of it cultivated at great labour, expense and sacrifice, and much of it to be cultivated in the future through the energy and ingenuity of her people? Did he mean that she ought to make a substantial sacrifice? If that is what he meant, he had a very effective and sharp response from the Prime Minister of Israel, who, in effect, said to the right hon. Gentleman, "Hands off our territory. We have sacrificed ourselves for this territory. We have worked hard to retain it. We have fought for it, and we are going to hold on to it." I would encourage Israel to maintain that line, whatever the consequences may be, and I shall tell the right hon. Gentleman why.
Let us first deal with the question of refugees. We all want to see a settlement of that problem. My right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) and others have indicated how it could be settled—by economic development, and the injection of financial, technical and technological assistance. All that, and more, we are agreed upon. There is no dispute in the House upon this issue. Everybody wants to see the development of the Middle East for the peoples of the Middle East. There is no hostility in our hearts and minds to the Arab peoples. That feeling is common to the whole of this assembly.
But what has Israel done? In the past few years she has accepted almost as many refugees as are now found in Jordan, Egypt and Iraq, as a result of the foolish decision of the Arab States to reject the 1947 Resolution of the United Nations and then provoking Israel into a state of war from which the Arab States emerged vanquished.
We find that in the State of Israel refugees have come from Middle Europe, from Eastern Europe, from some of the Communist satellite countries, from North Africa and from the Yemen. I believe that there are about 45,000 refugees now in the State of Israel who came from the Yemen, who were forced to leave, without any property, abandoning all their possessions. The same applies to Iraq, Jordan and other countries. The refugee 874 problem in Israel was forced upon the State of Israel by persecution in various parts of the world, but particularly in Arab countries. Therefore, it does not lie in the mouths of Arab leaders or of those who support them to complain about the position of the refugees. Nevertheless, we must seek a solution. I am satisfied that the Government and the people of the State of Israel would readily respond to any demand that was made for reasonable compensation and assistance in the form of resettlement of these refugees.
What are the Government going to do about all this? There is to be no pact. I sometimes wonder whether, if there were an abundance of oil in Israel similar to the large deposits of oil in Saudi-Arabia and in Iran. Iraq, and so on, that would influence the minds of the Government. If there were an abundance of oil in Israel, would there be any difficulty about a pact? Of course not.
So we come to the conclusion that it is because Israel seems to be without the resources that the West requires, because Israel appears to be defenceless in the face of overwhelming military superiority—[An HON. MEMBER: "Not at the present time."] Thank heaven, not at the present time. Much as I dislike the idea of a conflict, which, I believe, would inflame the whole of the Middle East and the whole world. I glory in the fact—I am not ashamed to say it; I would say it anywhere—that they are capable of putting up a strong defence at the present time in the event of attack. But what will happen twelve months hence as a result of the policy of this Government and as a result of the injection of arms by the Soviet into Egypt? We have to consider that situation. Trouble may occur at any time. I want to know what the Government will do about it.
Why should there not be a pact with Israel? We have one with Iraq and with Jordan and an Agreement with Egypt. We have some kind of agreement—heaven knows what—with Saudi-Arabia that does not seem to be working out very well. [An HON. MEMBER: "Disagreement."] Well, disagreement. But there is no doubt about the other agreements.
There is the humiliating Agreement with Egypt, to which reference was made this afternoon and which was referred to two weeks ago when I asked Questions 875 about it—the arrangement about British ships having to notify their presence in international waters because the Government humiliate themselves at the feet of the Egyptian Government. The Government ought to be ashamed of themselves. Have the Government sunk so low that they are now afraid that their ships may be attacked by the shore batteries of the Egyptian Government?
§ The Prime Minister
The right hon. Gentleman knows very well that it was an Agreement that his Government made.
§ Mr. Shinwell
The Prime Minister is quite wrong. That is what he said last week, but it was in a quite different situation. The difference is this: has there been no change in the situation since 1950, no change at all?
§ Mr. Shinwell
All right, I accept that. If the situation in the Middle East has been worsened as a result of Abadan, if it has been worsened because of the tension that now exists between Israel and the Arab countries, surely the situation has changed since 1950. Let the Prime Minister not be so perky about this matter, for I remind him to his face, not behind his back, that he was the man who said that if the Egyptians started any monkey business by interfering with our ships we would send a warship. Did he not say that? Let him get up and deny it. He cannot, because that is what he said. He was very belligerent and bellicose at the time, but where is his pugnacity now, when he is sitting at the feet of the Egyptian leaders, at the expense of Israel and, what is worse, with the possibility of another great conflict?
I ask the Government, what are they going to do about it, apart from what the Foreign Secretary said? He told us what the Government were going to do—they were going to wait, hoping for the best and hoping for good will and cooperation. But suppose it does not emerge. The Foreign Secretary said that private negotiations are taking place. I remind the Prime Minister that when a deputation went to see him some months ago on the subject of Israel and the Arab States and the possibility of conflict in the Middle East, he said there would be no trouble there.
§ The Prime Minister indicated dissent.
§ The Prime Minister
Is the right hon. Gentleman giving an account of what he himself calls a private negotiation?
§ Mr. Shinwell
In a situation of this kind, I see nothing improper in telling the right hon. Gentleman that that was his view at the time. If he thought six months ago that there would be trouble, is that his view now? What steps did he take at the time to prevent it? He cannot have it both ways.
§ The Prime Minister
If the right hon. Gentleman is mentioning a private negotiation, that is a little unusual but I do not mind particularly. I think that what I no doubt told him—I do not have any note with me—was that we were doing our best to try to get negotiations going, and that, no doubt, was true. It was true, and still is true.
§ Mr. Shinwell
That is precisely what the Government have been doing for the past three years, but it has not worked out. So far, no benefit has been derived from that process.
The question is: what is to be done now? I put the question quite frankly to the right hon. Gentleman. In the present situation, is he going to deprive Israel of the arms she needs for the purposes of defence or will he, as an alternative, provide her with the opportunity of a pact, a pact which, in the long run, may not prove of great material advantage but which, at least, would raise the morale of the people of the State of Israel and afford to them an appearance, at any rate, of security?
Let me say one final word on the subject of arms. I interjected when the Foreign Secretary was speaking on this subject, when he talked about a balance of arms vis-à-vis the Tripartite Declaration and the speeches which the Prime Minister and others have made on this subject, to which my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South referred this afternoon. Where is the balance of arms? I want to say categorically—and I tell hon. Members that I know, because I happen to have been at the War Office and at the Ministry of Defence; I am not excusing myself nor 877 anybody else then associated with me—that at that time, for diplomatic reasons, precisely as now, we were providing Egypt with arms. There was some discussion about tanks, aircraft, and so on. Israel always had difficulty in procuring a similar amount of arms. The same applies now.
I say to the right hon. Gentleman that either we provide arms for Israel and give her a chance to defend herself, or we give her the opportunity of a pact to afford her some measure of security. Failing that, what is to happen? Refer it to the United Nations? I do not object to that; certainly, I would not refer it to the Tripartite Declaration signatories and bring in the Russians, because I would not trust them to try to reach a satisfactory conclusion.
I end by saying this: I have no objection to the Bagdad Pact. Build up our defence organisation, because I believe that we may require it some day. I hope I am wrong, but that is my belief. Build it up in the West, build it up in the East. I know it is a costly business. But do not ignore this small country of Israel, this gallant country, with its people who have done so much to make their soil fertile, and to relieve many people from persecution. Give them a chance. Do not depress their morale. Over and above that, do not encourage their extremists, because that will only play into the hands of the Soviet Union and its satellites.
I hope that the Government will reconsider this matter. At least, I expect from the Prime Minister the assurance that when he spoke about a compromise it was merely a question of the rectification of frontiers and that he had not in mind any substantial abandonment of Israeli territory.
§ 6.22 p.m.
§ Colonel Cyril Banks (Pudsey)
I want to refer to my maiden speech in this House in 1950 and to quote some words I used on that occasion. I said then that when we considered that people in the Middle East were—… living on a calorie scale which is about half the scale that applies in this country, then we can have some conception of just how near these people are to starvation, and can appreciate how gladly they will receive anybody who will bring them food, whatever be their creed. It is time that the free countries in the world took stock and said what they are going to do for these people, not only in the interests 878 of these people alone hut in the interests of peace and of putting down of Communism."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th May, 1950; Vol. 475, c. 2111.]Since then I have visited the Middle East on twelve occasions and have seen the camps and the people in them. I have seen 30 per cent. of the total number of Palestinian refugees, so I believe that I am in a position to speak about them. I have visited both sides. I visited the Palestinian refugees with my wife, and also on my own. She has made 27 speeches to women's organisations in this country, telling them of the conditions. It seems strange in this modern world that when women are told about these conditions they are shocked and they ask, "What can we do about it?"
I think that somebody should do something about it, and I said so five and a half years ago in this Chamber. My efforts to do something useful in the Middle East have been bedevilled, first by the Canal Zone negotiations and, more recently, by the Russians supplying arms to Egypt. The stage has been reached when only blunt comments will suffice, and, because of my education and training. I am afraid that my vocabulary involves blunt expressions.
Whilst the United Nations Organisation and the United Nations Relief Works Agency operating from Beirut have done a wonderful job for people generally, they are useless for handling the present Middle East situation. The position is far too grave. It must be handled rapidly; something must he done about the general position. I hate saying "I told you so," but if the Western Powers—and we are one of them—do not do something about it, we shall see happen the very thing that I said five and a half years ago would happen; we shall see Russia swallow another slice, and a very vital slice, of the area of the world.
As I say, I have visited both sides. Unfortunately I have been misunderstood by some people because I have been to Israel twice and I spent the rest of my time in the Arab States. Some of the speeches made in this debate so far have not been helpful to the situation. The position of Egypt versus Israel is extremely serious, and it cannot be helped by somebody urging us to pour arms into one side or the other. The stage has been reached when somebody has to talk sensibly and to use their best endeavours 879 to calm the troubled waters. I shall make suggestions as to how I believe those waters can be calmed.
However, the problem of Egypt versus Israel is not the main one in the Middle East, nor is it the main interest of Russia. Much has been said about the refugees, 80 per cent. of whom are in Jordan, the Lebanon and Gaza. I want to ask hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite some questions because of the principles for which they stand. How do hon. Gentlemen opposite suggest that jobs should be found for those refugees in Jordan, the Lebanon and Gaza where there is an unemployment problem and work cannot be found for the nationals of those areas? For instance, is it possible for the Government of Egypt or Jordan to say that they will give priority to the employment of refugees against the interests of their own nationals? Hon. Gentlemen opposite know what it means when we consider importing labour into this country for which we can find employment. We do not do so because we ask what will happen if we do not have enough work in the future.
My hon. Friend the Member for East Bournemouth and Christchurch (Mr. N. Nicolson) said that 200 million dollars had been made available to, and is now in the hands of, the United Nations Relief Works Agency for schemes to provide work for refugees. I ask hon. Gentlemen opposite this question: if we make this money available to a country and put down a pilot scheme to assist the refugees, will they be employed on that pilot scheme instead of the nationals of that country?
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
The hon. and gallant Gentleman appreciates that I know something about the refugees. As I understand it, he is saying that it is impracticable to expect the Arab countries to absorb, or resettle on a permanent basis, these Arab refugees. If that is his view, would he say where he thinks they ought to be permanently settled?
§ Colonel Banks
When I made my maiden speech the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) put me off my stroke, but this time he does not. I did not say I had no solution, I did not say there was not a solution where 880 they are. I will say what I think should happen. There is only one solution of the refugee problem. It is work for everybody in the areas throughout the Middle East. In Egypt there is the Council of the Revolution. I know the Prime Minister and I have seen him on several occasions. He is a fine man. He has my sympathy in the job he is doing, because at heart he has the same ideals as myself. I think history will show that he did the job he set out to do, that he lifted up the people. He wanted to do something for the people in the farmlands of Egypt who were living in humble circumstances. For nine years, trying to achieve his ends, he has planned and risked his neck rolling in the sands if he was caught. Jolly good luck to him! I hope he succeeds.
I have travelled with the Egyptian Prime Minister 250 miles to the upper reaches of the Nile. I have seen the work done in villages there. I have seen baths, which were never previously provided. I have seen health centres. All this has been done with very small amounts of money, because the Egyptians have not got much money. They have been trying to spread what little they have over the area, doing the best they can for the population. Anyone who has recently been in Cairo will have observed the public works undertaken there and the tidying up of the streets.
All this work is limited because there is not the capital with which to do the job. The whole Middle East needs capital resources from the Western hemisphere. We have at present a choice before us. Either we can provide the capital which those countries need, or they can get it elsewhere, and we know where "elsewhere" is. We are familiar with Russian tactics. We know it is largely a question of putting Communists in key positions, and then the programme fails.
What Egypt needs at present is about £100 million to the end of 1956, and for ten years she needs £235 million in sterling for development. We can either put a committee to work to prove whether it is necessary—that is being done now about one part of it, and it has been done in this country and in the United States—and decide whether it is a reasonable business arrangement, or we can turn it 881 down and say we are not interested. However, I say, as I said in my maiden speech—
§ Mr. Burden
Will my hon. and gallant Friend tell us what guarantees the Egyptians will give us in return for the help if we give it to them?
§ Colonel Banks
I do not think it is appropriate that I should be asked what guarantees a Government would give another Government in the event of a loan being made. I am not a financier or part of the Treasury organisation. I am simply saying what I believe is necessary if we are to hold the position in the Middle East and feed the people who live there and give them a chance to lead a decent happy life. That is one of the things at which we ought to aim. My only fear is that with us it may be a matter of too little and too late.
I want to make my position in the matter clear. I am British, and I will not tolerate any threats, from whatever party or Government they may come, based on the argument "If you do not do it, Russia will." I do not think any of us will lie down under that sort of thing. On the other hand, we ought to consider the matter very carefully indeed. Five years have gone by, and I have seen very little, if anything, done to help the ordinary people living in the Middle East countries. Continuous efforts have been made by U.N.R.R.A. and everybody else, but the efforts have not worked out very well because the people are just as badly off now and some of them are worse fed than in the days prior to the war.
In the Middle East the people generally are deeply religious. They are playing with fire at 'present in taking arms from Russia, but they have been placed in a position where they have said, "What shall we do?" and they have taken the arms for better or worse. They know that the Communist machine is a highly geared propaganda machine which stops at nothing, not even murder, and to keep the godless few in luxury it keeps the rest in misery. With regard to large houses on that side of the fence, it is merely a matter of taking out the people who have the money and putting in new tenants and making them equally wealthy. This is known in the Middle East. The people there do not want it. They want us to help.
882 These are my suggestions. We should grant Egypt the £100 million that she needs until the end of 1956, if it is not already done, through the World Bank. It would be a loan. We should then set up a committee to consider the requirements of not only Egypt but the other Arab States and other States throughout the Middle East to bring them to a standard of living which will remove the major part of the unemployment problem and take care of the refugee problem. We should then say, "We want you to stop the fighting. We want to stop the arms race. We want reconsideration of the schemes which have been submitted by the United Nations, all of which have been turned down." The schemes could be reconsidered in that light, and I am sure that many of them would be accepted. They could then be put into operation, and work would be found for the refugees.
§ Mr. John Strachey (Dundee, West)
I am grateful to the hon. and gallant Member for giving way to me. Some of us know the very fine work that he has done among the Arab refugees in the Middle East. I should like to ask him whether he would make it a condition of the very substantial financial assistance which he is suggesting should be given to Arab countries that they should forthwith start the settlement of the refugees within their territories? It seems to me absolutely indispensable that reconsideration of their present refusal to contemplate that, for political reasons, should be made a condition of any such help.
§ Colonel Banks
I appreciate the right hon. Gentleman's comment. I would make that condition. I think there is a duty on everybody to settle the refugees. Furthermore, I believe the refugees must be settled where they are. Chatter about putting them back into Israel must cease. Every sensible Arab knows perfectly well anyhow that the refugees are not going back, because one cannot play shuttlecock with a million people.
This is a simple approach, and it has been my approach to the problem. I do not think that it can be regarded on either side of the House as a party approach. I am sure it is something with which we all agree. I was hoping that during the debate we might all feel the same way about the problem so that we might say, "This is the way to tackle it.
883 This is the way to stop the fighting. This is the way to stop the arms race. This is the way to deal with reconstruction schemes which will provide work for the people in the Middle East, improve their standard of living, and make life worth while for them."
The opportunity is with us now to earn the love and respect of the people in the Middle East. We have the alternative of throwing the Middle East to the wolves. The choice is ours, and we must make up our mind in a very short space of time. I pray God that hon. Members will stand by what is right and do the right thing by these people, because it is only in that way that we shall ever reap any dividends from this work.
§ 6.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Clement Davies (Montgomery)
All who have heard the hon. and gallant Member for Pudsey (Colonel Banks) will agree with everything that he has said about the refugees. It is the desire of everybody to see those people properly settled, capable of earning their own living, working upon their own land, and as near to where they are at present as is possible.
I would even go further and say that all the N.A.T.O. countries, or, rather, all the free countries, would be ready, once the Arab countries were ready to receive it, to give every possible assistance in settling the people there. The difficulty arises merely because the Arab Governments where the poor refugees are situated are unwilling to co-operate in the way the hon. and gallant Member and all of us desire them to do.
The Foreign Secretary gave in the early part of his speech a very interesting review of the changes which have taken place in these countries and what has been their foreign policy from the beginning of the century up till now. Then came more particular references about the Middle East. I must confess at once that I am still bewildered as to what the Government's policy in the Middle East is. I have no clear idea of what they are after.
We all desire to see a great improvement in every one of those countries in the Middle East, socially, politically, and certainly economically. It should be remembered that it is a part of the world where great nations for thousands of years 884 occupied most important positions in the then known world. There is no reason whatsoever why they should not flourish in the way that they flourished perhaps 7,000 or 8,000 years ago, and certainly 4,000 or 5,000 years ago. However much we would all like to see that, it does not deal with the situation which confronts us today.
In his statement of the position, the Foreign Secretary called attention to and emphasised the differences between the Arabs and Israel. Without doubt, the focal point of the Middle East situation is the agreement with the Arabs on the one hand and with Israel on the other. He emphasised that the Arabs would not admit that they were in any way wrong and that Israel claimed that she was right. Having emphasised that, and that being the position, he went on to deal with the new intervention in the Middle East through the action of Russia, either direct or through her satellites, in being ready to supply arms, not only to Egypt, but to other countries where difficulties can be increased, like the Yemen and Saudi Arabia.
We waited to hear his suggestion to deal with that situation. He summed it up in the phrase, "We organise our friends and we will organise ourselves with our friends." But who are our friends? We asked him that; there were interruptions, but he ignored them and went on to refer to the Bagdad Pact. Quite rightly, he said that Turkey is certainly very friendly with us and has been since the Treaty of Lausanne; so in Iraq, which has every reason to be friendly with us, because this country created it as a separate State; Iran at present, but a very short while ago Iran was on the other side and creating difficulties for us; but why leave out the one country which all along, in spite of our vacillating policy, has remained friendly to us, the State of Israel? Our policy throughout has been to shilly-shally and vacillate from one side to the other all the way along, not merely with this Government, but with all Governments since—
§ Mr. Kenneth Pickthorn (Carlton)
When the right hon. and learned Member says "all the way along," it might help his listeners if we knew starting from when.
§ Mr. Davies
If the hon. Member had waited, I was going to say since 1917.
We have a responsibility towards Israel greater than that of any other country. If any hon. Member opposite is in doubt about that, let him read the speeches delivered in May, 1939, by the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) speaking from below the Gangway, and the speech made by a then right hon. Member of this House, the late Leo Amery. Both emphasised the part we had played in the creation of Israel. We called Israel into being—it was the Balfour Note, which is still known as the Balfour Note, which went out to other countries. When the First World War was over, we had not only accepted the mandate with regard to Palestine, but had almost gone out of our way to beg for it. Certainly the Conservative Members of that Parliament, who were in the majority, had sent a memorandum to the Government begging the Government to ask for the mandate and to take it over. Our concern for the Jews was shown by the appointment of the first High Commissioner, Lord Samuel.
That was the beginning, but what happened afterwards? I shall not go through all the details but will come straightaway to what was happening just before the Second World War broke out, when the iniquitous White Paper with the policy of the then Government was published. It was denounced by the right hon. Member for Woodford as well as by the then right hon. Member for Sparkbrook, Mr. Leo Amery. There was a complete change of policy, vacillation from one side to the other. Then came the Second World War. We still remained in charge with a changing policy, not quite knowing what to do and very friendly with everybody. That was pretty nearly the speech of the right hon. Member for Woodford, being friendly with the aggressor and with the victim, friendly with the bully and the bullied. The speech of the Foreign Secretary today very much reminded me of the tone and substance of the speeches that were so disastrous and which one heard from the Dispatch Box about our foreign policy between 1933 to 1939.
Coming to what happened, suddenly and with only a bare warning to the Jews, who had now been practically invited by us to come to the territory—as the right 886 hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) rightly said, it had been under the control of the Ottoman Empire for centuries; not under the Arab at all, but under the Turk—having issued the Balfour Note, which was an invitation to the Jews from every country to enter Palestine, which they did, in May, 1949, we left them completely in the lurch, without any arms except what they had been able to smuggle into the country, or had been able to steal from us or from the Arabs.
What was there against them? There were seven armed Arab States, some of them officered by British officers and all of them armed with British arms. The Jews had hurriedly to create the State of Israel. They then defended it against these seven States and defended it successfully and so started a new State. That has been the position. The Jews want that land. They did not want to fight. They wanted peace. They were anxious to undertake turning land which was just desert and sand to a fair and flowery land, and they have succeeded. If any people in the Middle East want peace, they are the people of Israel. They have succeeded in doing what they have done with a gun in one hand to defend themselves and a hoe in the other. They have a heavier conscription responsibility than any other country, and they even conscript their women in order to defend what they regard as their own land, which they have certainly won without any help whatsoever from us.
That was the position. What has since been happening? We are getting incidents which certainly Israel does not want; the threat does not come from her; she has not taken one inch of land outside the mandated territory. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh.] Not outside the mandated territory, not one inch.
On the other hand, what has been happening with the others? In the United Nations resolution of 1947, which has now been revived by the Prime Minister in his speech at the Mansion House, it was proposed not that any of the land of Palestine should be given to Jordan, not that any of it should be given to Egypt, but that it should be divided into two States of the people who are already there, the Arabs of Palestine and the Jews of Palestine. It was proposed that there should be an economic union between them, and that 887 Jerusalem itself should be turned into an international city. Those were the proposals.
Who accepted them? Did we? No—but now the Prime Minister is the one who raises the question for the first time in his speech at the Mansion House. In 1947 we opposed the proposals but we did not carry our opposition to the extent of voting against them. We abstained, as did all the Moslem countries. The Arabs turned the proposals down, but the Jews, through their spokesmen, were ready to accept.
Then, within 12 months, there occurred this attack upon the Jews who were there. What was the object? There was one and one only—the entire extermination of the Jews, or that those who survived should, once more, travel the world over seeking refuge. These incidents occurred, and the Prime Minister rightly says, "Let us have peace; let us negotiate."
What efforts have been made to get negotiations? Who has offered to come round the table? The Government of Israel have time and again directly, and at the United Nations Assembly, said, "We are ready to enter into negotiations at any time and in any place, through a third party or directly. We prefer direct negotiation, if you would only come and discuss these matters with us. We are anxious, also, that we should co-operate for the success of this part of the world."
The Prime Minister talked about concessions being made by Israel. They have already made some pretty wonderful proposals. They have suggested, "Look, Jordan, and look, Syria, you have not got a good port, but we have in Haifa. You will have transit rights and we will make Haifa a free port for you. What is more, what is needed above everything, not only by you, Jordan, but by us, is water, and we are ready now to co-operate with you in getting a scheme which will provide for you just as much as it will provide for us." Who stopped it? The Jews proposed it, but the Arabs opposed.
What further compromise does the Prime Minister suggest? If it is territory, what territory? Was the Negev at any time thought to be worth anything to anybody, until these poor refugees who have come from every part of the world—from Asia, Africa, India, the satellite countries of Russia and from Russia itself—set to 888 work on a land that otherwise had been regarded throughout the centuries as absolutely useless and just a desert? Just because they are changing that and creating a productive land, the eyes of the others are cast upon it, hungrily wanting to take it away from them.
What have they already taken? I have said that the Jew has not taken an inch outside Palestine. When he was attacked by Lebanon, among others of the seven, he succeeded in throwing back the Lebanese and taking a number of Lebanese villages; but he promptly abandoned them and handed them back to Lebanon. I wonder what would have happened had it been the other way round. What has happened since? In 1950—and here again it is not merely the present Government who are to blame; this vacillation has gone on throughout every one of the Governments—Jordan, who had no right whatever to any of the land on the west side of Jordan, suddenly declared that they were now annexing Hebron, Nablus, Old Jerusalem, and the whole of that area.
Who was the first to recognise the act of annexation? It was the Government of this country. Again, Egypt had no right whatever to Gaza, but Egypt took the Gaza Strip and again that was recognised by us. What further concession was there in the mind of the Prime Minister when he made that speech? I could mention the resolution of 1947. What has the Prime Minister succeeded in doing but causing a certain amount of exultation in Egypt and deep distress in Israel? Where is the advantage of that in negotiation?
The time has come when we should be much firmer in our policy. That is the right way in which to secure peace. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) rightly reminded the House of what had been the history of Czechoslovakia. There was another country that was in equal danger, and the Prime Minister himself took a very strong line with regard to that—and that was appeasement with reference to Mussolini and Abyssinia. Let the Prime Minister remember those two occasions and say, "No. The time has come. In the words of the Foreign Secretary, 'Let us organise our friends,' but let us be quite sure who are our friends."
889 Has Egypt been a friend? I recall all the wealth and all the blood that has been shed in Egypt in order to give Egypt the privileges it has today and to give the people of the Sudan their new Constitution. I recall the sacrifices of this country and its people, and ask, "What do we get in return?" We get nothing but kicks the whole time.
Finally, I refer to arms. It is true that we have the Tripartite Declaration. I was surprised the other day when the Prime Minister, who is usually very fair about these matters, pointed out that there were no actual words about keeping the balance in that Declaration. That is perfectly true, but has anybody doubt about the meaning of it? That is why it was framed in this way. The whole idea was that the United States, France and ourselves were saying, "From now on we will do our best to avoid this danger by saying that no one will get more arms than another." That was the whole idea.
It is true that there is an addition in the last part which guarantees the territories of every one of them against aggression; but what is happening? Russia comes along and says to Egypt, Yemen and Saudi Arabia, "Do not pay any attention to what the United States, France and Britain think. We will give you all you want—guns, tanks, aeroplanes and submarines. We will hand them all over to you." What does the Foreign Secretary say in answer to that except, "Well, I cannot blame Egypt for taking advantage of it." Yet, at the same time, he says, "Let us organise our friends." Where is the policy of Her Majesty's Government? We are entitled to know, for we have made great sacrifices for the peace of the world and for the advantage of the Middle East. Let us stand by our friends, and let us be firm in our policy.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Kenneth Pickthorn (Carlton)
It is a very long time since I have spoken on this subject, or anything like it, and speaking in a debate in which I am almost the only participant so far who is neither a right hon. Gentleman nor a maiden speaker, I hope I may almost ask for the indulgence accorded to the second class.
I would like to begin by some reference to things which have been said by earlier speakers. I think that the Foreign Secretary was in some respects rather optimistic, though hope he is right. One should 890 always be respectful of the experts, and particularly of the experts on one's own side, and I think in the twenty years that I have been in this House I have always tried very hard indeed to be respectful of the experts, and particularly those on my own side. But when I have seen the way in which international affairs have gone in the last twenty years, without feeling any very great confidence in my own knowledge or judgment, I do sometimes think that some limit ought to be put to one's respect. And with every due respect I did a little doubt whether my right hon. Friend was not over-optimistic.
Is he sure that the Russians gave ground in Austria? I do not feel at all so sure about that. I should feel very much surer if we had not set up a Communist régime in Yugoslavia. Though we are having this debate on the Motion for the Adjournment, that is not perhaps the thing one ought to develop here today. I was not quite sure, but he talked about the danger in the Formosa Straits having receded into the background. Is there any truth in the rumours which we have all heard—at least I suppose most of us have heard—about a build-up of the air danger in that part of the world? Is anything more known about that than we may all be presumed to know, and if so, can we be told something of Formosa, whether that is more better—
§ Mr. Pickthorn
I was just going to explain: first, we are on the Adjournment; secondly, the "Middle East" in my time has wandered about everywhere from Gibraltar to Yokohama; and, thirdly, if the Foreign Secretary can begin by referring to these things and the light which they throw on our consideration of the Middle East, then I think I may humbly look the same way.
And then I want to make some reference to some of the things said by the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison). It really is not any justification—I am not assuming for the moment whether justification is or is not needed—but if justification is needed, it is no justification for the occupation of Palestine by whoever now occupies it, whether they are Zionists or anti-Zionists, to say that, anyway, it was only a bit of 891 the Turkish Empire. That really is not the difficulty felt by those of us who are concerned not only about the Jews but also about the Arabs.
Incidentally, I hope I may say what I have said more than once before in the House—but not for some years now—I wish that in this connection we could always say "Zionists" when we mean Zionists, when we mean persons who believe in a political sovereignty in Palestine based upon the Jewishness of the community; when we mean that, I wish we could always say "Zionists" rather than say "Jews." And I wish also that we should not use this argument that there is an awful lot of land elsewhere which the Arabs turned out of Palestine might have.
I am very much inclined to agree, because he is far better informed than I am, with the hon. and gallant Member for Pudsey (Colonel Banks) upon this point, that we cannot play battledore and shuttlecock with a million people, that social engineering can only be done by a Communist Government and that we must not try to do it. But I do not think that ought to make for too much worship of mere accomplished fact. I do not want to go too far back into history but I go to the fact that we gave hundreds of thousands—I have forgotten how many—of Arabs, who had been guaranteed by the Mandate, and the guarantee had presumably been taken over by the United Nations, assurance that their rights should not be disturbed by the setting up of a national home in Palestine. How many hundreds of thousands of such persons fled from that territory? [HON. MEMBERS: "Nine hundred thousand."] Probably 900,000.
I am inclined to agree it is too difficult to do social engineering, for a democracy to undertake to try to arrange with Jordan and Lebanon and so on to get these people back to what was, in the days of our Mandate, Palestinian territory. All I do suggest to hon. and right hon. Gentlemen is that the chance of the Zionist State of Israel becoming a matter of course something which its neighbours take for granted they have to deal with and do not continuously feel to be something against which they must in one way or another react, that the chance of that must depend not on merely financial or 892 economic generosity, but upon extreme generosity in all discussions about why those 900,000 people are refugees and are living in mud holes outside their own country.
And to say that there is plenty of other land they may go to, or to say that there are other States, on whose territory they now find themselves, which have not done all they should do, I submit to the House that to say those things is only embittering the feeling that there must be in all that part of the world and making it less likely that this State of Israel shall become something which is taken for granted, liked or disliked, but at any rate taken for granted, if not collaborated with at least worked along with. That it should become something of that sort is I think absolutely essential to any hope of peace in that part of the world.
I would say also that it does not really seem to me helpful to tell us to organise our friends and then to assume that our friends in this case are only the Israelis. It seems to me quite plain that whatever else happens there is not going to be more than the coldest of cold peace; there is not going to be more than the most ticklish of co-existences in that part of the world, unless we can somehow manage to make friends and say to each other, "It is best to make friends with the Israelis and the Arabs too." The theory that we can make friends with one side and let the rest go is surely nonsense.
Lastly, I would like to say a word about self-determination in this connection. I was always against the phrase "self-determination." I was always against the adoption of it as a settled part of policy when—I was going to say I was an insignificant, but even more insignificant than I am now—when I was a very junior officer advising the Army Council in 1917. On that I had no expectation of convincing anybody, if indeed anyone ever read it, but I thought everyone should think twice before they swallowed those words "self-determination."
It is very difficult to govern men on the basis of abstract principles, and that one is by no means self-evident. But however much self-determination there is to be, we have got to more than one point where it is clear to us that we have to call a halt and say "We cannot have self-determination here." I do not know 893 whether there should be self-determination about the American aerodrome in Iceland or the American air base at Dharan in Saudi Arabia, both of which I am told are absolutely essential to the defence of Western Europe. We think that there cannot be self-determination in Cyprus, and hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite thought that, too, about Cyprus when they were in office. But when it comes to Israel, what was the moment at which the population of that territory ought to have had self-determination? What was the moment?
§ Mr. Pickthorn
If we choose our moment, of course it is easy enough, but it is quite plain that that was nineteen years after the Balfour Declaration, and nineteen years after the title deed of that State.
§ Mr. Crossman
It was surely at the time when the Peel Commission had recommended a partition of the country and that was accepted by the Government. Surely that was the moment to grant self-determination, when the British Government had accepted that from the Royal Commission?
§ Mr. Pickthorn
That is really—I am not sure whether "disingenuous" is a Parliamentary word, but if it is not a Parliamentary word—it really will not do.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
In fact it was the force of our arms. I was amazed by the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) who spoke and by the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) who said that we had done a great deal for Egypt—I was delighted to hear that said—a great deal for the Sudan and for every State in the near and Middle East, but had never done anything for Israel. What was it but British arms that made possible the Balfour Declaration? What else was it? The Balfour Declaration was a declaration, and was most specifically and plainly and determinedly a declaration 894 that there should be a home, and a spiritual home—
§ Mr. Barnett Janner (Leicester, North-West)rose—
§ Mr. Pickthorn
I cannot give way. The hon. Gentleman can speak afterwards.
Incidentally, my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) who was appealed to just now—I have forgotten how lately he continued to say so, but he certainly continued in 1922 to say that what was given was the opportunity of a spiritual home and there was no question of political sovereignty. It is quite certain that if any self-determination could have been granted on any such lines in 1917, 1919, 1922 or so on, this State would not have been thus established. All the people who are so keen about self-determination really ought to remember this. I am glad to say that no one yet has said—and I hope that I shall not provoke someone into saying it—that 900,000 Arabs only left Palestine in order to make it awkward for the Zionists: people have to face the fact that these people were driven out—
§ Mr. Pickthorn
—I thought I should get it—by extreme but not unreasonable terror, and I have seen less terror than there was there drive out some brave men.
§ 7.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Henderson (Rowley Regis and Tipton)
Tempting as it is, I do not propose to follow the hon. Member for Carlton (Mr. Pickthorn) into the historical background of the problems we are facing today.
§ Mr. Henderson
In April of this year, I had the privilege of visiting both Israel and Jordan, and I think that one learns from such visits the intensity of the human problem as well as the political problem confronting the countries of the Middle East at the present time.
The hon. and gallant Member for Pudsey (Colonel Banks), as distinct from the hon. Member for Carlton, indicated the fact that hon. Members on this side of the House are just as concerned about the plight of the 900,000 refugees as they are, and about the position of Israel. I have had the opportunity of visiting three 895 refugee camps in Jordan, and I am bound to say that I was shocked by what I saw. The conditions were not in themselves bad. The United Nations Relief Agency had done a wonderful job, but one has to remember that this is seven years after the end of hostilities between the Arab States and Israel. Of the 450,000 people in the camps in Jordan, and I understand, 400,000 in the camps in Egypt, in the Gaza strip, practically 90 per cent. are without employment. The population is increasing at the rate of 25,000 a year. One cannot attribute the responsibility for the present plight of the refugees to the Government of Israel.
After all, no Government in the world can assess the feelings of refugees better than the Government of Israel, which represents a nation 4 million or 5 million of whom were destroyed during the days of Hitler. Hundreds of thousands of them might have been refugees even today, had the Government of Israel not been able to take them into the new State. An academic, historical approach to these matters is not what we are concerned with. We are concerned with the facts, and Israel is an established fact.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman suggest that there is some difference and that history does not contain any facts? How can we be concerned with facts and not with history?
§ Mr. Henderson
We have to deal with the present position. Here is a problem facing not only Israel and the Arab States, but the world. The Middle East is one of the danger spots of the world. All I am saying is that it is not necessary to teach the people and the Government of Israel that the refugee problem is one of great human importance.
One cannot but be impressed with the great advances which have been made by the Israeli State, which is less than seven years old. My right hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) asked Her Majesty's Government whether they were even considering the transfer of the Negev as part of the settlement with the Arab States. I saw the engineering works that are taking place on the River Yakron just outside Tel Aviv. Its waters are being diverted through a system of five power houses and four reservoirs, down into the Negev.
896 It is estimated that 50,000 to 70,000 people will be able to live in what is today a desert area as the result of that great irrigation project. It would be far better, not only for the five Arab Governments concerned and for the 400,000 or 500,000 refugees who are now living in Jordan, if the countries there would come together and co-operate in the great Johnston project, which was referred to by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland—the Jordan water project. I am told by those who are concerned with this project that it will be possible to sustain at least 150,000 people who are now living in refugee camps if this great economic project can be put into operation.
We have now arrived at the present deadlock. The Arab States refuse to acknowledge the existence of Israel. It seems to be a political reductio ad absurdam that five countries adjacent to Israel should pretend that the State of Israel does not exist. Apart from the attempted demarcation line, some of the villages between Israel and Jordan are on one side of the line and some on the other. The Arab Governments have grievances, and I certainly have great sympathy with them so far as their refugee problem is concerned. One has only to see the deployment of armed police and soldiers along those borders, and to read of the incidents that are taking place almost daily, to realise that there is no question of pretending that a very serious and tense situation does not exist day by day on the borders of Israel and her Arab neighbours.
It is because I believe that we cannot make progress until the present deadlock has been broken that I welcome the Prime Minister's effort at mediation on behalf of Her Majesty's Government. I do not object to his statement that there must be compromise if there is to be agreement. How can there be agreement between two opposing interests unless there is compromise? What I consider most unfortunate is the reference made by the Prime Minister in his Guildhall speech to the basis upon which a compromise could be made. That is not the way to mediate. Mediation depends upon private talks and not talks before the world, such as the Prime Minister was guilty of in his Guildhall speech. [Interruption.] Certainly, in so far as it was calculated to destroy the 897 very worthy attempt the Prime Minister was making to put an end to this problem. I do not care who the mediator is, whether our own British Prime Minister, Marshal Tito, or someone else. Sooner or later, and the sooner the better, some attempt should be made to break this deadlock, in the interests not only of the Middle East but of all other countries in the world.
I have referred to the position on the border between Israel and the Arab States. Mediation will not get very much opportunity unless we prevent incidents recurring. There was one last night in which 40 or 50 people were killed. They can only poison attempts to bring about a settlement. On several occasions I have questioned the Foreign Secretary as to whether General Burns and his 12 observers were sufficient to carry out their responsibility? The Foreign Secretary has replied, as he did this afternoon, "If General Burns makes a request for more observers we will support that request."
That is playing with the problem. The right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill), who is listening to me, knows much better than I do that during the war he did not wait until a commander-in-chief put in an application for reinforcements. If the right hon. Gentleman and his staff advisers came to the conclusion as a matter of major policy that it was desirable to send a large number of troops into a particular field of operation, that decision was taken. I am asking the Goverment to take this matter a little more seriously and not to wait for General Burns to ask for a few more observers.
The United Nations Security Council should consider the situation on the border which appears to be leading to a danger of war as a problem which must be faced now. The United Nations Forces should be increased substantially. A force of United Nations military police, if necessary with side arms, should be stationed along both side of the border between Israel and her Arab neighbours to patrol it and to prevent incidents arising. That force of United Nations military police might well be drawn from Canada, Pakistan, Yugoslavia and Sweden, and be given the responsibility under General Burns—who has done a wonderful job—not merely of observing but of preventing incidents from arising.
§ Mr. N. Nicolson
Could the right hon. and learned Gentleman be a little more explicit on this interesting suggestion? He is really making two suggestions, the first that the number of observers should be increased, and the second that in some way we should establish on the border an international police force carrying arms. The police will, presumably, keep the two combatants apart. Does not the right hon. and learned Gentleman realise that in order to carry out the latter task we should need an army, because the countries concerned have armies, but that in order to carry out observation we can do what is necessary with the forces on the ground at the moment?
§ Mr. Henderson
I do not know whether-the hon. Gentleman has had the opportunity of patrolling that border?
§ Mr. Henderson
I completely disagree with the hon. Gentleman's objection that my proposal would need an army. In these days of air and motor transport mobility there is no need for putting an army there. I am not suggesting a force that will fight or engage in action with either side, but a police force. A police force that operates in this country or in any other country is not always engaged in armed or physical conflict with wrongdoers. In 99 cases out of 100 the fact that a policeman is there acts as a deterrent. I am suggesting that United Nations police—. The hon. Gentleman may laugh. People used to laugh at the right hon. Member for Woodford when he was making his proposals in prospect of the approaching conflict which broke out in 1939. I am not going to be influenced by the hon. Gentleman's laughing and his suggesting that there is nothing in what I am saying. Something like this should be done in attempting to break the deadlock which is poisoning the situation. If there are other means, as the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) and my right hon. Friend pointed out, the Foreign Secretary has not stated that policy. What is the policy? If it is to mediate, the position should be kept fluid in the sense that precautions should be taken to prevent the possibilities of mediation from being destroyed by major incidents developing out of minor ones.
899 With regard to arms, the situation is extremely dangerous. In this Middle East cauldron, which Russia is stirring by her intervention by the supply—we are told—of M.I.G.s and other types of aeroplanes, submarines and torpedo boats, we should not stand by and allow Israel to be overwhelmed by the greater arms supplied by Russia to Egypt. I would ask the Prime Minister what action the Government are going to take. They have failed in their talks with Mr. Molotov; are they going to take this matter to the United Nations? Arey they not going to make an attempt through the United Nations to secure concerted action, including that of Russia, to prevent an arms race from taking place? No Member of this House is in favour of an arms race, but, pending such an agreement, it is, in the view of many of us, our duty to insist that Israel shall not be placed in a hopelessly inferior position as the result of these supplies of arms being given to Egypt by the Soviet Union.
The suggestion has been made by the bon. and gallant Member for Pudsey that the way to solve the problem is on the basis of political and economic cooperation. The Tripartite Declaration should be reaffirmed in the present situation, and a bilateral treaty of defence should be entered into, to strengthen the effectiveness of the Tripartite Declaration. But neither the Baghdad Pact, nor the Tripartite Declaration, nor a Bilateral Treaty, nor the supply of arms to Israel or to any Arab country is the way to bring a solution of the problem.
It has to be achieved by securing a final political settlement based on political and economic co-operation—by the establishment of a Middle East economic plan similar to the Colombo Plan—which will enable the Arab States, Israel and the countries of the United Nations by a concerted effort to build up the standards of life of all the downtrodden millions of Arabs who are today living in conditions of abject misery and poverty. That is the way to build up the standards of living. I believe that the people and Government of Israel would make their contribution to the solution of the refugee problem and to the question of territorial re-adjustment, but with one fundamental proviso—that those contributions are part of a final peace settlement between Israel and 900 her neighbours, so that they can all go forward together in the interests of all the peoples of the Middle East.
§ 7.31 p.m.
§ Mr. C. J. M. Alport (Colchester)
You, Mr. Speaker, will know whether there is a collective noun for Privy Councillors. Whether it be a pride of Privy Councillors or a privilege of Privy Councilors, I do not know, but I find it extremely difficult to follow the speeches of the numerous right hon. Gentlemen who have spoken from the other side. Perhaps one reason is that I never took part in that great emotional experience which accompanied the development and realisation of the ideals of Zionism in the last twenty years I only remember meeting Dr. Weizman once, and I recognised him as a great and a good man.
I find it difficult to understand the immense hold which Zionism clearly has upon the minds of so many of those who were contemporaries with its early days. I find it difficult, for instance, to understand how it can exercise such a hold over the mind of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) that he can use an opportunity in this House for glorifying, frankly, the right of conquest, and for producing from Liberal lips the advocacy of a principle which has never, to my knowledge, been accepted by the Liberal Party.
In the case of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell), I find it difficult to understand how he can have been brought to advocate something which amounts to gunboat diplomacy solely in the interests of the Israel State, when I know perfectly well that he would repudiate gunboat diplomacy if it were to be used in the interests of the United Kingdom. With the exception of the speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton (Mr. A. Henderson), I find only one theme running through the speeches of the right hon. Gentlemen opposite. That is a theme which places the interests of the survival of Israel over and above—and quite apart from—the interests of the future security of this country, in particular, and of those countries that are associated with us in the Western world.
If, therefore, I do not address myself to the arguments which the right hon. 901 Gentlemen have raised, it is because I do not find myself in that mental atmosphere which, in my view, so distorts their judgment that they cannot see the real issue which this House is debating tonight. Perhaps I may first refer to a point made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton). He said that he would make one reference to the supply of arms by Soviet Russia to Egypt. If I may say so with respect, I thought that that one reference was a remarkably injudicious one. As I see it, there is only one object in the supplying of arms by Russia to Egypt. That object is to force Great Britain and the United States to side with Israel in the controversy between that country and the Arab countries.
After all, what could be of greater advantage to Communist diplomacy than to ensure that the makers of the Bagdad Pact, the moving spirits in some degree—at any rate in these later days, if not initially—were allied with a country not recognised by the majority of the countries comprising the Bagdad Pact? It is a simple, obvious diplomatic move by Soviet Russia, yet one after another of the right hon. Gentlemen opposite has invited this country to fall into the trap set for us by Communist diplomacy—a trap which would ensure the division of this country from our Allies not only in the Arab but in the whole of the Muslim world.
Even in his helpful and, I thought, most constructive speech, it was of no use the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton ignoring the bitterness that lies at the root of the existing relationship between the Arab world and Israel. As I see it, what we have to do is to avoid being forced into either the Israel or the Arab camp but to try to hold a reasonable balance between the two. In order to do that we have to understand not only the Israeli point of view—which, judging by all the speeches that I have heard tonight, is very well understood indeed—but also the Arab point of view. For anyone to say to any Arabs in this world that they are more responsible than are the Israelis for the 900,000 refugees living in Arab countries adjacent to Israel is to make them feel that the person is using language which not one of them can understand in any circumstances at all. Yet that is the only construction which one can put, even 902 on a moderate speech such as that we have heard from the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton.
§ Mr. A. Henderson
What I tried to convey was that, very largely as the result of my personal visits to these camps, I certainly did not need converting to the urgency of this human problem. I say that the problem of 900,000 refugees is there and ask what the United Nations and all the nations concerned intend to do about it.
§ Mr. Alport
I fully realise that. When one expresses a point of view on this problem and apportions blame for its existence, the apportionment must be-made very carefully indeed. Certainly blame may not, in all fairness and in the light of history, be placed at the door of the Arab countries, which, at the present moment, are providing dwelling places for these refugees.
I find it difficult not only to follow the reasoning of so many right hon. Gentlemen opposite, but to make a contribution which does not repeat things which have been said so much better and so often at intervals during the last hundred years. I believe that, except in a minor respect, the problem of the Middle East which we are facing today is not that of the relations between Israel and the Arabs. It is the problem which was so well known, in their own generation, to Disraeli, to Salisbury, to Gladstone and to Curzon. It is the problem of withstanding the attempt of Russia to extend her power into the areas which we call the Middle East, and which lie, I suppose, between the Dardanelles and the Hindu Kush.
In so far as we are facing that problem, I think it important that we should remind those who are also concerned with it of the sort of problem which exists today and which existed 100 years ago. People are apt to forget that Russia is today the greatest colonial Power in Asia. Quite apart from the references which my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary made to its colonialism in Europe, long before the satellites in Europe were joined to the Soviet system, right back in Czarist times Russia was a great colonial Power in Asia and is to this day. People forget that it was as a result of a long series of campaigns that the Tartar dominions and the Turkoman lands in the middle years of 903 the nineteenth century were brought into Russian control, that by 1867 Russian forces had captured Samarkand, by 1868 Bokara and by 1873 Khiva. They seem to forget so often, and certainly Mr. Krushchev does not wish to remind them, that Russia took a prominent and successful part in that period of colonial expansion during the nineteenth century.
Today those very countries of middle and central Asia, added as they have been to the Russian hegemony, enjoy about as much autonomy in respect of the central government as is enjoyed by the Isle of Man. There is no self-determination. There is no self-government, in the sense we know it in the Western world, applied to the so-called autonomous republics of Soviet Russia. Let us remember that these autonomous republics, even as a legal fiction, do not own their own natural resources. The coal, the oil, the copper, the agricultural land, the gold which they may possess, are not the property of their own autonomous governments. They are the property of the U.S.S.R. as a whole. Under Article 14 of the constitution the spheres of war and peace, diplomatic relations, defence, foreign trade, state security, changes in internal frontiers, economic planning, credit and currency, education and the criminal and civil codes and many other matters are reserved to the central government. There is no sign of autonomy in a system of that sort.
We learned as recently as a few months ago from lzvestia itself that the renovation of spas and the laying out of roads in Georgia, municipal development of the capital of Ubekistan and the provision of water in the capital of Moldavia have all to be referred to Moscow. I merely go over this familiar ground, familiar as I know it is to many hon. Members, because I think it is important that we should get into perspective the problem which we are facing now—the problem of dealing with the aggressive tendencies of a great colonial Power in Asia which is attempting to apply the same treatment as it applies to its own so-called autonomous republics to those countries that have grown up in this relationship with the free world and which form the countries of the Middle East.
After all, nationalism is a major deviation in the Soviet Union at the present 904 time. Self-determination is a principle which the Kremlin has never recognised. We know the purges that are going on at present—the purges which were doing away with the nationalist elements in Georgia even at late as a few weeks ago. I merely venture to remind the House of these facts because I think it is so important that if by any happy chance it is possible to get these facts over in the Middle Eastern countries, it may make some of those who at present are concerned to support Russian power realise the dangers into which they are running.
Do the Egyptians want to see within the next few years, for the price of a few M.I.G. aircraft and a few guns, a surrender of the independence which they claim they have so recently won? I do not believe for a moment that they do. As my right hon. Friend has said, it is so important that those who are flirting with these temptations should realise where it may lead them in the end.
What is vitally important in the Bagdad Pact which my right hon. Friend has signed within these last few weeks is that its aim and object is to safeguard this vital part of the Middle East, this heart land of the world, as in fact it is, against the dangers of Russian aggression which exist today just as they did 100 years ago.
I think it is important for us to say at this moment to one of the most important elements in the whole of this pact, which is Pakistan, that she must not think that her membership of this pact has resulted in any potential loss of support in her controversy with India over Kashmir. In fact, I believe that her case is strengthened by an attempt, which I did not believe was possible as far as the long-standing high reputation of Mr. Nehru was concerned, to combine a curious Indian chauvinism with longstanding protestations of international understanding and a determination to decide quarrels between nations by peace and not by war. Therefore, I do not believe that Pakistan's legitimate claims, if indeed that may be the outcome, to this part of the country under dispute are in any way weakened by the fact that she has allied herself with the Bagdad pact. I believe that public opinion here and elsewhere will bear that out as time passes.
I want to say a few words about Israel and Egypt. I know very well that 905 there are many hon. Members who are strongly opposed to Egypt and have—I can put it no other way—the strongest prejudices against Egypt. I realise very well that we have in the past had bitter quarrels with Egypt. At the same time, I would ask them to remember that we have been responsible for the creation of modern Egypt, and I think it a pity that because of these quarrels, which are no more severe than the quarrels that we had with the Zionist community in Israel during the days of the Palestine mandate, we should destroy our work by maintaining the bitterness when it is possible that the bitterness against Britain within Egypt itself will start to disappear. Times are changing in Egypt. The problems of that country are very great. Help is required not only for arms but for development of an economic and social kind. We can give that help, and it is in the interests not only of ourselves and of the Egyptians but of the world that that help should be given.
I would be sorry indeed if we should be prevented from providing that help because of the partisanship which exists in this House and outside in this quarrel between Egypt and Israel. Right is by not means on one side in this quarrel. What we must do above all, as I have already said, is not to be drawn into this close partisanship on one side or the other, but try to maintain a balance. We will only maintain the balance if we consider Egypt's problems and her aspirations with reasonable objectivity, realising that though there are evil elements in that country just as there are in many others, at the same time there are other elements which are friendly to Britain, and that we have left our mark after a period of 50 years of responsibility for its fortunes.
Let us realise that what we are attempting to do is to underpin the defence line running, as I have said, from the Dardanelles, and indeed from Yugoslavia on the Adriatic, right away across the Middle East. We are doing that partly, no doubt, because of our essential interest in oil. But I would remind the House that we were following this policy long before any oil was discovered and long before there was any knowledge that it was going to hold great and rich economic resources.
I would remind the House that in those days, in the somewhat different yet so 906 closely paralleled circumstances, it was the opinion of the Government of the day that Cyprus was the key to the whole of Western Asia. If, by any chance, we find ourselves bereft of that key, at any rate during the period of the cold war, then I believe we shall cease to be a Middle Eastern Power, and we shall not have the power to do any of the things that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House wish us to do in respect of the Middle East.
Finally, I do not believe that we are going to lose everything by the infiltration of Russian influence into the Middle Eastern countries. I do not regard the appearance of Russian embassies, Russian technical colleges, and all the rest of it, in Middle Eastern countries as a complete loss as far as this country is concerned. I think it is time, and it is to our advantage, that another factor was introduced into the politics of the Middle East—a counter-irritant, so to speak, to the long history of friction which has resulted from British Imperialism there. I admit that it is a risky game, because once the Russians are there it might not not be possible to get them out again. But I think it is a game that we can play more effectively than can the Russians, and if I were asked for evidence of that I would give as my evidence the recent visit of the two Russian leaders to India and Burma. We shall find, in the long run, that although the initiative and advantage seems to be so greatly on their side, it will pay us even greater dividends in the long run.
Therefore, I should like to say that, as far as this debate is concerned, I believe that the initiative which the Government have taken is wise and constructive. They are following a policy of long tradition. I believe that the Bagdad Pact offers us a great opportunity from the political, strategic and economic points of view. I think that we are entering a new phase in our relationship with the Middle Eastern countries which will enable us to contribute to their progress and safety just as, in the past, we have been able to create new countries there dedicated to democratic principles and in alliance with the free world.
§ 7.54 p.m.
§ Mr. K. Zilliacus (Manchester, Gorton)
The hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Alport) ended on a note with which, I hope I shall not alarm him by saying, I 907 strongly agree. I believe that we have nothing to fear from friendly relations between the Soviet Government and the Governments of the Middle East. I believe that the result of the visit of the travelling salesmen of Soviet good will in India and Burma was to strengthen the Governments of those countries in their desire to pursue an independent policy and also to weaken the Communist parties of those countries, because those parties had hitherto been abusing and attacking their Governments and making out that the Communists were the only people who could be friendly with the Soviet Union.
It has certainly done them a lot of "no good" to have Nehru hob-nobbing with Bulganin and Khruschev, and the same problem will appear in the Middle East. These countries do not want to be run by the Soviet Union any more than they want to be run by us. They want to stand on their own feet and to make the best of both worlds, and if that were the basis of our relationship in the Middle East I do not think that we should have anything to fear or to lose by it. But, of course, that is not the policy of Her Majesty's Government.
I gathered from the Foreign Secretary's speech what I have long suspected, that in the Middle East the Government have gone back to the Crimean War, and in Europe back to the Holy Alliance. The whole policy of the Government in the Middle East, which is largely responsible for the present crisis, is based on the Bagdad Pact. That Pact seems to be based on turning a blind eye to certain realities which the Government themselves recognised in connection with the four-Power talks in Geneva.
On 21st October, on the eve of his departure for those talks, the Foreign Secretary pointed out at Wembley that the one thing that had been accomplished at the Summit Conference in Geneva in July was the recognition that whatever may be our ideological differences, we and the Communist countries must learn somehow or other to live together in the same world—we must learn that lesson, because it was now clear that the Western Powers could not be bullied, blackmailed or paralysed into submission, and that war today would mean the total destruction of all the belligerents. That was an echo 908 of what the Prime Minister said in Geneva in July, that a war would mean utter annihilation to belligerents and neutrals alike.
If that is true, then what is the point of the Bagdad alliance? We have recognised that we cannot use force or the threat of force in our mutual relations with the Soviet Union. We must recognise that, and also that neither of us can bully, blackmail or paralyse the other into submission. And then we proceed to build up a military alliance on the doorstep of the Soviet Union. What is the point of that alliance, and what effect is it supposed to have on the Soviet Union?
Its effect has been to produce the intervention of the Russians in the Middle East. I was amused at the splendid indignation of the Foreign Secretary at this policy. I would venture to suggest that he might attain a more realistic intellectual grasp of affairs in the Middle East if he could achieve a less unsophisticated ethical approach to these matters than that of the cannibal chief who was asked by the missionary whether he did not sometimes find it difficult to distinguish between right and wrong. "No," said the chief. "it is perfectly simple. When I eat my enemy it is right. When my enemy eats me it is wrong." It seems to me that I hear more than an echo of that philosophy in the Foreign Secretary's approach to the Middle East.
To the Soviet Union, of course, the presence of Western air bases within twenty to twenty-five minutes' flying time of Soviet coal fields and oil fields across the Black Sea, is just as menacing as would be the establishment of Soviet air bases across the Channel and the North Sea, or, as the Americans would think, of Soviet air bases established in Mexico and Central America. If we get it into our heads that this is the way that the Soviet Union is bound to feel about the matter, not unnaturally, we might perhaps be on the way to adjusting our mutual relations.
In the meantime, however, the Government's policy is to try to get all the Arab States to join in the Bagdad alliance. For that purpose the quarrel between Israel and the Arab States is an obstacle and must be removed by British mediation. That was the object of the Prime 909 Minister's mediation proposal. To be any good, a mediation proposal should be agreeable to both sides. The next best thing is that it should be objectionable to both sides. But when one finds a mediation proposal accepted enthusiastically by one side and rejected with passionate indignation by the other, one knows that it is a very one-sided proposal.
That is precisely the position with regard to the Prime Minister's mediation proposal. The Arab States have hailed it with relief as at last opening the road to what they call a final settlement based upon the 1947 proposals for partition. The view of the Government and the people of Israel was made very clear by their Prime Minister, Mr. Ben Gurion, in the Israeli Parliament on 15th November, when he said:I have read the statement made by the British Prime Minister on November 9th with the serious attention it deserves and I regret that its main contents are in complete contradiction to its declared object. His proposal to truncate the territory of Israel for the benefit of its neighbours has no legal, moral or logical basis and cannot be considered. Instead of fostering better relations and bringing peace nearer it is likely to encourage and intensify Arab aggression and to lessen the likelihood of peace in the Middle East.The odd thing is that the one thing which both the Arabs and the Jews are agreed upon is the nature of the mediation proposal. The one rejects it and the other welcomes it for the same reason, that it is regarded by both as a proposal for substantial territorial concessions by the State of Israel to the Arabs, in exchange for the Arab States agreeing to drop their state of war against Israel—which they have no right to maintain—and, perhaps, a softening in their attitude towards the Bagdad alliance.
In denying that his proposals were one-sided, the Prime Minister unwittingly confirmed that they were. For, on 24th November last, in reply to my right hon. Friend the Member for Blyth (Mr. Robens), who asked him about this one-sided territorial concession, he denied that the proposals were one-sided. He tacitly admitted that they required territorial concessions of the Israelis, but he said that what was in everybody's mind—that meant his mind—was that the Arabs were to be asked to give up the blockade and to recognise Israel. In other words, they were to give up the state of war, which, in fact, is cold aggression waged by the Arabs against Israel.
910 When I asked the Prime Minister whether he could give assurances that mediation would take place on the basis of respect for the obligations of the Charter, ruling out the threat of war as an instrument of settlement, he gave very evasive and ambiguous replies, and refused to say definitely that our Government, as mediator, would refuse to mediate on the basis of asking Israel to make territorial concessions in exchange for the Arabs agreeing to adopt a normal and peaceful relationship with the State of Israel, which they are pledged to do, in any event, by the Charter.
Worse than ambiguous answers came from the Foreign Secretary on 7th December, when I asked him whether he would draw the attention of the Arab States to the fact they could not count upon our services as a mediator until they had restored a state of affairs consistent with the Charter by ending their state of war with Israel—which is a continuation of their war of aggression, duly condemned as such in the United Nations and which, in itself, constitutes a cold aggression in violation of the Charter. The Foreign Secretary replied.The Charter of the United Nations does not preclude an offer of mediation whatever the circumstances of the dispute."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th December, 1955; Vol. 546, c. 366.]The Charter of the United Nations most emphatically rules out the threat of force as a means of settlement. If we are to use the threat of force in order to put pressure upon the Arabs—a threat of force augmented by our arming the Arab States and omitting to arm the State of Israel, in disregard of the obligations of the Tripartite Declaration—we are simply, under the guise of mediation, becoming the accomplices of the cold aggression being waged by the Arab States and asking the State of Israel to surrender part of its territory as the price of peace.
Equally unsatisfactory have been the Government's replies about the Tripartite Declaration. A little over a year ago—on 2nd November last year—the Prime Minister described this agreement as containing very far-reaching commitments; commitments for preventive action in case of any threat to violate the existing frontiers or armistice lines of Israel. He also said that it meant that on the basis of the 1950 Declaration 911 we considered that we were bound to supply both sides with arms and to maintain a balance between them. His replies about the three-Power declaration are far weaker and more ambiguous now.
In his mediation offer, he said:If there could be accepted an arrangement between them"—that is, Israel and the Arab States—about their boundaries we, and I believe the United States and perhaps other Powers also, would be prepared to give a formal guarantee to both sides. This might bring real confidence and security at last.If the Tripartite Declaration is such a powerful undertaking as the right hon. Gentleman made out little over a year ago, what is the use of offering Israel fresh formal guarantees based upon the fact that the other guarantees are more or less valueless? If we regard the Charter as so much thin air and the Tripartite Declaration as a scrap of paper or, at least, a piece of rubber, what are these formal guarantees, and how much territory is Israel supposed to sacrifice before getting what she is supposed to have already under the Tripartite Declaration and the Charter?
This is all too familiar. I was a League of Nations official in the terrible days of appeasement, and I remember very well the policy conducted by the present Prime Minister when he was Parliamentary Under-Secretary, when he went to Paris in August, 1935, and laid the foundations—in negotiations with Pierre Laval and Baron Aloisi, Mussolini's delegate—for what afterwards became known as the Hoare-Laval deal. This was a proposal, under the guise of mediation, that Abyssinia was to surrender large parts of its territory in consideration for Mussolini's calling off his aggression.
At that time the policy failed because of the intransigence of the aggressor. Today, the same policy is going to fail because of the intransigence of the victim of aggression. So far as I can understand it, Israel has no intention of becoming another Ethiopia or Czechoslovakia. She is not going to be butchered to make an Arab alliance under the guise of mediation, and the only result of attempting such a policy will very likely be so to encourage the Arabs and embitter the Israelis as to start a war in the Middle East between the two, which will set the whole Middle East aflame.
912 I warn the Government that when public opinion discovers their attempt to do business at the old appeasement stand there will then be an uprush of opinion again, as there was when the Hoare-Laval deal saw the light of day and the Cabinet had to throw Sir Samuel Hoare overboard in order to save the rest of the gang.
That was the occasion when the then Prime Minister, Mr. Baldwin, on 19th December, 1935, told the House:I was not expecting that deeper feeling which was manifested by many of my hon. Friends and friends in many parts of the country on what I may call the ground of conscience and of honour. The moment I am confronted with that I know that something has happened that has appealed to the deepest feelings of our countrymen, that some note has been struck which brings back from them a response from the depths."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 19th December, 1935; Vol. 307, c. 2034–5.]He was very detached about that. The Government are in real danger if they persist in this policy, because it may lead to the kindling of conflict in the Middle East and their being surprised by a similar response on the part of public opinion.
I also urge them very strongly not to count too much upon the support of the United States in this business, as it gets tougher and its true nature becomes apparent to public opinion. The Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary may have noticed the reports in the United States Press about a week ago of a statement by a State Department spokesman, explaining that Mr. Dulles, in Geneva, was shown only what they called the highlights of the Prime Minister's forthcoming mediation offer, and that Mr. Dulles, according to the State Department spokesman, had then said that he was very doubtful whether the 1947 proposals could be used as a basis of negotiation as they were obsolete in many respects.
Do not forget that this is Presidential year, that there are five million Jewish votes in the United States and no Arab votes, as far as I know, and that there are also many millions of Americans who understand and dislike the moral flavour of appeasing aggressors at the expense of victims of aggression. This policy, which, I am sorry, I can only describe as sordid skulduggery, is part of the larger lunacy of the Bagdad Pact. It is the price that the Government are trying to pay for 913 building up positions of strength which are not strong at all.
The right hon. Member for Kelvingrove (Mr. Elliot) pointed out that even Turkey has a mediæval economic foundation which is not strong enough to bear the military superstructure that it is being called upon to bear—and Turkey is supposed to be the fortress and strong point of this whole alliance. When we come to Iraq and Iran, we find extremely reactionary and tottery régimes based on very shaky foundations because of their deeply reactionary social character.
I say frankly that we must recognise, as we recognised at Geneva, that the whole of this policy of attempting to go back to the Crimean war in the Middle East is out of date and will not work, and that we must try the policy of coexistence. We might try the policy of common obligations and common action through the United Nations with the Soviet Union. Of course, such a policy is impossible unless we have a common interest with the Soviet Union, and I believe that we have.
Although the Soviet Union no doubt would be delighted if it could win over to the Communist States India or Burma or any of these countries, it has long ago recognised and resigned itself to the fact that it cannot do that and is working to achieve the second best: that is, that these countries should not join the Western bloc against the Soviet Union.
If we take the same line and say to the Soviet Government, "We do not want to indulge in economic and military competition with you in the Middle East. In the long run both of us would suffer for it. We should like to join with you, if you will take that as a basis of common interest, in working out a plan through the United Nations."
It might be that we could enlarge the economic co-operation side of the Bagdad Pact and the political cooperation side of the Three-Power Declaration so as to include the U.S.S.R. and work them both through United Nations machinery and organisations and say, "Let us work out a common policy for international economic aid to these countries on the basis of respect for their independence, of political consultation and of joint undertakings, to apply unhesitatingly the peace-keeping obligations of the United Nations Charter and to 914 control the supply of arms to these countries; and, as regards military bases in the Middle East, to keep only such as are necessary as bases for international police purposes by agreement between our countries."
I do not call that policy one of neutralising the Middle East—I call it one of United Nations-ising the Middle East. I believe that the whole policy of trying to build up a superior balance of power is breaking down, partly because the terms of power are moving against us, partly because men's minds are turning away from this kind of thing—and we will see that in Germany as well as in the Middle East if we do not learn from experience—and partly because man's destructive power has now outrun his capacity to survive, and nobody dares to use this power because we know that it means universal extinction.
As for the use of this power as a deterrent, let us not forget what Field Marshal Montgomery said a little over a year ago, on 21st October last year, at the Royal United Services Institution, that at any moment either side, in winning the cold war, might, without meaning to do so, start a world war that neither side wanted. So that every day that we go on with this crazy policy we are attended by the constant danger of annihilation by accident.
Quite frankly, that is not good enough as a civilised state of affairs. Therefore, I venture to press the Government to try to get a little up to date and not to stick in the Crimean War, and to try to see whether we cannot make the United Nations into a workable system in the Middle East, for our sake and for the sake of posterity.
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ Mr. F. A. Burden (Gillingham)
Last year I had an opportunity to go to the Middle East in January. This is the first occasion on which I have intervened in any debate on the Middle East, and I do so because, when I was there, I had the opportunity to meet Colonel Nasser and Major Salem and to go to several of the refugee camps.
I had difficulties in agreeing with the Government over the evacuation of the Suez Canal Zone because I felt that when we leave territories we often create more difficulty for ourselves and for the people 915 we leave behind than if we had remained in those territories ourselves. I believe, unfortunately, that that is happening in the Middle East today.
1 go a long way with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Pudsey (Colonel Banks) in his desires and wishes to help the refugees and to bring a state of prosperity into the Middle East, but we should be well advised to remember that there are difficulties with the régime that at present exists in Egypt. Let me make it perfectly clear at once that I wish to take sides neither with the Jews nor with the Arabs, for I believe that unless we are to have a world war both the Arab States and Israel are permanencies in the Middle East. I believe that the State of Israel would disappear only at the expense of a world war.
I believe that Egypt's difficulties are not only difficulties of the régime, but are extremely difficult economic circumstances. When we left the Suez Canal, the evacuation of the British meant that Egypt's second greatest asset was suddenly taken away. The income that the Egyptians obtained from the supplies and services to the British troops in the Canal Zone was of tremendous value in the financial and economic stability of that country.
There is another great difficulty that has developed throughout the last few years. The greatest export product that Egypt had was raw cotton. Unfortunately, the Wafdist régime very largely undermined by foolish policy the demand for that exportable product, and the advent of manmade fibres made it more difficult for the Egyptians to regain the markets that folly had lost to them.
When I was in Egypt, Major Salem himself admitted to me that the average income per head of the population in Egypt is the equivalent of £39 sterling. Egypt has no raw materials and the extreme poverty that exists in that country is, therefore, obvious. But that poverty, I remind the House, exists in a country in which there is a dictatorship and in which, as has been admitted, there are 30,000 well organised Communists whose leaders are unknown to the Government. On the one hand, therefore, there are the difficulties experienced by a totalitarian State which at the moment has no economic resources capable of expansion 916 other than agriculture. On the other hand, there are 30,000 well organised Communists waiting for the Government to implement promises to improve the standard of living of the people. Again, there is the sinister figure of the head of the Muslim Brotherhood waiting on the sidelines in Damascus to see if the present régime will fail.
Time passed, and with the economic difficulties showing no sign of improving the régime in Egypt had to make some gambit that would help to unite the people behind the Government in order to maintain their position. As a result of my conversations, it appeared to me to be evident that the Sudan was to be the next gamble of the Egyptian Government. We all know what happened. That gamble was undertaken and, because of the preparations made by this Government and the wisdom they showed, as well as the sensibility of the Sudanese themselves, that failed and Major Salem disappeared.
During my conversations I put questions to Major Salem and he said that the first policy of the Egyptian Government was to get the British out of Egypt, the next was to deal with Israel. As I see it, the position has now been reached where the Egyptian Government may well turn to an implementation of that aim to deal with Israel.
I do not believe that we can or should accept that Egypt is representative of all the Arab States. I believe that in his way Colonel Nasser wishes to do what is best for his people. I believe he is sincere, but then I also believed that Hitler in his early days was sincere, and I have a grave mistrust of dictatorships and dictators because they are too often carried along on events and events become too much for them.
Again I must say what Colonel Nasser told me. He said that it was not even a case of building up the Government, it was a case of building up his popularity. He said, "I must be built up." That sounds so much like what one heard not so many years ago that I am wondering whether, in dealing with Colonel Nasser, we are not dealing with an Arab imperialist, a man who wishes to unite all the Arab world and will go to great lengths to do so behind an Egyptian Government, at the head of which he sees himself as the dominating figure of the Arab world.
917 Arising out of this, I believe that we must face the problem of the refugees. I know that their condition is sad, and the saddest part of the refugee problem in the Middle East is that there is no hope for normal relations between the Arab States and Israel until their problem is solved. I believe that their miseries are being exploited by the Arabs in the Middle East, some of whom are out to create circumstances on which they may thrive and their policies may fester. Here I want to pay a tribute to the work of the International Red Cross and the World Health Organisation, to the Secretaries of which I spoke when I was in Geneva in the spring. As a result of my questions, they have written a report of their efforts and activities to ensure the medical well-being and health of these poor people.
I suggest that the refugees are being used to engender still further hate against the State of Israel. I make this point because I feel that until we can abolish that hatred, until we can obliterate from the minds of the Egyptian leaders the idea that they will deal with Israel, we shall not approach any sense of responsibility or normal relations between the two adjacent countries.
I believe this problem can be solved. Certainly it must be solved. Like most hon. Members, I believe that the only way of solving it is by resettlement. It has been mentioned that land is available in Iraq, in Jordan and in Syria. I believe that is the case. I know that a large amount of money is required for resettlement and I feel that it would be forthcoming to a considerable extent from the United States. Also I have no doubt that our own Government would be prepared to subscribe to any scheme of resettlement if agreement could be reached. Israel has a great moral responsibility in this matter and I feel sure that Israel, recognising that, would also be prepared to join in any such scheme.
§ Mr. Janner
The hon. Gentleman knows, of course, that this is a fact which Israel has already declared?
§ Mr. Burden
Israel, in fact, admits that she is morally and politically justified in bending her efforts to bring about a resettlement. I believe also that there are certain countries in the Middle East which today are comparatively wealthy. The 918 oil-bearing countries there could well play their part in helping the resettlement. After all, they are tied to these people by race and language. They also ought to join in.
However, it is entirely wrong to lead the refugees to believe that they can go back to Israel if Israel is defeated. That can only bring more misery to them. That attitude, if it results in anything, will result in hot war in the Middle East which can hardly be cordoned off and confined to the people in that area. I believe the solution must constitute part of a general settlement in the area, in which the Arab countries must join. Even if the Israelis were to accept the refugees back again, the whole character of Israel has changed. Where there was the plough, there is now the tractor, and the refugees, miserable as they are in the camps, would be just as miserable in the semi-Western world into which Israel has grown.
§ Mr. Stephen McAdden (Southend, East)
My hon. Friend keeps talking about "refugees." Will he be kind enough to make clear that he is talking about Arab refugees? He will recognise that there are in Israel itself many thousands of Jewish refugees from Arab countries.
§ Mr. Burden
I recognise that. I am talking about the Arab refugees in the camps. I also recognise that since those refugees left Israel, Israel has accepted many Jews from the Arab countries as well as from Western Europe.
Now the very sinister figure of Russia has appeared on the scene. There is no doubt that the voice of Khruschev in India and Burma is intended to reverberate throughout the Arab world as the voice of Goebbels reverberated throughout the world not so long ago. It is an invitation to the Moslem world not only in the Far East but also in the Middle East to play and dance to the Kremlin tune. It may well be that the Russians believe that they would be more acceptable to the Arab countries than we of the West are. They have made it perfectly clear that the British have been pushed out of or have just left Egypt, and perhaps they themselves are not looked upon with so much suspicion. After all, the Egyptians would say that the British represent the devil they know and would prefer the devil they do not know to the devil they know.
919 The worst possible thing that could happen for the Western world, for Israel and for the world as a whole would be for the Russians to walk into the Middle East and take over where we left off. I have the greatest sympathy with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Pudsey when he says that we must do all we possibly can to raise the standards of living of the Middle East people, but I would say to Col. Nasser and the other Egyptian leaders "You have no raw materials. You have very little which you yourselves can use to raise the standard of living of your people. You cannot expect the Western world to pour money, technicians and know-how into your country unless you are prepared to give some recognition to the fact that it is being done."
The best possible gesture that could be made at the moment, and the one thing which would ensure not only the continuation of the Nasser régime but a relaxation of the dictatorship and an appreciation that, after all, Nasser is prepared not only to build up himself but to watch the best interests of Egypt, would be for Col. Nasser to show some sign of his willingness to sit down at a table and reach some settlement of the problems of the Middle East. If he did that, money would be available for the refugees and for developing Egypt's economy. Besides money, technicians and manpower capable of building up that economy are needed. These things will not be provided for Egypt unless she shows a less intransigent attitude than at present.
§ 8.35 p.m.
§ Mr. M. Philips Price (Gloucestershire, West)
With most of what the hon. Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden) said, particularly about Egypt, I found myself in agreement. With his knowledge of Egypt, he gave us a new angle from which to look at this problem. I cannot say that I know as much as he does about it, but I was in Egypt a little more than a year ago. I think that we must try to help the Egyptians to help themselves and not just denounce them as intriguers and blackmailers. They are extremely difficult people, and my hon. Friends on this side of the House, particularly those who are interested in Israel, do not have much use for them. Most of our countrymen 920 find it hard to fathom the intricacies of the Egyptian mind.
No doubt the Egyptians have recently had a reverse over the Sudan. The Sudanese have declared that they will be independent and that they do not want a close link with Egypt. When I was in Egypt eighteen months ago, unlike the hon. Member for Gillingham, I did not have the pleasure of meeting Colonel Nasser, because at that moment he was engaged in being shot at and it was impossible to see him. That was at the time of his attempted assassination in Alexandria. I had occasion to go to the Delta and see what is being done to break up the big landowners' estates. I felt that this military dictatorship in Egypt is doing something for the poor Egyptian fellahin which has never been done before.
As the hon. Member for Gillingham said, and as the Egyptians know quite well, they have no raw materials, apart from their wonderful cotton, and no oil. Their economics are a little uncertain, and the population is increasing at the rate of a quarter of a million a year. All the irrigated land will be used up in about five or six years, and unless the High Assuan Dam project is completed, they will have great difficulties. They will need international finance. Perhaps the International Bank will help them, and there might be some help from the Americans' Point Four programme. This is an opportunity now, in a friendly way, to help the Egyptians, but to say that if they are to have this international financial assistance, they must behave themselves with Israel, drop the idea of Arab imperialism and get down to realities.
The Foreign Secretary started his speech by calling attention to international relations and the conditions between various parts of the world in regard to relations with Russia. He pointed out that it is quiet now in the Far East and, thanks to the stand taken at Geneva recently, the Russians have found that they can make no headway there, as yet, at any rate, and that they will rely on trying to undermine public opinion in Germany to get friends whom they think will agree to a united Germany of the Soviet type.
Having been stopped there, they are "hotting up" in the Middle East. That is nothing about which we need worry very much, because, as the Foreign 921 Secretary pointed out, it has been going on ever since Russia was an Empire, since the days of Peter the Great, in fact. Russia is always trying to expand her power wherever she can find weaknesses along her borders, or even in the countries behind her borders. It was so in the days of the Romanovs. It is so today in the Communist dynasty which has replaced the Romanovs, because that is what it is.
One of the Imperial Chancellors of Alexander II, Prince Gortchakoff, once said, "Russia does not sulk: She only retires and waits." If she is stopped at one place, she tries somewhere else. I think that I am the only Englishman who has seen that sort of thing happen at the centre. In the early days of the Russian Revolution I was in the Taurid Palace in St. Petersburg on the night when the German terms for peace at Brest-Litovsk were sent through to the Supreme Soviet. I remember hearing Lenin make a great speech in which he said very much the same thing as Prince Gortchakoff had said, "The time has come when we must just wait—retire—and we shall get our chance again."
That is the eternal policy of that great country—of that people with very great talents and ability—which is, alas, in Europe but not of it. Now she is trying to do in Southern Asia, South-West Asia and the Middle East what she is prevented from doing elsewhere. I cannot take the same naive view as my hon. Friend the Member for Gorton (Mr. Zilliacus), that all we need to do is just to co-exist. I seem to remember a story of the young lady of Riga who went for a ride on a tiger. In this case it is not a ride on a tiger, but on a grizzly bear. If my hon. Friend would like to do that he can do so, but I do not think many other hon. Members of this House would agree to that policy.
In India today we are seeing a Russian policy being carried out along the lines of trying to soften up in a weak spot. They know quite well that the Indians distrust us more than they distrust the Russians. I am afraid that is true. We must face it. The Indians know British imperialism and they have not known Russian imperialism. They look upon Russia as the descendant or the inheritor of the Mongol Empire of Genghis Khan and, therefore, as Asiatics. They, being Asiatics, have less feeling against the 922 Russians than they have against us, who are Europeans.
Nevertheless, I think that our culture, our civilisation, our Constitution and British justice, before everything else our legal system, cannot but have had some effect upon the Indian sub-continent. I believe that in the long run these cultured and intelligent Indians will see through all this and will realise that what they got from the one hundred and fifty years when they were in contact with us will benefit them.
Just in the same way as I think that we must look upon all these fronts as part of the same problem, so we must not allow the Palestine Arab-Jewish conflict to dominate the whole of our outlook upon the Middle East. Some of my hon. Friends have made whole speeches entirely on the Israel-Arab conflict. It is extremely important but it is not by any means the only problem in the Middle East. This conflict must not blind us to the Middle Eastern problems which have been raised by Russian intervention in the Middle East.
It is necessary to see the Palestine issue in the wider application of the Bagdad Pact and the defence of the Northern Tier. The defence line which we are trying to build up could be undermined by this weakness in the Middle East over the Arab-Jewish conflict, which is of very long standing and will take a long time to solve. It arose because an interpretation was put upon the Balfour Declaration which, in my view, should never have been put upon it. But that has happened, and one cannot re-write history.
The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ, Moves on …The original statement of the Balfour Declaration did not promise Palestine as a political home for the Jews, but it could be interpreted as that. It could also be interpreted as a cultural home for the Jews, and that great Foreign Secretary, the late Ernest Bevin, had in mind that there should be created in Palestine an Arab-Jewish State which might go into an alliance or federation with Jordan. The late King Abdullah of Jordan, a wise and liberal-minded man, would, I believe, have fallen in with some idea of that kind. But because he was a wise and liberal-minded man, he was murdered by the irreconcilables among the Arabs.
923 The fact is that the Arabs have not forgotten—and it will be very difficult to get them to forget—that this interpretation of a political home for the Jews has been put upon the Balfour Declaration, and that Palestine was not by any means a place when the Jews always lived. I was there in 1913. When I was a young man I went travelling in the Ottoman Empire. I went to the provinces of Syria and Palestine. A certain very well-informed man in our Embassy at Constantinople told me at that time, "If you are travelling in Asiatic Turkey be sure and go to Palestine, because there will be trouble there some day." That was over 40 years ago, and I am referring to Mr. Fitzmaurice, who had great knowledge of what was going on.
I found myself, in Palestine, in an entirely Arab country—well, not entirely; I did visit a few small colonies of Jews who had come from Roumania and Russia. They were refugees from the then persecution which, of course, was nothing compared with the persecution which came later. There were these small colonies of Jews but all around them were Mohammedan Arabs, descendants of the followers of the Omeyyid Caliphate and Christians descended from the Crusaders. All this shows that from the historical point of view the Arabs have a grievance which has to be met.
In more recent times the Balfour Declaration was made, and shortly before that there had been two other agreements. There was the Sykes-Picot Agreement in 1915, which laid it down that the eastern provinces of the Ottoman Empire should go to various Arab kingdoms under British or French protectorates. Then there were the McMahon negotiations with the Emir Hussein of the Hedjaz, which laid it down that if the Emir would rise in revolt against the Turks that large area between the Mediterranean and the Arabian desert would come to him or to other Arab countries. There was not a word about Israel or the creation of the State of Israel.
The Arabs do not forget that. They say that certain promises were made to induce them to take part in the war, and that the Balfour Declaration has been interpreted in such a way as to cut through those promises. I am not justifying all this. All that I am saying is 924 that one must try to understand some of the reasons for this very awkward and difficult Arab point of view.
We cannot get away with it by making speeches like the speech made by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies), which was a violent diatribe against the Arabs. Nothing can be done by those sort of tactics. I think that the time has come when we must try to see what we can do to get the Arabs and the Jews to talk things over together. That is why I agree with the Prime Minister's speech at the Guildhall, or at least that part of it in which he laid it down that both sides must give away something in the common interest.
On the other hand, I think that he was unwise to refer to the 1947 United Nations partition statement, because I think that it arouses feelings in the Arab countries and among the Jews which could be misunderstood. It might mean raising the question of Negev. If we ever raise that question, we cannot raise it now. It would wreck any conference which it might be possible to have. Nevertheless, I think that the Prime Minister has done a great service to the world in saying in such specific terms that both sides must give something away.
I do not think that this matter can be settled by the Security Council. I do not think that the Security Council could organise a conference without giving the Russians an opportunity of intervention and intrigue and stopping the whole thing. I think that the Tripartite Powers—this country, France and the United States—which have committed themselves to some extent to keep the peace in this area, should try to organise a conference with limited objectives. We cannot try to solve the whole of this question. If we did we should raise big questions like that of the Negev. There are limited objectives, and whether the Tripartite Powers should themselves take part in a conference or merely initiate it and leave it to the Arabs and Israelis themselves is a matter about which I should not like to offer an opinion.
I think that one thing is quite clear—that the first concession must be made by the Arabs. They must recognise the existence of Israel de facto. I would not ask them to recognise the existence of Israel de jure. That would be going too far.
925 That is what I mean by limited objectives. If they would sit down and talk about limited objectives, I think that a great deal could be done. They must give up the idea of trying to starve out the Israelis by blockade. That is a dangerous game. I know that they say, "We pushed the Crusaders into the sea after a hundred and fifty years, and we shall do the same with Israel." But this is the twentieth century and not the Middle Ages. Behind Israel is massive financial support.
The Arabs will have to recognise Israel de facto, and it will then be possible for Israel to make concessions. I understand from those who speak for Israel that they have already made provision to give generous assistance in order to settle the refugee problem. I do not know how they will get the money to do it, but if it can be done so much the better. That is one of the big things on which Israel will have to give way. The Arabs, too, will have to give way by stopping this terrible business of using Arab refugees for political ends by keeping them in misery in order to justify the blockade of Israel. That policy will have to be dropped. There are other directions in which settlements might very well be made.
When I was in Syria a few years ago I actually saw Arab refugees, who had been taken from the compound outside the wall of Damascus, and had been settled on land about forty miles to the north-east. It was a desert area, but they were getting water from under the ground. This was a settlement on only a small scale, but it showed that it can be done. United Nations officials were doing this sort of thing "on the quiet," but it can be done in Iraq. Jordan and Syria. The Syrians may be more inclined to be difficult than either of the other two.
Then there is economic development. such as the question of the water in Jordan. Schemes have been worked out by Mr. Eric Johnston, but they are held up for political reasons, because before the Arabs can discuss these matters they will have to recognise Israel de facto. A settlement will be round the question—what is to happen to the surplus water, which are the flood waters of the Sea of Galilee and of the Yarmuth river? Arrangements could be made in such a way that the country to the east of the River Jordan would be used for the settlement of Arab refugees. I believe 926 that 200,000 refugees could thus be settled. That might mean that Israel would have to sacrifice some flood water, but there must be give and take on both sides.
On the question of arms to Israel and the Arab countries, we cannot say yet whether the Israeli Army or the Egyptian Army is the stronger. One may be stronger in a particular arm while the other is stronger in another. But this much is clear: if Egypt gets considerable support by way of arms from Czechoslovakia, in other words from behind the Iron Curtain, the balance may very well be tipped the other way, in favour of the Arabs.
I would not agree that we should have an alliance with Israel. That would be too provocative, and would prevent the settlement for which I think we should strive. But, if the balance were upset in the way I have described I think that Israel could fairly claim to receive arms from us to redress the balance. Let us hope that the Egyptians will see wisdom, not press things so far as to upset that balance, and will give up any idea of Arab domination or imperialism in the Middle East.
There are various rumours about what is going on in Jordan. General Templer has gone out to discuss matters. I hope that it does not mean that the irreconcilable element among the Arabs, led by the Mufti, is trying to undermine the reasonable people in Amman. In any case, in any military assistance which we may give to Jordan we must bear in mind the political direction in which the Jordan Government are going. Let us hope that, as hitherto, it is along the lines of common sense and good reason.
I must say a word about the Bagdad Pact because, as I have said, we must see the Arab-Israel conflict within the framework of the whole of the Middle East. There is this everlasting pressure of Russia from the north. If ever she finds a weak spot she will use it, and she has a weak spot in North-West Persia and Northern Iraq, where the tribes, who have always tended to be disloyal to their particular Government, can be worked upon by Russian agents. That is what may occur. I do not think it will be done by conventional weapons or by atomic power but by an undermining from within wherever the Soviet find suitable places.
927 I think that under the Turko-Iraq Pact which we have joined the Government of Iraq will be assured of its frontier. Iraq has been very sensible in recent years, under that fine old Arab—who was brought up as a Turk—Nuri Said Pasha. The Iraqi Government have adopted a liberal attitude towards the tribes of Northern Iraq. Any official who serves in the Kurdish Provinces of Northern Iraq has to speak Kurdish, and Kurdish is taught in the schools. Generally speaking, Kurds are taken into the Government offices, and when I was last in Bagdad I had the pleasure of meeting a very able young Kurd who was an Under-Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture.
As I know my hon. Friends will agree there is, quite apart from the military side of the Bagdad Pact, the equally—or possibly more—important aspect of economic aid and development as the only real method of stopping Communism. I was glad to hear hon. Members opposite also making speeches in that sense, and I think that there is general agreement about it.
I should like to see a Colombo Plan, or something like it, for the Middle East. Would it not be possible for the economic provisions of the Bagdad Pact to be used on those lines? I put a Question to the Foreign Secretary recently, and received an answer which seemed to indicate his approval of that sort of idea. There is no doubt that Iraq does not need money. Revenue is coming in from oil now. An hon. Member opposite pointed out that 70 per cent. of the oil revenue is going into the funds of the Development Commission and only 30 per cent. is going to the budget, which is a very sound and sensible arrangement.
What Iraq needs are technicians—the sort of thing which they can get under Point Four. We need our "Point Four" out there; they should not always have to deal with the Americans. In addition, Iraq needs education, particularly technical education. That would not cost so very much, but it would mean sending out there teachers to train others to become teachers. Iraq is an Arab country which is willing and anxious to get all the assistance of this kind that she can.
I should like to make one more point about Iraq and the Arab-Israel conflict. It has been said that unless the Arabs settle 928 with the Jews now, no military assistance of any sort should be given to the Arabs. That should not apply to Iraq, for she is outside that sphere. Iraq would not use any arms against Israel. She is too near the danger in the north, and she knows it. If there were any desire to apply pressure to Iraq by making it a condition that she should not use her arms against the Jews, that could be done, but it would be quite unnecessary.
Israel is not the only country which is making economic advances and undertaking development in the Middle East. Iraq is doing the same. Important public works are now being carried on there, including afforestation, around the upper waters of the Tigris, the building of dams and so forth, which are being held up to some extent by a lack of technicians and education.
The raising of the standard of life of the Arab peasant, which is taking place in Egypt, should be spread as far as possible throughout the Middle East as the only safe barrier against Communism.
§ 9.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Richard Wood (Bridlington)
I am very glad to be following the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Philips Price), whose wide knowledge of the part of the world under discussion is known to all of us. This is the second time today that I have had an opportunity of becoming acquainted with some of his views on this part of the world. I enjoyed reading him in the train this morning, and I enjoyed listening to him tonight, and I found that he has remarkably avoided repeating himself except for one or two small occasions.
It is rather late and a great deal of ground has been covered, and so I will do my best to keep my remarks fairly short. The Russians recently in various parts of the world have pursued their familiar pattern of trying to make certain awkward situations for the Western world. There is a perfect field for trouble-making for those who wish to do so in Berlin, Southern Asia and around the Eastern and Southern coasts of the Mediterranean. We have heard a great deal of talk today about the quarrel between the Jews and the Arabs. I am certain that none of us has any wish whatsoever to say anything tonight that would make a settlement of that dispute more difficult and further removed. But 929 the quarrel in that part of the Middle East not only prevents an effective union against Communism, but also cries aloud for exploitation by anyone who chooses to do so.
The need to heal this quarrel was one of the main themes of the speech of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister at the Guildhall, a speech which has been very much discussed today. I do not suppose that there are any of us in this House who do not fully realise all the difficulties of healing the quarrel between the Arabs and the Jews.
We are quite conscious of the hatred on both sides of the frontier, that the frontier is ever present in the minds of those who live near it, not only to the Arab refugees of whom we have heard a great deal this afternoon, but also to everyone living in Israel who, wherever he or she goes, cannot get away from the physical sight of the frontier. I do not see that there is any chance of peace between the Arab States and Israel if the Arabs stand firmly on the 1947 boundaries and the Jews on the 1949 armistice boundaries.
My right hon. Friend's speech at the Guildhall has been much misrepresented, and, it appears, much misunderstood. But L perhaps in a simple-minded way, believe that what my right hon. Friend said he really meant, which was that the solution of this problem must be found somewhere between the 1947 and the 1949 boundaries. My right hon. Friend did not mention the place agreement would be found, but that is what he said and what, I suggest, he meant.
As I see it, the readiness of either side to compromise is not very likely until both sides see in a compromise the only likely solution for a great many of their problems. I quite see that that process of compromise may take a long time. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary mentioned some of the benefits that would accrue to both sides through a settlement of this problem. I can think of one great benefit of co-operation which has been mentioned several times today—co-operation in the sharing of water. Other benefits would accrue from making the Port of Haifa available to other countries besides Israel. It would be of great benefit to Israel if the Haifa refinery were fully employed.
930 There is also the problem of the security of Israel. Israel is said to be dissatisfied with the 1950 declaration and to desire a more formal agreement. My right hon. Friend said that we are committed to a formal guarantee if we agree or if a settlement is to be reached between the Arab States and Israel. The situation that we face today is one in which a settlement of this problem seems still to be far away, and, at the same time, a situation in which the balance of power has, by the action of Soviet Russia, been deliberately destroyed.
Our aims at the present time are, firstly, to build an effective defence organisation in the Middle East, and, secondly, to try to achieve a peace settlement between Arabs and Jews. I use that order advisedly, because I believe that the first comes before the second, but I do not think that one is possible without the other.
If we try to build as rapidly as we possibly can upon the foundations which have been laid in the Bagdad Pact, I cannot really see that there can be any question of a complete arms embargo in the Middle East. As I see it, Soviet Russia would welcome such an arms embargo only second to the degree with which she would welcome an arms race. An arms embargo would presumably prevent any building up of a Middle East defence organisation, while an arms race would do exactly what we did not want to do, that is, again to turn all eyes in the area inwards, to the problem which exists between the Arabs and the Jews. I suggest that we cannot keep peace by feeble attempts—which are almost certain to be unsuccessful—to redress the military balance.
There has been a certain amount of talk this evening about appeasement, with the suggestion that we are going to put pressure upon Israel in order to achieve a peaceful settlement in this part of the world. Hon. Members will remember that 13 months ago my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Blackley (Mr. E. Johnson), whether,… the terms of the 1950 declaration would bring us in on the side of Israel in the event of that country being attacked by any of the Arab States.931 That was a perfectly straight question, and it got a perfectly straight answer, namely:… yes, Sir, most certainly."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd November, 1954; Vol. 532, c. 312 and 326.]That was reaffirmed last April, and I hope that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will reaffirm it again tonight. That seems to be a necessary guarantee of the position. I cannot see that there is anything in the slightest degree doubtful or equivocal in that guarantee, if my right hon. Friend is willing to reaffirm it tonight.
What we have been discussing tonight—and especially what I have been trying to say—underlines the importance of the discussion which we were having exactly a week ago about Cyprus. We all want to see a settlement of the Cyprus question, and a settlement which would satisfy, on the one hand, the natural aspirations of the Cypriot people and, on the other, the defence needs of Great Britain and the Commonwealth without it. I should oppose any withdrawal from Cyprus, not because it would be a blow to our prestige, but because it seems to me that the part that Great Britain would be able to play in the Middle East in the future would be sadly affected. I have no doubt whatever what would be the course of events if we did cease to be able to play an effective part in the Middle East. We might well find that the flanks both of Europe and Asia were turned, that the Commonwealth was divided, and the gateway to Africa was wide open.
§ 9.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Denis Healey (Leeds, East)
I find myself in very general agreement with the aims of British policy as defined by the hon. Member for Bridlington (Mr. Wood), but I cannot agree with him that the recent acts of the Government have contributed towards achieving those aims. My hon. Friends and I also disagree very strongly with the remarks of the hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Alport), that in some sense those who sit on these benches are more concerned about the interests of Israel than about those of our own State. That is not so. The main burden of our complaint against the Government's recent policy is not that it has been impartial but that it has abandoned the impartiality to which it was committed unequivocally by the Tripartite Declaration of 1950.
932 I believe that the Middle East is, as the hon. Member for Bridlington said, an area of vital importance to this country and that we cannot shirk our responsibilities in this area by trying to pass the difficult problems on to the United Nations or any other body. In fact, there is grave danger in transferring responsibility to a body like the United Nations, most of whose members are prepared to take decisions without the slightest intention of accepting responsibility for the consequences of those decisions. We have seen that happen previously and we could easily see that happen again.
Moreover, we must not neglect the fact that if the eighteen new members now proposed for the United Nations are accepted, there might be a very powerful bloc of States in the United Nations which was prepared to approach this problem of the Middle East without any regard whatever for the real interests of the people living there.
It is too late this evening to go into the general problem of British interests in the Middle East, but I should have thought we could all agree that our first and major aim must be to prevent the outbreak of a war in the Middle East between the Arabs and Israel. If such a war should begin, first of all it might spread and involve us all in a general world war; and secondly, whatever its outcome, it would lead to a great increase in Communist influence in the Arab countries in the Middle East.
I think we can also agree that war is only likely between Israel and the Arab countries if either Egypt feels strong enough to risk an attack on Israel or, alternatively, fearing Egypt's strength, Israel strikes a blow to prevent such an attack. Both these risks are greatly increased by the recent Soviet intervention.
Although British policy in the Middle East has, no doubt, been defective in its wider aspects, the Tripartite Declaration of 1950 constitutes a good and, indeed, indispensable basis on which to deal with the problem of war between Israel and the Arabs. In the first place, it commits the Western Powers to diplomatic impartiality between the two sides. Secondly, it commits them very strongly to help the victim of aggression whichever country is the first to attack. In the third place. it seeks to reduce the risk 933 of an attack taking place by maintaining a balance of military strength between the two sides.
It is no good the Prime Minister saying, as he did the other day, that there is nothing in the Tripartite Declaration about a balance of military strength—there is. The phrase about giving each side such arms as it requires for legitimate self-defence means that each side must have the same amount of strength as the other, because the only Power against which either might be required to defend itself is the other. Consequently, the idea of a balance of military strength is literally written into the terms of the Tripartite Declaration. So far, we have maintained a sufficient degree of balance between the strength of the two sides to make a major war between them, as distinct from frontier incidents, very unlikely indeed.
That is the situation which Russia has completely transformed by offering arms to Egypt through Czechoslovakia. The balance now threatens to swing, within, say, six or nine months, very rapidly and decisively in favour of Egypt. In this situation, if we are to maintain our present impartiality, we must seek to restore the balance if we are not to see one side or the other starting a war.
Unless we can maintain our diplomatic impartiality and also maintain a military balance between the two sides, real negotiation between them is most unlikely. It is odd for people who take the line that we need a balance of strength in order to negotiate with Russia to suggest that this basic principle does not apply to relations between Egypt and Israel. The fact is that negotiation is only likely to succeed diplomatically so long as each side is convinced that it will not gain more by putting the issue to the test of military action.
In this situation I suggest that the initiative of the Prime Minister in his speech at the Guildhall was a gross blunder which has made the problem infinitely more difficult to deal with. Indeed, it is a blunder whose consequences it is extremely difficult to repair now. What in fact did the right hon. Gentleman do? He abandoned altogether the Tripartite Declaration—incidentally, he did not even refer to it throughout his speech—and point by point he rejected every element in that Declaration.
934 First take the element in the Declaration promising aid to the victim of aggression. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Bridlington has just repeated the strong terms in which this pledge was defined by the Prime Minister in November. But those terms were terribly weakened by what the right hon. Gentleman said at the Guildhall. Instead of saying that most certainly the Declaration binds us to go to the help of Israel if she is attacked by an Arab State, he simply said:Were any country to reject counsels of moderation, it would forfeit the sympathy of this and, I believe, every other peace-loving nation. Once lost, that sympathy might be hard to regain.There could not be a clearer weakening of the earlier pledge than this extremely timid remark made at the Guildhall. If I am wrong in this interpretation, as I hope I am, I also hope that the Prime Minister will respond to the invitation of his hon. Friend and repeat his earlier statement in the strongest possible terms.
The second way in which the right hon. Gentleman diverged from the impartiality of the Declaration was in raising for the first time since the Arab-Israel war the surrender of territory by Israel as a basis for peace. This was a bad thing to do in that way and at that time. I believe it is true that the Israel Government would be prepared to negotiate on the basis of certain territorial adjustments—that is certainly possible—but to state that the 1947 position, which left Israel with only half the territory she now has, should be one limit for negotiation was an extraordinarily maladroit thing to do in this situation. To say now, of all times, when the Egyptians are flirting with the Russians, that this is where we move closer to them is a surrender to Egyptian blackmail, and it is tantamount to rewarding them for flirting with the Soviet Union.
Furthermore, it makes an early solution of the refugee problem impossible. The main obstacle to a settlement of it has been the hope in the Arab States that ultimately the Arab refugees might return to Israel. If Britain now says she believes that parts of Israel may be surrendered to the Arabs as a result of negotiations, the Arabs have no incentive for settling refugees in their present territories.
935 The third mistake of the right hon. Gentleman, in my view, was in offering to mediate between Israel and the Arabs after declaring a partiality for one side. In fact, this offer of mediation recalls nothing so much as the Runciman mission to Czechoslovakia in 1939.
The Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary have both said a great deal about the parallel of secret negotiations for a solution in Trieste. Certainly those negotiations were very fruitful, but the essence of the Trieste settlement was that each side kept what it had. No side was asked to surrender territory which it was actually holding with its own troops.
In the case of Israel, the Prime Minister has said in advance that he is asking for a settlement on the basis of surrender of territory by one of the parties. He says he wants the Arabs to make an equal concession. But it is clear that the concession which the Arabs must make is a verbal promise to end the state of war with Israel, and that is a concession which can be withdrawn at any time, but the Israel concession of territory cannot be withdrawn once it is made, except by war.
The final mistake is one which has emerged since the speech at Guildhall. This has been the absolute refusal of the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary to consider restoring the military balance between Israel and the Arabs. If we do not do that, we are increasing the risk of war, giving the Arabs an incentive to hold off all negotiations until they are strong enough to attack Israel, and immensely increasing the temptation for certain sections inside Israel to get their blow in first. It amounts to publicly informing the Arabs that the best way for them to increase their influence with Britain is to flirt with the Soviet Union.
It seems to me that on every single count the Prime Minister's initiative in his Guildhall speech was most unfortunate and calculated only to make the existing situation more difficult to solve.
§ Colonel Banks
Will the hon. Gentleman help me by answering this question? How is it possible to restore the military balance when, on the one hand, there is a population of 1,700,000 and, on the other hand, a population of over 20 million?
§ Mr. Healey
The fact is that there has been a military balance in practice for the last eight years. The Soviet arms offer has upset it. We are proposing to allow the swing towards the Arabs to continue, and indeed, if necessary, to increase.
I thought the hon. and gallant Gentleman was about to ask how we can ensure that the Russians do not give more help to the Arabs and we do not have an arms race between, not Israel and the Arabs, but Israel backed by the West and the Arabs backed by the Russians. That is the really difficult problem. I believe that there is an answer to it.
I believe that the new policy of the Soviet Union in the Middle East is the first example of one to which she is likely to turn more and more often in the years ahead, what one might call fire-raising through third-parties, not indirect aggression through a Soviet satellite but an attempt to start war between two counries neither of which is itself Communist or Communist-influenced. We have seen another example in the attempt to get Afghanistan to fight Pakistan. There has been the intervention in Kashmir. And it would not surprise me if there was an intervention in the Cyprus dispute within the next week or two unless the Government make up their mind that a compromise there is necessary.
Incidentally, it strikes one as a little odd that at the moment when the Prime Minister has failed so miserably to achieve any sort of settlement in Cyprus he should be offering his services as mediator in a dispute which is even more difficult to solve. I have been wondering whether it is the case that, as the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) once said, the Foreign Office has got mixed up and sent the medicine bottles to the wrong addresses. The new Soviet policy of trying to set individual non-Communist countries against one another presents us with serious problems. I suggest that these problems could be made easier to solve if we tried to force the Russians to negotiate with us about them.
It seems to be a general impression that the Russians are trying to buy their way into great Power status in the Middle East through their intervention in Egypt. I do not believe that that is so. The Russians are a great Power in 937 the Middle East, whether we like it or not, and are willing to intervene there to the extent which suits their policies, whether we like it or not. The one thing the Russians will avoid is any attempt to negotiate a general settlement of regional problems with the Western Powers as a whole. They avoided it in Geneva over Europe; they do not want it for the Middle East and certainly do not want it for the Far East.
For that reason there is a strong ease—I put it no higher than that—for inviting the Soviet Government to associate themselves with the Tripartite Declaration of 1950 on the Middle East, because the more we can get them to come into the open and put their cards on the table, the more difficult we will make it for them to play different games with different people in all sorts of parts of the world, without ever coming clean with their general policy as a whole.
For example, at the moment they are backing Moslims against Jews in the Middle East and Hindus against Moslims a thousand miles further East in India. The more we can force them to public negotiation on these issues and try to force them to relate their policy to their general line, the more difficult we will make it for them to fish in troubled waters, as the Foreign Secretary said. If we can once force these issues to negotiation, we can expose the spirit of Geneva as the "red biddy" it really is.
I believe that if we go back to the Tripartite Declaration, we shall find there, not a solution of all Middle Eastern problems, but we shall find what it has proved to be over the last eight years, a basis on which it is possible at least to prevent war between Egypt and Israel.
I suggest that by throwing away this basis of policy, the Prime Minister has made the whole of the Middle Eastern problem very much more difficult to solve. I beg him in reply to the debate tonight to try to say or do something which will restore general confidence that this criticism which I have made is not wholly justified.
§ 9.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Godfrey Nicholson (Farnham)
The Prime Minister is well able to look after himself and I shall not attempt to explain his position, although I must say in all fairness that all he did say was, 938 "This is the extreme Arab point of view, and this the extreme Israel point of view and there must be some compromise between the two." If peace is ever to be achieved, it is perfectly true to say that.
The situation is both dangerous and urgently dangerous. It is explosive, and largely explosive due to our obsession with this word "balance." I am alarmed by that word. To begin with, I do not know what it means. It is an excuse for a lot of woolly thinking. It has the seeds of great danger in it. What balance can there we between Israel and the Arab States surrounding it? Are we to count the number of guns, the number of tanks, the number of aircraft? Are we to take account of the different military organisations and efficiency, and technical efficiency, and the hypothetical balance of strategic positions, and united command? One cannot achieve a balance, because there is no such thing in those circumstances as a real balance.
It is also dangerous because it has led hon. Members today, and wiser people than them, to think that the way to achieve peace in the Middle East is to try to redress that hypothetical balance by pouring arms into one side and then the other. It is clearly folly to think that one can achieve peace by arming each side in turn. "Balance" is a dangerous word with which to play, and it may be dangerously optimistic to assume that there is any balance in the Middle East today. The hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) said that at the moment there was a relative degree of balance. Would not any one of us heavily bet on an Israeli victory, if there were a war today? We all should, and we should all be right. We have heard a lot about balance and fairness in pouring new arms into these various countries, but all hon. Members have sheered off the relative strengths of the countries as they are today. It is exceedingly difficult to find out the truth in this question. I have made what investigations I can, and I have reached the conclusion that as a military force today, as a potential war-waging country, Israel is very much stronger than all her neighbours put together.
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
Is the hon. Gentleman making that assessment as an assessment of arms or an assessment of courage?
§ Mr. Nicholson
If the hon. and learned Gentleman will contain himself, he will hear exactly how I make that assessment. I say that it is a very difficult one to make.
The first basis of the assessment I make is this. Israel is in a central strategic position. Israel is a united command. The Arab States have no unity of command. Indeed, they are traditionally disunited in war.
The second basis is that both sides are equally brave, I am sure, but the Israelis are much more qualified than the Arabs to fight a successful modern war. The third point is that the Israelis are more efficient mechanically. They are more highly trained and have more Western ideology in their technique. They maintain their arms in a better way. They are, in fact, victory-winning soldiers more than are the Arabs in present conditions of modern warfare. So far as men are concerned, the balance is overwhelmingly in favour of Israel.
§ Mr. Nicholson
All I say is that the number of men is a factor. I do not say that it is preponderantly or overwhelmingly a factor, but it is one to be considered. For her size Israel is the most highly armed State in the world today. The four neighbour States of Israel can mobilise 165,000 men on the perimeter of Israel. Israel can mobilise 250,000 men.
Then there are tanks, and I think that one out-of-date tank maintained by the Israelis is more efficient than a more modern tank not maintained by the Egyptians. The Israelis have about 200 Sherman and Churchill tanks. The Egyptians have about 40 Centurion and 40 older tanks. The Israeli Air Force is infinitely more efficient and is stronger than that of the Arab States. On the question of weapon production within their own countries, the Israelis are the only ones to produce weapons. Indeed, they have exported arms to Yugoslavia and have sold Spitfires to Burma.
It puts a different complexion on the picture if one realises that the temptation to the extremists in Israel today to fight a preventive war is very strong indeed.
Mr. Ian Mikardo (Reading): In view of this tribute—I do not know how valid 940 it is, in fact—which the hon. Gentleman pays to the effective striking force of the Israelis, does not he think that it would be a good idea if this country sought the Israelis as allies instead of incurring their emnity?
§ Mr. Nicholson
That is rather a foolish question. I am not aware that this country crawls seeking alliances from strong Powers, whether they be great or small.
I am not pro-Jew or anti-Jew, or pro-Arab or anti-Arab. I try to speak for my own country, and I am pointing to what I consider to be an explosively dangerous situation in the Middle East. I say that the need for settlement is urgent, and that we shall never get settlement by trying to redress or create a hypothetical balance between the two forces.
The temptations in Israel today for preventive war are strong. I say that I understand that and sympathise with it, but I also say that the Israelis are a belligerent people. I do not like these constant raids by the Israelis. They may come from fear. Perhaps it is an insult to say that. They are a form of preventive war in themselves; but, because of the urgency of the situation as I see it, I welcome the Prime Minister's effort and I think that the House should have given it a better reception than it has received.
§ 9.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Alfred Robens (Blyth)
I was a little surprised at the speech of the hon. Member for Farnham (Mr. Nicholson). He seemed to be in the position of a boxing promoter who was appraising the contestants about to come into the ring. I am not sure that the facts which he gave us can be authenticated, and I doubt very much whether anybody outside the countries concerned could be so specific about armaments and the degree of mobilisation as the hon. Gentleman appeared to be.
§ Mr. Nicholson
I was trying to conclude my speech in time to make way for the right hon. Gentleman. My facts about manpower and the forthcoming mobilisation were taken from the Jewish Observer of 7th October.
§ Mr. Robens
There is a great deal more than the question of manpower; there is the number of tanks and the kind of tanks, and so on.
941 It seems to me that that is the wrong approach to the whole problem which we have been seriously debating. The problem which we have to face is that, somehow or other, we have to get the Arabs and Jews together to settle their existing difficulties. I do not think that appraising the relative military strength of both sides is the sort of contribution which is helpful.
It cannot be denied that the injection of Russian arms into the Middle East has changed the whole balance considerably. That balance was being carefully preserved, and now there is a great difference. That is bound to affect the attitude of the Israeli people. They have felt for some time that there was a measure of protection afforded them under the Tripartite Declaration. But when arms are supplied outside that Declaration, and no effort made by the signatory Powers to balance the fresh lot of arms provided for the Arab States, it is inevitable that the Israelis should be anxious and concerned about their future. It is not now a question of assessing the relative military merits but what will happen as the arms from Czechoslovakia begin to pour into Egypt and the Arab States.
It seems to me that our task is to size up the situation and accept our responsibility as a great Power with tremendous influence for preserving the peace in the Middle East. We have a big responsibility to ensure that the State of Israel remains as a viable State. I do not think it matters greatly about the history of the present State of Israel. I do not think that the arguments advanced today, about whether the Arabs feel that some of their territory was taken to create the Jewish State or whether it was carved out of the Ottoman Empire, really matter. We must assess the situation as its exists today. The State of Israel exists and there it must remain. We in this country must make it clear to the Arab States that we shall see that the State of Israel does remain.
A good many things have been said about the Prime Minister's Guildhall speech, but I do not apologise for returning to it once again. I share the view expressed from this side of the House that, whatever may have been the motives of the right hon. Gentleman—I am sure they must have been of the highest—whatever may have been the effect of his 942 speech in his own opinion, it was grossly misunderstood—to use the kindest word I can think of—and it has certainly had the opposite effect from what he intended.
In the House we gave the right hon. Gentleman plenty of opportunity to correct the misapprehensions and misunderstandings in the Middle East resulting from his Guildhall speech. Time after time the right hon. Gentleman refused to take advantage of the opportunities with which we presented him. Indeed, I remember that when I suggested that his speech had caused consternation in the Middle East, he was very indignant and said that it had caused no consternation whatever. Surely, by this time, he must have read the Arab Press, the Jewish Press and the Press of the world, and he must have heard of the statements made by politicians in the various countries, which show that whatever he intended to say, the interpretation of the speech was very different in Israel from what it was in the Arab countries.
The Israelis took it that he meant that there had to be substantial territorial concessions, and the Arabs took it that he meant that the frontier that he had in mind lay between the 1947 frontier and the armistice frontier. The right hon. Gentleman said subsequently that that was not the intention, and that he himself had no intention at all of laying down any demarcation line. Nevertheless, it must be clear to him that if he says that the demarcation line lies somewhere between the two, he has left a very wide gulf indeed for both sides to bridge.
I think that the right hon. Gentleman made a great mistake. I am very surprised that, with all his great experience as Foreign Secretary of this country, he did not take the opportunity with which we have presented him many times, when he must have realised that his Guildhall speech had caused such consternation, of putting that right.
After all, the Arabs are really responsible for the present frontiers. It must not be forgotten that if the war had not been waged when the British marched out, the present frontiers would be those agreed by the United Nations, and therefore the Arabs have a responsibility for the present frontiers. Since the armistice frontiers were decided, the Israelis have gone on building up that country, taking in thousands of people, and irrigating the 943 land in many of those territories today, and to ask them to give up large slices was really asking the impossible. I should have thought that it was a mistake, if the right hon. Gentleman wanted to be a mediator, to state his conditions before the mediation took place.
The offer to mediate was well-intentioned and well-meant. There was no one, or very few people, with greater experience of foreign affairs in the field of mediation than the right hon. Gentleman, not only in this country, but in the world. But his offer to act as mediator is valueless, because as Mrs. Myerson, in an interview given a short time ago to the special correspondent of the Daily Telegraph, said:We feel that Sir Anthony Eden has ruled himself out as a possible mediator by his recent Guildhall speech. In our view he was trying to gain favour in the Arab countries at our expense.That is the position presumably of the Israeli Government, and it is agreed today that the right hon. Gentleman has put himself outside the rôle of mediator, in which, no doubt, he would have done extremely well, if he had succeeded in bringing the Arabs and Jews together around the conference table.
His successor at the Foreign Office did little or nothing to help us today in what we have been discussing. I suppose that the right hon. Gentleman has to make so many speeches that he finds it a little difficult to prepare something new. If he reads what he said in HANSARD tomorrow, he will find that it is a speech full of clichés. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the pre-1914 era, when things were so very different. I do not think that anyone on this side of the House wants to go back to the pre-1914 era, with all the satisfaction that it may have given right hon. Gentlemen opposite. The conditions of the pre-1914 era led to the rise of this great Labour Party, the trade union movement and the Co-operative movement. It is no use being wistful about conditions in which this country, because of its predominance in arms and everything else, could impose its will upon other nations. It is no use looking back to those times. We have to face the facts as they are today.
The right hon. Gentleman seemed a little terrified at the growing influence of the Russians. He was almost looking 944 over his shoulder as he told us first how they had encroached upon one territory and then another. Why is he worried about Russian influence? As the Foreign Secretary of this country he should know that if he wants to get rid of Russian influence it can be done only by a vigorous foreign policy on the part of this country, and that if Russian Communism is to be defeated it can be defeated only by the positive policy of showing that democracy and freedom, as we understand them, are vastly superior to Russian Communism and dictatorship.
What have we to offer? Very little. The right hon. Gentleman said that there had been a change in the attitude of the Arab leaders. I was glad of that, and I expected that the right hon. Gentleman would then go on to tell us that Nasser no longer believed that it was his sacred duty to drive the Israelis into the sea. Could the right hon. Gentleman tell us that? What is this change of attitude on the part of the Arab leaders? It would be the finest thing in the world if the Foreign Secretary, or the Prime Minister when he speaks, could say with their authority, that the Arabs have changed from the public statements that they have made, violent statements, against the Israelis. We should welcome that very much indeed.
It is not necessary only to say these things to the Foreign Secretary in private. It is important today that the Arab leaders should state this change of view, which presumably they have done in private to the Foreign Secretary, in public, so that the world, including the Israelis, may know that there has been this change, and that the Arabs have moved away from the idea that Israel must no longer be a State anywhere within that territory. I hope that the Foreign Secretary, who is able to tell us today that they have changed their minds, will bring his influence to bear and perhaps produce the sort of public statement which we should all welcome so much.
The other thing which the right hon. Gentleman produced as something good and beneficial was the Bagdad Pact. We believe in collective security on this side of the House, and to the extent that the Pact is designed as collective security and as a defensive organisation, we are happy to know that it is there. We are happy to see the economic opportunities that are contained within the Bagdad Pact. 945 If the Bagdad Pact is really to be for Middle East defence, it is a pity, is it not? that Israel is excluded from ever being a member of it. Can we really say that we have Middle East defence and security in this northern tier without Israel? Was it really necessary to exclude Israel from the Bagdad Pact?
Does it mean that British diplomacy abroad has now reached the stage where we either have to tail behind the Americans or have to be subservient to the Arabs when dealing with problems like this? Is it not time that we should lay down the conditions upon which we, as a nation, are prepared to guarantee that our soldiers will leave these shores and fight in foreign fields? It must be remembered that in the Bagdad Pact we have guaranteed the northern frontier of Persia, which will bring British troops once again into physical contact with the Russians. We had that experience immediately after the war, when, in fact, the Russians withdrew.
To talk in terms of the Bagdad Pact, as the Foreign Secretary did, was missing the real point. The Pact fails to be the collective defence that he wants it to be, particularly when we add to it the gross mishandling of the Cyprus situation. Surely Cyprus is the very base upon which the defence of the Middle East rests. What the Government have managed to do extremely well is to turn a very peaceful and happy population into a people who are now throwing bombs and shooting British soldiers, and have, in fact, made the place virtually untenable as a base in war time.
The Foreign Secretary has, before now, said that it was impossible to maintain the Suez base amidst a hostile population. It must, therefore, be impossible to have an efficient base in Cyprus if there is a hostile population. As the Government are responsible for that situation, I am not so sure that the right hon. Gentleman need pride himself so much on the Bagdad Pact. It has a lot of holes in it, and it does not necessarily mean that it will be the great defence organisation that he thought it would be.
He has many further problems on his hands in that field. Afghanistan is receiving Russian arms. The Yemen has a treaty with Russia. Saudi Arabia is reported to be lending Syria dollars to buy Russian arms and Egypt, having 946 bought Russian arms, is now to receive the money for the dam without any conditions about a settlement with Israel. My right hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) said that this position reminded him very much of Czechoslovakia and the appeasement policy. If I may, I would add just one thing to that. In those circumstances, at that time, President Benes was ready to give way. In these present circumstances I do not believe that the Israelis are ready to give way. They will fight, where Benes was prepared not to fight but to take our word.
Frontier incidents become more frequent and of bigger size. Today there is the report of the shelling by Syrians of an Israeli settlement and fishing boats, and there has been a retaliation by the Israelis in which a very large number of people have been killed. Are these the first fruits of united command under the Egypt-Syria military pact? Is there not a need for a much more vigorous, constructive and positive policy from the Government? Is it not a fact that if the arms race does not end war in the Middle East is inevitable? What are the arms for? Why does Egypt require to buy arms from the Russians? Against whom are they to be used? Is it not natural that the people of Israel believe that those arms are to be used against them?
It is of no use for the hon. Member for Farnham to tell the House about the military strength of the Israelis. The fact is that there is an overwhelming Arab population. Once they have an enormous preponderance of arms over the Israelis, the guns of the Israelis may be white hot with shooting, but sheer force of numbers and the numbers of guns and everything else is bound to tell. The arms race, therefore, has to end, and I should like to ask the Prime Minister about the meaning of the Tripartite Declaration. That Declaration says that:The three Governments, should they find that any of these States was preparing to violate frontiers or armistice lines, would, consistently with their obligations as members of the United Nations, immediately take action, both within and outside the United Nations, to prevent such violation.What is the right hon. Gentleman's interpretation of that? It has been interpreted by many people to mean military aid to those who are attacked. Does it mean that now? If so, will the right hon. 947 Gentleman state that categorically? Or does it mean that we would go to the United Nations while the battle went on, and that we should have long talks and, to quote his own words, withdraw our sympathy from those who were committing aggression against the Israelis? What really does it mean?
Did the Guildhall speech take anything away from the words of the Tripartite Declaration that I have read out? Does it really mean that we would go physically to the aid of Israel if, in fact, it was attacked? Conversely, does it mean that we would go physically to the aid of any Arab States if the Israelis attacked them? The right hon. Gentleman owes it to us and the country and, indeed, to the world outside to be very specific. [Interruption.] Certainly the Tripartite Declaration was drawn up by the Labour Government. No one disputes that. I am asking the Prime Minister why he has changed the interpretation which he put on that because his speech at the Guildhall differed from the interpretation which he formerly put upon it. However, he has the opportunity to tell us tonight. He has dodged this issue while he has been at the Box at Question Time, but he now has the opportunity of saying precisely what he means.
I should like the right hon. Gentleman to look at the concluding lines of Article 2 of the Tripartite Declaration. Having dealt with assurances to be received from States, it says:Similar assurances will be requested from any other States in the area to which they permit arms to be supplied in the future.Have any assurances been asked of the Egyptians as to why they want Russian arms and why they are not satisfied with the balance of the arms that have been supplied in the Middle East? If they have not been asked, does the Prime Minister take the view that if arms are going into Egypt, from Russia, we should, under the Tripartite Declaration, cease to supply an equivalent amount of arms to Egypt and perhaps help the Israelis to buy an equivalent quantity in order to maintain the balance, or do we ignore arms going into the Middle East from countries other than the Tripartite Powers? How do we maintain the balance? How do we work that out? Those are some of the things that we would like to know.
948 I have said that we have to stop the arms race, because if there is a build up of arms in that area, sooner or later a major clash will be unavoidable. There are two ways in which this could be done, or at least an attempt could be made to stop the arms race. There could be a reference to the United Nations as a matter of immediate urgency, or alternatively there could be a meeting of the Tripartite Declaration signatories with the U.S.S.R. in order to arrive at some balance in the Middle East.
When this was put to the right hon. Gentleman during Question Time he rejected the idea of talking to the Russians, on the grounds presumably that he did not think that a discussion with the Russians would be very successful, or at least that there would be little hope of any success. But surely it is right to put the Russians on the spot. It is surely right to say to the Russians, "Come and talk with us about the supply of arms to the Middle East," and if the Russians refuse, it would at least be made perfectly clear to public opinion that they had been invited to make a contribution to peace in the Middle East and that they had deliberately thrown it away.
All we got from the Foreign Secretary was that whilst he was at Geneva he talked to Mr. Molotov, but he has never told us what Mr. Molotov said. When we have asked him what Mr. Molotov said, he has looked very wise and discreet and has said, "Ssh. That is not in the public interest." Perhaps the Prime Minister will tell us what was Mr. Molotov's reaction to the idea of having an arms embargo in the Middle East or at least a balance with the other supplying Powers.
Can we not know that? Is there something very secret about the private conversations that went on? They are a matter of public interest, and it seems to me that when the right hon. Gentleman dodges the pressure that is put upon him to ask the Russians to have discussions with the signatories of the Tripartite Declaration on the question of the delivery of arms to the Middle East by saying that he has had talks but is not prepared to tell the House the result of them, he is not doing his duty to the House.
It should be remembered that we have no prescriptive rights about the supply of arms in the Middle East or anywhere else. 949 Anyone who wants to sell arms and who can effect delivery and be paid for them is free to supply those arms. Surely, therefore, it is essential—whether or not we like the Russians, and whether or not we are as frightened of the Russians as the Foreign Secretary appeared to be this afternoon—as they are in this world, that we should deal with them. It is right that we should deal with them, because if we refuse to deal with them on this and other matters, then the results will he calamitous.
That being so, there is no reason why either of those two suggestions ought not to be attempted by the Government, and I resent very much indeed those who say that they are non-starters or that there is no hope of reaching agreement. Why do we not try, and go on trying until some day we are successful? We have to back up the Tripartite Declaration, either by a clear statement by the Prime Minister tonight. or by having a treaty with Israel similar to the treaties that we have with the Arab States. Surely, there can be nothing wrong in having a treaty which says that if aggression takes place we will lend our aid. What is wrong with that?
Why does not the Prime Minister want to do that now? Why not give the Israelis some feeling that they are not really being left out on a limb, and that at least we shall be as fair as we possibly can in the Middle East and will do our best to see that no aggression takes place, just as we have stated in the treaties which we have signed with some of the Arab States? In my opinion, the Israelis must be given a sense of security. The Prime Minister has the opportunity of doing that this evening.
My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton (Mr. A. Henderson) suggested to the Prime Minister and to the Government that they should take the initiative in strengthening the United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation. I entirely agree with my right hon. and learned Friend. I think it a mistake for the Prime Minister to say, as he has said more than once, that when General Burns asks for some more people, then we shall be very ready to let him have them. After all, General Burns is a servant of the United Nations, and it seems to me that it should be obvious to the Prime Minister and others 950 that what is really needed is a very much stronger force of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation in the Middle East. It is very much more important that we should stop these border incidents by having reasonable forces there rather than that we should let them continue.
Was not Korea a case parallel to this? Is it not the fact that, as a result of border incidents and the invasion of Southern Korea by Northern Korea, after a very large number of incidents, we were all brought into a war that lasted a long time and cost a lot of lives? Is it not better, therefore, for the United Nations, when faced with a situation like this, to take time by the forelock and put a strengthened Commission there to prevent war breaking out, and thus save lives? Is it not better to be positive than to come along after the event and try to mend what has been so badly broken? I agree with my right hon. and learned Friend that the Government ought very seriously to consider taking the initiative in strengthening the United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation in that area.
None of the problems between the Arabs and the Israelis can be dealt with in isolation. The whole of the problems that face that area and the countries concerned must be dealt with at one and the same time. The aim must surely be to get the Arabs and the Israelis round the conference table together. On more than one occasion, the Israelis have indicated their readiness to sit round a conference table and to deal with any matter that the Arabs care to raise. Surely we should be using our influence—and it must be considerable, even though the right hon. Gentleman has been handling foreign affairs for some time. We still have some influence left. Surely that influence ought to be brought to bear in an effort to bring the Arabs to the table to which the Israelis have indicated they are ready to go.
At that table, what has to be done—and, I repeat, not in isolation? There is the question of frontier rectification. The Israelis have indicated that they are prepared to discuss it, but they do not want the matter decided before they do so. There is the terrible problem of the refugees. It is not a question of money. Two hundred million dollars are available for settling the refugees. A tiny fraction 951 has been spent, upon a care-and-maintenance basis rather than upon resettlement. In view of the money that has been contributed for the purpose of settlement, is this not one of the matters which ought to be considered, together with the question of frontier rectification? Is it not a bad thing that that running sore—which is what it is—on the frontiers should remain, as my right hon. Friend said, maintaining a feeling of hatred and poisoning relations between the two sides? There is a need for resettlement, and there is the capacity to resettle, given the will to do so.
Finally, to be included as the settlement of one problem, is the question of economic aid—the use of waters for irrigation, the Johnston Plan, and so on. Israel and Iraq have shown what can be done, given the facilities. There is no reason why there should not only be peace in the Middle East but why it should not be a land once again flowing with milk and honey. What is now required is someone who is big enough, powerful enough and influential enough to break the deadlock which exists. America is very busy with her forthcoming Presidential election, and France is rather busy with her general election. The opportunity exists for Britain to do the job. The Prime Minister failed to do it at the Guildhall: let him make a speech tonight which is worthy of him, which will break the deadlock and bring Jews and Arabs together, and bring peace to the Middle East.
§ 10.17 p.m.
§ The Prime Minister (Sir Anthony Eden)
My first and very agreeable duty is to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Bromsgrove (Mr. Dance), on behalf of all Members who heard his maiden speech, upon the manner in which he delivered it. As the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) generously said, he had obviously given considerable study to the topics that he was discussing, and we look forward to hearing him again upon this, or, if he wishes, any other subject, should he catch your eye, Mr. Speaker.
I must also thank the right hon. Member for Easington for the earlier part of his speech, for what he had to say about the Bagdad Pact—which was a great deal more precise than what has been said by me Front Bench opposite; much more 952 thorough-going and in the Bevin tradition than were those two speeches. I should also like to thank the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Philips Price) for a very remarkable speech, covering the whole area of the Middle East, with the very exceptional knowledge which he possesses. I hope that I shall not embarrass him or anybody else if I say that I think I was in almost complete agreement with every word he said.
Before I come to the wider issues which we have to discuss, I should like to answer the two questions which the right hon. Member for Blyth (Mr. Robens) raised, which deserve an immediate answer. The first was the question of observers on the frontiers. I should like to tell the right hon. Gentleman that we have made it plain several times—not only to General Burns but also to the Secretary General—over the last year and a half that if it is thought desirable to increase their numbers we are quite ready to make our contribution. But it really must be for those who are handling this technically to decide whether it is a good thing to do. If the right hon. Gentleman wants my own view, frankly I think it would be a good thing to do. If so, we would make our contribution in that sense. But it must be a decision for the United Nations themselves to make.
The other point was about Mr. Johnston's scheme, which the right hon. Gentleman mentioned at the beginning of his speech and to which the right hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) also referred. We have done everything in our power to help forward the scheme, not only direct but also with such influence as we have with the various Governments concerned. They were very nearly completely agreed last time—I hoped that they would be—
§ The Prime Minister
I want to get agreement. If somebody has held it up, I would not be helping very much if I were to say more. This time, I think, only one Government stood out against the scheme, and most of those who guess would probably guess wrong; but there was only one. We have hopes that in the course of the next few months, complete agreement can be reached. I agree with the right hon. Member for Bishop Auckland that if it could be done, this is just one of those examples where if Jew 953 and Arab will allow this work, in which they will be generously helped by others, to function, both of them will benefit beyond all measure.
On the whole, the Arab-Israel dispute has dominated this debate, perhaps rather too much to the exclusion of wider questions. I will come to that and I will deal as faithfully as I can with my Guildhall speech, why I said it and what I think about it even though it is not exactly the same as the right hon. Gentleman thinks about it. Before doing that, however, I ask the indulgence of the House for a moment if I make some reflections of a rather wider character which it is time that the House should face and which find their most recent expression in the Middle East at the present time.
In the arms deal and in the other problems to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred, we ought to face the question of what are the difficulties between the Soviet methods and intentions and our own, and where those differences lead us. I should like to take the European scene purely as an example of that. The House knows well, none better than the right hon. Member for Lewisham (Mr. H. Morrison), that we set up a defensive organisation in Europe—N.A.T.O.—the essence of which was that all the countries in it were equal though vastly different in size, that even the smallest had a voice equal with the greatest, and that no decision could be taken except by unanimity. That was the essence of the N.A.T.O. organisation. It was equally true in addition that virtually all the countries who were members of N.A.T.O. practised Parliamentary democracy, above all in the sense that they have a Government and an Opposition and that freedom is allowed to criticise and to discuss within and without. That was the essence of the kind of framework on which N.A.T.O. rested.
Behind the Iron Curtain there are treaties, but there the parallel ends. There, not one of the freedoms which I have mentioned as being part of N.A.T.O. prevails, nor are they understood. Some might say, "Why should they be understood? Russia has never had the kind of freedom that we in the West understand." But that is not the whole of the story, for although that is true of Russia, it is not true of some of the satellites. It is not true, for instance, of Czechoslovakia and of Prague, one of the finest 954 and freest of democratic cities between the two wars. These lands now controlled by Russian power, by means contrary to her treaty obligations, are the tragedy of Europe today.
Now let us apply that experience to the problem we are now examining. We are told that we are the wicked colonialists in Asia and we are told that Communism is the liberator, is that really true anywhere on this earth today? Has it really been true at any time since the war? Where is there freedom now at this moment? In Hamburg or in Stettin? In Brussels or in Warsaw? Or take the East, in Colombo or in the capital of Outer Mongolia?
§ The Prime Minister
At least there is freedom to argue and fight in Cyprus. Let the hon. Gentleman read a quotation from one of the speakers at the last Bandoeng Conference. He was representing one of the Eastern countries. He was not a friend of what used to be called colonialism. He complained about it. He said, "We used to have it, but at least we could fight against it, struggle against it, make ourselves heard against it. But under Communism nobody can make a sound at all." It was the representative of a Middle Eastern country who said that at Bandoeng.
I want to refer to one or two of the things we have been told because, as Prime Minister, I think it is my duty to do so at this moment. We have been told that we have been sitting on the necks of the Burmese and robbing them of their last crust of bread. What a fantastic statement that is. Perhaps its author never heard of the Colombo Plan, of the 450 million dollars which have been spent by the Commonwealth countries since 1951—quite a large sum—in helping to create more prosperous conditions in these very countries from Pakistan to the Philippines. I must admit that the United States has spent very much more. The Russian leaders are still the guests of India and I have no wish to embarrass their hosts, but I must say that it is all the more remarkable that these speeches are made in countries with which we have the friendliest relations and whose independence Britain has promoted and will always respect.
955 It was the representative of another Eastern country at Bandoeng who said that Communism was a new type of colonialism devoted to conquest and domination. Those are not my words, but it is true that fundamentally Communist policy aims at world domination. How then—and here I come back to the Asia problem—can there be real coexistence between Soviet Russia and ourselves, since we would never accept Communism or they, presumably, the kind of Parliamentary system in which we believe? Well, we have always been willing to try to work out this problem, and we are still willing to do it now, because we cannot believe that any Government, knowing the real nature and consequences of modern war, would lead their country to the brink. But co-existence, if it is to succeed, has to be a two-way traffic, and equal tolerance and equal understanding has to be shown by the countries on either side.
So I say that while we are ready at all times for discussions, abuse of our friends only strengthens our loyalties and abuse of ourselves only strengthens our determination—and the world ought to have learned that by now. It would be a mistake, I think, for any country to try to found a foreign policy on the belief that the free world needs to crave coexistence.
Now let us see how we are applying, in the Middle East. the methods in which we believe, namely, the right of free nations to work together for purposes of defence, for economic ends in that troubled area. That is, of course, as several speakers have said, what we are trying to do through the medium of the Bagdad Pact. and I should like to answer one or two of the comments on that Pact. There is nothing offensive in that Pact, as the right hon. Gentleman himself admitted. In fact, there is not the mechanism, the power, within it to make it offensive. What is unique about it is that here, for the first time, one Western nation, Britain, is sitting down with a number of Eastern nations trying to work out with them, not only military problems—which have their importance, as the right hon. Gentleman said—but, much more important still in this context, economic problems which may alter the whole future of that area.
956 Personally, I have always maintained—as I think I said last April when I introduced the original proposal—that the economic possibilities are the most important feature of the Bagdad Pact. We hope by this means to raise the standard of living in the countries of all that area, and of any others who join it, and by doing that we shall be strengthening peace. I hope also that the Pact will promote security and a sense of confidence, and thus enable countries to get ahead with solving their economic problems, and not be constantly looking over their shoulders for this or the other military threat from some area or some country they fear.
Now I want to take one or two examples of the kind of thing that can be done. My right hon. Friend mentioned Iraq this afternoon, where, as he said and as the House knows, something like 70 per cent. of the oil revenues are to he devoted to development. But there is more to it than that. Everybody who is experienced on this question knows that if a country has suddenly new resources of revenue at its disposal and decides, wisely, to set a certain amount of that aside for a period in order to carry out capital works on a large scale, there is always a difficult period for that country to go through between the time it sets the capital sum aside and begins its work and when the popular results are visible; and the interval there is the temptation for people to say, "Well, what is the result of all these great oil revenues we have got? We do not see it." Fortunately, Iraq is about at the end of that difficult period; that gap is virtually over. The Euphrates Dam will be completed before the end of this year, and a similar one on the Tigris early next year. These will have the effect of eliminating, once and for all, the flood dangers which periodically devastate Iraq. The country of the two rivers—as the right hon. Gentleman rightly said—for the first time in history, as a result of this work on those rivers, will no longer be a menace to the people of that country.
§ The Prime Minister
That is not all that is going on, if the hon. Gentleman will possess himself in patience. I mention that as a first thing—which is a result I think even Noah would have been 957 pleased to welcome at the time, so I hope the hon. Gentleman will be pleased too.
That is not the only result. These projects are linked with irrigation schemes—and here I come to what the right hon. Gentleman was saying—which will fertilise very large tracts of land. The aim is to develop by these projects I have mentioned, and by one or two others, something like 750,000 acres in the course of the next five years. That is a project on an enormous scale which, if it can be carried through, will in its turn bring great relief to some of the problems we have been discussing, and is an example of what can be done by co-operation between some Middle Eastern countries and some Western lands. We declare that it is our intention to sustain and help those countries—all of them —which spend their revenue wisely in this way, and we are expanding the work of the Development Division of our Middle East office, about which some hon. Members may know, in order to be able to give more technical help to further these schemes.
The truth is that huge opportunities for progress lie before the Middle East Governments in this work—or some of them. The Middle East contains about 60 per cent. of the world's crude oil resources, and it produces about one-fifth of the world's supplies.
Persia is another example of a country which is now trying to devote wisely a portion of its oil resources to raising the standard of living of the people. This year it produced about 15 million tons of oil compared with nothing before, and next year it will be about 25 million tons. That is an improvement which is being used in part to raise the standard of life of the people of that country.
As I conceive the Bagdad Pact, it can be a channel through which these various activities in all these countries can be sustained and assisted by us and by the United States. I truly believe that is the way in which to create confidence in those areas, it is the best way to fight Communism in those areas, and it is also the best way to bring peace to a very troubled region.
That is the wide Middle Eastern view, or, if the House prefers, the northern tier.
After that, I come to the more controversial and much more difficult issue of 958 the Arab-Israeli conflict, which poisons the whole scene in the Levant and, as the right hon. Gentleman said, threatens to provoke a major conflict—I think that is true—and hinders all peaceful development, or most of it, between Israel and her neighbours; and it is, of course, an opportunity for Russia to seize, which she has done.
I believe—I will explain the line I have tried to take—that a settlement is essential in the interests of both parties, and the need for a settlement is more urgent than ever in the interests of both parties. In this connection I will discuss with the House two passages from my Guildhall speech, which, as the right hon. Gentleman rightly said, has led to some controversy. I take no exception to any of the comments which he made. It is perfectly true that he tried to elicit more information from me, and I would not give it because I thought it was wrong to give it. I am now going to explain what is in my mind in this connection.
First. I did not express an opinion about the position of the two parties at all, but I did outline what I believed to be, and what I think is accepted to be by almost everybody as far as I know, the attitude of the two parties themselves to the dispute. That was the first thing I did. I did it in these words, if I may quote them again:The position today is that the Arabs on the one side take their stand on the 1947 and other United Nations resolutions—that's where they are.That is a statement of fact, not an opinion.
They said they would be willing to open discussions with Israel from that basis. The Israelis on the other side, they found themselves on the later Armistice agreement of 1949' and on the present territories which they occupy.In a later passage which the right hon. Gentleman quoted I said—and I still believe it to be absolutely true:The stark truth is that if these nations want to win a peace, which is in both their interests and to which we want to help them, they must make some compromise between these two positions.That is what I said. I think that is true, and I also believe that an effort must be made to bring about that settlement soon lest greater dangers result. In this connection, the hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) remarked in an article which I read the other day in the 959 Star—and, after all, he was for some time at the Foreign Office, and I want the House to heed these words—that:It is important, but not vital, for the Arabs to reach agreement with Israel; but in the long run it is absolutely vital for Israel to reach agreement with the Arabs.I would amend that just to say this: I think it is vital to both to reach agreement. In all other respects, I agree with what the hon. Gentleman wrote there.
What I was trying to do in my Guildhall speech was to make both sides of this dispute realise that the conditions could not go on indefinitely, as they are going on now at this very hour, without the danger of war increasing, and that they must turn their minds to peace. The hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Philips Price) made a speech, when the House was much emptier than it is now, about that. in which he was kind enough to refer to what I said. In this connection The Times correspondent in Jerusalem made some comments which I hope I can be excused for quoting because they do exactly represent at any rate what I was attempting to do. He said that my initiative had brought—… the question of Israel-Arab peace out of the twilight of a vague yearning for something no one believed possible, into the glare of reality.He may be right or he may be wrong. I may be right or I may be wrong, but I am certain that unless somebody had made a speech of that kind trying to focus the minds of all concerned in the Middle East on the fact that peace was a possibility, and that certain countries—we and the United States—were prepared to play a part to help that peace—if they had not done that the deterioration was bound to continue.
It may continue despite all we have said, but I do not regret one word of what I said or draw back from the motives I had in mind.
§ Mr. H. Morrison rose—
§ The Prime Minister
I have a little more to say about that. Shall I finish about the speech? I may possibly answer the point which the right hon. Gentleman wants to make. I have one or two points to make to answer what he said.
What I did there was to state the position of the two parties and urge the need for compromise; that is to say, both have 960 got to move from their fixed positions, and fixed positions are not only territorial. I made no attempt to describe, or lay down, the specific concession, and I do not propose to do so now. That really is the task if negotiation can be got going.
The right hon. Gentleman asked me earlier this afternoon whether I would explain exactly what arrangement I had in mind. No, Sir, I could not possibly do that, because it would make any chance whatever of negotiations being taken up absolutely hopeless from the very outset. But I will say something which may help. I will say, first of all, that we believe that the possibility of a settlement does exist. We and the United States—both Governments—are in agreement on this and on the urgency with which the effort must be made. The reason that I made my speech is that I felt that a public initiative had got to be made.
But let me add this further reply to some of the questions. There is no question of pressure from us on any country to do a particular thing or to make a particular concession. The only pressure we want to see exercised—and I would dearly love to see that exercised—is a sense of vital self-interest, which is to bring both the parties to an agreement as soon as possible. That is the only pressure. But that is why I say to the right hon. Gentleman that it is really fantastic to talk about Munich. In the first place, there is no pressure. In the second place, there has been no peace. We are not dealing here with a settled peace. We are dealing here with armistice conditions, and under the armistice conditions Article 11 lays down:No provisions of this agreement shall in any way prejudice the rights, claims or the position of either party hereto in the ultimate peaceful settlement of the Palestine question.So I would beg the right hon. Gentleman to believe—and I state it with all emphasis—that his parallel is not a true parallel. I shall deal with the Three Power Declaration, where I hope to show the hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) also that there is not the parallel there that he has seen.
§ Mr. H. Morrison
The right hon. Gentleman has quoted from his Guildhall speech, but the stark truth is that if these nations want to win a peace which is in 961 the interests of both of them, they must make some compromise between the position of the United Nations Resolutions of 1947 and the very different position of the borders as they were left after the war which the Arabs had commenced against Israel in 1948. What I want to know from the Prime Minister is this. Has he got in mind a substantial concession of territory on the part of Israel to the Arabs, or has he in mind a minor adjustment of territories which would be a possible compromise? I think we are entitled to know whether he is on the substantial point or the other point.
§ The Prime Minister
if I were to answer that question I should have to measure what the right hon. Gentleman regards as a substantial contribution and what somebody else might regard as not so substantial. I should have to try to measure exactly what in his mind would be a big concession by one side or the other. That is precisely why I most carefully did not enter into the nature of what it should be. [HON. MEMBERS: "Dodging the issue."] I think the right hon. Gentleman is being much less than fair. I really do not mind if he thinks I am dodging the issue. I would rather he thought that.
We have been in this kind of difficulty before. In the Trieste proposition which we put forward we were told by hon. Members opposite that it was the greatest mistake that we could possibly make, and everybody was very angry at first. It took eight months of negotiation before a result arrived, but it was worth it, and I am quite ready to have the right hon. Gentleman's censure again if at the end of eight months we can get a settlement of this point. At any rate, what I said I said on my full responsibility, believing that it was the right thing to say at that time, and I repeat that I stand by it in its entirety.
May I make one reference in the same connection to the refugee problem again to show hon. Members opposite what was in my mind in what I said. Hour after hour we have listened this afternoon to the account of the refugee problem. Of course, it is a terrible problem. Some hon. Members have said how bad are the Arab States not to help in getting the refugee problem settled. Others have said how terrible it is for those Arabs 962 who used to be in Israel and who cannot get back.
Every kind of argument can be used to and fro. We have spent hours—when I was at the Foreign Office it could be added into days—trying to make progress on this refugee problem. We have spent a great deal of money, and I will tell the House frankly what I believe. One can make a certain amount of progress here and there of the kind well described by an hon. Member opposite this afternoon. One can do it here and there, but we will not be able to get a real arrangement for the future of the refugees except as part of a settlement. That is the truth. I think that we are deluding ourselves if we do not say that. That is another reason why at the Guildhall I said that a settlement was quite inevitable. We must not delude ourselves by imagining that we are going to get all sorts of piecemeal arrangements here, there and everywhere. Everything that we can do, we will do. A beneficial result for everyone will only come with a settlement, and, believe me, a settlement is as much in the interest of Israel as it is in the interest of the Arabs.
I now want to say something about the Tripartite Declaration. I was repeatedly asked where we stood about that. The hon. Member for Leeds, East mentioned, I think, that I had abandoned the Tripartite Declaration because of something which I said in my Guildhall speech. I am very glad to have the opportunity to deal with that. The passage to which the hon. Gentleman referred, in which I said that a country would lose sympathy which it might be hard to restore, had of course, nothing to do with the Tripartite Declaration at all.
That, as the hon. Gentleman will see from the context, was in reference to discussions that are going on now about armistice negotiations between the Arabs and Israel at El Auja, and I said that the parties there which did not participate in the negotiations would forfeit sympathy. I think it is there if the text is read. I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman for raising the point, for it shows that it has nothing to do with the Tripartite Declaration by which we stand in its entirety.
As I have said a great many times before, and I repeat it now, we stand with our Allies and are ready to carry out 963 generally with our Allies the terms of the Declaration, sharing full responsibility with our co-signatories for any action that would be taken. That would be action to assist Israel if she were attacked or action to assist an Arab country if she were attacked by Israel. That is the position, and I hope that it is now clear enough for the whole House to understand.
§ Mr. A. Henderson
The right hon. Gentleman said that under the Tripartite Declaration we shall go to the support of Israel or of an Arab State if the frontiers of either are violated. In view of these recurring incidents, what is the machinery by which we are going to be able to tell whether the frontier has been violated, thus bringing the Tripartite Declaration into operation?
§ The Prime Minister
The terms of the Tripartite Declaration are laid down. Constant conversations are going on between us and our Allies with regard to this situation. I agree that these incidents are becoming more grave, especially this last one, but our responsibilities are there. Heaven forfend that we should have to discharge them. That is the last thing that anyone in this House would want to do, but they have been underwritten by Her Majesty's Government, and they would be honoured to the best of our ability with our Allies. I cannot say more on that subject.
Before I conclude, I want to say something about arms deliveries which was raised by the right hon. Gentleman opposite and which one or two other hon. Members have mentioned. This is one of the most difficult topics to handle from the point of view of the Government, as those who have been in Government know. At the present time, of course, the House is apt to look at this matter as though the arms deliveries were only coming from ourselves, France and the United States who are signatories to the Tripartite Agreement and perhaps from Russia as well.
That is not true. They are coming from all parts of the world to Israel and to the Arab States on a very large scale. We have done what we could ourselves during this period, and when it was my responsibility at the Foreign Office we spent a great many hours trying as far as 964 we could to see that the balance of deliveries was as fairly kept as we could contrive, not only by ourselves, but together with the United States and France, our principal Allies.
Now, of course, a new element has been injected into this situation. The right hon. Gentleman asked, "Why cannot you talk over this new situation with the Russians?" I hope that I am not misquoting the sense of his meaning. We have made a number of approaches to try to see whether anything of this kind was possible, but I am bound to say, to put it mildly, that the replies have not been encouraging. I do not propose to quote them now. Attempts were made at more than one level to see whether we could get some response from the Russians in what I might call the Geneva spirit. The answer we got was not at all in the Geneva spirit. And so, judging by the experience of my right hon. Friend recently at Geneva, I do not think we should be serving any useful purpose, unless, of course, there is some change at any time in the Russian attitude in that respect. [Interruption.] We asked, as we hoped, for a hopeful answer, but we did not get it. If we had not asked, we should have been criticised for not asking. Now that we have asked, we are asked, "Why did you ask at all?" The hon. Member is unsatisfiable on any basis.
The right hon. Member for Easington asked what was the result of all this. He made a very fair speech about this and he told us that when he was Minister of Defence the Government delivered more arms to Egypt than to Israel. He knew that because he was Minister of Defence.
§ The Prime Minister
The right hon. Gentleman also knows, having been Minister of Defence, that it was not his practice, any more than it is ours, to give detailed figures, but I think I should say this. Perhaps it is unwise, but I think I should say it. Israel is not, in my belief, at a military disadvantage today in relation to any Arab State, or, indeed, to any combination of Arab States who are on her frontier. I think that that is about a true estimate of the situation.
However that may be, whether that is right or wrong, it does not detract from the argument with which I began this discussion. I am equally convinced that 965 it is in the interest of both parties, Israel included, however the balance may tilt at any time, to reach a settlement, and to reach it very soon.
In the Agreement with Iraq, we have tried—I hope the House will look at it in this spirit—to set a new pattern in our arrangements with these countries in the Middle East. I hope that the result of that will have the effect of bringing many people to realise that in what we are trying to do in the Middle East, we are not seeking selfish ends. Of course, it is immaterial to us who it is that helps to bring the two parties together in this Arab-Israel dispute. If there is some other country that can do it with more skill and better success than us, we shall be delighted and we would give that country all the support we can.
But the thought that I want to leave in the minds of the House, and in the minds of Arabs and Israel alike, is that this position is one of the utmost danger for them and that if attempts are not made, as I tried to make at the Guildhall —clumsily, as the right hon. Gentleman said, but as I tried to make there and as others should try to make—to get negotiation going, to get their minds onto the thought of the possibility of peace, the whole of that area can at any time flare up into a blaze the consequences of which none of us can foretell. That led us to the course of action that we have taken. It will lead us at all times to take any opportunity we can see of enabling those countries to live together, as so easily they might. in peace and contentment.
With my right hon. Friend, I often think of what the death of the late King Abdullah meant and of what might have happened had he still been alive. Chances may recur again. I believe that this is one such period. At any rate, it is our duty to do our best, to use the opportunity if it is there, and I undertake to the House that that shall be our responsibility.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. P. G. T. Buchan-Hepburn)
I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.