HC Deb 06 July 1967 vol 749 cc2003-124

3.58 p.m.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home (Kinross and West Perthshire)

I am well aware that, from a Foreign Secretary's point of view, no day is the right day to debate the Middle East. Nevertheless, the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State has made a speech so widely acclaimed in Europe in the last few days that perhaps he will achieve a double tonight. We hope so.

However, there has been a general feeling in the House that the course of the recent momentous events in the Middle East should be reviewed by hon. Members. They have affected British interests in many ways—commercial, financial and political—and they pose many questions about the future of an area which is still regarded in terms of power politics, which, unhappily, still prevail as a vital element in the world's balance of power.

It is hard to remember that it is barely five weeks since Colonel Nasser's ultimatum to the United Nations peacekeeping force—it is well to remember that that is what it was, a peacekeeping force—and that it was ejected from Egyptian territory; that the fight was precipitated; that it aroused passions inherent in a Holy War; that there was deployed on the ground much more hardware in tanks and armoured vehicles than there was at the Battle of Alamein; that the rout of the Egyptians was complete and yet, since that rout, propaganda has been engaged in daily turning defeat into victory. In that atmosphere, in the aftermath of convulsion and in this world of fancy and make-believe in which so many are living at the moment, it is difficult for reality to be heard.

When the dust is settled, there is one fact which no one can ignore, and anyone who encourages an Arab to ignore it must be a false friend of Arabia. The fact is that the State of Israel is there to stay, and it is a fact of life in the area of the Middle East. I believe that it is right that we should say to our Arabian friends that Colonel Nasser's vision of Pan-Arabia, of which the inspiration and purpose was to drive Israel into the sea and exterminate that State, was a delusion which has twice led his country and those who trusted him into war and to total defeat, with ruin round the corner. There is no hope for Arabia, or, indeed, for any Arab country along that road.

We can well understand the feelings of the Arabs led into a war of Egypt's ambitions—a war which was aided and abetted by the Soviet Union for her own selfish and political ends. We would like to help the Arab countries, but not even their best friends can do very much until coexistence is admitted in word and in deed.

Hon. Members may have seen that the Prime Minister of Jordan is reported as having said yesterday in his Parliament that Arab thinking about Israel must be reorganised and that the Arabs must abandon the policies that they have held towards Israel for the last 19 years. In the circumstances, that is a very brave thing to have said. It is also a very sensible thing to have said. It is, indeed, the first sign that reality is entering into the situation. I hope that Jordan and other Arab countries can build on that, with the assistance of Israel and the assistance of Arabia's friends.

In the present atmosphere of emotion and charge and counter-charge, for some time to come there will be no agreement in the United Nations on the form of a peace settlement or on its content. But whether the eventual peace is negotiated direct between Israel and each individual Arab country concerned, which, I suggest, would be the way in which an agreement is most likely to stick in future years, or whether others assist in the process, there are two main themes which must dominate any peace treaty. The first is the physical frontiers of Israel. The other is the removal of injustices arising from the treatment of Arab refugees over the years, which has done so much to sour the already difficult relations between Israel and the Arab world.

Taking, first, the physical frontiers of Israel, after two wars, when Israel's life has been literally at stake, all the indications are that she will feel bound to retain those geographical features which give her the maximum security for the future so that her life cannot be threatened again. The only modification which Israel might be willing to make in that would be international guarantees so specific as to amount to an automatic response to aggression; in other words, guarantees so specific that they would in fact amount to an alliance. But one must remember that the State of Israel has not much faith in international guarantees following the fate of the Tripartite Declaration. The alternative would be for buffer armies of the United Nations to be placed between her and the possible aggressors which could not be ordered out by any one party to a dispute in future.

It is possible that the United Nations might assist at a peace conference, but it cannot do so effectively, clearly, unless the Soviet Union, having saved a bit of her face and replaced some of the lost arms, decided to cut her losses and cooperate in peace making. However, I feel that the most likely rôle of the United Nations, which, incidentally, it is better equipped to play than taking part in the actual peace conference, would be to provide adequate forces to police those zones of territory which it may be agreed at a peace conference should be demilitarised on both sides of whatever frontiers might be settled. I would not for a moment attempt to define such areas or the frontiers of a future Israel. Any such attempt would be most foolish and futile and ought to be resisted.

Having said that, is there any constructive action in the immediate aftermath of war which might be taken by Her Majesty's Government, by themselves or together with others, to extract some of the poison out of the Middle East?

There is one action which could be taken, and I hope that the Foreign Secretary or the Minister of State will be able to refer to it. It is an internationally-financed programme to bring water and cultivation and to resettle the Arab refugees in a new and dignified life on the west bank of the Jordan, in the waste spaces of Israel and in the Gaza Strip. One must begin with those territories. Later, one can come to the Euphrates Valley and Iraq, which are very much under-populated at present. Later, too, one can come to Sinai, if international co-operation is available on the necessary scale.

For the time being, many hon. Members will have read the letter written to The Times recently by Mr. Edmund Rothschild and a follow-up article analysing the feasibility of such a project for the west bank, for Israel and for the Gaza Strip. I have had an opportunity of examining the proposal with Mr. Rothschild in more detail. I am no technician, but this has been gone into in great detail and depth by those who are, and they say that there is room to settle 125,000 families in these areas if three desalination plants, perhaps two in Israel, or perhaps one in the Gaza Strip and one in Israel, with the third in Jordan, could be made available to produce the water. The cost would be in the region of 800 million dollars. It could be a truly international scheme, in that we could produce the plant, the Americans could produce the plant, and so could the Russians if they were willing to co-operate.

The Government must obviously be satisfied that the project is feasible and that the estimates are realistic, but I hope that this matter will be treated as urgent. Under such a scheme, water can be brought to those who want it, and in those parts of the world it is literally life. It can be brought irrespective of frontiers, so it need not necessarily await a peace settlement under which the frontiers will be drawn. It may well be that where politics fail to induce coexistence and peace, the water of life might do so, or at least start the possibility of a fresh coexistence between Arab and Jew in Jordan in Israel and in the Gaza Strip.

There are two specific matters to which I aske the right hon. Gentleman to refer. I have no doubt he can assure us that every diplomatic effort is still being deployed to persuade the Arabs of the folly, and, incidentally, of the injustice, of cutting off oil from Britain, but I think that there is one point which ought to be made in justice to the Arab countries, and particularly those in the Gulf. If Britain has to make new arrangements with other countries, such contracts can only be made if they are long-term contracts. The Arab countries should realise this, and understand exactly what it would mean to them if Britain were driven to do so.

I interpolate here that tonight we will give the right hon. Gentleman the Bill for petrol rationing. There may be some points to raise on it, I do not know, but the Nigerian situation alone makes it imperative that the Government should have the Bill, and that it should be got through the House.

The second matter which I wish to raise relates to the Suez Canal. What is the right hon. Gentleman's information about the blocking of the canal? Is it blocked or is it not? I have been given very circumstantial evidence from eyewitnesses that there is no evidence of blocking. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman can confirm this, I simply do not know. But whether that is so or not, is it not a fact that in respect of this waterway the Egyptians have accepted the jurisdiction of the International Court? If they have, why has an injunction not been laid requiring Egypt to open it to all international shipping?

If that should fail—and surely it ought to be tried?—and if, as I think is certain, in her bankruptcy; destitution is probably the right word—Egypt, during the next six months or so, has to turn to the United States for wheat, in particular, and for other forms of aid, will the right hon. Gentleman impress on the United States Government, if they need impressing, that they have a leverage which they should use to ensure that this international waterway is open to the shipping of all nations?

I turn now to the politics of the Middle East, and to the influence on them of British policy in Aden. There have for many years been two rival political philosophies at work in the Middle East. There are revolutionaries, led by Egypt and Syria, who rely on armed revolt and violence to achieve the political aims of Arab self-sufficiency, and there are in opposition to them those countries whose basic desire is to build up gradually but surely the economic and social advance of their people in peace. The leaders of this school are South Arabia and Iran. The revolutionaries have added fear to their armoury, partly because they have enjoyed the support of the Soviet Union in arms, and partly because South Arabia, ever since Col. Nasser entered the Yemen, has been very vulnerable to attack since Egypt's war began, and should Egypt in any circumstances win the Yemen war.

This is a slight over-simplification, but, nevertheless, there is a lot of truth in what I am going to say about Egypt's eclipse as a military power. Some weapons may have been restored from the Soviet Union to Cairo—I think a token number of weapons—but one cannot restore reluctance to fight, or morale to any army. I think, therefore, that Egypt's eclipse as a military power—and I think that realistically one must put it as high as that—has given the exponents of moderation and evolution a new chance to assert themselves. It is in this setting, and against this very fine balance which has prevailed in the Middle East over recent years, that British policy and action in South Arabia must be judged and become supremely important.

Even if there was no oil in this area I would still be standing here today and arguing strongly for the protection of South Arabia in the early years of independence, and for a British presence in the Gulf, because I believe that this can tilt the scales on the side of comparative political stability in this vital area. Certainly, the right hon. Gentleman knows that such a decision by Her Majesty's Government could give confidence to South Arabia, to Iran, and to the Sheikhdoms of the Gulf.

In the last debate on Aden we on this side of the House asked the Government for assurances about security in Aden. We asked that enough troops should be sent to Aden to keep order. We asked, above all, that the local commander, when he had the troops, should be given the authority to use the weapons which were needed for the job, something which is essential in tackling problems of this kind. We asked that the Crater should be cleared of terrorists. All these things have been done. Very late, but they have been done; and one must say that the Crater operation was carried out with extraordinary skill and very clever timing—the best answer, I would suggest, to those defeatists who say that Britain has no rôle to play in sustaining order overseas. I would like to express my admiration for the grip which Sir Humphrey Trevelyan has taken on the situation. He was sent there in very difficult, some would say almost impossible, conditions.

There is one further question to which I must return and ask the right hon. Gentleman to answer—question of arms in Aden at large with the civilian population. I have here a letter dated 22nd June, some little time ago, from the manager of an important British concern, in which he says: Our building was hit by bazooka fire and swarms of armed men came to the front of the building shooting into the windows. This kind of information can be reproduced time and again from those who write back home from Aden today. For far too long—and I made this point some weeks and months ago now—too many arms have been in evidence, held by irresponsible people in Aden. What steps are being taken to call them in? The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs said the other day that this matter was being considered, and I would like to know the answer, because this is urgent.

Finally, the Foreign Secretary, we are told, is engaged on broadening the basis, or trying to broaden it, of the Federal Government. No one could be more skilful than Sir Humphrey Trevelyan at this kind of thing. He has great experience in it. If genuine co-operation can be assured, then the broader the base of the Government, clearly the greater confidence there will be in the future. No one disputes this. The Foreign Secretary has all the evidence about F.L.O.S.Y. He knows that they have cast their lot in with the revolutionaries. Some of the demands—I do not know whether this is true—which it is rumoured have been made of the existing Federal Government cause me some disquiet.

Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman can give the House his ideas. I can only say now that he must be well aware that if the present Federal Ministers are pushed beyond their better judgment of the Federation's interest for the future the right hon. Gentleman could be left with no Government at all. Then the fat would be in the fire. I ask for the greatest caution in the rearrangement of the Government, and that Federal Ministers who have been through so much should be kept in power.

For well over two years, in the opinion of this side of the House, there has been indecision and vacillation over the future of South Arabia. The right hon. Gentleman has examined the situation and, to his credit, he has come to different conclusions from those with which he started. But now, every aspect of this situation—military, constitutional and political—demands resolution and decision. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be able to show us in the speech that he makes tonight that this is forthcoming, so that out of the turmoil of the Middle East something to the credit of mankind may be saved.

4.21 p.m.

The Minister of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. George Thomson)

The House has had many opportunities during the last few weeks to discuss both the Arab-Israel conflict and the problem of South Arabia. The advantage of the debate which the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) has just opened is that it enables us to discuss the problems of the Middle East—the Arab-Israeli conflict, South Arabia, and other aspects of the Middle East—as a whole. One of the useful features of this is that it enables us to remind ourselves that, while we may be preoccupied with the Arab-Israeli conflict, our main interests in the Middle East and our most direct responsibilities there lie elsewhere than at the northern end of the Red Sea.

The countries in the Middle Eastern area are on a good deal better terms with Her Majesty's Government than would sometimes appear from the recent weeks of crisis. A breach of relations with this country always makes the headlines, whereas a decision to continue relations with us seldom counts as news. I find in the Foreign Office, as in Fleet Street, where I used to work, that the sad fact of life is that vice is news, but virtue is not.

Although our efforts to avert the war before it broke out, and to contain and limit it after it broke out, were misunderstood and misinterpreted in the Arab world, we have been able to maintain our links with the majority of Arab Governments, and our differences with certain other Arab Governments, who have not maintained relations with us, have not been of our own making. We would like to have good relations with these countries. We wish them and their people well. We can sympathise with and try to understand their aspirations and desires for a better social order within their own countries.

We are not opposed to Arab nationalism and in so far as we have clashed with it our quarrel has been only with certain manifestations of it which seem to us to have worked in a negative and destructive way. It is also worth recalling, with the opening of this general Middle Eastern debate, that the Middle East is more than the Arab world. Our relations with Iran remain close, and we shall continue to foster them.

The main development in the Arab/Israeli conflict since my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary last reported to the House has been—blessedly—the battle of words that has been fought at the United Nations, rather than any serious breaches of the cease-fire. There has been some fighting on the east bank of the Suez Canal, but reports do not suggest that the clashes have been on a large scale. What ever may have been their origin, we deplore these breaches of the cease-fire and we shall give full support to the United Nations' efforts to bring them to an end.

I want to give the House a report on the United Nations debate. As the House knows, after two weeks of discussion the General Assembly has failed to agree on any general political recommendation. It has now adjourned for a week. I hope that this breathing space may be used urgently to evolve some agreed and constructive expression of the Assembly's views. Any agreement will have to result in both balanced and realistic terms. This is surely the message of the deliberations of the last two weeks in New York.

The issue was focused in two resolutions. There was a draft resolution from a group of "non-aligneds" delegations, with Arab and Communist support, which went through a considerable amount of change before it came to the vote. But in the end, despite a number of amendments, it remained the case that Israel was to withdraw immediately, while the Security Council was merely to consider action on other points without any urgency.

In effect, therefore, the resolution of the non-aligned group remained a call for unconditional withdrawal. In addition, it made no mention of other practical problems, especially the end of belligerence. Even in its amended form the draft resolution was, therefore, fundamentally lacking in balance. In partciular, it was unrealistic to expect that it would achieve an Israeli withdrawal. Her Majesty's Government had, therefore, to cast their vote against it. So did 45 other delegations, including members of almost every group in the General Assembly.

The British Government voted for the other resolution, sponsored by Latin American delegations. It was not a perfect resolution, in our view. For example, it did not propose the appointment of a special representative of the Secretary-General, as put forward by my right hon. Friend, but it would have provided for a withdrawal from occupied territory. It would have called for a guarantee for the freedom of innocent passage through international waters, and it stated other essential principles. We warmly welcomed the reference in it to the need for a full solution of the problem of the refugees. This resolution, sponsored by the Latin Americans, in our view offered a prospect of making progress towards withdrawal and a durable peace.

Our decision on these two resolutions was taken on grounds of effectiveness. Without withdrawal there is no prospect of progress towards stability in the Middle East. Without acceptance of the territorial integrity of States—which means the dropping of any claim to belligerence—there is little hope of withdrawal. We voted for the resolution which was balanced and against the resolution which, because of what it left out, would have put the chances of success in jeopardy.

What then, is the outcome of the General Assembly debate? In the first place, the General Assembly adopted with near unanimity two resolutions—one on refugees and the other on Jerusalem—both of which we supported. The resolution on Jerusalem was passed by 99 votes, with none against and 20 abstentions. It represented, in my view, a firm international concensus against Israel's taking any unilateral action which would prejudice the status of that city in a final settlement. It was striking endorsement of what the Foreign Secretary said on this subject at the Assembly. His remarks then were misunderstood and misinterpreted in some quarters. But, not for the first time, when the dust has settled his judgment and his instinct have been confirmed.

In the second place, the Assembly—so it seemed to me—showed a growing sense of realism during the debate. It paid scant regard to the more extreme condemnatory resolutions tabled by the Soviet Union and Albania. Speaker after speaker emphasised, as my right hon. Friend had done on 21st June, the need for balance and a practical approach. There was widespread endorsement of the British suggestions for practical action. The House may recall the three particular points made by my right hon. Friend.

First, he said that we must deal at once with the question of refugees. I shall say something in more detail about that in a moment. Secondly, he said that the Secretary-General should nominate a representative of high standing to go at once to the area to explore with all the parties the possibilities of conciliation, and then report to the Secretary-General. Thirdly, he suggested that there should be an immediate strengthening of the United Nations Truce Supervisory Organisation which, under General Bull, has done such fine work.

My right hon. Friend, in his speech at the General Assembly, urged that the Government of Israel might permit General Bull to reoccupy Government House in Jerusalem, the headquarters from which he had been excluded during the fighting there. I am glad to report to the House that the Israeli Government have now agreed to this.

The results of the debate represented a reverse for those who called the emergency special session with the plain purpose of making destructive propaganda rather than seeking to make a positive and constructive contribution to a peaceful settlement. I would not describe what has happened as a failure for the United Nations. Rather, out of the debate and the very frustrations of the voting, has come a certain pattern which all parties to the Arab-Israel conflict would do well to ponder.

It is clear that a substantial body of world opinion does not support the attempt to condemn Israel or the unconditional call for the withdrawal of Israeli forces, but, on the other hand, virtually every member of the Assembly voted for one resolution or another which called for the withdrawal of Israeli troops as well as against any action to alter the status of Jerusalem. If both sides to the conflict will draw the lesson from this, the hopes for a practical solution will be greatly improved.

Equally, there was a wide range of agreement with my right hon. Friend's view that any arrangement for Israeli withdrawal must deal with other fundamental matters in which both parties to the conflict have a legitimate interest. I would mention two. First, as rightly mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman, is the need for action—for swift action, I hope, dramatic action to safeguard the interests and welfare of the refugees. This is an immediate humanitarian problem and one whose solution is basic to any general and enduring peace settlement to the conflict.

No settlement will be possible while the million Arab refugees continue to exist in the demoralising condition of receiving international charity and it is tragic that the recent war added a new dimension to this already intractable problem by the flight across the Jordan of about 150,000 refugees, mostly destitute Arabs. Although most were in refugee camps on the west bank before, they must now be found new accommodation.

Her Majesty's Government have made urgent representations to the Israeli Government on this problem. We stressed the need not only to refrain from driving the Arab refugees out of the occupied territories on the west bank, but to encourage them to stay and to allow those who had left to return. We therefore welcome the news that the Israeli Government has invited those who have left since 7th June to come back to the west bank. Behind all this, there lies the question of confidence; if the Israelis can win confidence in their intentions, a further tragic displacement may be avoided.

I would here pay tribute to the work of U.N.R.W.A. over the years to educate and clothe and feed the refugees and generally care for them. No one who, like myself, has seen its work in the camps can doubt that, without its efforts, an admittedly tragic situation would have been an absolute catastrophe. We have made an immediate additional contribution of a half a million dollars to U.N.R.W.A. and have also given £500,000 to the Jordanian Government for expenditure on rehabilitation and reconstruction.

I have heard criticisms that our emergency contribution in this respect has not been adequate, but I cannot accept that. We are already the second largest contributor after the United States and have been during the whole 17 years of this United Nations agency's life. This year, we shall reach the 100 million dollar mark in our contributions. I do not want to make invidious comparisons but, while the heaviest burden is carried by the United States, it is proper to put this in perspective and mention that, apart from the United States, all the other contributor nations put together have contributed less than three-quarters of Her Majesty's Government's contribution over the years under successive Governments. The Soviet Government, which are so generous with its arms to countries in the Middle East, have contributed nothing at all.

I now turn to the question of freedom for all countries in the Middle East from the pressures which have driven them to waste their scarce resources on a wholly unproductive arms race. New countries are now becoming involved in the business of supplying arms to the Middle East. Fresh consignments of Soviet arms are already arriving in Egypt and other Arab countries to replace those destroyed in the war. I do not seek to argue that, at this stage, the Soviet Government is planning to rearm Arab countries to the point at which a further conflict would become inevitable.

I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that the Soviet motive at this stage is much more likely to be diplomatic than military, but the dangers inherent in a new Middle East arms race are patent to all, and this fresh flow of the munitions of war underlines the need for a fresh international agreement on arms limitation. We made one effort to start something on these lines and failed. We cannot act alone. The arms race is a symptom and the disease can be cured only by a peace settlement, but we shall continue trying to bring about international agreement for the limitation of arms flowing into the Middle East.

I have outlined the principles on which we believe that a constructive settlement must be based, but how is it to be achieved? The right hon. Gentleman dealt with this point. The Israel Government have, understandably, insisted on direct negotiations with individual Arab States. This, of course, would be desirable if it were likely to happen, but we cannot be optimistic that direct contacts between Israel and her Arab neighbours are likely in the immediate future, and must, therefore, apply our minds to what other means there are of promoting progress.

In this, of course, we come back to the United Nations. Whatever the shortcomings of the organisation—we do not seek to ignore them—we believe that it can provide a framework in which a settlement can be arranged. Despite the differences which manifested themselves at the Security Council during the earler discussions, it is still our view that the Council can play a constructive part in the phase which lies ahead. Naturally, this pre-supposes a measure of agreement among permanent members of the Council which has often been lacking in the past, but, whatever the differences in approach now, we all have a common interest in avoiding a further round of Arab-Israel fighting.

If this were to happen, it might next time carry with it even more dangerous possibilities of direct confrontation between great Powers, with the possible use of nuclear weapons by the combatants themselves, making the outcome alarming for mankind as a whole. These are the kind of stakes involved in seeking a settlement of the conflict.

I too would like now to turn from the Arab-Israel dispute to some of the other Middle Eastern issue, particularly that of South Arabia—

Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)

My right hon. Friend says that it depends on the Security Council agreeing, but agreeing on what? That the Arabs must be compelled to make peace, or that, without peace, Israel should be driven from positions which she regards as necessary to security during war? What does he say the United Nations should agree upon?

Mr. Thomson

In our view, it ought to agree on the kind of balanced settlement which we have supported at the special Session and which I tried to spell out earlier in my speech.

In the Security Council, despite the deep differences, I believe that there is bound to be in the end—it may mean a long, patient struggle—a common interest in preventing a further round of Arab-Israel fighting, with all the implications which I described. This is the best hope of making progress. It is very easy to point to the obstacles, but one must be realistic about difficulties in the way of any sort of direct, face-to-face negotiation in this situation.

I want to turn to the wider Middle Eastern scene—

Earl of Dalkeith (Edinburgh, North)

Have any discussions been taking place on reviving some scheme like the Johnston Plan, which was turned down by the Arabs, as a means of providing some relief for refugees?

Mr. Thomson

Like the right hon. Gentleman, I read with great interest the proposals put forward by Mr. de Rothschild for a desalination scheme to link both water and power, which would be aimed at producing or contributing towards a reconciliation between the countries in the area. I prefer to leave that to my right hon. Friend to deal with when winding-up at the end of the debate.

I want to go on to talk about our more general interest in the Middle East. We have, of course, the general interest of seeking peaceful change throughout the whole Middle Eastern area. We have as a Government and as a nation an interest—indeed, it is a moral imperative—in asserting the principle of the right of small nations, whether Arab or Jewish, in the Middle East to survive and to enjoy territorial integrity. I believe that we can best pursue those interests through the United Nations, where our contribution can be an important one.

It is, however, in other parts of the Middle East that we have more direct responsibilities and obligations. In South Arabia and the Persian Gulf, we have obligations which we cannot simply shrug away. We have responsibilities which we have to carry out. Throughout the area, we have legitimate direct national interests, in building up our trade, in the passage of our ships and aeroplanes freely from one part of the world to another. We have those interests to defend and protect. It is important to keep this in perspective.

The Government are, for example, often criticised for expanding militarily in the Gulf while withdrawing militarily from Aden. I would like to say a word to my hon. Friends about why, in my view, this does not seem to be the inconsistent policy which they often describe it as being.

The reason for taking that step in the Gulf is the necessity for us to be able to fulfil peacekeeping obligations in the Gulf area that were formerly undertaken from Aden. The Gulf is a cockpit of territorial rivalries. It is true that they are less fanatical than those along the Arab-Israel frontiers, but they are still very dangerous rivalries. If the British Government were suddenly to withdraw, we would leave behind us a dangerous vacuum which might well precipitate in another part of the Middle East a dangerous great Power confrontation.

Her Majesty's Government's aim is to build up a stable regional balance of power between the countries of the area, but to do that takes time. Our forces are not there to keep the oil flowing, as is often charged. They have, therefore, not failed in that task, because it was never a task which was laid upon them. They are there as a peace-keeping presence.

It is sometimes argued that if we had no military presence in the Gulf, our oil interests would not have suffered in the aftermath of the Arab-Israeli conflict. I believe that to be a fallacy. The Americans, without bases or forces on Arab soil, have suffered just the same as us.

Our oil has been affected for two reasons: because of a lie about our intervention in the Arab-Israeli conflict; and, secondly, because the British Government were willing to take a lead in trying to prevent a war which, when it happened, brought much suffering to many of our friends in the Arab world.

The right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire said a few words about the oil situation and I would like to give the House some information about the latest position. The Arab countries generally have now resumed exports to most destinations, although in the case of both Iraq and Libya the position is not wholly clear about how much oil is flowing. The Arab oil countries are, however, still maintaining a ban on exports to the United Kingdom and the United States.

I understand the pressures which operated on those Governments in the highly-charged atmosphere at the time when they took action against their oil exports, but now that some of the tensions have eased I very much hope, as the right hon. Gentleman has urged, that cooler counsels will soon prevail.

The oil-producing countries must be aware, as the right hon. Gentleman said, that while the present ban creates temporary inconvenience for us, it is also bound to provoke some fundamental rethinking about the degree to which Western economies depend upon Arab oil. There is a swiftly changing pattern of energy resources and vast technological developments in the energy field. By 1980 even on present plans, we will have increased our nuclear power and our natural gas output by many times. The implications of this are plain for Arab countries. I hope, therefore, that it will once again be recognised all round that the interests represented by our very substantial oil investments in the Arab world and by the supplying companies there are of mutual economic benefit to both sides. The lifting of the ban on shipments to us is, at the very least, as much in Arab interests as it is in ours.

The right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire asked what diplomatic efforts we were making in that direction. We have been extremely active in putting the point of view which I have just described. My noble Friend at the United Nations has engaged in an intensive period of personal diplomacy with the Arab Foreign Ministers who were there which, I think, made a notable contribution to improving understanding and restoring relations between ourselves and the majority of countries in the Arab world.

The ban on oil exports to the United Kingdom and the United States does not create for us an insuperable problem. To deal with the general problem of Europe's oil supplies, the O.E.C.D., with our full support, has taken measures aimed at maximising supplies and rationalising deliveries. The key problem is not so much that there is not enough oil being produced in the Middle East, but that the closure of the Suez Canal and the restricted use of the Levant pipelines mean that tankers have to make the much longer journey from east of Suez round the Cape. Therefore, many more tankers are required and the flow of oil takes a longer time.

There is also the new uncertainty about the future of the flow of oil from Nigeria due to the political situation in that country. It is because of these uncertainties and the impossibility of forecasting developments during the Summer Recess, which is shortly about to begin, that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Power is introducing as a precautionary measure his oil rationing Bill later tonight. I am grateful for the assurance from the Opposition that they will facilitate the passage of that Measure.

That brings me to the right hon. Gentleman's question about the present position regarding the Suez Canal. It is certainly our information that the canal is physically blocked, not in one place, but in several places. It is difficult to form an actual estimate of how long it would take physically to clear the canal, but this is much more a political than an engineering problem.

The first thing to keep in mind from the point of view of this country is that free passage through the canal is not simply a British interest. We would be in a difficult position if that were so. It is an important general international interest. For example, I understand that one of the ships which is blocked in the canal is an American ship carrying much-needed wheat supplies to India to relieve the food shortage in that country. I hope that the international community as a whole will take active steps to seek to bring about a reopening of the canal.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)

The right hon. Gentleman has made the important statement that the canal is physically blocked. Can he elaborate a little and say where and how it is blocked and on what basis that conclusion is arrived at? Has there been aerial reconnaissance? Has the embassy or our representative in Cairo been able to go and see it? Can the right hon. Gentleman give more detail?

Mr. Thomson

The hon. Member is an eager hunter after facts, but I hope that he will understand if I do not give him the source of the information which I have just conveyed to the House. I ask him, however, to believe that it is well founded. It is a physical blocking by ships which are sunk in the canal.

Mr. Neil Marten (Banbury)

I realise that the right hon. Gentleman cannot give the source of the information, but what has worried many of us was the extreme delay—I think 10 days—in getting that information, according to the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. Can the right hon. Gentleman explain why there was that delay in getting the information?

Mr. Thomson

The reason for the delay was that a war was going on. It would have been extremely difficult to get exact information. Whereas it is easy for journalists to speculate about information which they receive, Ministers have to have corroborative evidence before they can give the House firm information. I have given the House this information.

I emphasise that this is a political rather than a physical problem. Therefore, one should concentrate on the political aspects of it. The fact is that within the last day or two the breaches of the cease-fire have involved fighting along the banks of the canal. This shows how difficult it is to make progress towards reopening the canal if we take this matter simply in isolation from dealing with the general range of problems associated with the Arab-Israel conflict.

Mr. Douglas Dodds-Parker (Cheltenham)

Who sank the ships? How big are they? Have any attempts been made to raise them?

Mr. Thomson

I would rather not speculate on that point at the moment, but would keep to my main point, which is that the United Nations has an important rôle to play in terms of establishing free and innocent passage through this great international waterway.

The other major interest which we have in the Middle East, apart from oil and the free passage through the canal, is our general trading interest. Last year, for example, our exports to the area of the Middle East exceeded £300 million. The employment, therefore, of many of the constituents of many of us in the House, depends upon that trade with the Middle East carrying on and, if possible, expanding, and, therefore, depends a great deal upon our being able to maintain and improve our relations with all countries of the Middle East, on both sides of the conflict and those who are not directly involved in the conflict itself. In safeguarding all those interests which I have been describing, we have an immediate task in repairing the damage to our relations with the Arab countries caused by the erroneous belief that we took the Israeli side in the fighting.

The right hon. Gentleman asked me what we had done to dispose of these false allegations. Over recent weeks we have been engaged in the most intensive campaign, using every information medium available to us in order to get round the world the truth of what happened. We had a most useful talk with King Hussein in London earlier this week, and we were glad to see that King Hussein said publicly that he had no evidence whatever that the United States and the United Kingdom were involved on the Israeli side in the fighting. We have not been able to get an investigation mounted by the United Nations, but my right hon. Friend came back from the special General Assembly convinced that at the United Nations now there is very little, if any, credence given to these allegations.

I want to come to the problems of South Arabia raised by the right hon. Gentleman. South Arabia, like other parts of the Middle East, has been affected by the Arab-Israeli conflict, and it was the mounting tensions caused by the effect of that conflict that were the background to the mutiny of the Federal forces, even though the origin of that mutiny lay directly in internal tribal and personal troubles. I know that the House agrees with what the right hon. Gentleman said in welcoming the news that British forces have completely reoccupied Crater. This was achieved with the minimum of casualties. Two Arabs were killed during the entire operations. This was a spectacular example of the British Army. The military and political difficulties were formidable.

I know that the House will wish to join in congratulating all concerned on the success of the operation and on the professional skill and patience—which was not wholly shared in the House during the period we had to wait—with which the local authorities, military and civil, have handled this most dangerous situation.

As the House knows, the High Commissioner and the Commander-in-Chief considered that to seek to re-establish British control of Crater earlier would have brought the risk of heavy bloodshed. It was right not to take that risk at that time. Their judgment on the delicate and difficult question of timing has been amply justified. I was asked by the right hon. Gentleman whether there had been any undue delay in the matter, although I think that he agreed that timing was of the essence in the decision that had to be taken.

Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles (Winchester)

The right hon. Gentleman has rightly paid tribute to the action of our troops in Aden and Crater. Are these troops considered officially to be on active service when they are operating inside Aden and inside Crater? My information is that the troops believe that they are not. They believe that when their friends suffer casualities, the widows will not get full active Service pensions.

Mr. Thomson

That is a very important matter, although it is primarily for the Defence Department. My right hon. Friend will give the hon. and gallant Gentleman an answer at the end of the debate.

In view of some Press comments, I want to add that the High Commissioner and the Commander-in-Chief, together with the Security Commander, have worked throughout on the problems of Crater and of internal security in Aden generally in the closest consultation and agreement. Any illusion in any quarter that we were prepared to abdicate from our responsibilities in Crater has been shattered. As I have said many times in the House, it is our duty to maintain law and order in Aden, and we shall carry out that duty for as long as we have responsibility in Aden.

The right hon. Gentleman asked me some questions about the authority for using weapons on this difficult task of internal security in Aden. There were suggestions that our troops were restricted during the earlier incidents in Crater by not being able to use heavy weapons. There is no truth in this at all. The local commanders have—and have always had—authority to sanction the use of whatever weapons are necessary in the circumstances. Obviously, many factors have to be taken into consideration, among them the question whether the degree of ill-feeling caused among the local population by the excessive use of force outweighs the tactical military advantage gained. I consider that the success of the Crater operation is the fullest vindication of the tactics which have been used and of the judgment of both the military and the civil people in control there.

Dame Irene Ward (Tynemouth)

In view of what the right hon. Gentleman said, when these suggestions were made earlier why was no public statement made immediately to the House and to the country? This matter has caused immense anxiety among the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers and other regiments associated with them. If the statement which he made is true, and if he believes it, is it not extraordinary that he did not—or the Foreign Secretary—make a statement right away? It would have allayed a great deal of the anxiety.

Mr. Thomson

Whatever the hon. Lady cares to believe, I hope that the rest of the House will believe what I have just said. I am simply repeating in a longer form what I said to the House very late at night last Wednesday, when we were discussing the Committee stage of the Aden Bill. There has also been a Question to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence. I appreciate the anxieties which were aroused and I tried to meet them in the middle of last week.

The right hon. Gentleman also asked me, as he has asked many times, about the question of arms in the hands of civilians inside the Crater area and the com- plaints that civilians in Aden go about carrying arms. I would tell the House that the instructions to our forces are very firm and direct on this matter. They are that all unauthorised arms should be taken into custody under any circumstances where that is practicable. Again, our troops have another difficult task on their hands, but I know that they have done everything possible to carry it out. There is a real problem.

From his experience on other occasions in earlier years, the right hon. Gentleman knows some of the difficulties of putting an effective stop to the flow of arms to terrorist groups in an area such as Aden. I can only say that the new High Commissioner, Sir Humphrey Trevelyan, is actively seized of the problem and is doing everything possible to improve the position about the spread of arms among civilians.

We have to plan in South Arabia and in Aden on the assumption that the internal security situation will remain difficult for some time. This is the reason why we decided to fly out an additional battalion to Aden last week to lighten the load on the troops already there, who had been fully stretched in recent months. At the same time our troops' protective duties will be eased by the departure of all the families of Servicemen and British civilian officials, as well as most of the non-official families, which will be completed by the middle of this month.

It is appropriate for a word to be said here on behalf of Her Majesty's Government in praise of all our British civilians in South Arabia, both official and non-official, who have soldiered on—I think that the verb is appropriate—in warlike conditions for a very long time, indeed, in conditions in which their day-to-day work has been increasingly unpleasant and increasingly dangerous. They have been working, and are continuing to work, for the benefit and prosperity of South Arabia. When the present troubles are over, I believe that the South Arabian people will say that they owe a debt of gratitude to the many civilians and their families who stuck it out in conditions of such difficulty.

We shall seek progressively to hand over districts of Aden town to local security forces before independence, to accustom them to the problems which they will face after independence. But, until independence, the High Commissioner and British Security Commander will retain overall responsibility and operational command for these activities; and I think that recent events will have convinced the House how essential is this final safeguard.

Mr. Ben Whitaker (Hampstead)

Would my right hon. Friend agree that the best and surest method of ensuring the security of Aden and the Persian Gulf in the future would be to evolve a democratic Government for both of these places, a Government which is representative of the majority of the population?

Mr. Thomson

I agree with my hon. Friend and I was hoping to come to that matter.

I apologise to the House for having spoken at such length. The constitution which my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary commended to the House is, I believe, a modern Constitution, one which provides a framework within which all groups of different political views can come together to work for an independent South Arabia. It is a Constitution which makes provision for the establishment of a broad-based caretaker Government to be established.

Discussions are now taking place with a view to the establishment of such a Government, but the House will understand that this is a confidential process and that I cannot go into the details of these discussions at present. I can, however, inform the House that Mr. Makawee, one of the F.L.O.S.Y. leaders, has this week arrived in New York to meet members of the United Nations Mission. I very much welcome this development and my noble Friend, Lord Caradon, who has been keeping in the closest touch with the United Nations Mission, is hoping to talk with Mr. Makawee as soon as possible.

Mr. Sandys (Streatham)

The right hon. Gentleman has several times today, and in previous speeches, referred to the formation of a caretaker Government. I know that the phrase "caretaker Government" appears in United Nations resolutions, but has it any significance now that it has been decided to initiate this new Constitution; to back the Federal Government and enable it to broaden itself? Is there a suggestion that the Federal Government will be done away with and that a different Government, called a caretaker Government, will be set up?

Mr. Thomson

As the right hon. Gentleman said, the phrase comes from United Nations resolutions, which have been accepted by the Federal Government. Indeed, the Federal Government are co-operating in these efforts to broaden their base and to establish a caretaker Government. The phrase is itself a reflection on the fact that there cannot be free elections in Aden and South Arabia for some time yet. There is, therefore, bound to be a caretaker in the sense of waiting until there can be full democratic elections in the territory.

Mr. Sandys

Does this phrase mean that the Federal Government will go on as they now are, with such broadening as can be brought about—a process which everybody supports—but that there is no question of doing away with this Government and setting up a different Government for an interim period?

Mr. Thomson

The right hon. Gentle man must put his own gloss on the words I have used. We are in the middle of delicate and important discussions, and I would rather not go into any great detail on this topic.

Mr. Francis Noel-Baker (Swindon)

I agree that the arrival of this representative of F.L.O.S.Y. in New York is a major development. Can my right hon. Friend say whether Her Majesty's Government have considered giving facilities for Lord Shackleton and Sir Humphrey Trevelyan to go to New York to see all these people and F.L.O.S.Y. representatives?

Mr. Thomson

I think that my hon. Friend has misunderstood the matter. I sympathise with his motive; he wants direct discussions between Her Majesty's Government and representatives of F.L.O.S.Y. under the auspices of the United Nations Mission in New York. We are fully in agreement with this desire. My noble Friend, Lord Caradon, is a Minister of Her Majesty's Government and he is hoping to meet Mr. Makawee —and, therefore, this will constitute direct discussions between Her Majesty's Government and F.L.O.S.Y. under the auspices of the United Nations. I do not know what more my hon. Friend wants in this respect.

I have apologised to the House for having spoken at such length. I conclude by saying that the recent Arab-Israel fighting does not in any way affect the principles and policies of the plans which we have put forward for independence for South Arabia on 9th January of next year. Indeed, it seems that, in the particular context of South Arabia, the policies which we have put forward—the kind of principles which the Foreign Secretary put forward in March of this year to the House of our approach to Middle Eastern problems—have had their validity emphasised.

They apply in large measure not only to the problems of South Arabia, but to Britain's relations with the countries of the Middle East as a whole. I will restate them. We, for our part, seek no political advantage for ourselves in any of the countries in the Middle East. We desire only that the people there should be able to live their own lives in peace without the threat of attack by their neighbour. In all our relations with Middle East countries, that is the direction in which we are working and, with the United Nations, we shall seek to stand by and fulfil these principles.

5.6 p.m.

Mr. J. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)

I agree with a great deal of what has been said by both Front Bench speakers. I agree with many of the remarks of the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) and with the Minister of State when he told us that our main interests in the area under discussion are centred on the Canal and on Aden.

If I appear to take a rather more pessimistic view than was expressed in those two speeches, it is not because do not equally share their hopes for this area but because I believe that in the past we in this country have too often blinded ourselves to the facts of the Middle East and have tended to comfort ourselves by turning our backs on the realities of the situation.

I hope that the Foreign Secretary will tell us more about Britain's policy on the supply of arms. It is disturbing to learn that within a few weeks of the end of the war, Russia is apparently pouring arms into the area. While this emphasises the difficult position of other countries, we should be told the policy of Her Majesty's Government in this matter. I believe that we still employ an arms salesman. What instructions has he been given about the supply of British arms to the countries of the Middle East?

In my view, we have very little power and very little part to play directly in the area. I make an exception of Aden. Otherwise the sooner we shed the remaining vestiges of our old imperial responsibilities in this area the better—and then we must cease to delude ourselves about the sort of rôle that we can play. As for Aden, we must not leave a Congo situation behind; and I join in the congratulations which have been paid to our troops who have been fulfilling a most difficult rôle. It is almost impossible to keep order in a situation in which it is known that one will be leaving. Our troops deserve our highest thanks for what they have done.

I hope that our success—and it certainly has been a success—will not arouse again the belief that we have some undefined peace-keeping rôle to play in the Gulf. In both Front Bench speeches I thought I heard echoes of this belief. I do not believe that our success in Aden has any bearing on our future rôle in the Gulf. We should buy our oil from the Gulf. I do not consider that a military presence helps us to get the oil. Indeed, it decreases the likelihood of peace in the whole area.

Unpleasant though it may be, we should also realise that we are widely suspect in the Middle East. In many ways, the suspicion is wholly unjustified and it does no harm for all the parties in the House firmly to rebuff the lies which were told about Great Britain by the Arab countries during the recent conflict. There is sometimes a disposition to say that one should not say anything rude about the Arab countries. This has not inhibited them from saying some very rude things about us. Whatever we might have said about them, they could not have taken more violent action against us, short of declaring war. All parties in the House will, therefore, I hope, agree with the Government that the accusation that we took part in the war is monstrous. Considering that we have supplied large amounts of aid to the Arab countries, it is not for them to accuse us for being responsible for the troubles in the Middle East.

Having said that, I must also say that I find a disposition in this country—and this, too, should be rebutted—to infer that somehow recent events justify the action we took in 1956 over the Suez Canal. If that feeling exists, it is most dangerous. In fairness to the Arab countries, we must say that that is an instance in recent British history which could give them some right to view us with suspicion in the Middle East, and that it is a tragic event that has created a canker, not only in other people's view of Great Britain but in the British people's confidence in the protestations and policies of their own Government.

Having said that, again, it is perfectly true to say that America has equally been bitterly attacked by the Arab countries as has Britain, and America certainly did not support us in the Suez adventure. Our unfortunate situation is that we are, on the one hand, tarred with the Suez brush and, on the other hand, widely regarded through the world—and, again, I say this simply as a fact to be taken into account—as the satellite of America. Indeed, we are regarded as being more of a satellite of America than Rumania is of Russia. Therefore, in a sense, we are having the worst of both worlds.

I believe, therefore, that before we begin to advise other people, far less pretend to take any unilateral action in the Middle East, we must do a lot of rethinking of our own foreign policy. I do not share the view expressed by the Minister of State that once this is over everything can go on as before. We have to give a lot of consideration to whether we want to be regarded as America's close ally, if not satellite, or move more into a Gaullist situation.

To digress, this is extremely important in view of the reported remarks in the Foreign Secretary's excellent speech, if I may say so, about Europe. Although the Prime Minister seemed to deny that it meant to do so, this speech has raised in many people's minds the question of European foreign policy. But it is nonsense to talk about European foreign policy when there is this very wide gap between our foreign policy and that of France. If we are to talk about a European foreign policy or defence policy we must clear our minds as to what sort of policy it will be, and whether there is any sort of common ground between us and France.

I would also be extremely chary about giving advice to the Israelis. In some ways, indeed, I think that the Israelis could give some advice to us, because they got us off an awkward hook in the Middle East. I certainly share the wish that they will act with restraint, and if anything I may say seems to indicate the opposite I hope that the misunderstanding will not last. We must, however, face the facts of life as lived in the modern world. Do not let us pretend that if the Israelis act with restraint, retire behind their frontiers and carry on as before, it will necessarily do them any great good. One must not pretend that if the Israelis are attacked again by the Arabs the western countries will rush to their aid. I do not think that they will.

We have had this situation in Europe. Russia did not retire behind her frontiers after the war. On the contrary, she carried out a very big programme of annexation all over Europe. There may have been a reason for the annexation but whether that is so or not, no one now thinks any worse of Russia for it, and it does not prevent Mr. Kosygin from being very well received. I do not ask for a reversal of policy, but the fact is that Russia has not been widely blamed for that annexation.

Sir Barnett Janner (Leicester, North-West)

I have been listening rather carefully to what the right hon. Gentleman said. What exactly did he mean by saying that he hopes that the Israelis will not act exactly as before? What has Israel done before that the civilised world could possibly take objection to?

Mr. Grimond

The hon. Gentleman misunderstands me. I say that if Israel retires behind her frontiers that is very desirable, but we should not put ourselves in the position of having inferred that in future she will get unconditional support from the Western world because she has behaved well. I am afraid that here virtue must be its own reward.

Sir Harmar Nicholls (Peterborough)

Is the right hon. Gentleman saying that he would like the Israelis to retire, if they can, behind their former frontiers, but that if they do not, for the reasons he has given, he does not blame them?

Mr. Grimond

I am saying that. I say that unless the Israelis get much more definite guarantees than they so far appear at all likely to get, I believe that they can hardly be blamed for taking some guarantees themselves.

I pass on to the delicate question of refugees—

Mr. Frank Hooley (Sheffield, Heeley)

If the Arab States were at any time to seize Israeli territory, would the right hon. Gentleman be prepared to propagate the same argument?

Mr. Grimond

The Arabs may think that it was their territory at one time, and the Latvians may think that Latvia was their territory, but I do not think that we can say to the Israelis that they must go back indefinitely in time unless we are prepared to give a very much firmer guarantee than we have so far been prepared to give.

The refugess are the tragic feature of this situation, but before dealing with them let me say that there have been reports of gross ill-treatment of Jews in Arab countries, and that, as we are talking about the refugees, it would be fair to raise this matter at the United Nations. There are also reports of barbaric events in the Yemen, and I believe, too, that if we are engaged, as we say, in a humanitarian programme in the Middle East, we should make inquiries about what is happening in the Yemen.

It must be said that there is no lack of money or space in the Arab world to resettle the refugees if the Arabs regard themselves as a united people. There is plenty of money from the oil royalties to settle the refugees. I do not altogether approve of past British policies, but Britain did not encourage extreme Zionism. Perhaps she should have done more to stop it, but she cannot be blamed for the situation. Therefore, while I hope that the Government will give a reasonable contribution, I agree that our record over the refugees is very good and that it is time the Russians and the Arabs contributed some funds.

Further, if the Arab people wanted to resettle the refugees there was nothing to prevent them from resettling them in the Jordan Valley, if they had wanted to, or in many other parts of the Arab world. Therefore, the first obligation lies upon the Arabs.

But we must recognise that what the refugees want is to return to their homes in Palestine, and, again, we ignore facts if we think that it is good enough to say to them, "Go and settle somewhere else, and we will give you money." The refugees want to return to their homes, from which they were evicted. I speak as one who was an anti-Zionist when the State of Israel was set up. I now think that it is one of the most remarkable countries in the world, and that we cannot possibly talk of its extinction. But, at that time, I thought it wholly wrong for some European nations, which were the persecutors of the Jews, to salve their conscience by acquiesing in the expulsion of the Arabs, who were not guilty of persecution of the Jews, from their homes.

It is their homes that the Arab refugees want. I remember being told that the Arabs in North Africa still keep the keys of their former houses in Spain because they want to go back there, and I am afraid that the Palestinian refugees will for a very long time want to go back. We must not delude ourselves: the provision of money or resettlement in other parts of the world will not settle the problem. By all means let us contribute but if resettlement outside Israel is the solution, the Arabs could well have done it themselves.

Mr. Frank Tomney (Hammersmith, North)

May I disabuse the right hon. Gentleman? Events have demonstrated that whenever money is called for from the rich oil kings of Arabia Arab unity falls apart completely. The only exception so far was the £100 million advanced by Kuwait to Iraq, and she did it only because she was afraid of Iraq grabbing the oil wells. The money is never put down.

Mr. Will Griffiths (Manchester, Exchange)

I was interested in what the right hon. Gentleman was saying about settling refugees. Does he believe that Israel could take any refugees back within her existing frontiers? May I remind him that Israel has been seeking to get 3 million Jews from Russia to settle in Israel?

Mr. Grimond

I agree with the hon. Member for Manchester, Exchange (Mr. Will Griffiths). I should be pleased if Israel would take refugees, but there are a great many refugees and they have a loyalty to other countries. A large disaffected minority might cause immense difficulty. In Israel there is extremely little space in which to settle. If anyone in this House had been a member of a kibbutz, say near the old Lake Genesevat, or near the Gaza Strip, or in the narrows of Israel where it is only 15 miles wide, faced with a holy war constantly preached for the total destruction of his State. I think that he would feel very much inclined to try to achieve more defensible boundaries than there are at present. The Arabs, after all, have not wanted simply to contain Israel, but to destroy it.

Unless the Western world is prepared to do much more for Israel than seems likely, we should be chary about blaming the Israelis for looking to their own efforts for their own salvation. In this difficult situation, what can be done? First, I believe that a solution lies in direct reconciliation between the Arabs and the Israelis. Israel must be a Middle Eastern country. So long as she appears as an outpost of Europe so long will she be under suspicion. Secondly, I am not wholly pessimistic about the return of the matter to the Security Council. I agree with the Minister of State. I do not think the United Nations in the last week or so has come out of these events as badly as many appear to think. It may be that the United Nations will be able to give some assistance to a rational settlement, but do not let us blind ourselves to the position of Russia—nor to the inherent difficulties. The United Nations can only help.

Russia has always been opposed to international settlements by the United Nations. She has never paid a penny towards any international force. I find it very unlikely that she would change her policy now. I fear that what obviously would be the best solution may be baulked by Russia. Not only should the frontiers between Israel and the Arab States be guaranteed, but there should be a physical United Nations presence on a strip of land over which the United Nations has control. I do not believe that so long as they are guests, so to speak, in other people's countries they will ever have the authority to stop infiltration and possible further hostilities. U Thant has been unfairly blamed for withdrawing from the Sinai Peninsula. He was bound to withdraw unless he were to break all his obligations. This time the United Nations must control the territory in which it operates. But will Russia allow this? I should very much like to see some international agreement reached about the Canal.

Here again, it may be that in time it will become possible but it will take time. I understand that in a few weeks we are to have a new White Paper on Defence from the Government. I hope that at the same time we shall have a new statement of foreign policy because I do not believe that defence can be divorced from foreign policy. We must quite clearly accept that the basis of our independent and unilateral responsibility in the Middle East is finished and that we have a very limited rôle to play. We should concentrate our efforts on getting order in Aden until we can hand over to another Government which is capable itself of keeping order and achieving some international guarantee over the Suez Canal.

5.25 p.m.

Mr. F. J. Bellenger (Bassetlaw)

I find myself so much in agreement with a large part of what the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) said that it will certainly shorten my speech. Although I shall try to be as diplomatic as my right hon. Friend the Minister of State was, I think the House must recognise the facts of the situation.

Israel was set up as a State as a result of the Balfour Declaration. A large number of Arabian countries were liberated, if I may use that word, as a result of Britain in that area, largely destroying the Turkish Empire. Then we have gone on with very little help from the Arab States and for 19 years they have made their own policy in the Middle East come what may. The result is that today Britain is penalised in her oil supplies directly by the Arab States, but behind them all by Russia.

I wonder whether the United Nations will go on, or go the same way as did the League of Nations. I have listened in this House and elsewhere to so many speeches which placed reliance on the old League of Nations, but where did we end? I am coming to the conclusion that perhaps certain alliances might be better than the United Nations. The Foreign Secretary tells me that the problem will be solved in the Security Council and not by face-to-face negotiations between Israel and the Arab States. I wonder. With the veto there, with Russia following a policy which essentially is her own and not international, I wonder. There are two sides to every bargain. There has to be one who is prepared to pay the price and one who is prepared to accept the price when it is settled.

Is there really any possibility of the Security Council or the General Assembly coming to some resolution which will satisfy Russia? I doubt it. If not, I admit it is a pessimistic view and does not coincide with the point of view of the right hon. Gentleman, we shall be in a very difficult position. That is what leads me to think that perhaps the old alliance system under present circumstances may be better than the United Nations. [HON. MEMBERS: "Shame."] I Know that some of my hon. Friend, and certainly my right hon. Friends, will disagree, but all I am doing is recognising the facts, as the right hon. Gentleman has asked us to do.

The next point I endorse thoroughly is on the question which was just floated before us, trailed if hon. Members like, about the supply of arms. If a litigant goes into court he has to go with clean hands. In this situation, has Britain clean hands? We know that Russia has not. According to reports, she is rearming the Arab nations with modern Russian weapons. Are we to do the same with Jordan, because we were the main supplier of Jordan? I say to the Government Front Bench that this is a matter of principle which they have to decide.

The Foreign Secretary should answer the point put to him by the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland, which I endorse, and tell us what the Government's policy is over the supply of arms to the Middle East. If we go on in the way in which Russia means to do, as sure as fate there will be a fourth occasion in which the pre-emptive strike will come, and from a different quarter—the Arabs. The Israelis have shown that a pre-emptive strike is the answer, and I do not blame them. [HON. MEMBERS: "Shame."] If I were constantly having outside my front door burglars, murderers and assassins saying what they would do to my wife and children, I would react very quickly. That is what the Israelis have been doing, and in my opinion they were quite right to do it. [HON. MEMBERS: "Shame." She has proved herself to be a nation.

When we look at the military side of this short war, we see that one of the reasons why the Israelis defeated the Arab nations was that the system of defence which the Arab nations had was a static defence behind prepared positions, the Russian system. The Israelis would not conform to that. They went straight through, and good luck to them that they did.

Therefore, I want to put this point to the House. I understand the difficulties of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary. Of course, we cannot clear the Suez Canal by ourselves. Russia will see that that is blocked for as long as she wants it to remain blocked. What are we going to do? We may be able to get our petrol and oil somewhere and pay a higher price for it. If so, let us admit it; let us get on with it and pay the higher price. At the present moment it seems to me that we are playing a game where we have only got low-powered cards. We have got no court cards in our hands at the moment. That is the reason why Britain is referred to by a gentleman in a far off country that we know little about as a "toothless old bulldog". Maybe we are. All I am asking from Her Majesty's Government is a policy that we can support.

I am not at all sure that the policy adumbrated by my right hon. Friend the Minister of State today is the right policy. As I said when I began, I agree with most of what the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland said, so that there is no need for me to repeat what he said. But on the arms question I feel that a point of vital principle has been raised. Some of my hon. Friends may say, "Russia is going to supply the Arab nations. What about the Israelis? Why should not we supply them?" Of course, we can be like that noble statesman in France who proclaims his lofty neutrality, at the same time providing the Mystères and Mirages in order to overwhelm the Egyptians and others. Very well, let our programme be "Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition", but let us realise that in saying that, we are hypocritical as a nation.

I believe there are many people in this country who do not want Britain to engage in that arms traffic. It is profitable, but it has long been proclaimed by my own party that we should get out of that traffic. We do not seem to be doing it at the present time, and I have a suspicion that one of the things which were discussed between King Hussein and the Prime Minister was the possibility of this country providing arms.

I protest at the unreality of the situation. Israel has certain positions which she has won by the force of arms. We can do as I have just suggested or, like the Russians, we can say "Back to your own frontiers before we discuss what happens in the future." Israel would be unwise to accept that situation, and I was glad to hear from my right hon. Friend that Her Majesty's Government could not support a resolution like that. Israel is now in a position where she has won considerable territory, some of it of great strategic value. But she is not out of the wood yet. She is far too near some of those Arab States and centres where she can be attacked. Look at the situation in the Tiran Strait, or the Gulf of Aqaba, whatever one likes to call it. She has got the entrance to it, but if she gives up Sinai what is her guarantee for the future? I agree with the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire that it would be very nice if we could get the United Nations—which includes Russia and France—to give a substantial guarantee. Then the Israelis might be prepared to bargain. But I would certainly not ask them to give up some of those important points that they have got unless there is a cast-iron guarantee. The only cast-iron international guarantee that can be given is to place forces there under the aegis of the United Nations, and not even subject to the Secretary-General.

There was obviously a threat of war when the peace-keeping force left Egypt. Israel accepted that situation and she went to war. I hope she will be very careful in any negotiations not to give up certain positions that she won by her valour and courage. I think that the Arab States are so involved in hatred, as Hitler was, that they really want to drive the Jews into the sea. Hitler said the same thing and it involved us in a war. If that involved us in a war for moral reasons then, Britain has got to proclaim to the world that she will play her part in providing guarantees for Israel's security, and I hope those guarantees will be substantial.

5.36 p.m.

Mr. Sandys (Streatham)

This is a wide-ranging debate and, like other hon. Members, I propose to touch lightly on various subjects.

First, I welcome the Minister's assurance that the Government are trying to improve our relations with the Arab countries. In this process I believe it is important to distinguish between those Arab countries which are basically friendly to Britain and those which are basically hostile to us and to our interests.

Like the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond), I do not propose to give any advice to Israel. Having criticised the Foreign Secretary for lecturing Israel about the terms of the future peace settlement, I shall be careful not to do the same myself. All I wish to say is that I am sure that Israel's one and only objective will be to achieve security. But it is surely unrealistic to think that the Israelis are likely to give up their bargaining position until they see how they are to get security. Israel and her Arab neighbours will have to find a way of living in peace together. Like the right hon. Member for Basset-law (Mr. Bellenger), I think that it is better in the first place that they should try to sort things out among themselves. If after a while they are seen to be getting nowhere, then perhaps other countries may be able to help.

Meanwhile, I am sure we can all agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) that the resettlement of the Arab refugees must be an essential element in any solution. I hope, therefore, that the Government will give high priority to a study of the possibility of co-operating in large-scale irrigation schemes using the latest techniques for desalination.

I join with the Minister in congratulating our forces on the successful reoccupation of the Crater area in Aden. This is not primarily a debate about South Arabia, but there are one or two specific questions which I wish to put to the Government.

First, what is the present legal position of the two terrorist organisations? Did the lifting of the ban carry with it a free pardon for all crimes committed before the ban was lifted? And what about crimes committed since the ban was lifted? Have they been given an indefinite licence to murder? Within days of the lifting of the ban, the N.L.F. and F.L.O.S.Y. were engaged in an armed rebellion in which a number of Britons and Arabs were killed. May we be assured that every effort will be made to arrest and bring to trial the leaders of those organisations and others concerned in these crimes? I understand that, instead, the Foreign Secretary is to have a meeting with the leader of F.L.O.S.Y. Is that not what we were told earlier?

Mr. George Thomson

My noble Friend the Minister of State will be seeing him in New York.

Mr. Sandys

Mr. Smith, of course, is untouchable, but these people who commit murder every day are shown every courtesy and civility. The Government apparently think it is perfectly proper and decent to meet them.

Mr. Paget

Have they not in the past few days demonstrated another difference between themselves and Mr. Smith? Mr. Smith can rule. In the Crater district F.L.O.S.Y. demonstrated that it could not rule.

Mr. Sandys

I shall not pursue that point. But I should like to be assured that no one who either instigated or committed these acts of murder will be invited to join the South Arabian Government or, as it now seems to be called, the caretaker Government. May we be assured of that? It makes a nonsense of the Government's intention to re-establish law and order if after there has been a bloody rebellion they immediately ask the people who were responsible for it to take over the Government of the country. [An HON. MEMBER: "It has happened before."] I abhor these double standards. If it is a white man he can do no right.

Everyone, including the South Arabian Ministers themselves, want to see the Federal Government strengthened and broadened. The first step is to bring in the new Constitution as quickly as possible. A further effort should then be made to persuade the States of the Hadhramaut in the East Aden Protectorate to join the Federation. But I am afraid that until law and order is restored they may be reluctant to do so. I suggest, also, that the Federal Ministers should be urged to consider including in the Government a prominent officer of the South Arabian army. Apart from the value of his military experience, the presence in the Government of a senior army officer should help to assure the loyalty of the armed forces and the police, which is so vital to the stability of the new State of South Arabia.

I come now to the question of the future of Perim. What action are the Government taking, following upon our debate the other night, to secure the internationalisation of this island? I understand that the Federal Government have asked that Perim should be transferred to the Federation on independence. It has never been part of the Federation and it is not part of Aden Colony. They have, therefore, no claim to it. Her Majesty's Government should not allow any such claim to deter them from pursuing the proposal to internationalise Perim, which could be of such immense importance for the freedom of shipping through the Red Sea in future years.

Like the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland, I wish to say a word about the use of poison gas in the Yemen. From the report of the International Red Cross, it is now clear beyond all doubt that poison gas has been dropped on the villages of the tribes which oppose the Egyptian occupation and that quite a large number of people have suffered an agonising death. It is the height of hypocrisy for Nasser to complain, without any supporting evidence, that Israel used napalm in the recent war, while he himself continues to attack his fellow Arabs with poison gas. The other day the Foreign Secretary promised that he would raise this matter at the United Nations. Did he do so during his recent visit to New York? I hope that he will tell us about this when he winds up.

Sir B. Janner

The right hon. Gentleman has said that Nasser has complained of the Israelis having used napalm. Is he aware that there is no evidence whatever of that having been done?

Mr. Sandys

That is precisely what I said.

I turn now to the wider aspects of the Middle East problem. The recent war has drawn attention to some of the stark realities which many have been trying to sweep under the carpet for some time. The first is that Russia is making a determined bid to become the dominant Power in the Middle East, both economically and militarily. If this is allowed to happen, it would not only seriously threaten oil supplies, but would place a formidable barrier across the communications between Europe and Asia. It is time that we and other interested countries began seriously to consider what action we can take to prevent this dangerous development.

There is no doubt that the Russians are pouring arms into Egypt. They are doing this partly to rebuild the shattered prestige of their protégé, Nasser, and partly to restore Soviet influence in the Arab world. The Egyptians will, I am sure, be in no hurry to engage in another war with Israel. On the other hand, this massive build-up of Egyptian armaments is bound to lead to an intensive effort by Israel to increase her military strength.

Neither should we take it for granted that the arms race in the Middle East will indefinitely be confined to conventional weapons. Israel is technically capable of making nuclear armaments. Unless some worldwide agreement on non-proliferation can be reached tairly soon, it will be unwise to assume that Israel will for much long refrain from so doing. If India, which now feels increasingly menaced by the Chinese hydrogen bomb, decides to do the same, any prospect there may be of preventing the spread of nuclear weapons will disappear.

The problem is to provide security for countries which agree to remain nonnuclear—security not only against nuclear attack, but also against attack by stronger neighbours with conventional arms. It is clear that these countries cannot look to the United Nations to provide this security either now or for many years to come. In my view, there are only three possible courses. The first is for the two super-Powers, Russia and America, to give a joint guarantee. The second is for one or other of them to give a separate guarantee. The third is to do nothing and allow more and more countries to acquire nuclear weapons, which means accepting the inevitability of a nuclear war sooner or later.

In view of the urgent need for some international system of security and the total failure of the United Nations to provide it, we must recognise that, until some effective world authority is created, the only hope of preserving peace is for the great Powers to agree to police the world together. I am not suggesting that that is necessarily an attractive proposition, but I am trying to think in terms of what might conceivably be possible. Although we are still a long way from it, I cannot see any other method of avoiding a world conflict within the next 20 years.

One of the outstanding features of the recent crisis was that, while General de Gaulle talked rather grandly of a conference of the four great Powers, it was painfully obvious that there are only two. Although the crisis broke out on Europe's very doorstep, the European nations exercised little or no influence upon the course of events. It is quite absurd that Europe, with her large and highly-educated population, her immense industrial and technical resources and her wide experience, should have no effective say in the councils of the world. But, whether we like it or not, that is in fact the position today; and the only way to change it is to create a truly united Europe which will not only pool its economic resources but will be capable of speaking with one voice on the great political issues which shape the course of history.

As I have tried to show, the crisis in the Middle East has thrown into relief a number of varied problems. I do not pretend to know the answers, but I have ventured to express a few thoughts upon them.

5.52 p.m.

Sir Barnett Janner (Leicester, North-West)

I should like first to express my gratitude, for the efforts which were and are being made by the authorities and our troops in Aden, who are carrying out their duties in an exemplary manner. There is not the slightest doubt that they have acted courageously and under extremely difficult circumstances. I know Aden; I have been there.

I do not understand how we can possibly speak the double language we are speaking at times on the issue between the Arab States and Israel. Why are we not frank about the position? In view of the undeniable facts, facts which can be proved right up to the hilt, why do we not admit that what Israel said she intended to do she has indeed attempted to do and succeeded in doing throughout the 19 years of her existence? Is there any hon. Member who can deny that? Is there anyone in the House who can deny that Israel has tried to do what she said in her Proclamation of Independence when she was founded? That Proclamation said: The State of Israel will promote the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; will be based on the principles of liberty, justice and peace as conceived by the Prophets of Israel; will uphold the full social and political equality of all its citizens, without distinction of religion, race or sex; will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience. education and culture. Who in the House or anywhere else in the world can deny that Israel said what she intended to do in that Proclamation and has carried into effect right from the commencement the full objects for which she was established?

I should like to disillusion some of my hon. Friends and hon Members opposite. The Zionist movement did not start with the German troubles at all. Jews had gone out to Palestine and reclaimed the soil long before that. Their only enemy was the ravages of nature, and against most formidable obstacles they created settlements there under the most severe difficulties which were an outstanding example to the world as a whole. Anyone who has been there knows that is true.

In a speech about 10 years ago, I said: Britain and Israel have much in common. Both nations are part of the family of democracies; tyranny or intolerance, whether political or social, are alien to both. It has been rightly said, I think, that a people which first. some thousands of years ago, defied idolatory even against the formidable forces of Assyria and Rome can never yield to tyranny in any form. Israel's way of life is recognisably based upon our own in many respects. Its Parliament, the Knesset, is elected by ballot—its Government is not changed by coup d'état or assassination but by the free desire of the people. Both countries have steadfastly refused to give in against most formidable odds. I repeat today what I said previously, that the battle of Israel in most respects resembled the Battle of Britain. The Israelis were alone. We did not help them. We are falling over backwards to explain to the rest of the world that we did not go anywhere near them, that we did not want to have anything to do with the matter but let them fight their own battle.

That is true, but not having gone near them in their time of trial and trouble we have no right now to warn them about what they are to do in the future. I ask my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary not to warn Israel or ask her to accept advice on matters which she and the Arabs alone can really decide. If the Arab peoples continue to say that they are at war with Israel, they are the aggressors. Why are we hypocritical about the position? Do we not know that all along Nasser has been declaring war against Israel and has said that Egypt was in a state of war with her? There can be no question of who was the aggressor or non-aggressor. He was only waiting time to collect sufficient forces to encircle Israel, as he did, with the help of other Arab States.

What impertinence of a man of that design to allege that anyone else was the aggressor when he went there deliberately to attack and had already encircled Israel! What impertinence to suggest that Israel is an aggressor! Hitler did the same thing. I remember, and some other hon. Members remember, that he used to say that the Jewish people in Germany were attacking him—the, unhappily, unarmed, Jewish people at that time.

Fortunately, on this occasion Nasser found a courageous people ready, a people of outstanding ability prepared to keep the peace and to assist the world, including the Arab world, as they have declared time after time. I hope that my right hon. Friends will remember this. Israel continually asked the Arab world for peace and asked them to come together with them and work together. The Israelis were prepared to help the Jordanians to do exactly the same for the Jordanian territory as they have for Israel. That is the situation.

This is undeniable. I defy anybody in the House to suggest that it is not. I have watched this matter very carefully for very many years. Every hon. Member who has gone from the House to Israel and every journalist and other person who has gone there has come back with precisely this same story. What the United Nations is set up for and what the League of Nations was set up for has been achieved in the State of Israel which was established. Israel has done precisely what all of us would like to have all other peace-loving nations of the world do.

The Israelis did not sit there idly, indifferent to the 500,000 Jewish refugees who came from Arab countries. Do not let us misunderstand what happened. There is a lot of talk about refugees from Israel. What the cause of it was I am not prepared to argue about now. But there were 500,000 or more Jewish refugees to Israel from Arab countries. Many of such Jews went to Israel without a penny piece, deprived of their properties, like the vast number of them from Iraq. I saw them myself. I was in Aden in 1947 and I saw the Jews there then during riots against them. The Aden Jews have all gone, a large number of them to Israel.

There were 8,000 Yemenite Jews in Camp Hassid near Aden in 1947, and they were fleeing from the Yemen after 3,000 years—not a century but 3,000 years—a Jewish community having been there from the time of Ezra. I saw them in this camp on their way to the Holy Land, believing that they would be carried to Israel on the wings of an eagle, and eventually believing, because they were flown to Israel, that the prophecy had been fulfilled.

So we are not dealing with an uncivilised people. We are dealing with a highly civilised, decent set of men, women and children, all of whom when it came to looking after their refugees were prepared to accept them with loving kindness into their homeland, prepared to settle them on the land and prepared to give them every facility for becoming self-respecting citizens and forgetting the past. Why do not the Arab countries do that instead of piling up armaments against Isreal? Why do we not ask them to do that?

It is all very well for us now to tell Israel what to do, but what did we do when, in the City of Jerusalem, latrines were put next to the Temple wall, one of the most sacred places in the world for the Jews of the world? What did we say? Apparently we could not do anything about that. What did we do about the road running through the Jewish cemetery, etc.? We took no notice of all these things. We rarely said anything and we never did anything. We never tried to insist on the United Nations doing something.

The Israelis honour every religion. From the creation of their State they had a Minister of Religion. I am glad to see that my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) is here, because I shall have something to say about What he said time ago. The Jews honour every religion and give full facilities for everybody to worship according to their will. Yet for 19 years, with practically not a murmur from anybody, no Jew could go to the holy places of Jerusalem to which their eyes had been turned for 2,000 years.

Are we hypocrites or are we not? I am talking about the world in general. I am not talking about our own people here. Where is the decency of the world? How do we expect to have a world in which men and women will live in peace if we are not prepared to take sides on the question of morals? Why do our leaders not go out and say these things, which are true? Why do we not say to the Arabs, "This is what happened. You can trust yourselves in Jerusalem". I do not know whether—

Mr. Christopher Mayhew (Woolwich, East)

It is nevertheless the case, is it not, that the arbitrary annexation of Jerusalem by Israel has been condemned by 99 members of the United Nations without a single vote against?

Sir B. Janner

There has been no aggression in Jersualem at all. If the members of the United Nations have done that, what right have those nations, after having sat silently and quietly while these desecrations took place, to turn to Israel and say that we have allowed people from Old Jerusalem, for example, to shoot in to the King David Hotel and the small territory which is occupied in Jerusalem? Everybody knows very well that they can trust the Israelis to do the right thing for all religions and creeds in Jerusalem.

Everybody knows very well that the holy places will be protected. Every hon. Member knows very well that if the proposition were put to the Israelis in Jerusalem that the holy places should be supervised there would be no difficulty at all. What are some of us worried about? Do we want to drive people out so that again—it is no good; I am speaking emotionally, but this is an emotion which, I assure the House emanates from a real belief in what I am talking about.

What are we going to do about it? Are we to say to the Israelis "You will have U Thant there."? The right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) spoke about a United Nations police force. We are very far from that. Have the Israelis in that city to face the fear that they may be fired upon at any time? Do not let it be forgotten that even Jordan did not hold its hand in any way. The Israelis did; they lost lives to protect the holy places by not opening up their heavy artillery on them. But the Jordanians did not do so—

Sir Harry Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)

am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman's vigorous statement of Israel's case, but he referred to the police force. Does he not think, on reflection, that it is a great mistake for Israel not to allow a United Nations peacekeeping force inside Israel's frontiers? Will he not use his influence to try to persuade Israel to allow it to happen now?

Sir B. Janner

I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's concern. But U Thant walked out, did he not? If there had been half a dozen, 20 or 100 members of a United Nations force in Jerusalem, what would they have done? They could only have impeded the Israelis in protecting themselves. I put a simple question to the hon. Gentleman. What does he suggest would have happened assuming that Israel had waited after the aggression in the Tiran Straits and the massing of vast forces against her—it was definitely an act of war—while the United Nations, we and all the other peoples of the world were considering what to do with Israel? The hon. Gentleman is a military man. He knows very well the kind of armour that there was around Israel at that time and that it might have smashed Israel perhaps after a delay of a month or two months.

I think that Israel was perfectly justified in saying, "We have nothing to fear from anyone seeing what we are doing. But we have to fear if people are to come in and prevent us from defending ourselves when we are attacked." That is the position, and I think that the House and everybody else ought to know that.

I have just one or two more points to make. This is a subject with which I have been very concerned, and I do not occupy the attention of the House very often.

I should like us to turn to the masses of the Arabs and tell them the true facts —because they are true. I am sure that no one here would deny what I have been saying. Everybody realises that what was happening was blackmail. If a man complains about being blackmailed to his lawyer he tells the victim to go and call the bluff. The lawyer sends a letter to the blackmailer saying, "If you carry on with this we will take certain steps."

Why are we being blackmailed on the question of oil? Cannot we find some other way to deal with that position? This is expediency we are talking about, not morals. We are not talking at present on the basis of who is right or wrong. We know very well that Israel is right. I defy anyone to suggest differently.

We know that the outpourings of terrible threats by Arab leaders would have resulted in every Jewish man, woman and child in Israel being destroyed if the Arabs had succeeded. Do we think that the Arabs would have held their hand if they had got into Israeli cities? They would have bombed them and destroyed their people. Let my hon. Friend the Member for Clapham (Mrs. McKay) read the literature sent out by the Arabs. Let her read what was monitored from Arab radios. It was scurrilous, venomous—Hitlerian.

"Israel must be destroyed—every man, woman and child." That was what the Arabs said before and when war broke out. They said that they would do this with Mongolian ferocity. Israel will not stand for this kind of threat again. She cannot be called upon to do so. It has had enough. The war of nerves played against Israel was shocking. No one came to her aid during the war. No one attempted effectively to dissuade the Arabs from that kind of action.

I would like to see steps taken to end all this. When Israel complained of more than 150 cases of mines and other destructive weapons being planted in a football field and other places nothing was done. Would we have stood for it here? Suppose some one from the Isle of Man, for example, came across and laid mines in our football fields? Would we have stood for that kind of thing day after day, watching some people being blown to pieces?

Sir H. Legge-Bourke

I would fire only one thing back at the hon. Gentleman. How would we like it in this country if, suddenly, a large section of our population was told. "You will move out and let some other people who have been unfortunate elsewhere move in"?

Sir B. Janner

Come, now— The Arab States were not Arab States before the, end of the First World War. Where is the good sense of making allegations at the present time? Syria was not Syria Saudi Arabia was not Saudi Arabia Turkish rule was everywhere. Jews as well as non-Jews fought to give the opportunity for Syria to become Syria and Saudi Arabia to become Saudi Arabia.

What is this nonsense about people having to move out? Mandated Palestine had a tiny corner which the Arab land-lords sitting in Damascus and Cairo would not allow to be used in the proper way. The feudal lords never tilled the soil there. But they extracted everything they could from the impoverished peasants. That is the history of Palestine, It is a disgraceful thing in this age, that we should not realize that, After the allies had won the war, Arab States got their freedom and Israeli people eventually got a little piece of land less than the size of Wales. The Jewish settlers paid for every pennyworth of land at the time of the Mandate. I can prove these things, and the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legg-Bourke) knows it.

I hope that we shall get a peace settlement. The Israelis have no axe to grind against the Arabs. In Israel, Arabs and Jews have lived peacefully with each other. The Arabs have progressed and developed in Israel and many are much richer in possessions than the vast majority of Israelis. The Israelis are prepared to help the Arabs and to go to the conference table with them.

Let us see sense. Instead of fiddling about with excuses because of oil and the rest, try to find a decent and reasonable way out of this situation and get the Israelis and Arabs together to sink their differences and make a settlement so that the peace of the whole area may be established to the advantage of all.

6.15 p.m.

Sir Fitzroy Maclean (Bute and North Ayrshire)

I was afraid that the debate might be spoiled by there being too great a measure of agreement on both sides of the House. I am beginning to see how wrong I was. The House has listened with great interest and with a certain measure of agreement to the speech of the hon. Member for Leicester, North-West (Sir B. Janner). I want to address myself to the problem of what this country's attitude should be in the present situation. Because it seems to me that it offers us unexpectedly promising opportunities for a satisfactory solution. It also offers opportunities for us to do what we did in the 1940s—which was to get the worst of both worlds and to make enemies all round.

I do not think that there is any subject on which there is a bigger tangle of prejudices—racial, political and ideaological. And we have of late seen many interesting new combinations and permutations in this respect. But we must try and overcome those prejudices and view the situation in the light of the facts. Of course, that is what everyone says and it is easier said than done. Nevertheless, our aim must be to consider this problem in the light of the known facts and also with a certain number of definite aims in view.

The first of these is, clearly, the preservation of peace and world order. I do not think that anyone would disagree with that. To me, the second should be the furtherance of the aims and interests of the Western Alliance and the third—and I hope that I shall not be thought very old-fashioned in saying this—should be the furtherance of British national interests. And I believe that, basically, there need be no conflict whatever between these three aims.

I want to begin by making an immediately suspect remark, namely, that I believe myself to be reasonably free from prejudice on this whole subject. I like what I have seen both of the Arabs and of the Israelies. I also try to do something else. I have always felt that, as a general rule in foreign policy, unless one comes up against something quite exceptional, like Hitler, it is important to try, on the whole, not to let the ideological or political complexion of a country's régime predispose one either against it or in favour of it.

I am anything but a Socialist, but I would never let the Socialist or semi-Socialist character either of the Egyptian or the Israeli Government in any way influence me against them—any more than I allow what I regard as the misguided political views of hon. Members opposite to influence me against them personally or stop me from having friendly relations with them.

What we have to look at in the case of the Arabs and the Israelis are their actions and their attitudes, and also the actions and attitudes of the other Powers involved, whether large or small, because it is not only the Arabs and the Israelis who are involved in this dispute—far from it.

There has never been a war or a crisis without its origin and its cause being disputed and befogged by a haze of propaganda from the start, and that is what has happened this time. But one or two facts emerge clearly. First, that for the last 20 years Egypt and the Arab countries have strenuously denied Israel's right to exist and, secondly, they have again and again openly declared their intention of wiping out the State of Israel. President Nasser, as we now know, even had a special issue of postage stamps prepared two months ago in advance to celebrate his forthcoming victory over Israel—a classical example of bad timing and misjudgment.

Secondly, no one can dispute that the State of Israel was brought into being by the United Nations Organisation and that, therefore, the more responsible members of the U.N.—among whom we can be included—are under a definite obligation to prevent its just being wiped out by President Nasser or anybody else. The same would apply to Egypt or any other country if it were the other way round.

Further, the events of the last 10 or 15 years have demonstrated clearly one or two things about President Nasser himself. First, he has little regard for international treaties or obligations. Secondly, he is guilty of what used to be called aggression, not only against Israel, but against the Yemen, where he has 70,000 troops whose military shortcomings he seeks to make up for by the lavish use of poison gas against the civilian population. Against the South Arabian Federation. Against Saudi Arabia and Libya. In fact, against every Arab country which has shown the slightest vestige of independence in its dealings with him.

Finally, I hope that I shall not be treading on the toes of hon. Members opposite who persist in regarding him as an enlightened Leftist or of some Conservatives who regard him as goodness know what, when I say that I do not regard Colonel Nasser as a very great friend of this country.

There are, it seems to me, one or two conclusions to be drawn from all this. If we attach any importance to the maintenance of world order and peace, then we have to do everything we can—our powers in this respect may be limited, but not as limited as some people think—to ensure that Israel's future existence as a State is adequately recognised and safeguarded. I understand that the Government are in entire agreement with that proposition.

A more difficult question is how this can be done. Here the Government's attitude is not clear. To insist on the Israelis' evacuating automatically everything that they have occupied and then asking them to content themselves with some sort of paper guarantee of the kind that they had before all this happened would be totally unrealistic. It would be totally unrealistic even if it were feasible, and it is not feasible. I do not believe that even the Russians themselves could turn the Israelis out of the territories that they have occupied by force of arms, and I am quite sure the Arabs could not. That has been shown already.

In my view, the Israelis should be allowed by the Powers to keep what they need to protect them and their country against future attacks. That need not be all the territory that they have occupied, but there are certain areas—I do not propose to enumerate them—which would be of help in that respect and which they could well be left to occupy. The fact that they have occupied these particular territories thanks to the bravery and efficiency of their troops and against overwhelming odds should not, I would submit, be allowed to count against them.

I welcome, as other hon. Members have, the recently more realistic attitude of Jordan. If that country and its rulers had had a bigger say over the years in Middle Eastern affairs, we might well never have found ourselves in this situation. Everything possible should now be done to induce the Arab countries to recognise Israel's existence as a State by entering into direct peace negotiations and they should also be induced to face up to the necessity of making certain limited territorial concessions. The Arabs' best hope, if they only could realise it, of getting the Israelis to give up some of their territorial gains is by negotiation and by making peace with them and by reassuring them. If that could be done, they would not have the feeling of insecurity which may otherwise lead them to hold on to everything they have.

Another obvious subject which must be covered by any agreement is the refugee problem. I find myself in agreement—it is the only thing I did find myself in agreement with—with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond). He was talking good sense when he said that, while we should make a contribution, so for that matter should the Arab countries. As long as the refugees are not provided for, they will be a constant source of irritation and an unsettling influence, to put it mildly, in the Middle East. There are, I am afraid, some people who, while professing great sympathy for them, prefer to see them in that rôle than happily settled.

What are the prospects of some sort of agreement on these lines? Hitherto, President Nasser has had very powerful backing. He has been backed by the Russians, one of the super Powers, quite openly. However, I wonder whether the Russians are quite as keen on him now as they were and whether they do not perhaps begin to wonder whether they have not backed the wrong horse. After all, an ally that in one week goes and loses enough armour to equip a whole armoured division as well as several complete missile installations—a billion dollars' worth altogether—is not really much of a bargain as an ally.

That may well lead the Russians, who are very realistic people, to revise their view of President Nasser. I think that they are likely to go on exploiting his nuisance value as long as that lasts, and that is no doubt the explanation of the fresh deliveries of arms which have been made quite recently, although I wonder whether they are on quite the scale of the previous ones. But I doubt whether the Russians will be prepared to stick their necks out very far on his behalt after what has happened. Indeed, they might be quite glad of an opportunity to withdraw as gracefully as possible from this whole unrewarding imbroglio.

I believe that what both the Russians and the Americans are primarily concerned with is to reach agreement with each other. I think that is what interests both those great countries most of all and I believe that before very long I believe they may arrive at such an agreement. This, I am sure, from everybody's point of view is something to be welcomed. But, nevertheless, it would be a great pity if Great Britain were to choose this moment to give up any attempt whatever to influence the course of events in the Middle East and leave everything to be settled by the two super-Powers whose judgment, quite frankly, I do not always trust.

I believe myself that we still have a part to play and an influence to exert, and that this influence can be exerted partly by our presence in the Middle East—in so far as we still have a presence there—and partly by our experience and our influence in the councils of the nations, which is much bigger than most people think. And here I should like to take issue with the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland, who until recently led the Liberal Party. He said that it was time—I could not make out whether he was doing it, or thought that someone else should do it —to enunciate a new foreign policy. He seemed to say that this country should have no peacekeeping rôle and no responsibilities and accept any annexations which had happened as historical facts.

So far, his argument was perfectly logical but then he spoiled it by saying that he did not want to leave a Congo in Aden, or, as far as I can make out, anywhere else. But how does he propose to do that if this country is to have no responsibilities and no peacekeeping rôle? I am sure that he will say that it would be nice if this could be done within the framework of the United Nations and, of course, I would agree with that, but the framework of the United Nations occasionally does not work, and this has been an example.

Mr. Grimond

I find it refreshing for the hon. Gentleman to agree with me even about that. Of course, we have a direct responsibility for Aden and should, therefore, maintain a military presence in Aden until we can hand over to someone else who would discharge that responsibility. But that argument does not apply all over the Middle East and far less to the Far East. The sooner we give up the pretence that we have a general peacekeeping rôle to play over the whole area, the better.

Sir F. Maclean

I wonder what the right hon. Gentleman thinks would have happened in Aden if we had not happened to have responsibility there. I was very much struck by what a member of the American Administration said to me some time ago. He said, "There are some areas you British can pull out of without its mattering all that much, because we can take your place. But if you pull out of the Middle East and east of Suez, that will leave a dangerous vacuum which we could not hope to fill". The right hon. Gentleman called his attitude facing the facts of life; but I would call it trying to have it both ways, which, if I may say so, is characteristic of the party which he used to lead with such distinction.

Because I believe that we still have a part to play in the Middle East, I am glad that the Government have had second thoughts about Aden. I know that there is some dispute about whether, in fact, they have had second thoughts, but that is the general impression we get and I am very glad of it and do not want to look a gift horse in the mouth, however belated the gift may be.

For my part, I would like to have second thoughts about the Yemen as well and what is happening there. I, personally, do not see why we should go out of our way to make things easy for President Nasser. In fact, I would like to see them made as difficult for him as possible with the object of teaching him once and for all a lesson—one might call it "no end of a lesson", to quote the title of a recent best seller: the lesson that aggression and tearing up treaties does not pay and that he had far better get on with the long overdue task of putting his own country in order and giving his unfortunate people a better standard of living instead of going round interfering in the affairs of other people.

Finally, one last point. In the Press and elsewhere there have been disquieting stories of our troops in Aden being hampered in their operations by lack of armour, owing to the rundown, and also prevented by orders, given on political grounds, from making full use of the weapons they have. I was very glad to hear the Minister of State deny this and that he was able to reassure us. I speak as the stepfather of a young soldier who is about to go to Aden and I am sure that I have not been alone in feeling very much disturbed by these reports. People will, I know, read the right hon. Gentleman's remarks with relief and I hope that he will do his best to see that there are no further rumours, or cause for rumours, of this kind.

Mr. Speaker

I remind the House that there are 40 hon. Members attempting to speak in the debate. If hon. Members will be reasonably brief they will help the debate and other hon. Members.

6.36 p.m.

Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)

As the House is no doubt aware, a number of my hon. Friends and I have recently returned from a visit to Israel, when we also visited the occupied territories of Syria, Jordan and the Gaza Strip. We spoke to Cabinet Ministers, to leaders of various political parties in Israel, to Arab leaders within that country, to prisoners of war and to ordinary people in the occupied territories.

I shall not give the House a travellogue, and I shall certainly not pretend that we are experts on the Middle East or the immediate situation because of a visit of a few days. I shall certainly not suggest that we are here as the ambassadors of the Israeli Government. It has its own ambassadors, who seem to be very competent people and who undoubtedly will be able to argue their own case without my aid or that of my Parliamentary colleagues.

But the fact that we were able to visit the area at this time and to see the problems for ourselves means that at least we are able to come fresh from the area and to formulate some ideas about what may be done in this situation. I speak entirely for myself and not on behalf of my Parliamentary colleagues who accompanied me when I put forward these ideas.

It has to be understood that in this conflict between the Arabs and the Jews in a sense there is justice on both sides. Rather than getting involved in who was right in the first place and who began the conflict, it is much more fruitful to concentrate on helping to find a solution to the situation, instead of raking up the old arguments which we have heard so often in the House and elsewhere.

We obviously have to find a solution which will be acceptable to both sides. This will be an exceedingly difficult task for the world, and for those involved. One thing about which we are all cleat, irrespective of whether we have been accused of being pro-Arab or pro-Israeli, is that none of us wishes to see the destruction of Israel. We wish to see the people of Israel and the Arab countries living in peace and security one with the other. Unfortunately, that situation has not existed since the foundation of the State of Israel approximately 20 years ago.

It is absolutely tragic that approximately every 10 years the people of the Middle East have been involved in war and in the period in between the wars have lived in a permanent state of war psychosis. What are the problems as we found them? I want to list them. First, there is the need to get a general settlement, leading to a permanent peace. Secondly, there is the need, once and for all, to solve the refugee problem, so that these people can be settled and integrated into the society in which they find themselves. Thirdly, there is the question of the future of the occupied territories, and how they will fit in with a peace settlement, and, lastly, there is the future of the city of Jerusalem.

None of these problems, which are all inter-connected, will be easy to solve. At the moment, the position is complete deadlock, both in the Middle East and in the United Nations. The Israelis say that they will not give up any of the territories until they meet, face to face, with the Arab leaders for direct negotiations. On the other hand, the Arab leaders say that they will not negotiate with the Israelis, and that the captured territories must be given up first.

We have had a slight movement in the right direction in the case of Jordan. Like other hon. Members, I very much welcomed the statement of the Prime Minister of Jordan, reported in today's papers, calling for a more realistic policy by the Arab States towards Israel. I can only hope that he will develop that further and more positively when he attends the Arab summit conference, likely to take place shortly. Unless this position is adopted we have an impossible situation here, in which a lasting settlement is never likely to be reached.

I understand that there is a report from Tel Aviv that General Dayan has said that the Gaza Strip, and possibly other territories, should be incorporated into the State of Israel. This report has been subsequently denied. I never once heard this proposal from any of the Cabinet Ministers whom we met or any of the political leaders to whom we talked in Israel. There are ordinary citizens who do not want to annexe the territories, but wish to bring the territories together on the basis of the old Palestinian mandate, and to give the Arab peoples complete equality in every way with the Jewish population. It is an attractive proposi- tion to me. As an international Socialist, I was much persuaded by this argument.

The reality of the situation is somewhat different. The fact that Israeli people are discussing this, the idea of a 50–50 position, with Jew and Arab both being elected to the Knesset in an equal proportion, is a very interesting idea. It indicates the sort of forward-thinking existing among the citizens of Israel. I do not think that this idealistic view will be accepted by the majority of the people of Israel, who are afraid that it would lead to an Arab majority within at least 10 years, and mean the ending of all that Israel has done, We did not see General Dayan. We met many other Cabinet Ministers, but not the General, so, like everyone else, we have to rely on newspaper reports and second-hand accounts about him.

It is my belief, after this visit, that the overwhelming majority of people in Israel would be very happy to give up the territories at the earliest possible moment. The reason for this is very simple. It is, first, because most of them wish to preserve the Jewish State, and, secondly, because the economic burden of administering these extra territories would cripple the State of Israel in a brief period of time.

Those are the facts. Israel is quite happy to give up this territory. One thing that it wants to do at the moment is to use this as a bargaining factor in a peace settlement. One thing that they are not prepared to give up, and about which they are quite definite, is Jerusalem. This was put to us not only by Cabinet Ministers and people in the streets, but equally by the Communist Party leader, who is very keen, like everyone else, that Jerusalem should remain a united city, under Israeli control.

I do not believe that the resolution passed by the General Assembly of the United Nations calling for the revoking of the recent laws making Jerusalem one city will be accepted by Israel. Again, the reason is very simple. No Israeli Government, whether of the extreme Right or the extreme Left, could last five minutes if it accepted such a proposition. This is the reality of the situation.

It is also interesting to note that when we were there, the people of Old Jerusalem, once the physical barriers were removed, flooded across into New Jerusalem. Some of them hired taxis and went down to Tel Aviv. The atmosphere was like a festive holiday. Even before the physical barriers were removed, we went through Old Jerusalem without an armed guard, hardly seeing an Israeli soldier.

It is interesting to note that the people of Bethlehem, through their local authority, are now asking why they are being left out, and saying that they wish to become part of the united city. It may be that tourism has something to do with it. Nevertheless, this is being said.

The concept of internationalisation of the whole city is a non-starter. That is "not on". It will not be accepted, first, because the Israelis have made Jerusalem their capital city. In it they have built a wonderful Parliamentary building. It would be a good idea if we had a look at it and adopted some of its facilities in this Chamber. They have built a wonderful university. They have done this within the new city. They have their Government offices there. The memorial to their dead in the Second World War and before in the concentration camps is in the new city. Does anyone think that they will give that up or allow the city to be internationalised?

Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)

Does my hon. Friend recall that the Foreign Secretary, in his speech at the United Nations and in his explanation of that speech in the House later, expressly said that he did not call upon the Israelis to return to a divided city?

Mr. Heffer

Yes, and I was glad to hear it. But the point is that in certain places there have been suggestions of internationalisation of the city. It would not be a divided city, but part of the city which is presently in Israeli control would be taken out of their control. My point is that that will not be accepted.

The second reason why it will not be accepted is a bit difficult for me to understand, because I am not a Jew. It is the question of the Wailing Wall and the holy places to which the Jews were refused admittance for 19 years. It is now part of the united city and Jews throughout the world can go to it. Therefore, they are not likely to give it up. The whole world would be wrong if it believed that they would give it up. Just as the Moslems would fight to return to Mecca at all costs, and rightly so, so will the Jews fight to retain these places within their united city.

Mr. E. Rowlands (Cardiff North)

Would my hon. Friend make the additional point that the elected municipal council of Jerusalem might have an Arab majority in the near future to run Jerusalem? Should not that alleviate any fears that the minority of Arabs might be suppressed by the Jews?

Mr. Heffer

I am glad that my hon. Friend has got that point in in case he was not called to speak. I agree entirely with him. That is a valid point.

Having spoken to Israelis at all levels, I am convinced that their one desire is security, to live in peace, and to be allowed the right to build up their State and to continue the great social and economic experiments which are taking place in their country. One hon. Member was quite right when he said that they cannot live in their kibbutz and in their towns and cities under the constant threat of being shelled. No one can live like that. We saw the shelters which the children of the kibbutz used. For days the children lived in their shelters while their homes were being destroyed. No one should be expected to live like that.

My colleagues who happened to be in Cairo just before the war broke out told me that they saw posters on the streets to which they objected, quite rightly, depicting the Jewish character as the Nazi type that we were used to before the war. We did not see any posters like that in Israel about Arabs. However, we went to one of the towns in the Gaza Strip which had been occupied by the Israelis, and I have here a cutting from one of the Israeli papers of one of the pictures—there were 32 of them—painted by girls aged from 12 to 14 years depicting the Arabs destroying Israel and showing the Jew as the Nazi type to which we are all used. It horrified me. What particularly horrified me was the fact that these were young children who obviously had been taught to hate the Arabs and had been told to paint some picture along the lines of their teachings.

This is not propaganda. I am giving the facts. This is what we all saw. We are not united about what should be done in the Middle East, but these are the facts and we all came away thoroughly depressed that young children should be taught this sort of thing. It was sheer hate propaganda.

As far as we could see, the people in Israel want to build Arab-Israeli solidarity. The leaders of the Soviet Union have suggested that the Israelis are now carrying out atrocities against the Arabs. It is possible that individual soldiers or even small units—I have no grounds or evidence for saving this—took action which was not in line with Israeli Government policy. Most hon. Members were in the Armed Forces during the Second World War. Can we put our hands on our hearts and say we never knew of wrongful acts perpetrated by some of our own people? Of course we cannot. I think that the leaders of the Soviet Union do a grave disservice to the world in trying to equate what was done by the Israeli troops with what happened in Nazi Germany.

When we were there, we saw prisoners of war in a municipal hospital in the Gaza Strip. Interestingly enough, the doctor In charge was an Egyptian. He and his colleagues had stayed on to carry out their jobs. They were being very well treated as far as the standards of the hospital were concerned. When one talks about a municipal hospital there, one is not talking about Salford borough municipal hospital or Walton hospital, in my constituency. There is a lot of difference. But the standards had not changed, and undoubtedly they were getting every possible assistance to carry out their job in a medical sense.

The great problem as we see it is the problem of the refugees. We visited a refugee camp in Gaza which can only be described as appalling. The people were living on U.N.R.W.A. rations. They had not had work for almost 20 years, they had never been integrated into the society in which they lived and they were living in camps which undoubtedly had been the recruiting ground for the Palestinian Army of Liberation. I do not know whether they had been kept in those conditions, but they were there. The world should be ashamed that it has allowed that situation to fester and develop in the Middle East.

I do not believe that the pouring in of more money for more U.N.R.W.A. rations is the answer. That will not solve the problem. What is required is that these people should be settled and integrated with the local population. That requires homes, work, hospitals and decent living standards for these people. The Israelis told us time after time that they are quite prepared to assist in this.

We have heard about Jewish refugees going into Israel. That may be an emotive term. To some, perhaps, they were refugees, but to others they may well be immigrants, depending upon the way one looks at it. Most of those from Eastern countries, however, were on precisely the same level culturally, educationally and economically as the Arabs whom we saw in the camps in the Gaza Strip.

They were not, incidentally, welcomed into homes. That, again, is an emotive term. They were put in camps because there was no alternative. Most of the camps, however, are now completely destroyed and the same people are living in decent homes and working in factories which have been provided by the Israeli Government. The Israelis point to that experience of what they have done with Eastern Jews and say that they can help to do it for the Arabs, because they have the "know-how" and it is possible for them to assist in that direction.

I realise that I am speaking much longer than I should and I will, therefore, draw to a conclusion. I want briefly to refer to the problem of the areas of occupation which has to be solved. Both the Israelis and the Arabs must be prepared to give and take a bit. There is widespread feeling in Israel that the United Nations is not the answer and has been a disappointment. I agree with those hon. Members who have said that it was wrong that the Israelis did not have United Nations troops on their soil. In my view, they should have done.

The widespread feeling of disappointment towards the United Nations arises, however, not only because of U Thant's action. It arises because resolution after resolution was passed at the United Nations agreeing to the free passage of ships through the Suez Canal and the Tiran Straits, but was never implemented. For the Israelis, therefore, there has been disappointment over a long period.

The Israelis must learn, as everyone else must learn, that the fact that the United Nations has not always lived up to our hopes and its promise does not mean that the United Nations has no rôle to play in the present situation and that we should not turn to it for a solution of some of these difficulties.

I believe that the heights of Syria should come under United Nations control, with an expeditionary force put there with much better terms of reference than was the case for the Sinai Desert. I would think that Gaza, too, should be similarly treated, with, perhaps, local administration. The west bank of the Jordan is a quite different matter. It can be settled, I believe, on the basis of going back in the main to Jordan. Jerusalem is a different problem. As part of the settlement, which the Israelis are prepared to accept, there should be a road or corridor from Jordan to the coast, so that Jordan can have a port, which she does not have at present.

I could have spoken for another hour, or perhaps two hours, on the situation as we saw it and on our ideas arising from our visit. The one thing on which I appeal to the House is not to live in the past. Do not let us wrangle over all the great historical arguments. The people in the Middle East are the victims of history and past imperialism, whether Jew or Arab. Today, they are victims of the policies of the big Powers who are still trying to use the people of Middle East as pawns in their game. It is up to us to reject this. I hope that what I have said may be a small contribution towards a peaceful settlement of the problems of the Middle East.

7.6 p.m.

Mr. John Biggs-Davison (Chigwell)

I am glad that the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) and his hon. Friends had the opportunity of seeing for themselves something of the State of Israel. I was last there not long after the earlier Sinai campaign and I stayed at a kibbutz called Kfar Hanassi, within range of the Syrian border. It was inhabited by English-speaking Jews, many of them from the part of the coun- try for which I am Member of Parliament.

During the course of a long tour of the Middle East, it was only there that I was given tea, and not coffee, to drink. I saw men, fresh from sedentary occupations in outer London and Metropolitan Essex, on tractors ploughing up a parched wilderness strewn with boulders, and I have no doubt that by now that desert has been made to blossom. I must confess that ideologically most of the inhabitants of that kibbutz were more akin to the hon. Member for Walton than to me. Nevertheless, they have been very much in my thoughts in recent weeks.

When one discusses the question of who started the conflict, it is a fact that two people from Kfar Hanassi were killed by the Syrians two days before hostilities generally broke out. Israel has faced a running fire of aggression for year upon year.

My sympathy and admiration for Israel does not, however, make me anti-Arab. The Minister of State made the important point this afternoon that it is wrong to equate the Middle East with the Arab world. Some say that Egypt is not in the full sense an Arab country. It is certain that the Nasser dictatorship, which has been subsidised by the Soviet and advised in the important departments—important particularly for a régime of that kind—of police and propaganda by Nazis, is a menace not only to the Israelis, whose extermination it has proclaimed, but to the Arabs and other peoples of the Middle East. It is a dictatorship which arranges the murder not only of Britons, but of Arabs, whether in Aden or elsewhere.

I am glad that the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) and my right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) referred to Yemen and, in particular, to the atrocious use of poison gas in the Yemen by Egypt, a signatory of the Geneva Protocol. I have been associated with the Yemen Relief Committee, which has tried, and sometimes succeeded, to send doctors and medicines, bandages and, latterly, even gas masks to the Yemen.

That is still going on. I had a reply from the Minister of State, who said that Her Majesty's Government have received well-substantiated reports that lethal gas was used several times during May in the mountainous region to the South of Sa'na. The right hon. Gentleman also referred to a less well-substantiated report of it having been used again in the Yemen last month. Both a mustard gas type and choking gas have been used on different occasions.

Before the Second World War, when Mussolini used poison gas in Abyssinia, the horror and protests were world-wide. But when some of us raised this atrocious action by way not only of early day Motions, but also of Parliamentary Questions, the Government told us that protests and action should be left in the first instance to those primarily affected.

There is much talk nowadays of world opinion. Some think of the United Nations as some kind of repository of the universal conscience. If there is such a thing as world opinion, it is strangely selective in its indignation. The United Nations has been silent. I hope that the Government will make at least Britain's voice heard and will not rest content with leaving it to others.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean), rightly in my view, pointed out that the Middle East conflict has been a catastrophe for the Soviet Union. Who knows—the régime in Moscow may, in the long run, not even survive it. But it is certain that the Soviet Union will try to rehabilitate their prestige and to restore their influence, or retain some of their influence, with the Arab world by a renewal of offensive and subversive efforts in the direction of Yemen and South Arabia. We were all glad about the volte face of Her Majesty's Government over Aden, but it would have been less cumbersome and less costly if the Government had adhered to the policy of their redecessors—namely, a small base, a foothold and a defence agreement with the successor Government. However, that is past. What is important for Aden, for South Arabia, for the Gulf and for British interests is that the military aid mission should be highly efficient in its work. I hope that the Government will give that the highest priority in this difficult time of transition.

It is often said that imperialism is dead or dying. The hon. Member for Walton said that the peoples of the Middle East were the victims of imperialism. He referred, no doubt, to the great imperialism. When it is said that imperialism is dead or dying, people usually have in their minds the empires of Europe. But what is happening in Yemen today, and the threat to the South Arabian Federation, arises from a Power which is colonialist in the most classical style. The Pan-Arabism of Cairo reveals itself there as Egyptian colonialism.

I once said this before a university audience, and I was attacked by a very charming Egyptian student. I pointed out that the Egyptians have an army of occupation in the Yemen. I asked. "Have you 50,000 or 60,000 troops there?" He replied, "Yes". And then he used words which were used by the French in Algeria—"But they are discharging a civilising mission". These are indeed the words of classical colonialism, and the instruments of this colonialism are the aerial bombardment of civilians, of unarmed tribesmen and their families, and poison gas.

It is strange how successful Egyptian propaganda has been. It has put the Egyptian case over to many liberal people and other people of the Left. The situation is changing because of what happened recently, but for years we have suffered from the conquest of so many influential people—one can think of a book which has just been published—by the view that President Nasser and his régime represent a progressive force. It is not. It is a destructive force, which has done grave harm in Africa as well as in the Middle East. Although hon. Members opposite may not agree with me, I would say that it is the monarchies of this area, from the Magreb to Iran, who have done more to advance their peoples than the republics dominated by various forms of Arab Socialism.

The right hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) took us back into the history of the Turkish empire. That reminded me that President Nasser is anything but an Ataturk. He is much more an Enver Pasha. Enver Pasha passed as a modernising reformer, but what he did was to harness Turkey, to the ruin of Turkey, to the German war machine. It is sad indeed that so able and talented a man as Gamal Abdel Nasser did not, like Ataturk, devote his energies to the uplift of an impoverished people.

The lot of the Egyptian people is terrible indeed. May I quote three lines from a speech by President Nasser, made on 23rd September, 1966? He was speaking on a day which, with his unfailing flair for public relations, he called Victory Day—the victory at Port Said. He said: Six million feddan of irrigated land existed in the days of Mohammed Ali when our population was five million. The same amount existed in 1952 when our population was 22 million. We are now 30 million, and since the revolution we had added about 700,000 feddan, but only half of this is cultivated. Egypt must expand internally or expand abroad, and it is the latter course which, unfortunately, the present régime has chosen. Economic development, for which there would have been aid in plenty from abroad, has been sacrificed to foreign adventure and colonial expansion. The Egyptian State was sold to the Soviet with the cotton. It is, therefore, no more in the interests of the Arabs than in the interests of Israel that Nasser should he rescued again from the ignominy of defeat. There is one last political act, one political service, which he can render, however, and that is to come to a table of peace.

I am one of many British admirers of King Hussein. His visit was most welcome. I think, however, that his miscalculation was extraordinary, because if Egypt, whom he backed, had prevailed, it is certain that the Crown would have fallen from his head and probably his head from his shoulders. The extension of the Kingdom of Jordan from Trans-Jordan to the west bank was probably a mixed blessing for the Hashemite monarchy, but an understanding with Israel has always been a Jordanian interest. Indeed, we are glad of the brave speech of the Prime Minister of Jordan. In a recent utterance the King compared Israel with the Latin kingdom of the Crusaders. Two and a half million Israelis have shown what skill and science, a genius for improvisation, heroism, national unity and a patriotism founded on faith can still achieve in these days of super-Powers.

True, the Israelis had the Mystere, the Mirage, Centurion tanks and the 105 mm. gun, but the Soviet aircraft and equipment placed at the disposal of the U.A.R. and its satellite Governments were not negligible, and another time it might be better used. In the long run the demographic factor is against Israel. This is why it is so important that we should lend ourselves, so far as we have any influence, to no international pressure to make Israel acept frontiers which would make possible or likely a fourth Middle Eastern war. It is still only nine minutes flying time by jet aircraft from Damascus to Tel Aviv.

The reconciliation of the two branches of the Semitic race is a prime need of mankind. It seems strange to recall that only last year General Dayan was talking in terms of an Israel-Arab partnership within a confederacy of the Levant. It seems a distant prospect now. It seems visionary when the guns have not yet become silent and when burnt children are in torment. [Laughter.] I am sorry that hon. Gentlemen opposite appear to find this amusing.

It seems strange, at a time when the refugee problem has been agonisingly worsened, to speak of the unity of Palestine, round a capital city which could again be common to the State of Israel and the Kingdom of Jordan. I agreed with the hon. Member for Walton when he said that Israel will not give up the City of Jerusalem. On the other hand, I hope that in Jerusalem, whatever its future, the holy places will be held under international guarantee in trust for Jewry, Christendom and Islam, the three religions of a Book.

In 1948, Brigadier-General Allon, who had commanded the Haganah against the British, met a group of Egyptian senior officers on the southern front of Israel. Among them was Colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser. Brigadier-General Allon had this to say, in 1959, recalling that meeting: This region is normally regarded as an under-developed area. But, at the same time, it offers to its peoples tremendous hopes, if properly developed and harnessed, for the welfare of its peoples. We have in this area enough natural wealth, oil and water, minerals and manpower, know-how and technological ability, to make the Middle East the envy of other less blessed regions. We stand at the crossroads of the world's great communications routes. From every point of view—economic and political, cultural and strategic—I believe that the ultimate solution for the entire region lies in the creation of a regional organisation, a Middle East commonwealth of sovereign nations"— one of the ideas which the Israelis took from this country— inter-dependent on each other for economic, political, cultural, scientific and defensive co-operation. This confederation would not only secure adquate national autonomy for all member States, but also ensure the presence of an efficient organisation to prevent conflict within the region and to establish it as a powerful instrument able to eradicate poverty, disease and illiteracy and to make a considerable contribution to the peace of the world. I believe the future to lie in some form of Middle Eastern confederacy of nations. I believe, even now, that a country like Britain has a part to play in the Middle East.

Much has been made of the impotence of Europe in this situation and in the recent conflict. But it was interesting to read that the State Department of the United States had given the view that if Britain were to pull out of its responsibilities in Aden and elsewhere in this area, it was not for the Americans to fill the power vacuum but that that was a job for the Europeans.

Israel seeks links with the European Communities. There are two world Powers today, but by the end of the century there will be a third—China. Will there be a fourth, in a Europe looking outward to the Middle East, to Africa, to the Commonwealth and to other lands linked with Europe by interest, history and ideals? Failing such a Europe—and the difficulties in bringing it about are not confined to one side of the Channel, I fear not only for ourselves, but for the world.

7.25 p.m.

Mr. Frank Tomney (Hammersmith, North)

It was refreshing to hear the closing remarks of the hon. Member for Chigwell (Mr. Biggs-Davison), in which he referred to an outward-looking Europe with a united foreign policy. That is indeed a prospect to be welcomed, and I suggest that whether or not it comes about will depend on Britain's entry into the Common Market.

I do not know whether, at this stage, I can say anything new in this debate. All aspects of this subject appear to have been fully covered. However, certain lessons can be drawn from the situation which has arisen in the Middle East and which, I believe, will be a permanent situation. It is idle to pretend that this situation can be changed or that it does not exist. Despite the Arabian gift for self-deception, when one turns back the pages of history one sees that it is problematical whether events have shaped man or vice versa.

Two aspects of this conflict have had a permanent effect. One was the precipitate withdrawal by U Thant of the United Nations peacekeeping force. The other was the speech made by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on 24th May at Margate, in which he said that the United Kingdom would assert, on behalf of British shipping, the right of freedom of passage, through the Straits of Tiran. My right hon. Friend is not usually as forthright as that. They were forceful words and, on rereading them, I consider that the Israeli nation had every right at that stage to think that positive action would flow. But positive action did not flow.

It became obvious within a matter of hours that France was sliding out of its obligations under the 1957 guarantee in respect of the Straits. It was obvious within 24 hours that the United States —very well advised; I thought that I detected the voice of Dean Acheson in it—had decided not to interfere directly in the dispute. In that situation the Israelis, faced with possible annihilation, adopted a good old Lancashire proverb, "If you are going to be clouted, you had better get a clout in first" They struck with tremendous brilliance and efficiency; and we now have a changed situation.

It would be idle to offer advice to the Israelis. In any case, they do not want it. One thing they have established is the right to negotiate by their own might. This should not be taken from them, especially by the United Nations in its present tattered and battered state. Until we can get the Arab countries and Israel directly across the conference table, I cannot see any future settlement that is permanent. Until there is this recognition by the Arabs that this is a country which is now, under the United Nations auspices, fully recognised and has a rightful place in the world, I cannot see any settlement. However, this must come inside the conference room between Arabs and Jews.

It might be said, at this stage, that United States policy was somewhat in abeyance, if not lacking. The Americans have, in the main, honoured their international commitments whenever and wherever they have existed. It is instructive to consider U.S. policy. It used to be held in this House that what the U.S. Diplomatic Corps could do with more than anything else was the expertise of the British Foreign Office. It has been proved since the Second World War that no such thing is necessary. The U.S. has managed very well indeed, thank you, and it is a nation well advised and able to look after itself when the "chips" are down.

This has been shown on many occasions, including Cuba. When a decision has had to be made, it has been made. The consequences were weighed and the decision was taken. In his confrontation with the Russians over Cuba, the late President Kennedy proved conclusively, and the rest of the world must look at this, that the prospects of a direct confrontation between Russia and the Western world is out, once and for all.

Despite her involvement and meddling in the Middle East for her own power purposes, Russia has had a salutary lesson. I am told that the value of the equipment captured by the Israelis totalled £1,000 million. This lesson is not lost on Moscow and I agree that although heads in the Kremlin will not roll in the old-fashioned way, their owners will lose their jobs over this incident.

Dean Rusk has gone to Vietnam. Whatever was said between Mr. Kosygin and President Johnson, it is now becoming apparent that a certain situation is beginning to develop. We have a situation in which, when the cards are called, the Americans are quite firm on every issue. Why were they not quite firm on this issue—United States interests were not directly affected, the oil was not directly affected at that stage, nor were American installations or finance—unless they counted the cost, measured the risk and looked at the issue in the same way as the Israeli High Command did? If they did that, it was a remarkable piece of judgment formed many miles from the confrontation. The confrontation, which lasted only five days, will become part of the military manual for some of the High Commands of the West, given a similiar situation.

The United States, having this dreadful conflict in Vietnam on their hands, are turning more and more inward to isolation—opinion is forcing that on them —but in the Middle East we have the most explosive area in the world. Our industrial lifeblood is concentrated there, and any interruption or withdrawal of supplies of that lifeblood could put the country in a flat spin financially. We have an investment in capital equipment alone of probably £6,000 million, a balance of payments revenue, of perhaps, £500 million, and our export trade to that area probably amounts to another £500 million. It is, therefore, vital that we should retain as much good will as we can in the Arab and Moslem countries.

This is where the Foreign Secretary has been very wise in his approach. This Moslem world, stretching from Morocco to Indonesia, is a very real thing, and Russia was meddling in the Middle East to get and maintain control of this great political force that has been virtually leaderless for 25 years. I have always been astounded that the Moslems in India allowed themselves to be led by Gandhi and Nehru, and have never become a permanent voice in the United Nations. That is the stake for which Russia was playing in the Moslem world.

One of the things that flows from having power is the ability to use it judiciously, and to know when to use it. The Middle East situation has demonstrated something that was not previously apparent. Great Britain, along with France, has been claiming four-Power status at international conferences on international issues. That idea has gone for good. It has been clearly demonstrated that there are only two at the top table—Russia and the United States. Both France and ourselves have been contracted out very easily by this confrontation—and it is something that we shall have to learn to live with —because the new defence arrangements in the Middle East will be the direct result of whatever Power talks took place between Johnson and Kosygin. New defence alignments will be made.

The situation that has arisen is that if Israel, not having the benefit of guarantees for the uninterrupted passage of her ships through the Suez Canal and the Straits of Tiran, is not able, either by pact through the United Nations or through her own arrangements, to obtain the most concrete promises of aid and protection against further aggression she will be driven to acquiring nuclear arms. She will have to acquire them. If she does, any non-proliferation treaty goes right out of the window, because both India and Pakistan will want them and there will be prospects of further development.

The United Nations' votes yesterday were valuable in lots of respects because they demonstrated that the former premier voice in shaping world opinion—that of the under-developed nations—was on this occasion missing, but something has arisen that we should do well to look at, and that is the position of France.

France has always been ambiguous about her policy in the interests of France, and when we get ambiguity and machiavellianism running together in harness we have a situation that needs very careful watching. France did very well out of arms contracts with the Israelis, and even yesterday negotiated further contracts, yet among the Arab nations no odium rests on her as it does on Great Britain in regard to arms supplies.

Why is this? Why has do Gaulle, possessed as he is by the illusion of grandeur, once again managed to slide out from under, and to readjust his policies throughout the world in the interests of France, as he thinks? I have had several letters from Washington in the last few days from well-informed and reliable political journalists telling me that the talk there is that France has been making a determined effort to secure the position with regard to Arabian oil now occupied by Great Britain and the United States; deliberately encouraging the nationalisation of the oil fields as long as she supplies the management, the expertise and the marketing.

There are those, and I am among them, who hold the view that France could not manage that alone but, if it did come about, I am sure that she would find willing allies, particularly the Japanese and the Italians. That would have dire consequences—consequences that neither the United States nor ourselves could afford. The cost to the Americans would probably be 8,000 million dollars, and for us it would be calamitous. If the talk going round in Washington is true, the strongest representations should be made to the Quai d'Orsay as quickly as possible.

It really is selling Great Britain down the river, and it should not be tolerated, Common Market or not. I have every reason to believe that this manœuvre is on. We saw it happen in Algeria. We saw de Gaulle's policy there and the way in which he double-crossed his friends—probably for the best reasons, he thinks. To do this, and to interfere as he is interfering at this stage with us, creates a situation at which we should have a long, hard look.

I intervened during the speech of the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) on the question of settlement of the refugee problem. This has been a whipping-post for many years. I think that the Israelis have made genuine efforts to deal with it. I have seen these refugee camps in the past. There are people there who were born there; the problem is so old. Arab unity, the Arab League and Arab nationalism, fall apart when the poor Arab nations want a share of the oil revenues for development. The only event which has proved an exception was when Kuwait invested £100 million in economic aid for Iraq. Had she not done so, there would have been a lot of pressure on Iraq to take over the oil installations altogether. There is revenue there for the settlement of the refugee problem, which could be tackled. This must be brought home somehow to the Arabs. They must be shown that there is now a new situation in the Middle East.

I do not think that the Israelis should move one jot at the conference table until they get the firmest guarantees that no further aggression will take place and that the refugee problem is on the way to being settled. This could be done if the West could get some money out of the Arab States. It may not be possible, but it is worth trying. The situation in regard to King Hussein is worth exploiting. His country is the nearest neighbour to the Israelis and he probably is the most malleable in terms of diplomatic pressure. For years we poured money into Jordan and he has growing problems over refugees, but he has not the money to support them.

Every effort should be made for the settlement of the refugee problem. This would mean large calls on Jewish finance. I do not think that we could get money out of the United Nations, divided as it is, but other nations could make a contribution and this grievous problem could be tackled. I do not think that it is out of the scope of thought required of the Jewish people. I think that they will bend every effort towards seeking a solution.

The broad concept of the thought of the Foreign Secretary on this matter has been right. He has realised the difficulty of the Israeli problem. He has realised the tremendous potential of the world Moslem population. He has realised the vital economic interest of Great Britain in the Middle East in balance of payments and industrial oil supply. He made a speech on Aden a few weeks ago which was well received by some of us. It was not well received by all my colleagues. I think that it should be said in this Chamber, and not in a Committee Room, that a speech of that character could not have been made without the full backing of the Cabinet. On that occasion he was not speaking personally as George Brown, or the Foreign Secretary, but with the full authority of the Cabinet in its view of the Aden situation.

The Cabinet had taken up a new posture. It adhered to the date of departure, 9th January, but in the meantime the Government had not only given themselves time for manoeuvre but had studied the worsening of morale of British troops who have to maintain and control the situation until the day they depart. That is fast running away. In the speech which my right hon. Friend made with the full authority of the Cabinet, he was right and he has been recognised to be right since. In view of all his difficulties, this should be said at this point in the debate. We shall clear out of Aden. We cannot say yet how much bloodshed there will be. I think that there will be some. We cannot say whether the Arabian States will settle down in a federation and whether it will be a democracy. One cannot make democrats overnight. They have to grow and live together for a number of years. But so long as the principle and the intention are right, that is the main thing.

I return to the point on which I started. This situation in the Middle East, this new alignment of forces, the refugee problem and the situation in which Israel now finds herself is a new and permanent situation. It would be idle for the House of Commons to pretend that it is not. The focus of the United Nations should be on the situation as it is, not as we would like it to be. Now that this confrontation is over—and thank God it was over much quicker than people hoped and with less bloodshed than they thought there would be—Israel is an accepted kingdom. We can argue whether it should have been established or not. There were fears and valid arguments at the time, but I think that everyone is now agreed that Israel has a right to live. It is up to Her Majesty's Government to devote everything they can to ensure this possibility, which is not only deeply to be desired, and argued for, but one in which Israel must be drawn into direct contact between nation and nation.

7.48 p.m.

Mr. Peter Blaker (Blackpool, South)

I was glad that the Minister of State said a word about the value of the presence of British Forces in the Persian Gulf, because it seems to me that one of the more bizarre claims which have been made about recent events is that they show there is no use in the presence of British Forces east of Suez. We might equally well say that the Franco-Prussian War demonstrated that there was no value at that time in the presence of British Forces in Britain because the war took place right on our doorstep and they did not fire a shot. I have no doubt that some hon. Members below the Gangway opposite would have supported that proposition if they had been here at the time of the Franco-Prussian war, but that does not impress me with its force.

I am sorry that the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) has left the Chamber, because I want to take issue with two things he said. He attacked the idea that we have some sort of undefined peacekeeping rôle in the Persian Gulf. I do not know what he meant by "undefined". I believe we have a pretty clearly defined peacekeeping rôle, clearly defined because of the treaty arrangements we have with States in the Persian Gulf. For example, five or six years ago we came to the aid of Kuwait. We saved the life of Kuwait pursuant to a treaty obligation.

We have not only defined obligations but we have very important interests in the Persian Gulf. We own a lot of oil. The right hon. Gentleman said that he would like us to buy the oil. He must realise that if we were simply to buy the oil without owning it that would place a tremendous burden on our balance of payments. I wonder if he has worked out how much it would cost us in dollars. If we did not own the oil we would have to buy it, no doubt in dollars, and we would not have the advantage which we get of selling oil for dollars to other countries.

I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman the former Leader of the Liberal Party has worked out how much it would cost us in foreign currency in that situation. I do not have very much hope this evening of extracting from the Government an estimate, because I know they are very cagey about giving figures of that kind. I am sure the House would be interested if they were prepared to do so. It is incumbent on the former Leader of the Liberal Party, if he says that he would like to see us buy the oil, that he should admit that the burden on our balance of payments would be something like £200 million a year.

Mr. Tomney

Five hundred million pounds.

Mr. Blaker

I would not dispute that figure. It may well be more than the figure which I quoted.

If the right hon. Gentleman says that we should give up our peace-keeping rôle in the Persian Gulf, is it not incumbent upon him to say who he thinks will fulfil that rôle? The Secretary of State for Defence last year said that the United Nations is not capable in present circumstances of carrying out the peace-keeping rôle which we have been carrying out. It would be a brave man who claimed that since those remarks were made the ability of the United Nations to fulfil that rôle has increased.

It will certainly not be the Americans who will take over the peace-keeping rôle which we have been fulfilling in the Middle East. Indeed, if we were to give it up I think it might be a further and dangerous step towards persuading the Americans to withdraw upon themselves, because they have in recent years had a barrage of criticism about their action in Vietnam, and they have had to undergo a sustained fire of criticism from France, quite unjustifiably. They feel that other countries, their allies, are not playing the part which they ought to play in keeping the peace in Asia and, indeed, in Europe and elsewhere.

Hon. Members may be aware that there is a resolution before the United States Senate, the Mansfield resolution, which has attracted the support of nearly half the Senate, calling for a massive reduction in American forces in Europe. The American gold reserves have been halved in recent years because of the payments across the exchanges which the Americans have had to make to sustain the peacekeeping rôle which they have been pursuing.

If we pull out of our peace-keeping rôle in the Middle East, this may well be the last straw, or one of the last straws, to persuade the Americans to pack it up and to withdraw to the American continent; let us not forget that the American continent can sustain itself without the rest of the world if necessary.

What should Britain be doing in the Middle East? I take the view that the basic situation in the Middle East is and has been for some years as follows. There is one country, the United Arab Republic, which has had a policy of changing the status quo by force and subversion. In proof of that, one does not need to look very far. There is the action it took over the Straits of Tiran. There is the constant outpouring of Cairo Radio. It would be salutary for hon. Members to look at the monitored version of Cairo Radio broadcasts, which are readily available from the B.B.C. This surpasses the horror stories that our children read nowadays. The savagery of the language of Cairo Radio is hard to believe. Its call for terror and assassination is directed at any country which happens for the time being, to incur the wrath of President Nasser.

Six years ago Cairo Radio directed its venom against the African leaders of Kenya. It is hard to imagine that for some reason at that time those leaders incurred the disfavour of the U.A.R. régime. The call went out for their assassination. Fortunately, that call was dropped later on. That call was equally violent in the case of the African leaders of Kenya as it was in the case of the Arab leaders in Aden and South Arabia of whom the U.A.R. disapproves.

I take the view that there will not be a stable peace in the Middle East until the United Arab Republic gives up its basic policy of seeking to change the situation in that area by subversion and force. If that is to happen, then the U.A.R. has to come to see that that policy will not work. I do not suggest that there is much that the British Government can do to achieve that end, although there is something to which I shall come in a few moments. One has to admit that the country with the major influence in pushing the U.A.R. towards, one hopes, a more sensible policy, is the Soviet Union. Most hon. Members who have spoken in the debate have taken a pessimistic view about the attitude of the Soviet Union at the present time. One reads in the newspapers of arms supplies being furnished by the Russians. That may be true. In fact, I have no doubt it is true that arms supplies are going in. One does not know how modern they are or how much is involved. People have based themselves on the propaganda charges that the Soviet Union has mounted in the United Nations. But I would have been surpised, whatever the future policy of the Soviet Union is going to be towards the Middle East, if the Soviet Union had not done both those things—furnished arms supplies and put out propaganda.

I think there are two encouraging signs which perhaps allow a glimmer of hope that the Soviet Union will recognise that to stoke up the United Arab Republic again to adopt aggressive policies is too dangerous, and that next time it may well lead to a nuclear war. It is significant that Mr. Kosygin was prepared to meet President Johnson when he went to the United States. It did not necessarily follow that he would do so, but in fact he was prepared to do it and to incur the inevitable criticism which he has received from China and other parts of the Communist bloc. Secondly, it is significant that the Russian who went to Cairo was President Podgorny. Why did they send their President to Cairo? If one has good news to give, one does not have to send the President. But because it was President Podgorny who went, it seems possible that the news he conveyed was unpalatable, and that President Nasser had to be assuaged by the fact that the person who brought him the news was somebody important.

I said earlier that there is one thing that Britain can do to persuade the United Arab Republic to abandon its policy of expansion by force. That is to make sure that things do not degenerate into chaos in South Arabia. I hope this evening the Foreign Secretary will give us an assurance that even if the situation gets worse in South Arabia, there will be no question of the British Government's throwing in the sponge and saying that they cannot cope. The tragedy of the Government's announcement last year that it would not conclude a defence agreement with South Arabia has been that it has been one factor in making the situation worse and in creating a situation which possibly may enable President Nasser to save something from the wreckage of his policies. He has failed in the Yemen and he has failed in relation to Israel. Let us hope he will not have in South Arabia the success which he needs to keep him in office and which may convince him that his expansionist policies are not so bad after all.

I therefore welcome the change in policy which the Foreign Secretary announced a short time ago. I should like to ask one precise question about that policy. The Foreign Secretary said that the aircraft carrier would remain in the area for six months after independence. Why six months? One of the key dates in the history of an independent South Arabia will be its admission to the United Nations, because, when that comes, it will signal that the world community has accepted South Arabia as an independent country.

It is my understanding that, in the ordinary course of events, that admission could not take place before the autumn, because, unless there is a special session, the General Assembly will not meet until September, eight or nine months after independence. Therefore. assuming that the presence of the aircraft carrier will have a certain value, as I think it will, would it not be better to have it remain in the area for rather longer than six months, long enough to see South Arabia over that stage? Why was six months chosen?

What can Britain do in the Arab-Israel dispute? Not very much. We shall not, in the foreseeable future, be in a position to mediate. But we can, I believe, do two things. One is to throw our weight against any attempt to chivvy the Israelis out of the territories which they have acquired before they have satisfactory assurances that the Arabs recognise that they will continue there as a nation and satisfactory assurances about their rights to free passage through the Suez Canal and the Gulf of Aqaba.

Because I take that view, I congratulate Her Majesty's Government on the stand which they took at the United Nations in opposing the relevant resolution. The key to peace in the Middle East will be acceptance by the Arabs of the proposition that Israel will continue to exist. For us or the international community to chivvy the Israelis into giving up the main card in their hands, the possession of the territory which they have gained, before those assurances are given would merely lead back to the situation which we have had over the past few years and there would be no incentive to the Arabs to be more realistic in accepting the existence of Israel.

The second opportunity open to Britain has already been mentioned by my right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home). I hope that the Government will treat it seriously. I hope that the Foreign Secretary will tell us, when he winds up, that Britain will now propose at the United Nations that a feasibility study be made of the possibility of installing in the Middle East the necessary number of desalination plants. Britain is particularly well qualified to make this proposal, I understand that two-thirds of the atomic desalination plants which exist in the world today have been supplied by this country.

Moreover, this is a subject particularly suitable for the United Nations. The Minister of State suggested that the United Nations might have a rôle to play in actually achieving a peace treaty. Let us hope that it will, though I think it optimistic to look forward to that at the moment, but the desalination project is one in which the United Nations is eminently suited to act now, and, if it can ever be set on foot, it might be run by a United Nations agency.

I hope that the Government will attach importance to this key proposal. If the water problem in the Levant is transformed, the refugee problem is transformed. If the refugee problem is transformed, one makes a start in transforming the political problem as well.

Undoubtedly, the cost would be immense. My right hon. Friend mentioned a figure of several hundred millions of pounds. But would it be any higher than the cost of continuing to hand out doles to 1¼ million refugees, quite apart from the human costs of misery and unemployment? We should accept that the cost would be high, but it would be tolerable. It would certainly be less than the cost of another round of conflict in another ten years.

8.5 p.m.

Mr. David Weitzman (Stoke Newington and Hackney, North)

I very much admired the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heller), who gave a first-hand account of what he had seen, had heard and had thought, together with his colleagues. He said something about not harking back to the past. I propose to hark back to the past, nevertheless, because I am very critical of some of the observations made by my right hon. Friend the Minister of State and of the attitude of the Government in this matter.

I represent a constituency where there are thousands of British citizens of the Jewish faith. They have always acknowledged the debt which they have owed to this country, which has been foremost in recognising, in realistic fashion, the equality of all, irrespective of their faith, and which has been forthright in the condemnation of religious persecution. I hope that in return these people of the Jewish faith have done their duty as good citizens in both peace and war.

They were proud that, under the Balfour Declaration, a haven for Jewish refugees was provided, which was the foundation and basis of the Jewish State. I appreciate as well as anyone the difficulties which have confronted different British Governments in the problems of the Middle East, but, looking back over the years, I cannot but be critical of the attitude adopted by Governments of this country from time to time.

When the mandate was withdrawn in 1948 and the United Nations proposed partition, Britain abstained. She was careful to take no active step to implement the United Nations proposals. I have looked through the debate. I well remember my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Sydney Silverman) severely criticising the Government's attitude.

Whatever may be said about promises made by Britain to Arabs and Jews, the fact remains that Israel as a State was recognised by the United Nations. Indeed, on might say that it was created by the United Nations. To quote Gromyko in the General Assembly: It will be unjust if we do not take account of this aspiration of the Jews to a State of their own.… The denial of this right cannot be justified, especially if we take into account everything that the Jewish people underwent during the Second World War". Israel responded by building up a State, which many of us have visited, a State which desired to live in peace, free from attack by her neighbours, with no thought of territorial aggrandisement. But that peace was not to be, and there followed the war of 1957. Israel triumphed and stood in occupation of the land of her aggressors. She withdrew. in reliance on the promises made to her.

It is of the greatest importance today, when we are discussing the affairs of the Middle East and, in particular, the attitude of Her Majesty's Government, to refer back to what was said in the House then. On 25th February, 1957, Mr. Macmillan, then Prime Minister, emphasised that the withdrawal of Israel should be accompanied by United Nations responsibility for the Gaza Strip, and that it should be made clear beyond a peradventure both by the United Nations and by leading maritime powers that they regarded access to the Gulf of Aqaba as free to the world.

On 14th March, in the debate on the Middle East, the then Foreign Secretary, the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd), pointed out that no country had legal sovereignty over the Gaza Strip, and he said that the Strip should be made a United Nations responsibility. He said: … Israel, by her withdrawal has fully complied with the first Resolution of the General Assembly on 2nd February. He said later: The United Nations accepted the creation of the State of Israel, and it cannot … permit its destruction. He further made this observation, which is of paramount importance: … we shall not get peace unless Israel has more sensible frontiers".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th March, 1957; Vol. 566, c. 1321–30.] He said that there should be guarantees of the frontiers.

I am glad that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary is here, because I particularly want to refer to a speech that was then made by the official spokesman for the Labour opposition, the late Aneurin Bevan. He said: Therefore, what have we to do today, in my view, if we want to be helpful, is not to deride the ambiguity of the expectations but to underline their authority, because it must be accepted that Israel physically acted on the basis of those assumptions. She withdrew, and, therefore, by that very act, attached as much tangibility to the promise made as could possibly have been made in the circumstances. On both sides of the House, I think that we expect that the United Nations will see to it that Israel's act of courageous faith will not go unrequited. He added: It would be an appalling event, in my view. It would strike a blow at the confidence of statesmen all over the world if Mr. Ben-Gurion, who took his political life in his hands in persuading his countrymen to retreat on these conditions, now finds himself faced with what could only be described as an act of faithlessness on the part of those who persuaded him to do what he did.—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th March, 1957; Vol. 566, c. 1336–67.] Israel was betrayed. Over the years that intervened there were constant attacks, constant threats to her very existence. Typical of them was the remark made by the spokesman of the Palestine Liberation Army on 1st May this year, that he was eager for war to destroy Israel, and of Nasser on 26th May that: "Our basic object is to destroy Israel". There was the withdrawal of the United Nations force, the closing of the Gulf of Aqaba and, in the face of all this, we have the impudent assertion that Israel was the aggressor. I suppose that Israel is typical of the wicked dog which, when attacked, dares to defend itself.

What was the Government's attitude to what Egypt did? True enough, in his speech on 31st May in the debate on the Middle East my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary set out the position in fair terms. True enough, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said at Margate on 24th May that the Straits of Tiran must be regarded as an international waterway through which the vessels of all nations had a right of passage. True enough, we tried to get the support of the other maritime nations. We failed. It was all very well urging that there should be a response from the United Nations, that there should be action authorised by the Security Council to raise the blockade. It was all very well to urge restraint on Israel, but as the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) said in the debate on 31st May: The plain fact — is that Israel simply cannot stay passive while the life is slowly squeezed out of her."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 31st May; Vol. 747, c. 194.] From the statement of the foreign secretary on 5th June after hostilities had broken out, indeed, at a time when most people thought that little Israel fighting against overwhelming odds and, taking her life in her hands, might well be annihilated, Britain's concern was not to take sides.

Frankly, I had hoped that at an earlier date the Government would take a more positive attitude. It may be asked, "What could we have done?". I know the difficulties—our economic interests in the Middle East, our desire to be on good terms, the desire to prevent a conflagration. But when little Israel had shown the world that she would not be destroyed, and some of the nations of the world chose to put down unjustifiable resolutions of condemnation in the United Nations, I hoped that Britain would take up the attitude that "Nye" Bevan adopted officially on our behalf when we were in Opposition. I had hoped that we would declare unequivocally that we recognised the betrayal which had taken place and that we stood by Israel. That would have been a moral act of the highest standing which would have redounded to the credit of Britain in the world.

Instead, what did we do? There was a declaration that we would not take sides. What did we get? We had a speech made by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary at the United Nations. That speech has been severely criticised. My right hon. Friend says that it was misunderstood, that the criticism was based on excerpts in Press reports, and that his speech was wrongly judged in that way. Well, I have studied the complete text of that speech. I have it here. I have looked through it carefully. The Foreign Secretary spoke of territorial aggrandisement, linking that term clearly with Israel as if that were her object—a view worthy of Soviet propaganda. He gave a solemn warning to Israel, no doubt shaking his finger in typical fashion, as if Israel were a naughty child, with regard to Jerusalem. I have been terribly disappointed by the Government's attitude. I do not think that it is worthy of Labour Party policy, of which I have been a supporter for many years.

Of course, there is an Arab case and Israel recognises this. But one does not neip to solve the mattor by speaking of Israel as if she engaged upon an adventure in order to obtain territorial aggrandisement, which is what the Charter of the United Nations condemns. As the right hon. and learned Member for Wirral said in the debate in 1957, there will be no peace unless Israel has more sensible frontiers and these frontiers are guaranteed. Israel cannot live in peace unless that is done.

Is it territorial aggrandisement to try to achieve that now? We should base our policy on real principles and not merely on immediate short-term remedies. We have substantial economic interests in the Middle East, but history has shown that trade and economic relations largely depend on mutual interests and not on politics.

There is a number of problems that must be faced. The first is the recognition that the Middle East crisis can only be solved by negotiation between the parties, with as little interference as possible by other powers. I am a strong supporter of an effective United Nations, but we must be realistic in this matter. It is a fallacy to think that that body, comprised of many nations and composed of conflicting interests and continual lobbying, with difficulty in coming to decisions, can possibly solve this problem.

Britain should do everything in her power by exerting her influence and by emphasising to other nations the necessity for direct negotiations. The United Nations may well play a useful part in guaranteeing any settlement. There must be an adjustment of the frontiers of Israel so that she is made safe, free from aggression.

In this connection, there is the problem of Jerusalem. There is not only the fact that Jerusalem has been the eternal city, the centre of the Jewish faith and religion for thousands of years. Its condition for the last 20 years was unnatural. The two parts were separated by armed sentries, minefields and barbed wire. There were outbreaks of hostility which resulted in many religious and other buildings being destroyed and many people being killed.

Twenty years ago Israel was prepared to co-operate with the United Nations' proposal for internationalisation. But that is simply impracticable now. I draw attention to the remarks by my hon. Friend the Member for Walton in this connection. Some hon. Members have spoken of the holy shrines. Since Israel's occupation of Jerusalem she has shown how anxious she is to co-operate in every way conducive, in her own words, "to effective expression of the immunity and sanctity of all the holy places", something previously denied, and she is perfectly content and happy that each of the holy shrines should be administered by the faith to which it belongs.

Everyone has sympathy for the refugees. But we must remember that there are Arab refugees and Jewish refugees. From 1947 until June this year there were nearly 800,000 Jewish refugees who left or were forced to leave Arab countries because of Arab hostility, in many cases losing everything they possessed. Their number has been added to considerably since June of this year because of Arab oppression. Israel has tackled the problem of resettling these refugees. She has not asked any of the nations of the world to assist her. She has not treated these refugees as a political pawn.

In contrast, the Arabs have used the Arab refugees as a pawn in their hostility to Israel. Israel has made many efforts to join others in effecting a just settlement. Again I suggest this is a matter for direct negotiation between Jews and Arabs with as little interference from other nations as possible, except that other nations, as well as the United Nations, could assist with economic help as well as by persuading the Arabs to get together with the Jews and settle the problem of the refugees. I would only add that steps should be taken to ensure that any economic help given is not used for other purposes.

There remains the vital problem of the supply of arms. Obviously, if arms are supplied to one side, the other side is put in dire peril. I know that Britain took steps to try to obtain a universal cessation of such supplies. It is perhaps questionable whether she did it in the right way or at the right time, but at any rate today it is an important matter, and I hope that some real effort will be made in this direction. It may be a hopeless effort. It may be that other nations will not agree—we know the attitude of Soviet Russia—but I think that a real effort to try to achieve that object would be worth while.

Israel won a war unaided. The alternative was to be destroyed and to have her citizens massacred. She desires no territorial aggrandisement. Her sole desire is to live in peace, with frontiers properly protected, to develop her country and to enjoy the rights enjoyed by other nations, no more and no less. If international waterways are open to other nations, be it the Gulf of Aqaba or the Suez Canal, they should be open in the same to Israel. I hope that the Government will adopt the attitude of doing everything in their power to help Israel achieve these objects.

8.25 p.m.

Mr. Neil Marten (Banbury)

I hope that the hon. and learned Member for Stoke Newington and Hackney, North (Mr. Weitzman) will forgive me if I do not follow his general line of argument, which, I think, is one for the Foreign Secretary to answer. However, I would follow on from his last point about arms.

This matter was raised by the right hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. I3ellenger), who made a very strong appeal to the Government to "come clean" on a policy about arms exports to the Middle East.

If this is to be considered, I hope that it will be a policy of equality of arms exports to the various countries, and that Britain will not make any silly attempt on her own to stop arms exports to the Middle East, because, as we have seen in South Africa, all that happens is that the French move in and the countries concerned get their arms in the end and our own arms industry suffers. But I would certainly support a policy of equality of treatment and a balanced export of arms to the Middle East.

I take up another point from the speech of the Minister of State and my intervention about the Suez Canal. My criticism is that the Under-Secretary of State told the House on the Thursday afternoon—it was after the fighting was over—that he did not know whether the Suez Canal was blocked or not, but that he would tell the House immediately he had the information I think that it was 10 days later when the Foreign Secretary told us the situation about the canal. So I can only assume that for 10 days before, and, indeed, more than that, we did not know what the situation in the Suez Canal was —at least we were not told about it —whether it was blocked or whether it was not. This—I know that one is on touchy, delicate ground here—is a criticism of our intelligence services. It must be.

The Minister of State said in reply to my intervention that the reason was that there was a war going on. But what sort of intelligence service is it that "packs up" immediately a war starts? That is the very time that one wants intelligence coming in. But I leave the matter there. Perhaps Lord Radcliffe, who is an expert on intelligence services, may have a look at it.

The debate has been conducted in rather a sober way, and rightly so, because, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) said, it is never quite the right time to have a debate on the Middle East. But I think that it is our right and duty to speak in this debate frankly and clearly because the situation concerns not only the Middle East, but the whole world and also peace. How nearly we might have had a world war if the conflict had gone the other way—

The background to the debate is the defeat of Nasser. I wish to deal with the question of Nasser and his resignation. He resigned at 5.30 or 6 p.m. on the Friday evening, and shortly afterwards, or the next morning, he was reinstated as the leader of Egypt. According to my information, on the Wednesday before the Friday when he resigned he was approached by a number of officers to resign together with the chiefs of staff and the commander-in-chief. He said that he would. He sacked the commander-in-chief and the chiefs of staff and said that he would go. He then went on the radio on Friday afternoon at 5.30 p.m. and said that he was going to resign.

Immediately afterwards—in fact, almost before it—crowds started whipping up enthusiasm for the cry, "Nasser must not go". In my view, what went wrong was that the Army officers who asked him to resign were inexperienced in politics whereas Nasser was so experienced that he got his supporters to whip up support in the streets for demand that he stay.

I believe that the Egyptian people only demanded that he stay because they did not know the truth about the catastrophe of the war. Now the truth must be beginning to seep through as the soldiers return—and we have seen pictures of the wounded troops being helped across the canal by the Israelis and others. The Egyptian people may well now be taking a different view of Nasser and this same group of officers or another group may feel that they have had enough of Nasser.

It may be, therefore, that, in a few weeks' time, we shall see a very different situation in Egypt, with Nasser possibly gone. In our consideration of the problems of the Middle East this is something that we should take into account when looking ahead. I would not suggest that we in this country ought to stir it up or play any part in it. Whether Nasser stays or goes must be entirely a matter for the Egyptian people themselves.

All Arabs—and I would include in them the Egyptians—must surely now regard Nasser with considerable disapproval. As many hon. Members have pointed out, there have been his venture in the Yemen, his pointless aggression there, his imperialism, his use of gas, his lies about British aircraft participating in the war. The hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heller) described very graphically the hate propaganda with which the children of Egypt are being fed. My hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, South (Mr. Blaker) referred to the stories put out by Cairo Radio.

All these lies and actions will, I believe, bounce back on Nasser. I hope that they will strangle him in the end. There has been the complete failure of his forces, although they were supplied with modern equipment by the Russians. Finally, he has bankrupted Egypt. I do not believe that any genuine Arab could possibly have much respect for a man who behaves like that and gets his country and the whole Middle East into such a situation.

I believe that Nasser may well be deposed by the Egyptians in the weeks to come. If he is, I would hope that his successor would not be a Nasserite but a more reasonable Egyptian able to get Egypt straight again. His first task must be getting the economy of Egypt straight and at peace. With a new Egyptian leader and with a sensible policy which rejects Egyptian imperialism and concentrates on bettering the lot of the Egyptian people, Britain and the United States must be ready to help. It will be a vast task but we should think about it and be prepared for it.

In the meantime, Russia will be doing all it can to upset the political equilibrium in the Middle East. We have heard much about Russa's extraordinary performance. We have heard how she poured arms into Egypt to supply ineffective fighting forces, encouraging them into action and then doing nothing to support them. Now, apparently, the Russians are rearming the Egyptians, whether with MiG 17s or MiGs 21s and how many we do not know. I suspect that the Russians are rearming Egypt not to make another aggressive war, but merely to keep Nasser sufficiently strong to keep the Middle East stirred up in a continual state of turmoil.

I do not believe that the Russians are interested in the Arabs, but only in using them and causing the maximum political disturbance in the Middle East. The Government, if they can, should use every stratagem to stop the Russians rearming Egypt. How they would do it I do not know—the Government would know the methods—but if it could be achieved it would be a very great contribution to the present situation in the Middle East. As I said earlier, if Nasser is replaced by a more reasonable man, Britain and America should help the Egyptian people. It is in our interest to do this; it is in our interest to weaken Russian influence in the Middle East.

At that point of time, there may well be some sense in Britain, with her great and traditional knowledge of the Middle East, offering her good offices to mediate between the Israelis and the Arabs in this conflict. The prime responsibility must rest with the Israelis and the Arabs themselves, although mediation from our side might be a good thing.

As for Britain remaining in the Middle East, I was glad to hear the Government today obviously realising that to withdraw now from the Middle East would create instability. I believe this to be so, because the basic ingredient of the crisis, which is Israel, will remain in the Middle East for a very long time and I hope sincerely that the Arabs and the Israelis will be realistic in the years to come. Equally, I hope that the Government will be realistic and accept that total withdrawal from that area would undoubtedly leave a power vacuum which would only increase the instability of the Middle East and make peace more difficult to achieve.

Finally, this is a situation in which the United Nations at this stage cannot even begin to cope with the problems ahead as long as Russia is determined to upset the political equilibrium of the Middle East. Therefore, it is up to individual major Powers to do the job as best they can, and the two Powers who should do it are Britain and the United States. We must do it in spite of the very silly campaign which is being waged against us by the Arabs. Britain and America—and both the Arabs and the Israelis know it—are the real friends of the Middle East. I say this because I believe that Britain and America have the reality of interest in the Middle East, both political and commercial, and they also have the reality of power in the Middle East.

There is much to do in the Middle East. There is the problem of the refugees, the perpetually evolving societies out there, and the lives of millions of delightful people. We must consider the peace not only of the Middle East, but of the whole world, which could be wrecked by an unsatisfactory solution in the Middle East.

I end by saying that I hope that the oil-rich Arabs and the Israelis will recognise this and that we shall now all get on with the job as soon as we can in the interests of world peace.

8.39 p.m.

Mr. Christopher Mayhew (Woolwich, East)

I wish that I could follow the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten) in his congratulations to the Government on their statement of policy. After all that has gone on in the Arab-Israeli war and the evidence of our helplessness during that period in spite of our military presence at Aden and in the Gulf, which gave us no real influence over events before, during, or after the war, I found my right hon. Friend's "business as usual" statement about our military policy and presence there extremely depressing.

I hope that, on further reflection, before the publication of the Defence White Paper in two or three weeks' time, he and the Government will come to realise, as the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) said, that the day really is over when Britain can play a traditional great Power rôle in the Middle East.

One of the lessons of the debate seems to be how hard it is to be objective about the Arab-Israel dispute. A number of hon. Members have declared their intention of being objective and have earnestly and honestly tried to be, but in the end they have presented the Arab-Israel struggle very much from the one point of view, the Israeli point of view.

I now propose to try to be objective myself. I believe that I have some special credentials for being neutral, because, on the one hand, there is in Israel, which I have visited several times, a grove of trees called the "Christopher Mayhew Grove". It was planted by a number of grateful members of the Jewish community in Britain in recognition of my sympathetic understanding of Judaism. On the other hand, after the war, for faithfully follow- ing the Palestine policy of the Labour Government, I was actually sentenced to death by the Jewish terrorist organisation. I believe that the combination of these two entitles me to call myself neutral in the Arab-Israel struggle.

One of the things which I would like to say as an objective observer is that the Israeli case in this struggle has been presented in this country very much better than the Arab case. This afternoon, the Israeli case has been admirably presented by speaker after speaker. We see it in the Press and we see it in our post-bags and in meetings, and so on. By contrast, the Arabs' presentation of their case is deplorable. It is not simply that they do not have the same facilities, or the same experience, or the same number of dedicated spokesmen. It is, as they themselves will admit quite freely, that they are among the world's worst propagandists, and no one should question that.

This creates a considerable danger. It creates the danger of a one-sided presentation of the struggle in this country. If we are to make a constructive contribution to a settlement, it is essential that we understand the motives, feelings and reasoning of both sides in the struggle.

The Israeli case is easy to understand—a small country of 2½ million people, surrounded by larger countries, all bitterly hostile to Israel and all avowedly stating their aim to be the elimination of Israel. We recall the commando raids into Israel and the ejection of the U.N.E.F. from Egyptian territory and, finally, the closing of the Gulf of Aqaba to Israeli shipping and strategic goods. To many people the whole matter seems to be a black and white affair.

Yet, as the Foreign Secretary has said bravely and truly, the Arabs as well as the Israelis have a case. The truth is that the Arabs as well as the Israelis have a strong historic and moral claim to the territory of Israel. To the Jewish people the establishment of Israel seems a miraculous homecoming after two thousand years of dispersion and often oppression, a return to the land of their fathers and their holy places. It is a true picture, and a very moving one to anyone with a sense of history.

But what is so difficult to convey is that to the Arabs the establishment of the State of Israel meant almost exactly the opposite—dispersion from the land of their fathers and their holy places, eviction from land which they were occupying and which they had occupied for longer than the Jews, eviction imposed by foreigners and at a time of great weakness to themselves, by the Americans, the British and the Zionists, eviction against their desperate opposition, often by force and sometimes by deceit. This, too, is true equally with the Israeli picture. That is a true statement of events. It must equally command sympathy by everyone whose mind is not totally closed and who is not totally prejudiced on this subject.

Talking about Arab refugees today is in some ways uncannily like talking to Zionists before the war. The sentiments and arguments are uncannily similar. We are scattered today, say the Arab refugees, driven from our homeland. We are poor, we are oppressed, but the land in Palestine is our lands and we will return to it one day. Sometimes in these Arab refugees camps one almost expects someone to say, amid these protests: orget thee, 0 Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its cunning. One almost expects an Arab to say that in an Arab refugee camp. There is a kind of Arab Zionism, uncannily like the Zionism of the Jews before the war. It is argued that history has moved on, it is 20 years now, and Israel has been established.

But when we remember that the Jews maintained their claim for this land for 2,000 years is it realistic to expect the Arabs to abandon their claim for the same land in 20 years? This is what they say, too, "Unlike the Jews during the dispersion we can actually see the promised land with our own eyes. Just over there is my farm, which I built up, and which is now being cultivated by a foreigner." It may be someone newly arrived from Europe or North Africa. It is not realistic to expect the Arabs to forget their claims so soon.

The sensible thing no doubt would be to recognise the facts of life, the facts of power, and to make the best of a bad job. I have told this to my Arab friends over and over again, to all the Arab leaders, including President Nasser. This must be said by those who are the true friends of the Arabs because it is true.

Yet sometimes I wonder how we would react if we were in their position. Suppose that 2,000 years ago the Jewish people had lived not in Roman Palestine, but in Roman Britain, and that they had been dispersed not from Jerusalem, but from London. Imagine that many centuries later, at a time when Britain was extremely weak, the great Powers, for their own purposes, promised the Jewish people a return to Britain, and then encouraged, financed and armed a huge Jewish immigration into Britain, and, finally, pushed through a plan for partitioning Britain and recognising London and the Home Counties as a foreign State.

How would we react to that? How ready would we be to recognise this new foreign State, to write off London and southern England as a foreign country? What would we say to an army of English refugees, the Sussex farmers, the London busmen and their families? Would we say, "Oh, there is plenty of room in Australia and Canada."? I cannot promise that in such circumstances I would say that.

I cannot be sure that I would not say that for as long as I lived I would never reconcile myself to such a monstrous injustice. Of course it would be wrong to say that, and I agree with my hon. Friends who have argued this point. It would be right to compromise with the facts of power. But when we say this to our Arab friends, and it is our duty to do so, we ought to say it with considerable sympathy and understanding, recognising that if we were in their position maybe we would be incapable of doing the same thing ourselves.

We should also stop labelling the Arabs as the aggressors, as several of my hon. Friends have done. It is not true that either the Arabs or the Jews are the aggressors in this quarrel. It depends where in time one takes one's stand. If one takes one's stand on 5th June, the Israelis were the aggressors; but if one takes one's stand a fortnight earlier, at Aqaba, then the Egyptians were the aggressors. If we go back to 1949 and the Negev campaign, the Israelis were the aggressors. If we go back to 1947—the Arab war—the Arabs were the aggressors. If we go back to before the war, I should say that the idea held by many Zionists that a Jewish State should be established in a predominantly Arab place was an aggressive idea.

The present generation of Jews and Arabs are neither the aggressors nor the victims of aggression. They are the victims of history. They are the victims of loyalties, passions and traditions which it is far beyond their capacity to control. We must, therefore, abandon this black and white attitude to the Arab-Israel struggle. Until we understand the feelings of both sides, which are equally understandable in human terms, I do not believe that we shall reach the right conclusion about what is needed for a settlement.

What is the problem of a settlement? What is the aim? Surely the aim must be to create conditions in which the Arabs can accept the existence of Israel without unbearable humiliation and loss of self-respect. That is the only way in which the Israelis will get security—acceptance by the Arabs. I understand the craving of the Jewish people for security. How could anybody who has any knowledge of history and any imagination fail to understand it? But it is a deadly error to think that security for Israel can be won by military power, by the expansion of frontiers, by weakening and dividing the Arab world. That can stave off danger, perhaps for some decades but nobody with a sense of history or an understanding of how States and nations behave in these circumstances can think that that policy will end in anything except ultimate disaster.

I wish that that point seemed to be better understood by the Israelis than it is. I find some of their actions and pronouncements since their victory profoundly disturbing. For example, the annexation of Jerusalem was a mistaken action, for which they have been condemned by 99 members of the United Nations without a dissenting voice. Some of their pronouncements about their territorial gains and about the Arab refugees are disturbing.

It is obvious that a settlement will be, unfortunately, a long time coming. But there is one task which will not wait for a settlement but which will contribute greatly to it, and that is an all-out attack on the problem of the Arab refugees and not just the relief of the refugees. How depressing it is to see that U.N.R.W.A., which everyone agrees has done splendidly, has spent £200 million on these refugees in 19 years with nothing positive to show for it.

The aim must be resettlement. The larger part of the resettlement should be on Arab territory. But part of it must be in Israel, both on grounds of justice and as a means of conciliation and because they know the job and can do it well. The former security objection of the Israelis to having refugees back on their territory no longer holds—or, at any rate, not with anything like the same force. The existing Arab inhabitants of Israel were not a security problem during the war and they will not be now that the war is over.

Since 1948, the proportion of Arabs to Jews in Israel has fallen from about one-third to about one-fifth. In my view, there is room for a quarter of a million Arab refugees to return to their home ground in Israel.

Sir B. Janner

Does my hon. Friend expect a fifth column to be introduced into Israel at this stage?

Mr. Mayhew

I was explaining that during the war the Arab inhabitants of Israel did not present a security problem and that they are now less likely to present a security problem. But I concede that if the Israelis wish to give priority to the elderly refugees, that will be understandable. But even so a quarter of a million refugees would be a fair take for Israel in the present situation. I would give priority, also, to those refugees who have a registered claim to land and property in Israel. If they cannot get their own land and property back, they should get land and property of roughly equivalent value.

I ask some of my hon. Friends who have been speaking to remember that today the Israelis are enjoying the use of farms and houses, of private possessions, furniture and farm implements, which belong to the refugees and for which no compensation has been paid. Part of the solution of the problem, therefore, should be a quarter of a million refugees going back, especially the elderly and those with registered claims, to Israel. For the rest, there should be resettlement predominantly in Arab territory under United Nations direction and with the generous support of the United States and Britain. and Israel at well.

Britain has contributed 500,000 dollars to U.N.R.W.A. as a special contribution. That is something, but it is not enough. It is too small. I agree that compared with other countries, our record is admirable, but I cannot help saying that, to their great credit, Israeli supporters in this country have already subscribed £6 million in voluntary contributions for Israel. I understand from my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer that this is being allowed across the exchanges. Aid to the Arab countries should be at least as much. hearing in mind the even greater need of the Arab refugees. Therefore, the sum of 500,000 dollars is too small in all the circumstances.

I must not continue too long. I simply wish to end by suggesting a start for a settlement. Everyone can see how long and difficult it will be—the difficulty for the Israelis to withdraw to their previous frontiers in advance of recognition, the difficulty for the Arab Governments of recognition in advance of withdrawal. This kind of problem is bound to hold up a settlement, but we can get started—it will contribute to the settlement eventually—on a positive effort to solve the problem of the refugees.

Let Britain, America and Israel take a lead, not as a matter of charity but as a plain moral obligation arising from their actions in the past. which, knowingly or unknowingly, have been the main cause of the Arab's desperate suffering and humiliation today.

8.57 p.m.

Sir Harry Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)

I am glad that the hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) finished his speech on the constructive note of what to do about the refugees. All of us who have attended this debate, and all who remember the earlier debates at the time of the British hand-over of the Mandate, are acutely aware that few things can have been more shaming than the events which have followed that disastrous day when U Thant decided to pull out the peace-keeping force at the request of Egypt. I do not blame him for doing it. Constitutionally, in terms of the United Nations constitution and the pledges that were given, he was right to do it. He could do little else in the light of the undertakings which had been given.

Since then we have seen a betrayal, almost unrivalled in the history of the world, by the United Nations of the country which the United Nations created, a betrayal by this country whose giving up of the Mandate led inevitably to the State of Israel eventually being set up, and particularly a betrayal by a Labour Government who, in 1945, came into power on the policy of letting the Arabs move out and the Jews move in because it was absurd in a country the size of Wales that there should be two peoples.

Therefore, we gave up the Mandate and the United Nations took over the exercise for us and established the State of Israel. All those who were involved in those acts betrayed Israel in the last six weeks. It is a shaming chapter of history for all the people concerned. It ill becomes anybody in the course of the debate to lay down the law about what Israel should now do or what any of the other countries concerned should do. We ought to be thinking about what is in the interests of Britain. If we do not re-establish ourselves as pursuing a policy which is worthy of respect, we shall deserve to be condemned.

May I return to the speech of the hon. Member for Woolwich, East. I do not believe that the United Nations is the right body for this exercise. International liberals with pious impractical thoughts are almost more dangerous than out-and-out Communists. At least we know straight away what the Communists mean. The United Nations is the brain child of international liberalism. So many of the things of which the international liberals talk are obviously desirable. But what is pernicious is that, as Edmund Burke once said, all idealism which is impractical is also spurious. So much which has happened in the United Nations has proved to be spurious. So much of the idealism which led to the setting up of the State of Israel proved to be spurious when it came to the question whether they were prepared to defend what they had created. The United Nations is about the last body for us now to call in to try to solve the problem for the future.

I was dismayed by what the Minister of State told us in opening the debate. It appears to me that the Government intend to pass the buck entirely to the United Nations. Of course, he said, we shall play our part in the various negotiations. But we all know well, whether it be about the future of the State of Israel or about dealing with the Arab refugees or about clearing the Suez Canal and keeping it open as a waterway, that unless somebody is prepared to take physical action all that will happen is that the fingers of the nations most concerned will be snapped in our faces and they will go on doing exactly as they like.

It ill becomes us now to tell Israel what to do. Although all my life I have been an opponent of political Zionism—and always shall be—Zionism without Zion is hardly likely to be satisfying to a true Zionist. I have always understood that argument. Now it has happened. Israel has her Zion, and if I were Israel I should not give Zion up. I should hope that by the way in which I administered the Zion that I had captured in the latest war I should win the respect of all religions. To ask the United Nations to sort this out is obscene.

Britain must work out for herself what is now in her own best interests. Let us recollect our enormous reliance on oil. We cannot avoid facing that if we want our economy to remain strong. It therefore seems to me that gradually we must pick up the pieces of those friendly parts of the Arab world and must show ourselves ready to recognise reality when we see it in Israel. We must try to bring the traditionally more friendly Arab States along with us again, with Israel coming with us, too. That is all that we can hope to do. How do we do it? Looking back at some of our old debates on the Middle East I came across these words: … in addition to the rather natural desire of the Egyptians to try to remove us from the Canal Zone, I believe that they have had another reason for wanting us to go which we have ignored rather too much. I believe that that reason is that they want us to go so that they can, one day and in their own good time, try to redeem the shocking defeat which they had at the hands of the Israeli troops when we were setting up the State of Israel … Suppose that the Egyptian Government decided to send their army into Israel. It is absolutely certain that the Kingdom of Jordan would have to come in with Egypt, if only to support her own interests. We should then he in a very unpleasant dilemma because, on the one hand, we are guaranteeing the frontiers of Israel jointly with other Powers, and, on the other, we have a treaty of alliance with Jordan. Therefore, if that situation should arise, we might find ourselves in the unfortunate position of either having to abandon Israel or break our treaty with Jordan, or sit on the fence. If we sit on the fence, then one thing is certain—we shall have a conflagration in the Middle East which will get out of control and which will result in a terrible loss of life. I doubt whether we should ever be able to control it by ourselves. Therefore, it seems that what we must avoid is any likelihood of the Egyptian Army ever again invading Israel".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st July, 1953; Vol. 518, c. 335.] When I recently read that, I was not aware who had said it, and then I discovered that I had uttered those words myself in July, 1953. Now we have lived through it all, but it gives me no satisfaction to say that I visualised what would eventually take place. Yet what I said is still worth bearing in mind, for we must consider what we can do to prevent the likelihood of this state of affairs from happening again.

We must recognise dictators when we see them and be prepared to treat them accordingly. My guess is that dictator Nasser, which is what he is, will do his best to take his people's minds off their own plight. This is what dictators invariably do. When they get into difficulty in home affairs, they attempt to divert attention by doing something abroad. I do not know what Nasser is likely to do abroad. Maybe he will try to do something even worse than he is already doing in the Yemen. If he does anything like that, or something equally bad, we must be more robust. We must come out forcefully and show the Arab world that we will not allow Egypt to get away with the sort of things it has been allowed to get away with in the past, probably because we thought that it would alieniate the Arabs if they were not allowed to get away with them.

In any event, I do not believe that Egypt is an Arab country in the true sense of the phrase. It is a conglomeration of all sorts of peoples. On the other hand, we have many Arab friends and I hope that we will be compassionate towards Jordan. We must realise the appalling predicament in which poor King Hussein finds himself, with Nasser trying to lead the Arab world. Jordan is probably the first Arab country to try to get together with Israel. We could help, and it is in our interests to help. We must try to pick up the bits; and perhaps the Arab refugees can be the beginning of this exercise. Jordan has always shown more care and concern for these refugees than any other Arab country. I hope that we will show that we, too, mean business.

The Minister of State said earlier—and I admit that he had every right to say it—that we have done more than any other country, other than the United States, for the Arab refugees. I trust that he is aware that we can be too complacent about what we have done. As the hon. Member for Woolwich, East said, when one compares the sum which Jewish sympathisers in this country have subscribed to Israel with what we have done for the Arab refugees, our effort does not show up particularly well.

My position in this matter is exactly as stated by Mr. Kenneth Younger when occupying the Minister of State's present office in 1951: His Majesty's Government believe … that it is in the interests of the refugees themselves that the majority of them should, without prejudice to … their right to receive compensation, settle among their brethren in Arab countries." — [OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd April, 1951; Vol. 487, c. 30.] That is where I stand.

They should have the right to compensation and they should be able to go back to their former holdings, but I hope that now we can, with the help of Jordan and of Israel herself, gradually instil in the minds of both Israelis and Arabs that we wish to be friends with both; that there is nothing that need conflict in that, but that we regard it as a separate responsibility, and do not believe that the United Nations, bearing in mind its appalling record in this matter in the past, is the best body to promote this exercise, and think that this should be the proper concern of those whose interests are most involved.

Why are our interests involved? It is principally because of the geographical position of the United Kingdom and that junction of Africa and Asia which is Egypt. No one would particularly relish having to live in the Back Garden of Allah, the Sinai Peninsula. Whether the frontier will finish up on one side or the other, or whether there will be an international zone, I do not know. But those things are less important than the geographical fact that this country, because of its geographical position in relation to the Euro-Asian land mass, cannot afford to ignore that link between Africa and Asia that is represented by Egypt.

So, because of our reliance on oil, and our geographical position, we are inevitably involved, and involved, perhaps, more than any other country, but any European country must have interests there, too. I believe that my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) was right in saying earlier in the debate that perhaps there is a real need for a joint European exercise.

If we can approach the matter in this manner, show compassion to those Arabs who could not help themselves in what Nasser made them do, and not start pontificating impracticably in the United Nations about what Israel should now do, there is a real chance that we can pick up the bits again, and so do something, not only in our own interests but in the interests of the peace of the world.

9.13 p.m.

Mr. Reginald Maudling (Barnet)

This is not an occasion on which the House is divided on party lines and, of course, there is not to be a Division. It was apparent early on, from the distinguished speech with which my right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) started the debate and the response from the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of State, that there is a great identity of views between the two Front Benches on the problems we are now facing.

That is at it should be. It is good that there should not be major differences between the two Front Benches in winding up this important debate. But that is not to say that there are not wide differences of views within the House, of which great evidence has been given in this debate in a number of distinguished speeches from back bench Members—speeches distinguished by their sincerity, their experience and, in some cases, their passion.

It is right, as the hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) said, that in these matters it is very important, first of all, not to appear to be taking sides, as it were, in a partisan way, and certainly not to rake up embers of the past if one can possibly avoid doing so. These are circumstances in which we must be cool-headed as well as emotional, in which we must look at the present as well as the future, and in which it remains very much the responsibility of the Government to take a cool and balanced view of a highly dangerous situation.

This situation is, of course, highly complicated for this country. We have all the problems connected with withdrawing colonial or protectorate status from countries for which we still have certain defence responsibilities—as in the Trucial States, where we have still a very solemn and definite defence responsibility. We have the natural problems relating to countries that are becoming independent but which still need to lean on someone in the world and cannot yet entirely rely on their own strength.

These problems are made the more complicated by the special difficulties of the Middle East area; the extraordinary vagaries of wealth, the extraordinary contrast between oil-rich countries and their neighbours still living in complete impoverishment. I am surprised that the invasion of the transistor radio has not been mentioned much today. It always surprises me when I visit the Middle East to find how many people living on the verge of indigence can listen to transistor radios—and listen, I am afraid, most often to Cairo Radio.

One recognises the enormous efforts which King Feisal is making in Saudi Arabia to take his people out of the middle ages into the modern world in one generation. All these things put great strains of a unique character on the Governments concerned. The present situation is complicated by the various disputes taking place in that area—the dispute between Israelis and Arabs, disputes within the Arab world, and disputes between the great Powers which leave their mark only too obviously on the Middle Eastern areas.

We have heard much from both sides of the House this afternoon about the dispute between Israel and the Arab States. Most of us would feel that there is a case for both sides in this dispute. One cannot help feeling deeply impressed by the arguments of the Israelis that they are and have been threatened with complete destruction. The hon. Member for Leicester, North-West (Sir B. Janner) and the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heller) quoted some of the propaganda in this dispute. There is deep human feeling which we must recognise. But equally, as the hon. Member for Woolwich, East said, there is genuine feeling—I have met it myself on many occasions among Arabs, particularly Palestinian Arabs—that their land has been taken from them and they can see that land being tilled by alien people. These are real feelings which we cannot ignore.

It is sometimes argued that the plight of the refugees has been exploited for political purposes. I do not know how true that is, but, whether or not that is true, their plight still exists and is a major factor in the Middle East situation. Then there is the complication of quarrels within the Middle Eastern world, the various conflicting claims to territories and power disputes, and the fighting which has been going on for years in the Yemen.

Finally, there are the activities of the external Powers, particularly of the Soviet Union. It is recognisable and understandable that they should seek to expand their influence in the Middle East, but I am surprised in view of the nature of the present régime at the alacrity with which they appeared to seize on this particular war in the Middle East from the very start and how little, apparently, they weighed in the balance the true merits of the situation or the true arguments on the sides of the two parties then locked in hostilities.

I am afraid one cannot help feeling that the policy of France has not been helpful in this situation. There are many people, not in one country alone, who feel that the policy of the French at the moment seems to be rather in the interests of their own country than in the interests of finding a solution in the general interests of this part of the world. We find many different conflicting influences and cross currents throughout the whole Middle East, the Israeli-Arab conflict, and the struggle for the leadership of the Arab world—which, I believe, has underlain much that has happened—and, finally, the influence of the great Powers themselves.

In these circumstances. I believe our objectives as a country should be threefold. First, without doubt, we should honour our obligations—they still remain —in the Trucial States, in the Gulf and elsewhere, obligations which we must honour even at the cost, if necessary, of maintaining substantial Forces in that area. I was glad to hear the Minister of State this afternoon re-emphasising that the British Government do not intend in any way to abandon their responsibilities and obligations in that area.

Secondly, we must be determined to maintain our friendships—which, I am quite certain, over the span of history have been traditional friendships—both with the Israeli people and with the Arab people. So many distinguished Britishers over so many years have known, understood and worked with Jews and Arabs alike. We must not let this be torn apart and lost.

Finally, we must also protect our economic interests. It is not right to ignore them. My hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, South (Mr. Blaker) was right when he pointed out how large are the issues seen from the point of view of Britain's economy and therefore of her ability to play an effective part in world affairs and an effective rôle in sustaining aid to countries in the Middle East and elsewhere which need our help.

These are our objectives. Now for our methods. I am sure, as I have said before, that this is fundamental; we must at all costs try to avoid giving the appearance of being either anti-Israel or anti-Arab. This is fundamentally difficult. For instance, in the dispute between India and Pakistan, in trying to be neutral one often found that one was taken to be hostile to both sides. We must try very hard to avoid this.

The right hon. Gentleman made a speech at the United Nations about Jerusalem, and I agree with him. What he said was absolutely right. Despite what has been said in this debate by many hon. Members, it would be in the fundamental interests of Israel to fall in line with world opinion in this matter. I have no doubt that it would be a tremendous sacrifice and effort for them, but it would in the long term be in their own interests because their own interests are to have a situation which is secure and permanent. In those circumstances, one could not establish something which would be secure and permanent against the determination of the Arabs and against the disagreement of pretty well the entire membership of the United Nations.

While I agree with the Foreign Secretary on the line that he was taking in this matter, it is a fact which cannot be ignored that the impression given by his speech, for example in the American Press, which I read, because I was there, was quite definitely anti-Israeli—as carried through the Press, which is one example of how easy it is to be misunderstood in these matters.

Taking the other side of the argument, we must do more and more to make it clear that when we criticise the policy of Nasserite Egypt we are not attacking the Arab world as a whole. I was surprised the other day, talking to a distinguished ambassador in this country, when he said that this had not yet been made fully clear. I would have thought it was absolutely clear. We have our friendships with many Arab countries still, as the Minister of State rightly said, sustained on a personal as well as an official basis, despite some of the difficulties of recent weeks. We have these traditional friendships. But we cannot, as a price of that, accept the argument that if one wants to be a friend of the Arabs one must support everything that the Nasser Government does. This is not tolerable or sustainable.

We cannot support the activities of Cairo Radio. We cannot support the activities of Colonel Nasser's forces in the Yemen, including the use of poison gas, to which my right hon. Friend rightly referred this afternoon. This is the sort of thing we must continue to condemn in the name of all humanity, including the Arabs themselves. There is nothing anti-Arab in taking that line. We must get this across in every possible way.

It has been the policy of Egypt to be the main base of any Russian military influence in the Middle East. It has been the policy of Egypt to expand her influence in the Yemen. It is the policy of Egypt to try to expand her influence through Aden, round Saudi Arabia and generally to subvert the whole of the Arab world. It was the policy of Egypt to close the Gulf of Aqaba, or the Straits of Tiran. It was Egypt who took the lead in declaring the determination to destroy the Israeli State.

Therefore, I say that we must make it clear that our quarrel is not with the Egyptian people or with the Arab people in any way at all. The last thing we want to do is to quarrel with those people. Our objection is solely to the policies of the present Egyptian Government which have created so much damage for the whole of the Middle East, including, I believe, the Egyptian people themselves. If we can get this distinction quite clear, I believe that our position in the Arab world will be stronger and that good will flow to both sides as a result.

I am sure that as one of our methods we must avoid the appearance of appeasing our enemies and deserting our friends. Too often recently this has happened. I recall being in that part of the world when the Government made their announcement about the withdrawal of British forces from Aden. There can be no doubt that the effect of that announcement was to give encouragement to those hostile to Britain and discouragement to those who are our friends. I am certain that a real chance of Egyptian withdrawal from the Yemen was frustrated and the whole policy of Nasserite Egypt was changed by that announcement on the part of Her Majesty's Government.

Finally, on method, we must work with friendly Powers and with the United Nations in every possible way. The United Nations has been referred to often today, and there is, I think, some disagreement about how or in what shape the United Nations has emerged from the recent debate. I believe that it has strengthened the United Nations. It is true that no final or firm conclusion has been reached and no individual resolution has achieved a majority, but, on the other hand, discussion and voting in the United Nations on this occasion has gone more on the basis of the merits of the case and less on the basis of prior commitment, as has happened often in recent years. I can, therefore, see reason for encouragement in what has happened there.

Now, the question of what action we should take. As I have said, we must maintain our presence in the area. It is not only a matter of the obligations which we have to maintain. It is also true—this reflects what the Minister of State said—that our withdrawal and the creation of a power vacuum there would lead to more and greater dangers in the Middle East.

I am certain, also, that we must maintain our position in Aden, at least to the extent which the Government have already made clear. I press the Foreign Secretary again a little to clarify the situation in Aden at present. Will he confirm the authority given to our troops to use what weapons are necessary for the purposes of security? Will he confirm the determination to collect the arms which are scattered around Aden at the moment? Can he say what is the source of these arms, by what means and whence they are coming in, and in what quantity? Above all, will he confirm that the continuing presence of British forces in the area after the independence of South Arabia will not be limited to an arbitrary period of six months but will be continued so long as is necessary to maintain the position, in particular, until South Arabia becomes a member of the United Nations?

Now, the question of Israel and how we can act to be of assistance in the present situation. As I have said, I consider that the Foreign Secretary was quite right to say that the purpose of war should not be territorial aggrandisement. Equally, it is absolutely clear that no one can ask the Israelis to withdraw from the positions which they have occupied by force of arms until they are given some form of security for the future. I am certain that, in the classical phrase, they have no territorial ambitions—none at all. Their ambition, surely, is security. They are entitled to the security for which they have asked and for which they have fought.

I agree with the Government, therefore, in maintaining the view that any withdrawal should be accompanied by the condition that alternative means should be found to provide Israel with the security she requires. Many hon. Members have said that the right way to go about this is direct talks between Israel and the Arab countries. I agree that this is true in logic. That should be the way. They should sit down and talk to one another about the future. I do not believe that at the moment they can. No leading Arab statesman could, in practical terms, sit down at the moment and talk with the Israeli Government in that sense.

That being so, as the obviously ideal course is not available, we must find an alternative. It is right to pursue the idea of a United Nations mediator. I cannot see any other source from which one could obtain a suitable person to act as mediator between the two sides. We welcome the Government's support for this idea, and we hope that they are successful in pushing it forward.

I make one further suggestion which, I hope, will be of use, and I should like to have the Foreign Secretary's comments on it. Much has been said, rightly, about the settlement of refugees and finding an imaginative way of dealing with the problem—not just giving out continued hunger rations, but finding a way of giving them a real opportunity of looking forward to a growing economic strength of their own and growing society of their own. My right hon. Friend referred to the suggestions in the newspapers about coupling desalinisation with atomic power, and I think that those suggestions are very valuable.

I believe that the right organisation to push this through is the World Bank, which I believe has a very exceptional position being not purely an Anglo-Saxon organisation. I think that I am right in saying that it is subscribed to by pretty well all the independent countries of the Middle East. It did a very fine job in the Indus water dispute and it is in a special position by reason not only of the finance at its command but its economic and engineering expertise and the political experience which Mr. George Woods and others have accumulated over many years.

When I was in Washington a couple of weeks ago I discussed the idea with Mr. Woods, the President of the Bank, and other people there. I am confident that the idea would be acceptable to it in principle and that if a scheme could be worked out the Bank could take the lead in a really great international effort. I hope that most if not all members of the Bank would contribute to solve on an imaginative basis the problem of the refugees in that part of the world, and that the Foreign Secretary will be kind enough to consider that as a possibility.

Of course, the greatest political problem will be the provision of adequate guarantees for Israeli security. We do not quite know what guarantees Israel could rely on. I do not think, obviously, that she will be prepared to rely on guarantees from the Egyptians. Guarantees from the two great super-Powers, as I think my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) suggested, might be a way of providing some stability and security in the area, but I suspect that experience has left the Israelis rather sceptical about the value of great Power guarantees.

There remain two things—the United Nations and the holding of territory. I believe that it would be right to concentrate on finding some way of providing through the United Nations probably—and I think preferably—by the physical presence of a United Nations force at strategic points, a guarantee of a lasting kind which would really give some confidence to the Israelis. Perhaps they would feel that this should be accompanied by the retention of certain parts of the territory they have occupied on purely strategic grounds. I do not see anything objectionable in considering as part of a settlement some adjustments to the frontiers so long as they are solely designed for the purposes of sustaining security in the future. I hope that discussion will proceed on these lines, and we all hope that the Government will be successful in bringing to this area the peace its people desire and restoring within the area the relations we have had with them over so many years, and which should so much be cherished.

I conclude by reminding the House of the theme of Winston Churcill's great works, which is appropriate at the present moment. It is:

  • "In War, Resolution:
  • In Defeat, Defiance;
  • In Victory, Magnanimity;
  • In Peace, Good will."
At the moment the Arabs, defeated, are naturally defiant. I believe that in victory the Israelis are, and I hope that they will continue to be, magnanimous. What both sides must remember is that in peace the watchword is, "good will".

Sir John Rodgers (Sevenoaks)

Would my right hon. Friend clarify one point on the future on Jerusalem? He said, quite rightly, that the Israelis should pay due regard to world opinion on the future of the city. But I should like him to make it clear that he is not on any account advocating the continuation of a divided Jerusalem, any more than he would tolerate a divided Berlin.

Mr. Maudling


9.34 p.m.

The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. George Brown)

We have had a very quiet and, I think, constructive debate. I hope that my response will be in the same mood. I was very grateful to the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) for the kind words with which he opened the debate.

The right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) said—rather, I do not think that he quite said it, but it amounted to this—that there was almost a unanimity of view between the two Front Benches. I have listened to much of the debate, and I have realised that there is one real division. We might as well recognise it. It is fundamental and important. Not one spokesman on the Opposition side of the House has managed to refer to "President Nasser". The most polite called him "Colonel Nasser"; the least polite called him "Dictator Nasser"—

Mr. Blaker

On a point of order—

Mr. Brown

But I have not started yet.

Mr. Blaker

On a point of order—

Mr. Brown

At least let me get started. If I have made a mistake, if somebody described him as "President Nasser" when I was not here, I will withdraw, but while I have been in the Chamber no one has. [Interruption.] I think that this is important. The most impolite have called him "Dictator Nasser" and the most polite have called him "Colonel Nasser". Others have just said "Nasser".

I really think that here there is a great difference between us which the other side of the House ought to face up to. President Nasser is the President of his country. Whether we agree or disagree with his policies is another matter. We do not achieve anything by being rude in this way to the leaders of other countries whose only—

Hon. Members

Absolute nonsense.

Mr. Blaker

Is the right hon. Gentleman absolutely confident of his ground. I do not believe that he was here right through the debate, but it is my distinct recollection that I myself referred more than once to "President Nasser".

Mr. Brown

I am sorry, but two of us sitting on the Government Front Bench were certainly here during the hon. Gentleman's speech and neither of us thinks we heard him say it. If I am wrong about it, that is all right.

Mr. Sandys

Has the right hon. Gentleman never talked about "General de Gaulle"?

Mr. Brown

There is an important factor here. Hon. Gentlemen opposite have never got Suez out of their souls. It is very important if we are to discuss the events of today in the constructive sense in which people have tried to do it that we look for the solutions without being too involved in the events of the past. This is tremendously important. Whether President Nasser will remain President of Egypt is something I cannot pronounce upon, but so long as he is there the Government of this country, the Government of Israel and the Governments of other countries have to deal with him. I do not think that we are helping towards a solution of the problem by dealing with it as hon. and right hon. Gentleman opposite did.

There is a second thing that I should like to say before I start on the issues that were raised. References were made by the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire and other hon. Members to the Jordanian attitude. The right hon. Gentleman paid a tribute to the Jordanian Prime Minister's speech, and others have done so to the speeches and attitude of King Hussein. Here again, I advise the House that we ought to be very careful about drawing a distinction between a leader whom we do not like and a leader whom we do like. Nothing could do the latter more harm or the former more good or mess up all that we want to achieve more easily. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite must permit me to say that they have fallen into that trap a bit today.

Mr. Sandys


Mr. Brown

Before I come back, as I should like to at the end, to the major issue of Israel and the Arab dispute, I should like to deal with some of the other questions that I was asked. I thought that it would be useful if I started with South Arabia. I was asked about the internationalisation of the Island of Perim. In the last debate I undertook, under great pressure from right hon. and hon. Members opposite, to make every endeavour to secure the internationalisation of Perim under the auspices of the United Nations. I said that I would discuss it with the South Arabian authorities and with the United Nations.

The right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) today drew our attention to the fact that the present Federal Government of South Arabia have declared their opposition to the proposal on the ground that Perim is …an inseparable part of South Arabia". I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that this is not, in fact, the present constitutional position. Perim is a separate Colony, but, as I have said, and it must remain so, the whole thing must be discussed with those concerned and I am in touch with the Federal Government and the United Nations on this. I cannot go beyond that at this moment.

I was also asked by the right hon. Gentleman and other hon. Members questions concerning F.L.O.S.Y., the N.L.F., and the widening of the basis of the Government of South Arabia. As the House knows, F.L.O.S.Y. has never been proscribed and, therefore, it enjoys a legal existence in South Arabia. We have lifted the proscription on the N.L.F., which means that it is no longer an offence to be a member of that organisation. That is the only change.

Committing an offence against the law remains an offence whether the perpetrator is a member of F.L.O.S.Y., the N.L.F. or any other organisation. It is not for me to say whether any member of F.L.O.S.Y. or the N.L.F. who has committed a terrorist offence will be invited to join the Government in South Arabia. On the other hand, it is absolutely certain that the Government in South Arabia must be widened.

The right hon. Member for Streatham will know that it is not Her Majesty's Government but the member States of the Federation who select the Federal Government under the present conditions. Her Majesty's Government's only voice is in speaking for the Government of Aden State in the absence of an elected Government there. In the case of a caretaker Government to be formed under the new Constitution, the choice of Ministers will lie with the South Arabians themselves and not with Her Majesty's Government.

Mr. Sandys

Can the right hon. Gentleman clear up one point about the position of the N.L.F. and F.L.O.S.Y.? They have been engaged in open rebellion against the Government of the country and have committed acts of violence in which people have been killed. Can I take it that every effort will be made to try to arrest the people who have been concerned and bring them to justice and that for the sake of some negotiations going on these people are not to be treated differently from other ordinary wrongdoers?

Mr. Brown

Where people are presumed to be guilty of terrorist, murderous or other offences they should be brought to justice. On the other hand, the right hon. Gentleman knows that he and his fellow Ministers of the last Conservative Government did not proscribe F.L.O.S.Y. and that it never has been proscribed. He knows as well as I do that a wider Government than the present one is essential. He knows something about the steps that are now going on in which the present Federal Ministers have designated one of their number to act as Prime Minister and to form a new Government in accordance with the Constitution.

That Government will have little authority unless it is much broader-based than the present Federal Council and these steps will involve bringing members of other organisations into the Government. I see no way out of that.

Mr. Tom Driberg (Barking)

In view of the great importance of the Minister of State's announcement that Mr. Makawee is in New York, can my right hon. Friend say whether he is definitely seeing, or has yet seen, Lord Caradon, and, also, whether Mr. Al Asnag is also in New York, since these two extremely able and intelligent resistance leaders are obviously going to be the leading members of the future Government of South Arabia?

Mr. Brown

I have no knowledge whether Mr. Al Asnag is in New York. I do know that Mr. Makawee is in New York. I received a message a short while ago that he is seeing the Chairman of the United Nations Mission. To the best of my information, he has not up till now seen Lord Caradon, but that does not rule out the fact that they may be going to meet.

The suggestion was also made that the new Government should include a prominent army officer of the Federal forces. This is a matter for the South Arabians themselves, and, given the situation, I would be a wee bit chary about my expressing any view whether that would be a good thing or not.

The point was made that we should do everything we can to persuade the States of the East Aden Protectorate to join in the Federation. We have done our best by consistently giving advice and making it clear that all our military and civil aid will go to the central and not the regional governments to encourage them to do so. So far, inertia, fear of involvement, and uncertainty about the future have prevented progress. I do not believe that we can just impose unity. This is something that one has to encourage and bring about in that way.

I was very glad that the right hon. Gentleman paid the tributes that he did to the High Commissioner, Sir Humphrey Trevelyan, who is oviously bringing very great qualities to bear in a difficult situation, and may well be edging his way through.

The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Streatham and the hon. Member for Chigwell (Mr. Biggs-Davison)—there may have been others—raised the question of the use of gas in Yemen.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

Will the right hon. Gentleman say categorically that neither Her Majesty's Government nor the High Commissioner in Aden are requir- ing the present Federal Ministers to resign before a caretaker Government is formed?

Mr. Brown

How the present Federal Ministers, as it were, phase into the new caretaker Government will require a good deal of careful handling. It is neither possible to say that one resigns before the other is formed, nor yet to say that one does not resign until the other is formed. There will have to be a phasing in, as the right hon. Gentleman will know from his own experience.

Mr. Bayoumi has now been charged with the job of forming a new Government. Obviously, if new Ministers are to come in and there is to be a wider Government there will come a point at which there will be a phasing of the one into the other. I think that this is how it will be done sensibly. I do not think there is any difference between us.

I was coming to the question of the use of gas in the Yemen. The question I was asked by the Leader of the Opposition on 19th June was whether I would consider a resolution by the British Government to deal with this at the United Nations or in some other form. It seemed to me then and still seems to me that the killing anti maiming of Arabs by Arabs in this way is a matter for the Arabs themselves to raise in the United Nations in the first place.

I do not wash my hands of what is happening. I condemn the U.A.R. for the action of using poison gas in this way. I believe that they stand condemned before the whole world. It is not for me or for this country to raise in the United Nations what is, in effect and in fact, an offence against another country. It is for that country to raise it and then for us to take our stand on the issue when it is raised. I think we will be wise to take this particular line.

Mr. Sandys

Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that the Government against which this offence is being committed, which is the legal Government of the Yemen and recognised by the British Government, is not represented in the United Nations? As one of the Governments which recognise the Royal Government of the Yemen, is it not the duty of the British Government to raise this matter at the United Nations?

Mr. Brown

Frankly, I do not see it as the duty of the British Government.

The Saudi Arabians themselves have been affected by this and the Saudi Arabian Government, who have been very busy condemning us in another respect, might decide that they wish to raise this. I do not believe it to be the business of the British Government actually to raise it, but that is quite distinct from the stand which we would take were it to be raised.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

Does the right hon. Gentleman believe that when Mussolini used poison gas against the Abyssinians that was a matter purely for the Abyssinians and not for the whole of the outraged world?

Mr. Brown

It may well be a matter for the whole of the outraged world. I am saying that it would not be wise for us at the moment to take it upon ourselves to raise it. If it were to be raised by those most nearly affected, then, of course, it would be for us to decide whether to declare ourselves, and we would declare ourselves rather better than the Conservative Government did at the time of Abyssinia; but I do not believe that it is for us to raise the issue.

I was asked about the state of the Suez Canal. The right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire said that someone had told him that it was not blocked. I do not think that there is any doubt about our information being right. It is blocked partially or wholly between Port Said and Ismailia. It is also blocked to the South of Ismailia and it is also obstructed between the Great Bitter Lake and Suez.

The right hon. Gentleman mentioned proceedings in the International Court with a view to getting the canal open. I do not think that that would help very much. There are a number of complex legal arguments and that way would probably not succeed. In any case, I think that the right answer is by way of political rather than legal action. We are keeping in touch with other Governments who are concerned with the waterway as an international waterway and we are doing our best to get it opened as soon as we can. Several hon. Members have mentioned our policy of the supply of arms to the Middle East. I agree with those who have said that it is important to avoid a new arms race. For this we need agreement among the countries which are supplying arms to the Middle East. As my right hon. Friend said, new supplies of Soviet arms are already arriving in Egypt and in other countries. The right hon. Gentleman spoke about them pouring in, but I would not use those words. We think that the motives of the Russians at this stage are more likely to be diplomatic than military and we do not, therefore, despair of eventually reaching agreement in this matter.

When the fighting started, we imposed a unilateral suspension of supply and we tried to get others to follow suit. But we were unsuccessful in achieving that and we did not think that we could maintain a unilateral ban indefinitely. I do not believe that in this matter we can act alone, for reasons which the whole House will easily take on board. Our firm intention is to work for an international agreement in this respect, and that is what we are doing.

I now turn to what I believe to be the most constructive thing to have come out of the debate. The right hon. Member for Barnet spent a great deal of time on it, I am glad to say. This is a tragic aspect of the situation, an aspect on which it is surely possible to get something done, the aspect of the refugees in the area. Like the right hon. Gentleman and others, I visited the refugee camps before the recent outbreak, and saw the plight of the refugees. It is absolutely deplorable that, nearly 20 years after they originally left their homes, more than 1 million of these people are still living on international charity. I agree wholeheartedly with the right hon. Gentleman when he said that just doling out aid was no answer to this problem.

We have now added a new dimension to this with the flight across the Jordan of 150,000 west bank Arabs. I tried hard to persuade the Israeli Government to discourage the flow and to welcome these people back. I am very glad that this has been done, and I hope that it will lead to a substantial reduction in the numbers on the other side of the river.

I agree that we really must deal with this in a much bigger and much more imaginative way. We have given a lot of money and help through U.N.R.W.A. and other ways. What we really want here is an imaginative scheme for the relief of that area. We need roads, hospitals, schools, houses, and we need water so as to bring areas under cultivation. It is an absolute requirement that the international community should be engaging in a massive co-operative effort to develop the region. If we do that, then we really could solve this problem. If there were such an effort made whether by the World Bank, as the right hon. Gentleman suggested, or through some other agency, either existing or which we set up, then I believe that this is the time for it, and Her Majesty's Government would be willing to play their part in it and contribute towards it.

The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire drew attention to the letter from Mr. de Rothschild about the need for desalination plants so that we could provide the essential missing resources. This may well be the right solution. We would certainly encourage it very much, because this would get us over probably the most difficult hurdle. I join with those who have spoken before me in saying that this is no longer a question of money of aid or charity. It must be a question of the resettlement of those people in real dignity, able to earn their living in that region, and the final removal of this particular problem.

I would like to say a word about New York and the United Nations. The resolutions, as the House will know, were not carried in the end, and the Assembly has now adjourned for a short period to see whether it is possible to reach a measure of agreement about the future.

A good deal of serious and constructive work has been done. I would like here to second what my right hon. Friend said at the beginning of the debate. There was a great change in the atmosphere at the beginning of the debate, compared with that at the end. As the right hon. Gentleman said, what Russia appeared to have set out to get, at the end of the day she simply had not got. The urgent matter now is that the Secretary-General should send his representative there, that we should see what kind of United Nations force we can get in the disputed area so that we can get, at any rate, a partial withdrawal and accompany this with the ending of belligerency, and thereby the acceptance of the existence of the various States.

In the case of Jerusalem, we have played a considerable part in avoiding actual formal annexation of the city. That was the right thing for us to do, and we must now work to see that this does not happen again, unless we take into account all the factors that make up for a final settlement.

There is no doubt that a final settlement must be found within United Nations framework. The withdrawal of Israeli forces will have to be part of this, but the ending of belligerency must also be part of it. The right of all States to exist must be a part of it, free and innocent passage through the waterways must be part of it, and the ending of the present arms race must also be included. This is the basis for the settlement for which we are looking, the basis of the settlement which I gather, at the end of the debate everyone would like.

Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles

The right hon. Gentleman promised to tell the House about the "active service" conditions of British troops in Aden and their widows' pensions.

It being Ten o'clock, the Motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed without Question put.

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