§ Mr. Speaker
In this debate there are no fewer than 32 hon. and right hon. Members who wish to speak.
§ Mr. Neil Marten (Banbury)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Would it be in order for you to tell the House, particularly back benchers, how many Privy Councillors have put in their names to speak in the debate, and whether you propose to adopt the usual custom of calling them before back benchers?
§ Mr. Speaker
I am always willing to give information. There are five Privy Councillors. They will be called.
§ Mr. Charles Pannell (Leeds, West)
Further to that point or order, Mr. Speaker. Will you remind hon. Members that Privy Councillors are also Members of the House?
§ Mr. William Hamilton (Fife, West)
Would you have regard, Mr. Speaker, in the selection of hon. Members to speak in the debate, to the recommendations of a Select Committee on Procedure on this very important matter, many years ago, and that although you might feel some obligation to call Privy Councillors that does not necessarily mean calling them first in the debate?
We do not want a repetition of the proceedings on the second day of the debate on the Common Market, when nine Privy Councillors were called one after the other.
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Member is right. A Select Committee did make a recommendation on this matter, but the House, unfortunately, took no notice of it.
§ 3.33 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Michael Stewart)
When the House asked for a debate on the Middle East I assumed that hon. Members wished to have a debate almost entirely on the unhappy dispute between Israel and her Arab neighbours. Now, there are other important matters in the whole region and, in deference to the wish of the House, I shall 1027 try to refer to them briefly at the outset and then turn to our major anxiety.
The Middle East is an area in which Britain has very great interests. It is also an area of great change and turmoil In this century we have seen old nations in the Middle East, for example, Iran and Turkey, dressing themselves entirely in modern form. We have also seen in the Middle East peoples who have lived long in subjection now becoming sovereign nations determined, quite rightly, to maintain their independence and to reject any kind or shadow of imperial tutelage.
In these circumstances, I think that it is quite clear that British interests in the Middle East cannot be protected by a claim to any kind of primacy, hegemony or special military presence. Our interests are chiefly protected by trying to promote, with other nations, the peace and stability of the whole region. This, I think, is cardinal to any British approach to policy towards the Middle East.
When we speak of peace and stability of the whole region we are obliged to look at the frightful tension between Israel and her Arab neighbours, but, as I said, I will, first, deal briefly with other aspects of the Middle Eastern question. Despite all our anxieties about that major question, we are able, fortunately, to observe in the whole Middle Eastern region one or two signs of common sense and of a desire to make peace.
I will refer, first, to Bahrain. The House will be aware that at present the personal representative of the Secretary General of the United Nations is in Bahrain to ascertain the wishes of the inhabitants. Her Majesty's Government and the Government of Iran, who have been in dispute about this question for many years, have both stated that they will abide by the United Nations' decision.
If all goes well—and there is very good reason to hope that it will—this means that the long-standing dispute between this country and Iran will have been resolved and that a major obstacle to the development of the union of Arab emirates of the States on the borders of the Gulf will have been removed, because, although there are other difficulties, there was a profound problem of trying to proceed to a union of emirates while the 1028 question of the future of Bahrain was still undecided.
For this result, we must certainly give credit to the wise and far-sighted statement by His Majesty the Shah of Iran last year. I think that we can also claim credit for the patient work that has since been done by the Iranian Government, by Her Majesty's Government, by the Ruler of Bahrain and by the Secretary General of the United Nations. If this goes as we have good reason to suppose it will, it will be a classic example of how a territorial dispute can be settled in a civilised manner and in accordance with the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.
The one other matter, apart from the Arab-Israel dispute——
§ Mr. Christopher Mayhew (Woolwich, East)
Before my right hon. Friend leaves that point, may I draw his attention to the very clear statement by His Majesty the Shah, reported in The Times this morning, that any postponement of British withdrawal from the Gulf would be seriously damaging both to the interests of peace and to the interests of Britain?
§ Mr. Stewart
I am greatly obliged to my hon. Friend. I said earlier that any attempt to protect our interests by trying to assert any kind of primacy, hegemony or special military presence would be self-defeating.
The House should realise that the decision by Her Majesty's Government to withdraw by a specified date from this area is a positive help to the real protection of British interests here which cannot be secured by any assertion of special military presence, but only by acceptance of the rule of law and common sense, to which His Majesty the Shah has made so substantial a contribution. [An HON. MEMBER: "The Leader of the Opposition does not think so."] Whether the Opposition agree with me, is not my responsibility.
§ Mr. John Biggs-Davison (Chigwell)
Is it not the policy of Her Majesty's present Government, let alone any future Government, to remain, for example, in Masirah?
§ Mr. Stewart
Nor is there any objection from any of the Powers in that part of the world to that presence.
1029 The one other matter, apart from the Arab-Israel dispute, to which I wish to refer—I think that the House would want me to do this—is my own recent visit to Turkey. This is a country with which we have close and friendly relations and with which we are in alliance, both in N.A.T.O. and in CENTO. The contribution of N.A.T.O. to the peace of the world is self-evident and lies outside the scope of today's debate, but the CENTO alliance seems to me to be an undramatic but enormously valuable contribution to that general reign of common sense in the Middle Eastern area which is to the advantage both of its people and of the United Kingdom. It provides a degree of security for the regional members of that alliance; and, encouraged by that, they have been able to proceed in a steady and sensible programme of economic progress.
The only other comment I wish to make about my visit to Turkey is this. My visit was planned before the earthquake. I think that the House will feel that I was right, once I had that news, to rearrange my visit so that I could see some of the areas that had been ravaged. This is a difficult job to do.
When one goes to a small Turkish village and meets the mayor of the village—or perhaps we should call him the chairman of the council—one finds that he has lost five members of his own family in the earthquake; and there he is sweating away to distribute food and necessary supplies and to do his duty, day after day and hour after hour. It is very difficult to know what words one can address to him that are adequate to the situation.
Both the Government and the public in Britain have contributed to the relief of distress. I want to assure anyone in Britain who either has contributed, or who intends to contribute, to relief that that relief will be competently and efficiently used.
The other thing that remained in my mind from that visit was this. A Foreign Secretary has brought to him on his desk every day evidence of the stupidities and the cruelties of mankind. It is sometimes useful, when making visits abroad, to be brought into touch with evidence of the courage, the kindness and the decency of mankind such as I met in those Turkish villages and which is one of the assurances of the survival of the human race.
1030 I turn now to the major concern of the debate—the dispute between Israel and her Arab neighbours. Perhaps I should refer for the record, and very briefly, to a story published in the Daily Mail a little while ago; but I do not think that the House need exercise itself too much about this. This was to the effect that, after the fighting had started, the British Cabinet considered a proposal to send a British force to separate the combatants and, in certain circumstances, to proceed to bombardment.
I confirm what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has already said: this story is a complete fabrication. Neither then nor at any other time before or after was any such plan considered or formulated. If anyone wants to know what the policy of the British Government was as that time, he has only to study the record of the debate in the House on 31st May, 1967, where the Government set out very plainly that it was our desire to get co-operation with other countries to assert the right to free navigation in the Straits of Tiran.
That was the policy put forward by my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. George Brown). It was supported by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition and by the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home). The record of that is quite plainly 31st May, 1967. That, I would have thought, is all that it is necessary to say about this fabrication.
I turn now from fabrication to reality. The Arab-Israel dispute has for some time been a dreadful story of continuing violence, and all of us must express sympathy with those who suffered in the recent event on 8th, April. This was an Israeli attack in the, territory of the United Arab Republic, but what I think we have to notice is that this has been a series of continuing violence on both sides in which unhappy people in no way responsible, sometimes by virtue of their infancy, for the failures of their Government, have suffered.
Her Majesty's Government therefore believe that it must be right to seek a cease-fire between the conflicting parties.
§ Sir Arthur Vere Harvey (Macclesfield)
I agree with what the Secretary of 1031 State says, but will he also say that he has sympathy for the relatives of the 47 people who were blown up in a Swissair aircraft?
§ Mr. Stewart
Indeed. I thought that I had made it clear that, though I referred to this tragedy as the most recent, I was not isolating it.
Perhaps it is easy for us in our fortunate, humane, law-abiding country to talk about the virtues of a cease fire. We must look at why it is difficult for both the parties concerned to give wholehearted consent to this. Israel believes that, for her own security, she must prevent a build-up of military power among her Arab neighbours and that she must take such military steps as are necessary to that end.
I think that she may also believe, though here I would think that she was wrong, that if she proceeds with actions of this kind her Arab neighbours are more likely to meet her at the negotiating table. I doubt whether she is right in thinking that, but I think that this thought is in her mind.
For the Arab countries, the issue can be put even more simply. They believe that the continued Israel occupation of Arab territories is in defiance of a United Nations resolution, and is illegal, and that they are, therefore, entitled to resist it.
I am not defending either of these propositions. I think that for either side, whether they think these propositions are right or not, to try to prosecute them by the use of armed force which results in the killing of people who can in no way be regarded as responsible for the policy of their Governments, is a disaster.
The conclusion that we have to draw from this is the following. Her Majesty's Government believe that it would be right to have a cease-fire, but I have mentioned the reasons why both sides find a ceasefire unacceptable. We may agree or disagree with their reasons, but this is what they feel, and what follows from that is this: even if we could achieve a ceasefire for the time being, it would not last until there was a political settlement. Until there is a major political settlement both sides will feel, whether we agree with them or not, that they have reasons for rejecting a cease-fire.
1032 We must, therefore, turn our attention mainly to trying to get a major political settlement. Some people might say, "Why should we in Britain bother about this? Have not we enough anxieties and problems here at home and in other parts of the world?" I think that the answer to that is threefold. First, the prosperity of this country depends to a very large extent on a peaceful settlement in the Middle East, not on British hegemony in the Middle East, not on the victory of one side or the other in the Arab-Israel dispute, but on an agreed and peaceful settlement. That is one answer.
The second answer is our long and intimate past connection with this part of the world, the fact that in consequence the people of Israel and of many Arab countries look to us to play a part—and sometimes, I think, look to us a bit beyond reason. One of the things that have struck me in my present office is the number of countries who will, at the same moment, reject any idea of British hegemony and ask us to take a responsibility for problems all over the world. But none the less, in view of our intimate past connection, we cannot dodge our responsibility for seeking a political settlement. I have mentioned, therefore, our straightforward interests and our past connections.
Another reason why we cannot dodge this question is this. We are a permanent member of the Security Council, and if there is any basis on which a solution can be erected to this problem it is the resolution of the Security Council of which my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper and my right hon. and noble Friend, Lord Caradon, were the architects. We have a responsibility, therefore, in that respect, also.
If we are to seek a settlement, how is it to be found? The basis, as I have said, must be the Security Council Resolution. Let us see what both sides have said about this. President Nasser, in a Press interview in February this year, said:The Security Council Resolution adopted on the 22nd November, 1967, provides a solution to these two problems"—he was referring to the problems of withdrawal and of the refugees—while offering Israel guarantees about her right to sovereign existence, to security and peace and of free passage of her ships through the Gulf of Aqaba and the Suez Canal.1033 Similarly, Mr. Eban, the Foreign Minister of Israel, speaking to the United Nations General Assembly in September, 1969, said:In a communication to Ambassador Jarring on the 2nd April, 1969, Israel declared that she accepts the Security Council Resolution calling for the promotion of agreement on the establishment of a just and lasting peace to be reached by negotiation and agreement between the Governments concerned.I hope that we shall be able, therefore, to stick to it, that the resolution is the foundation of our policy and that the parties concerned will abide by it.
But, having accepted the resolution, the problem is to spell it out, to turn the necessarily general phrases of the resolution into a precise list of actions to be carried out by both parties on particular dates, all of them dependent on each other, so that when they are all complete everything in the resolution will be fulfilled. That is the task that has faced us ever since the resolution has been passed, and that has eluded us ever since.
What does it mean in practice? Let us first take withdrawal. To this, all the four Powers are agreed, and both the parties in a general sense have agreed. But when one speaks of withdrawal one is obliged to speak, in almost the same sentence, of boundaries. I think that it is now agreed by the parties concerned, certainly by the four Powers, that it is legitimate to speak of small alterations, in interests of security, to those boundaries which existed at the beginning of the 1967 war. The boundary between Israel and the United Arab Republic has been understood and recognised for some time and, I think, would not be in question. As to the boundary between Israel and the Lebanon, I doubt whether anyone would question that this should be the boundary between the Lebanon and the former mandated territory of Palestine.
The boundary between Israel and Jordan presents greater difficulties. For our part, we would take broadly the same view as is taken by the United States, that modifications would have to be made here, that they would be small in scale and that their motives would be security, or, on a very minor key, administrative convenience.
There remains, on the question of boundaries, the great question of Jerusalem, on which I think it would be idle for anyone to try to make a final 1034 pronouncement until we have got further in solving the other questions in dispute. I believe that if all the parties concerned could get nearer on all the other questions, and if they felt that the whole issue between peace and hostility lay on whether they could agree about Jerusalem, or not, if they once got to that point there might be more willingness on both sides to make concessions—if they felt that this and this only lay between peace and hostility. But I think that to try to begin with this question would frustrate the hope of agreement.
§ Mr. Jeremy Thorpe (Devon, North)
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves the question of boundaries, would he say a word about his view on Syria, particularly with reference to the Golan Heights?
§ Mr. Stewart
I can say only this about Syria. Syria has not accepted the Security Council resolution. I think, therefore, that for the present we must lay this aside. We are fully entitled to take into account the opinion of any State which accepts the resolution. I believe that those States which do not accept it ought to think very carefully again whether they might not be wiser to do so. But for the present we must leave that aside.
§ Mr. Antony Lambton (Berwick-upon-Tweed)
I take it that the right hon. Gentleman says that section 1(1) of Resolution 242, which reads:Withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict…" therefore now means that it is not suggested that Israel shall withdraw from all territories in the area.
§ Mr. Stewart
I think that I have made this clear in the House before. It seems to me that the questions of withdrawal and of boundaries must be taken together as a matter of plain common sense. If the parties can sort out what the boundaries are, withdraw to them and then live behind them, I would hope as civilised neighbours, I think that that is the common sense of the matter.
I have mentioned withdrawal and boundaries, which are matters—particularly withdrawal—in which the Arab countries are deeply interested. I would say to any hon. Members—and I know that there are many—who have a deep affection for, understanding of and sympathy with Israel, that we must also 1035 understand how Arab countries feel about the occupation of immense areas of their territory by Israeli forces. That is why, from the Arab point of view, withdrawal is essential.
The exact counterpart from the Israeli point of view is an absolute commitment to peace. My belief—and I must admit that I chance my arm and make a guess here—is that Israel would go a long way if she could feel absolutely certain that at the end of it she would be secure and at peace. This is as vital to her as withdrawal is to the Arab countries.
It is very easy to dig up past speeches, whether of Israeli or Arab statesmen, and try to argue that they prove a totally intransigent attitude on both sides. I believe that it is now essential for Arab countries, whatever may have been said in the past in Khartoum or elsewhere, to make it clear beyond a shadow of doubt that they accept Israel's right to exist as the kind of State she wants to be.
It is not too unrealistic, although it lies some way in the future, to see Israel and the Arab countries recognising that they are fellow Middle Eastern States with a common job to try to develop the immense economic potentialities of the region for their own advantage and that of mankind.
What follows further, in interpreting the resolution, from the proposition of the full recognition of Israel and of peace is the recognition of freedom of navigation in international waters. That should be beyond question. It is a necessary corollary of recognition of Israel's right to exist.
But a further question is the refugee problem. There are former United Nation's resolutions about this which, in my judgment, broadly set the course as to how it should be dealt with. It presents difficulties for Israel, and I would have thought that she should try to meet these difficulties if she can get the one prize that matters to her above all—the absolute guarantee of her peace and security in the future.
These are the things of substance of the resolution—withdrawal, boundaries, refugees, peace and security.
§ Mr. Gilbert Longden (Hertfordshire, South-West)
I absolutely agree with everything the right hon. Genntleman 1036 says, but is it reasonable to expect Israel to place any credence in a United Nations guarantee, still less a Russian guarantee? Therefore, would it not be useful to bring in Europe, every country of which has such a great interest in peace in the Middle East, to get a European guarantee of any settlement?
§ Mr. Stewart
As to Europe, Her Majesty's Government and the French Government have been playing their part in the four-Power talks, and we have made this the subject of discussion in Western European Union. But my judgment is that the thing Israel requires above all is an extra commitment from the Arab Governments themselves. I doubt whether anything else would be a substitute for that.
This is the substance of agreement. There then remains the question of how one goes ahead, what is the method to reach it. I have said before in the House, and do not disguise my view, that direct negotiations between the parties concerned would be a right method of reaching agreement. Since, for a variety of reasons, the Arab countries have not been prepared to do this, can we find another way of doing it? I have made no secret of the fact, either in the House or in speaking to representatives of the Arab Governments, that I regret that they will not enter into direct negotiation. But so vital is it to reach agreement that I think we must also ask the Government of Israel, since direct negotiation is at present impossible, whether it is wise for them to say, "Either direct negotiation or nothing".
The dangers of continuing the dispute, the advantages to be gained by agreement, are both so enormous that, even if one takes the view, as I do, that the refusal of direct negotiations cannot be defended, since that refusal exists, since for a variety of reasons direct negotiations do not seem possible, we must look for an alternative.
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
Surely this is the whole point? What is the value of a guarantee from a Government that will not even recognise you to the extent of meeting you? Unless there are these negotiations, any Arab guarantee is utterly worthless.
§ Mr. Stewart
My hon. and learned Friend has stated very clearly what is in 1037 the Israeli Government's mind. I think that their view is, "If these Governments will not meet us, what faith can we place in their guarantees?" I beg my hon. and learned Friend to realise that I understand this, but I ask him also to consider the enormous stakes of peace and war and of human life. Even if he feels that he has an enormously logical, convincing point, I must beg him to think again and see whether there is not, in the interests of peace all round, some other way round the difficulty. This I shall try to set out.
I do not think that we get anywhere if we try to approach this problem by triumphantly proving that one side or the other is logically in the wrong. We must try to find, whoever is logically in the right or the wrong, whether there is any way in which we can go forward. This is the only chance for them or any of us in this matter.
It might be asked, "In the light of the fact that one can not get direct negotiations, why cannot the rest of us just wash our hands of this matter?" For the reasons I have explained, I do not believe that we can do that. This is why my right hon. Friend worked so hard to get the resolution, and without that resolution there is no hope of success. This was why part of the resolution was to set Dr. Jarring on his work, because the job of Dr. Jarring was to turn the resolution from a statement of principles into a solid pronouncement of what needed to be done on both sides. It is very much to be regretted that Dr. Jarring could not get a degree of solid answer from both sides which would have enabled him to proceed.
It was only when this was apparent that Her Majesty's Government agreed to take part in the four-Power talks. I have seen it suggested that the four-Power talks are an obstacle to Dr. Jarring's work. I am fully convinced, after the most careful consideration, that this is a mistaken view. I do not believe that Dr. Jarring himself would believe that he could usefully embark on his travels again unless he is first equipped with some degree of agreement among the four Powers. The job of the four Powers is not to take his place, but to equip him with such degree of agreement that he could usefully set out on his travels again.
1038 Above all, Her Majesty's Government will do their best, as they have done in the past, in the promotion of the resolution, in patient argument with all the parties concerned, in playing our full part in the four-Power talks. In the end, the final responsibility must rest on the parties concerned in the Middle East. With all the emphasis that I can command, I ask the Governments of Israel and of the Arab countries to think of the human beings involved.
My first acquaintance with the Middle East was as a non-commissioned officer in the last war. I saw both what is now Israel and what is now the Arab countries, and I met the people—hard working and not often very well rewarded for their hard work. Those people now live in constant danger from attacks on either side within the region and overhanging them is the dreadful peril of great-Power involvement. In these circumstances, I think that the parties immediately concerned must think again, realising that over them all hangs the menace of destruction.
I say this to them, "The man or the country who says to any of you, whether it be Israel, the U.A.R., Jordan, or Syria, that you should stand 100 per cent. where you are and not give one-quarter of an inch to the other fellow, is not your friend, but is counselling you to your destruction". I say to them, "The man or country who is prepared to say to you, 'Give a quarter of an inch, an inch or a foot to the other fellow', will rouse your vexation, and you may be enraged with him, but in the end you will recognise that he is your friend". I give examples of what I mean.
Can Israel go a bit further to say that she not only accepts but will implement the resolution? She may feel that this is an unreasonable request, but it is a request to which the other side attaches importance. Can the Arab countries go further and be more explicit about commitments to peace? I know perfectly well that the man who counsels patience, compromise and co-operation can always be sneered at as unrealistic, but, in the world in which we live, armed with the dreadful weapons it now has, what else makes realism but common sense, patience and willingness to compromise?
Her Majesty's Government perhaps have been under some criticism for not 1039 being willing to pronounce an exact settlement to the dispute. We have sought through the four-Power talks, and in the United Nations, to set forward the need for both sides to recognise the frightful dangers that approach them unless they are prepared to reach agreement. We shall continue to do that, to speak with the voice of reason and patience. If this is considered old-fashioned, let those who criticise it examine what the alternative is.
I have tried to spell out to the House what we believe is right. I have tried to speak, with all the strength at my command, to the parties concerned. I have asked them to think again. My right hon. Friend the Member for Belper—I paraphrase his words and do not think that I misinterpret them—said that the abyss is at their feet. They have gone dangerously near it already. It is still there. They could still all of them step back from it.
It will be the objective of Her Majesty's Government's policy to seek to maintain, whatever the criticisms may be, reason, moderation and willingness on both sides, sometimes to take some risks on security, and sometimes to make some surrender of national pride if the alternative is not to be disaster for us all.
§ 4.17 p.m.
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home (Kinross and West Perthshire)
The right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary introduced only one matter in a somewhat short passage which might be said to be extraneous to the debate, and that was in relation to a report which appeared recently in the Daily Mail. We take it that if there had been any matter of substance or even suspicion that there had been an irregularity in the use of Cabinet secrets, the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister would have felt it his duty to come to the House and explain that matter. We have had the most categorical statements from both him and from the Foreign Secretary and I do not feel inclined to pursue the matter any further.
The House was glad to hear from the right hon. Gentleman of his visit to Turkey and, in particular, of the feelings which he expressed for the difficulties of the Turkish people in their suffering 1040 during the continuous earthquakes which have afflicted their country and killed so many of their citizens. He was able to convey the sympathy of this country at first hand to the Turks, and we are grateful for that. The Turks have been very robust ever since the war in defence of their right to live their life in the way of their own choosing. They have been valuable allies in N.A.T.O. and in CENTO and this is an occasion on which we may justly pay tribute to their fortitude.
The right hon. Gentleman was able to report some progress in the Gulf States. I echo what he said about the statesmanship of the Shah of Persia in relation to Bahrain. It is a little too soon to say how successful the new federation of the Gulf States will be in organising its collective defence. I think that our criticism still stands—that the notice of British withdrawal was too precipitate for an orderly constructive alternative defence system to be built up, but we can return to this question on another occasion.
Like the Foreign Secretary, I interpret the mood of the House as being such that it wishes to consider the state of war—and there is no other word for it—between Egypt and Israel and other Arab countries on the Israeli border, a state of affairs which is so baffling to the peacemaker.
The background of this running fight must be remembered. It is a hatred of the Arab for the Jew, whom the Arab counts as the usurper of his rightful territory. It is the determination of the Jew at any cost to preserve Israel as a sovereign independent State. The Jews—and this harsh reality must be faced—will simply not accept a home in which they live by courtesy. In their opinion, that home must be theirs as of right. It is from that point of unvarnished reality that any debate about a settlement must start.
Israel will not be a party to any solution which dilutes the concept of the State of Israel. She has won for herself by acquisition of territory a physical security never before enjoyed in the short history of her statehood. I am not commenting on the morality of the Israeli position; I am simply stating a fact of international life with which we must deal if we are thinking in terms of a settlement of the Arab-Jew dispute.
1041 The preamble to the United Nations resolution of 1967 emphasises and spells out theinadmissability of the acquisition of territory by war…How the Soviet Union can subscribe to such a doctrine is beyond the comprehension of more than the Israelis. The point relevant to the immediate discussion is this: Israel will not yield territory unless she receives in return a security as real as that which she has gained by her own strength.
What are the alternatives? The Foreign Secretary stated them fairly enough. They are an indefinite continuation of confrontation with the possibility of a wide extension of it, or an elaborate programme of pacification with an absolute guarantee of Israel's safety. In some respects, I shall differ from the right hon. Gentleman about the guarantees and what is necessary to achieve them. On the hard evidence before the House, or before any impartial observer, I think that one would have to say that the confrontation is likely to continue and possibly to intensify.
There are those who regard this prospect with complacence. They think that the war can run on without danger to others; that the Americans and the Soviet Union are hard-headed and that they will be careful not to overstep the line which divides the supply of weapons from entanglement in the fighting; and that eventually the two sides will be driven to coexist because of the waste, exhaustion and frustration of war.
That could happen. It is part of the Israelis' thesis that no settlement can stick unless it is negotiated between the combatants face to face and, on all the evidence available so far, they are prepared to wait for that confrontation across the table. But it is legitimate to question the validity of this reasoning.
The countries concerned are now in receipt of advanced weapons—at least, that is true of Egypt and Israel—rockets, and the latest defensive systems to deal with rockets. The Soviet Union has refused to make this an area of abstention by the great Powers or, indeed, an area of rationing arms supplies. No doubt the Foreign Secretary, or the Joint Under-Secretary of State when he winds up the debate, can tell the House whether it is true that, in the context of the 1042 recent political disturbance in the Sudan, it was the Russians who piloted the aircraft, with Russian observers on the aircraft, in the raids made on the so-called rebels in the Sudan. He will certainly tell the House—and he will correct me if I am wrong—that Russians are at present manning the defensive radar systems and anti-missile systems installed to defend the Egyptian cities.
I think that that has not happened before anywhere outside the territory of the Soviet Union or the acquired territory of the Soviet Union. This is near brinkmanship, although it may be controlled brinkmanship. The installations, I think, are not yet in the vicinity of the Suez Canal. But this is without question getting near the point of intervention by a great Power different in degree from the supply of arms. This is one of the dangers.
There is another factor which makes me question the validity of the reasoning which I have described and suggest that both parties to the dispute might do well to end the war sooner than either of them contemplates. It is the rise of the Palestine commandos and their increasing strength. They are hostile to Israel. They have scant respect for the Arab Governments. They are receiving support from the Chinese and the Soviet Union. They may at present be of nuisance value, but their power grows, and the longer peace is postponed the more it will grow and the less able will be the Arabs or the Jews to control this movement.
There is a third reason why none can be complacent. In a war governed by hatred and desperation there is a premium on irrational action by one side or the other, and perhaps—I will not put it higher than that, because Russia is getting herself more deeply involved—the probability of this irrationality is one reason why Russia needs to think again in the four-Power talks whether she might show a greater degree of co-operation.
The Foreign Secretary asked: is there another way? This problem is daunting in the extreme, and if any alternative to settlement by direct negotiation is to be considered it is difficult to see how it can be found on anything less than demilitarisation and international guarantees and aggression through the demilitarised areas would be repelled by a United Nations force. There would need to be a Soviet 1043 commitment to uphold it, and no one can say that she has yet given any encouragement to this idea. She is increasing her intervention in Egyptian and Syrian affairs.
The House must note as a matter of realism that when elsewhere in Asia—that is, in Vietnam and Laos—the Soviet Union has accepted a partnership with Britain and others in a peace-keeping rôle she has refused to fulfil her obligations when the crisis arose. This is a fact which will not go unnoticed by the Israelis.
The only reason which I can see why Russia might contemplate co-operation in the Middle East is that the irrationality inherent in the war might compel her to accept a degree of involvement which could amount to belligerency, which she might not want.
What would a plan for pacification look like, spelled out in rather more detail than the Foreign Secretary spelt it out this afternoon? It is as well to name those solutions which would be rejected out of hand by one side or the other.
First, a settlement that is imposed is impracticable.
Secondly, a settlement that did not provide early warning against air attack. The House must, and does, appreciate no doubt that before the 1967 war Israel had precisely two minutes' warning of air attack. Now she has 40 minutes. That could make all the difference between life and death.
Nor would a settlement be acceptable for one moment that did not provide for the satisfactory resettlement of the refugees, partly within Israel and partly within Arab countries, so as to remove the stain which the Arabs feel is on the dignity of the Arab people.
§ Mr. Julian Snow (Lichfield and Tamworth)
The right hon. Gentleman talks about the refugees in that context. Will he bear in mind that there are thousands of Jewish refugees who have been expelled from Arab countries whose lives are likely to be intolerable?
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
That is certainly true. But when balancing the ingredients, so to speak, of a pacification plan, one has to bear in mind not only 1044 what the hon. Gentleman says, but also the fact that it is necessary to deal with the problem of the Arab refugees so that the Arabs can see that it is to be dealt with in detail. Otherwise, I see no chance of Arab co-operation in a peace plan.
It is well, I think, to face the facts. I am not disparaging the United Nations resolution of 1967. The authors, including the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. George Brown), did their best. But it is well to recognise that it can have no practical influence as an instrument of pacification unless there is laid alongside it or within its framework a programme of action and guarantees detailed and timetabled with precision.
It is impossible for the Opposition, without the knowledge and contacts available to the Government of what happened at the four-Power talks—I hoped that we might have heard a little more from the Foreign Secretary—to be precise. But a programme of reconciliation—what the Foreign Secretary has called a major political settlement—in substance and in sequence could not contain less than the following.
I will, for the sake of brevity, illustrate it between Israel and Egypt in the context of that confrontation, although the principles and the practices would have to be applied in turn in Jordan and in Syria. A programme for pacification would look something like this, and nothing less than this specified and detailed.
A truce by land, sea and air; the withdrawal of all troops, at least at the first stage, out of artillery range of the canal; the insertion of a United Nations force in the area evacuated by the Israelis east of the Canal; the demilitarisation of that area east of the Canal; orders to the United Nations' force to stop any military incursion into that area by either side; the installation—this is a strange thought, but one which I think is inescapable—on the east bank of the canal and on the old Israeli frontier of a necessary early-warning system against air attack manned by the Israelis, on the one hand, and by the Egyptians, on the other.
The Suez Canal and the Gulf of Aqaba to be opened to all shipping; and, simultaneously, a plan to be agreed to resettle the Arab refugees, some in Israel, some in the Arab countries, others 1045 in new areas in Sinai and other places, where programmes of irrigation could be undertaken which could be internationally financed.
A great deal of work has already been done on a number of these possible projects. When that programme of resettlement has begun, Israel then to move back to a final frontier which would be, as the Foreign Secretary indicated, the old frontier, subject to those territorial adjustments which would avoid surprise attack and the kind of harassment that used to come, and was totally intolerable to any independent country, from bombardment from the Golan Heights into Israeli territory.
The administration of Jerusalem, which is supremely important, I agree with the Foreign Secretary, would have to be left to the final item.
§ Mr. George Brown (Belper)
I am reluctant to intervene, but I think that it might be better to get this point out of the way and have the right hon. Gentleman's reaction to it. The insertion of a United Nations force, which would not, like the last one, be subject to withdrawal on the demand of one of the host countries, I understand would require a Security Council decision. That immediately raises the question whether Russia would ever be willing to insert such a force in that area and not veto it. If she was willing, it would set up the best precedent of all for inserting United Nations forces in other places where she is very deeply concerned—for example, on the border of Czechoslovakia. Does not this make it absolutely absurd to conceive of the idea of Russia ever being willing not to veto such a force?
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
I was coming to a second possible variant of this which Russia might not veto.
However, we must face the fact that unless Russia will co-operate in this matter there will be an endless conflict, the end of which none of us can see. I think that sometimes the United States and Britain are a little too timid in forcing Russia into the open in these matters. Let Russia veto and let us see where she stands, but let us give her every chance to co-operate before we push her to that extreme.
§ Mr. E. Shinwell (Easington)
The right hon. Gentleman's scheme of pacification is intensely interesting, but he has left out one very important item—the Russian technicians and advisers in Egypt. Are they to remain while negotiations proceed, particularly as Russia is one of the four Powers? Is it not incomprehensible that one of the four Powers should have vast numbers of technicians and advisers in the Arab countries? Ought they not to go before there is any question of pacification?
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
This might be one of the conditions which would have to be applied. I am not sure that it would be an essential condition. Once the troops were separated and the pacification process had begun, the reason for keeping the Russian technicians there would largely disappear. In any pacification plan outlined in the course of 10 minutes one can add this, subtract that, and pick holes in it. I am only saying that the United Nations resolution, without a plan of this kind, is useless; it will get us nowhere. Therefore, we must try in some detail to spell out the plan to see whether the four Powers can put it on the table as a recommendation to the two parties.
Before the right hon. Member for Belper intervened, I was about to say that during the whole period of this pacification programme the physical security of the countries concerned would have to be guaranteed not only against attack in the old-fashioned way—because I do not believe that any combination of countries will now guarantee the frontier in that area—but also, that the United Nations force inserted into the demilitarised area should neither be attacked nor by-passed.
These are the least conditions, as I see them, and I find that they strain the imagination almost to breaking point. Yet I think that it will be conceded that nothing less will do, because nothing less will deal with the fundamentals—the refugees are a blot on the pride of the Arab nations—and nothing less will bring about the physical security of Israel.
§ Dr. M. S. Miller (Glasgow, Kelvingrove)
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves the question of the United Nations force, is he suggesting that this force 1047 should be placed between the two sides and not in the territory which will be occupied by both sides afterwards? In other words, will it be in territory which, at the moment, does not belong to either of them?
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
It would obviously have to be between the two sides, and certainly there would have to be certain areas which would be demilitarised between, for example, Egypt and the Israelis and Syria and the Israelis. It would have to be worked out in the scheme, but I can see no other way than this and no other way in which the security of the various countries can be achieved, unless one is prepared to let the thing run—which may be the outcome of this matter.
But how could such a programme be agreed and processed? The Arabs have refused to meet the Jews directly. Dr. Jarring, the most patient of men, has so far failed through no fault of his own. The four Powers—and I do not think that one has to read much between the lines—are so far deadlocked. There is, therefore, a possible long-shot which may come off. That is that a conference should be called under the auspices of the United Nations, with membership from the United States, Britain, France and the Soviet Union, the Arab States, Jordan, Syria, the Lebanon, Egypt and Israel.
This conference at least would have this merit. To the Arabs it would be more acceptable than direct confrontation and the Israelis could put their case and proposals in the hearing of responsible Arab leaders and the rather impersonal arguments of the four Powers could be leavened with reality because they would be sitting with those whose life-and-death business it is to get a settlement to this matter.
In this situation, where the stake for Israel is the life of her country, no one outside, and indeed no one else anywhere, can or has the right to decide policies on her behalf. Nevertheless, from the United Nations and from the four Powers a detailed programme of pacification and reconciliation could be laid on the table if they would get down to the working out of the details. It could be laid on the table against the day when Israel and the Arab countries decide that they may 1048 never reach security and the peace which they crave without the help of others and when they will turn to others to help them to find what they are all seeking—and that is coexistence in this strife-torn area of the world.
§ 4.44 p.m.
§ Mr. George Brown (Belper)
I agree very much with at any rate one thing which the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) said, that it is only too easy to pick holes in almost anything that anybody proposes in this field and that one ought to be very careful about doing that. I disagree with a number of the other things which he put forward and I shall try to say why at the appropriate point. But I certainly accept the implied mild rebuke that one ought not to turn down suggestions just because one sees possible disadvantages or hurdles on the way.
One matter which I disagreed with the right hon. Gentleman about was his definition of the basis of the problem. He defined it—and I think I am quoting him right—as the hatred of the Jew by the Arab and he went on to pose upon that what he called the Jews' determination to be there as of right. I have never found in the Arab countries which mostly matter, because they are the nearest neighbours, this oft-repeated and oft-assumed hatred of the Jew.
I have always tried myself to avoid presenting the conflict as an Arab-Jew conflict, because it does not help us at all and it is not really so. There are deep feelings by one of what an hon. Member opposite called two Semitic peoples. There are deep feelings of hurt, there are deep feelings of intrusion and deep feelings of loss of territory and there are deep feelings against someone who they think will want to expand so long as the claim remains that all people of the Jewish faith throughout the world shall have an unchallenged right to go to live there.
They feel that this could involve not merely the present acquisition of territory, but a continued desire to expand. That is the only sense in which this is true. Otherwise, one still finds in countries involved in the dispute Jewish communities which are still living and carrying on some form of civilised life and civilised business.
§ Mr. Brown
I know my hon. Friend's view. This is my view, and I should like to continue with it.
I think that the definition of the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perth-shire was an over-simplification of an issue which is much more complex and more complicated than this, and which I feel is probably untrue so far as quite a number of those whom I know there are concerned.
There is a paradox in this debate. All of us, I suppose, felt that the issue is so grave and the possibilities of the outcome of it so all-pervading that one could not have a Parliament like ours and not have a debate about it. Most, at least, many hon. Members—and certainly myself—felt a great urge to take part in it. Yet I have come to the conclusion—which grew on me as the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire was speaking—that the more the issues and the problems are canvassed publicly and highlighted, and the more we try our hand in public at propounding solutions, the more positions in the area are likely to harden because every solution which we propound is then—[Interruption.] With respect, I listened quietly to those who spoke before me and I ask hon. Members to listen to me.
The more we propound solutions, the more positions harden, and those who can feel that they have been the objects of past duplicity on the part of the four great Powers, on the part of the West, or of America, or whatever it may be, start looking for what in those solutions can be expected to work to their disadvantage. Suspicions deepen. I thought that I discovered this very clearly in my visit to the Middle East at the beginning of the year.
It seems to me that there is arising a case—and this will be a difficult argument to deploy, but I want to do it, nevertheless—for a moratorium on solutions publicly propounded from outside, and especially by those of us who, for one reason or another, are thought to have an axe to grind or past guilt to expiate. What matters is the ability to find a way in.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire and my 1050 right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary—to whom I am grateful for the references he made to me—have pointed this out. The problem is somehow to find a way in in a situation in which one side will not meet the other directly at this stage, and the other says that it will have no trust unless this is overcome.
In speaking in the debate, therefore, I feel that there is more reason to weigh up the consequences of what one may say, however much one may think it wise and useful, rather more than to weigh up the value of any suggestion. I agree with those who have spoken before me—obviously, everyone does—that there can be no question of the gravity of the situation, but I take it a little beyond the point to which attention has been directed in the two preceding speeches.
There is no question of the gravity of the situation between Israel and her neighbours. The escalating war—we have heard more this morning—will urge things along inevitably unless something can be done, unless a way in can be found, towards the kind of explosion which will involve not only them, but, for reasons to which I shall come in a moment, almost certainly others outside; and, once one outsider is involved, it is difficult to see how the others can hold back.
There is no question of the deepening distrust arising between Israel and her Arab neighbours. I found this when I was there without any doubt. There is no question about the ever growing, almost fatalistic, acceptance that a once-for-all military solution is both available and inevitable. I was interested in what was said here about this. It seemed to me that more and more people there were beginning to feel, because of their deepening distrust and because of the growing escalation of the war, that the only way out would be a once-for-all solution.
There is no doubt about it. That view is not held by all people on both sides, it is not held by all leaders on both sides, and it is not held by all leaders in any one of the countries which I visited, but it is held by a growing number of people. I regret to say that that is how I found it. The only difference is that the Israelis see it as available and to their advantage in the short term—"Have it now. Get it over, while the 1051 balance of power is as it is. We shall win. It does not look as though there is any other way out".
Nevertheless, it is odd to note—I was rather glad to detect, as I thought, that this is the right hon. Gentleman's feeling, too—how many intelligent and patriotic young Israelis, many of them having been born there as distinct from having gone there, failed to see what the wiser ones among them feared, that, far from being a solution, another military victory, which they could almost certainly achieve in the short run, would not be a solution.
Far from being a solution or even a strengthening of their position, it could only weaken it and lead to a final outcome some day, because it would import with it in even greater measure what the last victory imported, that is, greater problems, greater difficulties for them, and a dilution of the very thing which they say they care so much about—which I did not agree with in 1947, though it was none of my business—a Zionist religious Israel. Another military victory will make worse from their point of view what the last one has already begun.
In the context of this thought of a final outcome some day, I think it worth saying again something which always gets me into trouble—in a way, that is what I am in the House for—but something which seems to many, and certainly to many of the wiser ones in Israel, so obvious, namely, that whereas the Arabs can, perhaps, survive a number of defeats, and a number of defeats yet, Israel could not survive even one defeat. This is the essential difference. The lengthening of the early warning from two minutes to 40 makes a difference, but it does not make all that difference. If each military victory leads to a greater determination to go on to the final outcome, this weakens Israel's position, not strengthens it.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I agree with my right hon. Friend that no one can win this war in the long run. There is no victory for either side. Peace or security is the only possible way out. But my right hon. Friend is wrong when he says that the Arabs could suffer many defeats whereas Israel could not suffer one. For 2,000 1052 years they have had many defeats, but they have survived.
§ Mr. Brown
I do not want to get sidetracked, but we are again mixing up the question of the eternal Jew and the question of a national State of Israel. With respect to my right hon. Friend, I understand his proposition, but it does not necessarily follow that the other also is true.
The reason I feel so strongly about these matters is the reason which, I think, came out also in the speeches before me, though not stated quite so crudely as I shall put it. I feel, I felt when I was at the Foreign Office, and I have felt steadily since, that the possibility of involvement of any one big Power is growing more problematical almost every year. I shall come later to the right hon. Gentleman's suggestion regarding the involvement of all four Powers. What the Israelis tend to rely upon, that one great Power at least—perhaps two—would certainly involve itself militarily if ever a defeat seemed on the cards, is, in my view, growing more problematical as the consequences of that for the outside world become more plain and are seen to be more dangerous and worrying.
The Arabs are affected similarly on this question of a military solution, but, as I have said, they see it in the longer term as inevitable. There are those in the Arab lands, and in the P.L.O. bodies to which reference has been made, who, like some people in Israel, are beginning to say, "To hell with the political arguments. Let us get down to organising ourselves for what is inevitable anyway and is the only ultimate way out".
I have been horrified in recent weeks to be told by friends of mine, friends well known in the House who have been to the Middle East since the beginning of the year, that they have detected at all levels that the situation has worsened quite markedly since the beginning of the year, probably for the reason which the right hon. Gentleman gave, that intensification of the war by bombing has had its effect. We know to our cost that bombing is not the easiest way of putting people in a mood to co-operate and think about peace solutions and settlements. It worked the opposite way when tried on us. It worked the opposite way when tried on the Germans and on the Russians, and I do not think that the 1053 Arab or the Israeli is likely to react in any way markedly different from us when the same policy is pursued against them.
The second area of growing gravity, which has not been mentioned so much, but which is worrying, is not only between the two parties, as it were, but within the individual Arab countries themselves.
Vast changes are taking place there. I shall not go through them all, in the interests of time, but the Lebanon is an outstanding example. Whatever Lebanese leaders felt they needed to say in public, a modus operandi had emerged. This bi-national, bi-religious country got by on a certain possible fiction, but, nevertheless, everybody accepted it, of Christian-Moslem parity within the country, and it managed, as a trading nation, to live within the area with Israel on its border.
Now we can all see—it stood out a mile when I was there—that the whole basis of that State is being threatened as a byproduct of the present development of the Arab-Israeli dispute. A large number of refugees—I was told about 180,000, but I am speaking from memory, so I hope that no one will hold it against me—not all Fedayin, but very much infiltrated by them, have arrived on the southern border of the Lebanon, the border which the Israelis attack whenever they suspect, or know, that attacks are made on them from people inside the Lebanon.
These people are Moslems. If they move into the country proper, they will completely destroy the basis on which the Lebanon exists. They will threaten not merely the disappearance of the country, but the disappearance of a tenuous authority in the government of that country. There is tremendous tension there, but there are other examples, all over the place, of a real and growing possibility of the violent overthrow of many of the existing regimes.
One would have to be a particularly insensitive, non-understanding, non-thinking, Zionist to assume that that is bound to react to the advantage of Israel. At the very least, it would throw new factors into the scene about it. It would be a real threat, because, as the right hon. Gentleman said, there is this growth of the so-called Palestine Liberation Organisation, not yet cohesive, not yet one 1054 group. I did not visit it when I was there, but my colleague from Transport House did. At the moment, as most people do, I think that El Fatah is probably the most significant and effective organisation, but it is not the only one. When I was in my right hon. Friend's unhappy—or happy—position and we were trying to do something about Aden and the South Yemen, we saw how difficult it was to know which of the guerrilla organisations would emerge in the end as the effective one. There are great possibilities of a change in the leadership of the P.L.O., just as there are of a change in the leadership of individual national Arab States.
Any terms used in relation to the Middle East must, I have come to the conclusion, be regarded as relative. All things are relative there, but my conviction, which I must state, is that any change in the leadership, be it in national régimes or in the P.L.O. itself, which is due to what goes on inside those organisations, will certainly make the present leadership in the national States and in the P.L.O. look moderate compared with what will follow.
The consequences for Israel, for the Arabs, and for the whole world of that happening are not easy to predict, but must be far-reaching. A pamphlet came my way this weekend from the Atlantic Institute on the affairs and political considerations affecting the Middle East. I commend it to the House. It is a very interesting, well documented, and rather sobering pamphlet.
If these things about which I am thinking happened, they could conceivably revolutionise the whole politico-strategic situation in the world. They could change the position with regard to the influence and power which Russia has at this moment vis-à-vis the West. As we know—we do not need the pamphlet to remind us of this—Russia is building up a degree of influence in the Mediterranean and throughout that area. She clearly has designs on the Gulf and that area.
The changes about which I am worried would, I think, almost certainly produce régimes more inclined, or more able, to assist the speeding up of this development of Russian power and influence in the area than the present ones would be, whatever mistakes they have made, and however far they have gone down the 1055 line, or would be willing to go. They sit on it a bit even now.
The new régimes would be less likely to do that and, as the right hon. Gentleman said, growing Chinese involvement is possible. At least one of the recently installed military régimes is known to be in touch with the Chinese to see what can be made available from them rather than from the Russians. The Chinese desire to open some routes to the Indian Ocean is also a powerful factor. The fact that Russia and China may be at loggerheads might have some ironic consequences for our thinking, but I do not think that it will help very much in dealing with the real problems facing us in that area.
These changes would have a great effect on the strategic economic interests of the West. The longer one is in this House, and the more one is in office, whether as the economics Minister, or as Foreign Minister, the more one becomes quite clear that our people cannot try to push into the back of their minds our economic interests in that area. I cannot say whether they will last forever, but they will last for a quite a long time to come.
When I am attacked, as has been said, in a false and fabricated way, my thinking goes back to 1967, about how we might prevent the war coming, not that we might get involved once it started. I was thinking then about the consequences to us primarily if it happened and the Suez Canal were closed. When patting ourselves on the back about the economic change that has come about and about the improvements in the balance of payments position, I cannot help thinking back to the warnings which I gave in the House and elsewhere about the cost to us in terms of our balance of payments and other uses of our resources if that waterway were closed.
We may not want it back now, but I ask my right hon. Friend, either in tomorrow's debate or in a subsequent one, to try totting up what it did cost because we were unable to prevent it. We would have been where we are now in terms of the balance of payments, without other arguments rearing their heads, at least one year earlier on my judgment of the figures if we had been able to prevent that happening, and if we go further the consequences will be very much greater.
1056 These are the areas of growing gravity. Although we may be concerned about the actual war, about which my right hon. Friend spoke in moving terms, these matters mean much to us and must be taken into account. This emphasises the folly—I hope that my right hon. Friend will not regard this as too unkind in return for his kindness to me—of what seems to be undue complacency in accepting what looks like the present drift of Western policy in the face of an activist policy by the Russians. The Egyptians were very careful about how much they showed me when I was in Egypt. When I went to the Great Bitter Lakes to see our ships, they took me there at a fast lick from Cairo. They did not allow me time for idling on the way. They thought that the picnic could wait until I went aboard the ships on the water.
Even so, there is no question that the Russians are any longer at brigade headquarters or further back; in many cases they are now at combat level. That is quite clear. It can be asserted without any risk of being wrong. This fact poses problems. Vietnam did not start by a decision of policy made in the White House. Vietnam developed out of a gradual policy of being sucked in. The Russians are facing the same problem. Whatever the truth about that, there is no doubt that they are the gainers from the present level of tension. A peaceful solution has no attraction for them, if they can keep it going at the present level.
As for the growth of strategic requirements—they were not invented by Lenin, but have been part of Mother Russia's aim for as long as anybody there has been consciously developing policy. That is why it is rather naive to think that Russia would now want to join in and sign on the dotted line to guarantee something which ends a state of affairs which, if she can keep out of being sucked in, is clearly in her favour.
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
Unless Russia guarantees, she is in the position of upsetting the whole thing by her activities in Syria alone.
§ Mr. Brown
Yes. All I am saying is that at the moment she has a great interest in keeping the thing upset.
When I went to Baghdad my colleagues and I were in no doubt about the 1057 degree of Russian influence and involvement at every level there. I cannot say whether there is the same situation in Damascus, because I have not been there. I believe that Russia is gaining influence in enough places where, if it looked as though things were going right elsewhere, she is strategically well placed to upset the whole situation. She would hope to do it without getting sucked in. Mr. Kosygin and Mr. Podgorny have explained this on many occasions. They hope that they can avoid being drawn in but to keep the thing going they are willing to pay quite a price.
§ Mr. Robert Sheldon (Ashton-under-Lyne)
Does not my right hon. Friend also agree that for Russia this has involved a heavy financial commitment and an investment of a size that she would not readily put aside?
§ Mr. Brown
I doubt whether the size of the financial investment plays as great a part in the argument going on in the Kremlin as it would in the British Cabinet. I have not yet written my book, but I do not think that that is the position. I think that what enters very much into their minds is the politico-strategic argument. That is what is at the bottom of their thinking.
That fact raises the obvious question: what can we do, or what should we do? I am not starry-eyed about this, any more than anyone else is. Anybody who embarks on a study of this matter must recognise the enormous difficulties. Nevertheless, I still believe that there is probably a preponderance of leaders in the area—and most certainly a preponderance of people in the area—and in almost each country in the area, who wish for a negotiated solution before the thing develops any further.
I do not believe that this necessarily stems from mutual admiration one for the other, much less from the moral conviction that each now has a right to live—although more people now admit that after the passage of years this is something that can no longer be sensibly challenged.
But what are bringing it about—we politicians and statesmen have to deal with things as they are and not go too deeply into why they are—are the very elements of danger to themselves, and 1058 the threat of extinction of themselves, to which we have all referred. Dr. Johnson said that nothing concentrated a man's mind so powerfully as the knowledge that on the morning of tomorrow he might be hanged. There is a lot of truth in that.
The answer to this question is different from that given by both my right hon. Friend and the right hon. Gentleman. It involves a quick reappraisal of the approach that we in the West have been making since 1967, and even before that—a decision to discard what, if we could find it out, is not working and a decision about what to rely upon from here on. We have different views about this, but none of us can have much degree of assurance, to put it mildly. I can only offer my own view, which does not differ greatly from the view that I took in 1967, which has been reinforced by my recent visit and seems to have attracted support from other even more recent observers.
I want to start by considering the respects in which I differ from the point of view that I took up in 1967. We must realise that four-Power action by agreement is unlikely, for the reasons that I have tried to indicate.
The reasons for this—and this raises again my doubts about what the right hon. Gentleman said—are as follows: first, the conflicting interests of the four Powers, not merely in their attitudes to the peoples of the area but to one another. They are after different things. To a great extent, what each of them is after counters what the other chaps are after. What the Russians most want is the thing that we must most try to avoid her having. What the French most want is to pick up from us. I sometimes find it difficult to come to any consistent opinion about what the Americans[...] most want. Nevertheless, the conflicting interests exist among the four Powers—the overhang of imperialism, economic competition, and so on—as well as the different attitudes of the four Powers to the peoples of the area.
The second reason is the wide divergence of views among the four Powers about the desirability of an early solution and the establishment of peace in the area. Russia could change her attitude to the latter. If she had tremendous problems on another front she might prefer not to be engaged too heavily on 1059 this one. But the conflicting national interests are unlikely to change. In my view, attitudes are unlikely to change for either reason. I do not think that either will change in the short term.
The third factor is the Israeli and Egyptian unwillingness to accept the four Powers, based on past history, and their deep distrust of one or more of the four Powers. Again and again I was told—I cannot get it out of my mind—not merely by so-called extremists, but by moderate leaders in different countries, that not only were the four Powers unacceptable as mediators or as interveners, but that not one of the Governments would be acceptable, either. That was said to me by people whom I have come to regard over the years as outstandingly the wiser peoples in their countries.
§ Mr. Brown
If my hon. Friend will not go home, but will stay longer, we may be able to help him.
We must face the fact that some views are held very firmly. That does not mean that we need give up. Everyone must search for ways round what seems to be an intractable problem.
On the other hand, one thing is clear, and that is that Resolution 242 is generally declared everywhere to be acceptable, certainly at the minimum level as a basis for negotiation and at the maximum level for implementation in full. It does not always carry the same degree of enthusiasm or conviction. Each party lays emphasis on and accords priority to different parts of the resolution. There are those who affect to see ambiguities in the resolution as drafted. But in my view, there is no doubt that as it stands it can be used and that on the basis of it somebody will get into business at some stage on what I regard as the outstanding problem, to which I shall come later.
My next point will not be generally acceptable to the House. I have come to the conclusion that anybody who wants to help—whether it be an individual, a Government spokesman, or a United Nations spokesman—must resist the temptation to amend or qualify the resolution in advance of the negotiations starting. It must stay as it is, despite all 1060 the temptation Ito amend or qualify it or state it more clearly.
Secondly—and this is where I think I am probably in conflict with the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire—we must resist the temptation to seek and expound minimum and maximum conditions on which the negotiations must take place. Solutions or conditions in these complex and in many cases bitterly contested issues should not be pushed forward in advance. To try to answer in advance questions about what is meant by Jerusalem, by the Golan Heights, or this, that and the other, will bog down the negotiations before they can get started.
I said to both sides when I was there that, clearly, some problems will prove more tractable than others. There will have to be a timetable. I disagree very much with the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire about how we should approach this matter. To try to lay alongside or within the framework of Resolution 242 a timetable for action seems to me absolutely wrong in the sense that it would delay rather than advance matters.
When I was there I discovered that attempts, however well meant, to uncover what might be the timetable in people's minds were unwelcome and aroused deep suspicions about one's motives. Yet I feel as sure as a man can feel that it was clear that the leaders, not only in Israel but in the two most concerned Arab countries, whatever they feel they must say in public, recognise that there will have to be a timetable and have a fairly clear conception of the form that the timetable which each of them would envisage might take.
How close the timetable envisaged by one is to the timetable envisaged by the other can emerge only if definitive talks can start. They will not uncover their hands in advance and they will not welcome any timetable which we or anyone else advance because it is bound to look as though it advantages one or the other before they have started on the road. But, from what I was told by each side, I have a broad idea, as I know others have who have more recently come back from that part of the world, about the general lines of thinking. They did not discourage me from the wish to go on pushing.
1061 Obviously, any agreement, if and when one is reached, will need outside guarantees, for the reasons which have been so clearly given. Israel says, "We have trusted words before. We have trusted the big Powers and the United Nations, and what has happened? Each time the trouble has started again and we have had to look after ourselves." I can understand why they say that. No one can go there without realising why they say it. The Arabs say that anything that they do will be used by the Israelis to build up again and to make a further advance.
Some interesting ideas are being canvassed. I have referred to the U.N.E.F. idea of the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire. Ideas have come from the British Council of Churches. Arguments were put forward in the House of Lords debate, which I read with interest. But I lean to the view that the question of the nature of subsequent guarantees would be better played quietly in advance by Governments, the United Nations, or anyone thought to be in touch with either party or both parties.
In my view, we need to concentrate on one issue. It is a simple issue to propound, although it may be the most difficult. I agree that many other difficult things will fall into place once the negotiations get going and advantages begin to accrue to both sides. The issue will be difficult even if it is not complicated by spelling too much out in advance. The issue is this: how can we get talks in train when neither trusts the other and neither trusts the outside Governments who want to help?
This is why, basically, the idea of a Geneva-type conference, with the four Powers, the four Arab Governments and Israel—and I am surprised that the right hon. Gentleman did not go on to include El Fatah as well—sitting round the same table will not do. Both sides have fundamental objections to the four Powers. They are suspicious of each other and one side wonders whether the other will sell it down the river. Each side has reasons for its own view.
One reason which the Egyptians gave me for their not wishing to get talks going was the risk of their falling into a trap. They believe that if they get involved in talks there will be leaks and it might look as though they were arguing
1062 from weakness and the impression might be given that they were entering into talks because they could not carry on with the struggle. This is one of the areas in which the ballot box is not necessarily the conclusive or definitive form of expressing one's view about an existing régime, President or Prime Minister. It is more difficult for the Egyptians to run that risk than the other. Dr. Goldmann's recent exercise, if the consequences were as they have been set out, has not helped.
But someone must work his or her way into the middle—not, as I was often told, a Government, but an individual who must build up some confidence. I agree with the Foreign Secretary. I still think that Dr. Jarring is the man to do that. I heard little while I was there to persuade me to change my view that Dr. Jarring is acceptable. But I differ very much from the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire. I do not believe that it is a four-Power directive which is delaying Dr. Jarring.
Contrary to the Foreign Secretary's view, which I do not think I would accept even if I were still in the Foreign Office—I certainly do not accept it when speaking from this bench—I urge that the four Powers and even the Security Council be taken out of any obvious connection with Dr. Jarring. In turn, we should not ask to be told too much publicly of what he is doing. There are ways and means by which what he is doing can be known. But U Thant, who has not shown at any stage from 1967 the kind of courage, fairness and force that one expects from the Secretary-General of the United Nations, and Dr. Jarring, should be urged to got on with fresh attempts in any way that seems possible to them—and we have had suggestions made from both sides of the House—to get contacts going before the situation deteriorates much more and it becomes too late.
I ask the House to believe me when I say that I have reason to believe that there is a wish to get into contact in the area—possibly more in one country than in another, but certainly it does not exist only in one country. The urgency, for one reason or another, is understood by the wiser and possibly the more influential and powerful people in those countries. On the surface, it may look 1063 a slim chance, but to me it is clearly the best chance, and it may be the only chance. And it may turn out not to be impossible. That is the best suggestion that I can make to the House.
§ 5.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Jeremy Thorpe (Devon, North)
The House will obviously always wish to listen with close attention to the Foreign Secretary, to a former Prime Minister and to a former Foreign Secretary. I make no complaint that they gave us their views in a way which, although profound, could not, even with the best imagination, be described as brief. The principal fault, however, is that a major subject is being treated as a half subject and that the House will terminate this debate at seven O'clock. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I apologise to the House. My information is wrong. In any event, I intend to make a very short speech, which means that I shall not give way to the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson) unless I have to do so.
I agree with the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. George Brown) that it is not for this House, and preferably not for foreign Governments, to put forward formulae for a settlement. It is more their job to try to understand what each country wants by way of guarantees and what are the political difficulties which they have in meeting those obligations. I also hope that the right hon. Gentleman was right when he said that there was no hatred for the Jewish people on the part of the Arab people. If that is so, it will provide a favourable basis for implementing an ultimate solution. It does not seem as yet to have provided sufficient cement to bring about such a solution.
The right hon. Member for Belper has played a distinguished part, both as Foreign Secretary and more recently as honorary plenipotentiary extraordinary in going around the Middle East, and in a moment I will comment about his remarks about Dr. Jarring. He is right in saying that although the interests of the House are primarily humanitarian, wishing that Israel may live in peace with a feeling of security, and wishing that the problem of the refugees would be solved, none the less what makes it a far more explosive situation is the strategic 1064 interests of the great Powers with, for the Western Powers, a weakening of their N.A.T.O. position in the Mediterranean, not least because of the situation of Greece and the possible instability of at least another country in the area but also because of the presence of Russia in Egypt. In addition, as the right hon. Gentleman said, there are economic considerations.
In many ways the situation is much worse than when we last discussed the Middle East. The four Powers and the two super-Powers have not been able to bring about a settlement or anything that looks likely to be a settlement. The explanation is quite simple. As the right hon. Gentleman said, with Russia's present commitments, it is not surprising. Russia has neither an interest in peace nor an interest in war. She has an interest in keeping the cauldron boiling. If there is war she will suffer from falling prestige and she will see much of her own hardware destroyed. If there is peace, the reliance of the nations in the area upon Russia will be correspondingly reduced.
The cease-fire is virtually non-existent. Arms continue to pour into both sides. We are seeing a new manifestation of terrorism aboard international aircraft. The war casualties, whether they are 30 Egyptian children killed in a school or 30 civilians claimed by El Fatah to have been killed in upper Galilee, are an appalling price which is being paid for the continuation of the war.
I can understand the Arab position. I can understand their fears at the time of the Balfour Declaration. I can understand that they would have been appalled at the partition in 1947 and I understand their feelings about the declaration of the State of Israel in 1948. I can appreciate the emotions which they feel at the sight of Arab refugees around the Middle East. Whether the Arabs themselves have played an adequate part in the settlement of these refugees is a matter into which I will not go, although I certainly have views upon it.
Fortunately, there are also Jews who have an understanding of the Arab case. One of the most remarkable articles I have read was that by Dr. Goldmann in the Observer yesterday. In it he showed a deep feeling and understanding and 1065 displayed a degree of self-criticism which is seldom given tospiritual and political leaders in public.
But the fact remains that Palestine has been partitioned. The fact remains that Ireland has been partitioned. How many right hon. and hon. Gentlemen would like to see the reunification of that island? But probably no one would advocate its reunification by force or contrary to the wishes of the inhabitants who live north or south. Likewise Germany is divided, although Dr. Brandt, without feeling the necessity for formal diplomatic recognition, is starting negotiations with the leaders of Eastern Germany. Similarly, Korea and Vietnam are divided as a manifestation of the cold war. What was historically Palestine is, similarly, half Jewish and half Arab.
The most difficult point for the Arabs to accept—although if they do not accept it there will be a bleak future, without any prospect of a settlement—is the right of that Jewish State to exist. The Security Council resolution of November, 1967, spoke of respect for and acknowledgement of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every State in the area. If that means, as I hope it does, a preparedness, subject to everything else, to recognise the right of the State of Israel to continue to exist, then it seems to me that all the other matters pale into insignificance, because the logic of an acceptance of the sovereignty of the State is the preparedness to negotiate with it and an acceptance of its integrity. Once that is accepted, then not even the intransigence of Soviet Russia will prevent a settlement coming about. Indeed, the Middle Eastern Powers must probably realise that a settlement must be brought about in spite of Soviet Russia.
There are many factors to indicate that neither side is going about in the best way the bringing forward of negotiations. For example, for Israel to start populating the occupied territories is madness. This is a view which many Israeli citizens hold; hence those who protested to Mrs. Meir about the settlement of 250 families in Hebron. How can one say one will negotiate when one is putting a permanent settlement in occupied territory?
Likewise, provided the political ramifications, about which we know little, of 1066 President Nasser or Mrs. Meir were not likely to have been disastrous, I would have liked to have seen Dr. Goldmann going to Cairo to negotiate. Similarly, it is not helpful for the Egyptians to be building up not merely defensive but offensive weapons along the Suez Canal. This, again, brings about real doubt as to what their future posture will be.
Nor is it helpful for El Fatah to be seen to be gaining increased political control within certain Arab countries. I appreciate the difficulties of the rulers and particularly of Hussein, who has been walking a tightrope for 10 or 12 years, if not longer. This, too, is not helpful as a posture for moving towards negotiations.
If there can be recognition of the right of Israel to exist, I do not see that this must be a unilateral act. Perhaps it could coincide with an agreement to withdraw. Perhaps the two could occur at the same date. Chronologically, therefore, they could be seen as part of the same pattern, for it could be accepted tht declarations on each side are insufficient. In other words, each side must take a defined, clear and pre-arranged act to prove its mutual expression of view. Then the various other matters could be tackled.
For example, the question of the refugees is largely a matter of money. One finds difficulty to argue against those who say, "Every Arab refugee who so wishes must be allowed to return to what is the State of Israel". Perhaps one would argue against it by putting the question the other way round, by asking what would happen if 250,000 or 400,000 Jews were allowed to leave Soviet Russia. Would they be allowed to settle in, for example, Jordan? Jordan, as an Arab State, would probably say, "No", because it would wish to retain its character of being a traditional Arab State. The Israelis would understandably say the same if the circumstances were the reverse.
§ Mr. Will Griffiths (Manchester, Exchange)
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that if 3 million Jews were released from the Soviet Union or from anywhere else, the State of Israel would find room for them within its existing frontiers?
§ Mr. Thorpe
Indeed it would, and one of the remarkable achievements of Israel has been its ability to absorb Jews from 1067 the Yemen, Western Germany and elsewhere.
Nevertheless, if 400,000 Jews wished to settle in Egypt or Jordan, upsetting the ethnic and religious bases of those States, would any Arab State agree to such a proposition? I think not. And for the same reason it is not unreasonable to expect Israel to say, "We welcome refugees back, but we do not welcome them back on the basis that the State of Israel would be totally submerged, so turning ourselves into a minority." Israel would be unwilling to say that and, frankly, its view would not be unreasonable.
Some dramatic suggestions have been put forward on the refugee problem, one by Edmund Rothschild to President Eisenhower which found a degree of support from the then Administration. There have been suggestions for the vast desalination schemes south of the Gaza Strip. Once territorial status is accepted, the other problems are financial and administrative, subject to the point I have faced, which is that I do not believe that every refugee will automatically have the right to go back to within Israel's existing boundaries.
What is serious is how we are to get guarantees which will satisfy the State of Israel, for without them we have nothing. I agree that a United Nations guarantee is probably neither obtainable nor—unfortunately in the present state of the world—if obtainable, credible. I thought it unlikely that I would find myself waxing less than enthusiastic for the United Nations than the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home), but that is the position. Likewise, I do not think that a four-Power guarantee is obtainable, for the same reason that it is directly contrary to the interest of Soviet Russia.
Sir Anthony Buzzard has wondered whether there could be a second-tier guarantee, not from the super-Powers but the second-tier Powers, possibly on a European basis. This suggestion should be looked into because one might find out by this means the sort of guarantees that Israel would accept. If we could find a guarantee which Israel would accept, then I believe that the intractable problems like the Golan Heights would be negotiable. Israel would probably demand that they were neutralised 1068 The question of the Golan Heights is not one of territory but one of security.
Likewise, although Jerusalem seems one of the most intractable and emotional problems of them all, I believe that it is not incapable of solution. However, I am certain that unless we can solve the dual problems of the right of Israel to exist and, therefore, its recognition, and the formulation of the sort of security arrangements which will satisfy Israel, then, who knows, we may be starting out on another Hundred Years War, but this one, unlike its predecessor, will involve more people than the main combatants.
For this reason our job is not to interfere but to find out from both sides what sort of guarantees they would accept. We must see if the questions of recognition and of a proper security pattern can be agreed simultaneously. If that can happen, there will be some slight hope. But I believe that the situation is very dangerous, probably more dangerous than it was a year ago.
§ 5.48 p.m.
§ Mr. Christopher Mayhew (Woolwich, East)
Nobody can doubt the very sincere intention of the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary and his opposite number to present to the House a picture of the situation in the Middle East which was neutral, fair and constructive. I wish I could feel, having heard both speeches, that they have brought much nearer the reality of a possibility of a deal between the Arab States and Israel.
I have recently returned from visits to Israel, the occupied Arab territories, Egypt, Jordan and the United States. My conclusion is that, as things stand, unless two new factors are introduced into the situation—I shall describe those factors later—there is no prospect whatever of a peaceful settlement. Why are we not getting this settlement? Why are the prospects so bad? Is there anything that Britain can do to improve the prospects of peace and justice?
Shall we start with the obstacles to a peaceful settlement from the Arab side? One of the surprises in the debate so far has been how little has been said about the Palestinian Arabs, as against the Arab Governments in this matter. The Palestinian Arabs reject the idea of the Security Council resolution. This is a major difficulty which anyone who speaks 1069 as the Foreign Secretary and his opposite number do, have to face. They demand not only the right to return to their homeland, which is granted to them in the Security Council resolution but also the dismantling of the State of Israel and the formation of a united Palestine in which Palestinian Arabs and Palestinian Jews could co-exist.
Many hon. Members and members of the public still find it extremely difficult to understand how it is that the Palestinians adopt such an uncompromising and militant point of view. It is necessary to try to understand it if we are to get round it and reach a peaceful settlement.
Earlier this year I was talking to a number of highly articulate professional middle-class Arab refugees in East Jerusalem. What they say is very helpful in understanding the feelings of the Palestinians. They are the people who, when the war came in 1967, suddenly found themselves able to travel over the whole of Israel for the first time for over 20 years. They at once got into their cars or on to a bus to visit their old homes. They described what it felt like after 20 years to go back to the homes where they were born, where they knew everyone, where they knew all their Arab neighbours, where they were brought up, where their father and grandfather before them had been brought up.
They described how it felt to see, in their garden, or coming out of a neighbour's front door, foreigners—people from Russia, from North Africa, from the United States, people who had taken their houses and their gardens, their household implements and personal belongings. Hundred of millions of £s worth of property in land and buildings was taken and they are sticking to it, without offering compensation and in defiance of repeated unanimous declarations of the United Nations General Assembly.
It is no good explaining to these people, to whom I talked and who would have moved hon. Members if they had heard them, that these foreigners are probably descended from people who lived there 2,000 years go. For one thing, Arabs have not been brought up on the Bible as we have. The connection of the Jews with Palestine is not in their minds as it is in our. And they have some pertinent questions as to 1070 whether these newcomers may not be descended, not from the Jews who lived in Palestine 2,000 years ago, but from Jews who lived 2,000 years ago in the Jewish community in Alexandria, for example, or somewhere else, or were descended from converts to Judaism during the 2,000 years. Above all, they say, "Maybe they are descended from those who were here 2,000 years ago, but I know that 20 years ago I lived here with my family—and my father and grandfather before me".
This is one of the factors and difficulties in reaching a settlement. These people are also suffering the humiliation and hardship of the Israeli occupation. The Israelis do not want to create oppression and fear in the occupied territories, but that is what is happening. Inevitably any military conqueror and occupier is bound to do so. I visited Gaza, and the fear there is a kind of physical fear. In East Jerusalem it is more of a psychological fear, a fear of being deported without trial, of being detained on suspicion without trial. These are very real factors making up this major obstacle which has to be overcome if we are to get a peaceful settlement—which has to be satisfied in some way.
As some speakers have pointed out, this is not the whole gamut of opinion. In a number of countries there are still large and important sections of Arab opinion which wish for a peaceful settlement on the lines of the Security Council, very much as spelled out by my right hon. Friend and the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home). This is a great tribute to them. It takes not only a great deal of psychological courage but a great deal of physical courage—when one's capital city is being bombed, when there are deaths of civilians, of one's own people, in view of the increasing harshness of the Israelis in the occupied territories, in view of the Israelis' intransigence over the Security Council's resolution—if one is Nasser or Hussein to stand up and to say that one is prepared to do a deal involving recognition of the State of Israel.
That is a considerable act of political courage. They are still saying it in the face of all these difficulties. They know the difficulties that await them, in trying 1071 to deliver their side of the bargain in the Security Council resolution. They know the difficulties they face in implementing the resolution.
The last published statement of President Nasser on this shows how difficult it would be for him. This is the statement published in The Times of 19th February:Asked whether the opposition of a number of Egyptian officers and of part of Arab opinion would not be an obstacle to the settlement President Nasser replied:President Nasser knows the difficulties perfectly well, but is prepared to try to face them. I maintain that a major interest of Israel is to help him to deliver the goods of a peaceful settlement and not to make things more difficult than they already are for him. I believe, after talking, not only with President Nasser and King Hussein, but with El Fatah people, the leaders and the rank and file, that it is still possible that the obstacles to a settlement on the Arab side can be overcome.'I do not think so. I have enough influence to ensure the application of the resolution. On several occasions I succeeded in convincing the officers and the higher organisations of the party to fall in with my standpoints on particularly difficult issues.'He admitted that there would be problems with the Palestinian organisations, but this was inevitable.'We cannot help it, but we are determined to face any eventuality. We shall try to convince our Palestinian brethren of the rightness of our opinion.'
§ Mr. Will Griffiths
I missed the source of that interesting quotation of my hon. Friend. Would he remind the House where he was quoting from?
§ Mr. Mayhew
From The Times, quoting an interview in Le Monde. I am not saying—it would be wrong to suppose—that the Palestinians would be satisfied with a settlement of this kind. That is not so, and I understand their point of view. They would not be satisfied even with a solution which involved the establishment of a Palestinian State in the newly-liberated territories, which gave them, as the Security Council settlement would, the choice of repatriation or resettlement.
Even so, I can see that the Palestinians would never be happy with a settlement; 1072 they would always oppose it. But that is not the question for peace making. The question is whether there will be enough such Palestinians, after the settlement, with enough power, enough dedication, to upset the settlement. That is the point and I am confident that the answer would be that there would not be enough.
The really formidable obstacles to the kind of settlement both Front Benches are talking about come from the Israeli side. They have rejected, or only very conditionally accepted, the Security Council resolution; they have rejected the Russian interpretation, the French interpretation, the American peace proposals put forward by Mr. Rogers last year; they have rejected the whole conception that the great Powers should put forward peace proposals. The whole conception that the Security Council or the United Nations should have anything to do with a settlement has been rejected. At present, they are not only declining to withdraw from occupied territories, they are actually building permanent settlements in occupied territories, including—most recently and provocatively—a permanent Jewish settlement in Hebron. In Jerusalem, there are big new public buildings going up, big blocks of flats for Jewish people in Arab Jerusalem. This is very provocative from a number of points of view.
I was particularly struck, when in Israel, with the discovery that the Israeli chiefs of staff have never even been asked to make an appreciation of what Israel's security would be if she withdrew to her pre-1967 frontiers. Anyone with knowledge of defence planning knows that every conceivable eventuality has a contingency plan attached to it. It is a source of much concern that so firmly attached are the Israelis to not withdrawing that such an appreciation has not been made.
§ Mr. Thorpe
I have been listening to the hon. Gentleman with great interest. Surely he will agree that it does not need the chiefs of staff to give a very detailed outline to know that a 10-mile waistline is not exactly cosy and to be shelled from the Heights of Golan does not give a sense of security.
§ Mr. Mayhew
That does not answer the point. If there were a possibility of 1073 going back to the pre-1967 frontier, however difficult, the chiefs of staff would have made an appreciation of the security implications.
I ask why the Israelis take this view. The first answer is that of course the existing frontiers from the military point of view are much more easily defended than the old ones. The second reason is that the Israelis have never met—and do not even understand—representative Arabs. They do not understand President Nasser but, for some extraordinary reason, they regard him as their major enemy while, as everyone knows, he is the one hope of bringing the Arab world to the idea of a peaceful settlement and acknowledgement of the State of Israel.
§ Sir B. Janner
Is it not a fact that the Prime Minister of Israel has stated quite categorically that she is prepared to meet Nasser or any of the other leaders of the Arab world anywhere at any time, on their own ground or wherever they want to meet? How can my hon. Friend say what he is saying?
§ Mr. Mayhew
It is true that the Israelis would like to meet the Arab leaders, but only as the occupiers of their territory.
We had this kind of situation during the war in France, when Petain was prepared to meet the Germans—and de Gaulle was not prepared to do so—while they were occupying Northern France. Whether it is their fault or not, the Israelis do not understand and do not meet representative Arabs. This is the second reason why their attitude towards a settlement is, on the whole, a negative one.
The third reason is that they are still under the influence of last year's catastrophic delivery of 50 Phantoms by the United States of America.
That contract was a real disaster. Israel was already the dominant military Power. She was totally dominant in the air and dominant on land, occupying her neighbours territory. The Phantoms were the first aggressive weapon in the Middle East. We should notice that the Russians have not given the Egyptians rockets or bombers to attack Tel Aviv, but the United States have introduced into the Middle East the aggressive weapons which the Israelis are using to bomb the outskirts of Cairo.
§ Mr. Raymond Fletcher (Ilkestone)
Would my hon. Friend regard the S.U.7 aircraft as wholly defensive?
§ Mr. Mayhew
The Russians have not given the Egyptians planes to attack Tel Aviv. They could have given them rockets to do this, but they have not done so. Above all, these Phantoms enable the Israelis to defy the world. This enables the Israelis to reject international peace proposals, including the Americans' own proposals. They are able to do so because the Americans have given them the means.
For all these reasons, my conclusion is that, as things stand, unless some new factors are injected into the situation there is no prospect whatever of a peaceful settlement. We can predict with considerable certainty more spectacular Israeli military successes which will lead nowhere, a continued weakening of the moderate conservative forces in the Arab world, more "Sudans" and "Libyas", and also a strengthening of El Fatah and the Fedayin. Almost certainly, there will be indecisive but escalating violence, with the increasing possibility of deeper Soviet involvement in the Middle East on the Arabs' side.
This seems to be much the likeliest outcome until the middle 'seventies and, after then, a gradual shifting of the balance of power against Israel as floods of educated and dedicated young Arabs come pouring out of the schools and universities not only of Arab countries but of the West, and introduce more compellance and technological sophistication into the Arab effort. This is the likeliest outcome, but we cannot rest content with it. Even against the odds, we have to do our utmost to prevent this happening.
Of course, if we got to the mid-'seventies and the balance of power then began shifting against Israel, the Middle East can become a flashpoint of world war. Then the Americans would be faced with exactly the choice which faced them in Vietnam in 1955, the choice between allowing a small anti-Communist Westernised ally to go under, an ally they have encouraged by their policies, to be intransigent, or to prop it up by sending in G.I.s, planes and all the rest. That would be a terrible decision, in the mid-'seventies, for an American President to take. The pressures on him to intervene at that 1075 time would be almost overwhelming. Obviously, we must try to prevent all this happening.
I suggest two new factors which should be injected into the situation. First, we have to try to make withdrawal easier for Israel. This is the key. Even if she withdrew it would be hard enough for Nasser and Hussein to deliver their parts of the bargain. If they do not withdraw, there will be no prospect whatever of a settlement. I should like my right hon. Friends to consider that Israel should be offered a new type of security system on her pre-1967 frontiers if and when she withdraws.
I believe that too little thought has been given to what kind of security is possible. For example, there could be a demilitarised zone of 15 kilometres or so on each side, which would cover the Golan Heights, with a United Nations force including important French and British contingents, and thus with the power if necessary, to summon air and naval power from the Eastern Mediterranean. This would make a considerable difference to the credibility of such a force. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. George Brown) said, such a force should not be withdrawable except by unanimous decision of the Security Council, that is, with the agreement of both sides.
I was surprised that the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire suggested that the Russians would veto this. All the argument was about the Russians vetoing this, but I do not think that is right. I have discussed what I have just suggested with Arab leaders and their advisers and with certain Soviet officials. From their point of view this force would be a guarantee against what they genuinely fear, rightly or wrongly, as Israeli aggression in the future. This is how they would present it to their people. It is my considered judgment that a security system such as I have described would meet with no insurmountable obstacles either from the Egyptians or the Jordanians and, therefore, not from the Russians.
This is the first thing the Government should consider. Admittedly, the Israelis are not interested in what I have said about a security system. I have spoken about it to Israeli leaders, but they are 1076 not interested, because they are not contemplating withdrawal. They say it would leave them at risk. The answer is that it is not a choice between Israel being at risk or being secure. The question is one of taking a lesser risk, the risk of having this security system, plus acceptance by the Arab countries, the opening of the waterways, the four-Power guarantee, and the risk of going on as they are now, which seems certain to end in disaster.
A second new factor needs to be injected. I am sure that pressure must be exerted on the two sides. It is no good hoping that Dr. Jarring all by himself will find the formula to bring them together.
This underlay what both Front Bench speakers said today—"It will be all right. They will find a formula. There will be this kind of plan and that kind of plan; and then, without any motivation and without any pressure from outside, the lamb and the wolf will lie down together". My right hon. Friend the Member for Belper said, "Let the great Powers keep out. Dr. Jarring all by himself will find a magic formula, and they will find a settlement". This is not so. All the experience of the last two years shows that. There must be some kind of pressure from outside.
I draw attention to the terms of Early Day Motion 217—Arms Delivery to the Middle East—signed by myself and 31 of my right hon. and hon. Friends:That this House welcomes the refusal of Her Majesty's Government and of the United States Government to make further arms deliveries to the Middle East, likely to upset the balance of power; and urges Her Majesty's Government to work for a Four Power arms embargo against any Middle Eastern country which rejects a peaceful settlement on the lines of Security Council Resolution No. 242.This must form part of progress towards a settlement. The four Powers must agree to curtail and, if necessary, cut off all arms supplies from any Middle Eastern country not co-operating in a settlement on the lines of the Security Council resolution. This would be a powerful inducement to both sides to come together.
The Government say—I know their view—that it is no good trying to agree on how to implement agreed proposals until the proposals had been agreed. They 1077 ask: why bother about questions of enforcement when the four Powers have not yet reached agreement on what is to be enforced? That sounds logical, but it is not true. One of the major reasons we have not reached agreement on the terms of a settlement is that neither side is willing to make the difficult and embarrassing concessions necessary if it thinks that the proposals will not be implemented. I know this from talking to these people. Above all, it helps them if they can say to their more militant followers when they make some concessions, "We are doing it under a degree of duress".
I beg the Government to believe that if the four Powers could agree on how they would implement the terms of a settlement once they had agreed them, this could be a very constructive move forward. It is not so illogical as it sounds. I greatly hope that the Government will examine these two proposals. At least they are constructive. At least they try. They would give Israel a decent sense of security on her old frontiers if she withdrew. The second proposal would involve their bringing pressure on all sides to reach agreement. What is the alternative? What better plan is there? I believe that this brings us the best chance.
§ 6.13 p. m.
§ Mr. Dennis Walters (Westbury)
I am very pleased to follow the hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew). One of the many virtues of his excellent speech is that it will make my speech considerably shorter than it might have been.
The hon. Gentleman dealt at length at the beginning of his speech with the problems and the feelings of the Palestinian Arabs who have been dispossessed from their homes. I have spoken on a number of occasions in the House on this subject. I should have been delighted to do so again today; because I believe that, unless the rights of the Palestinians and the deep sense of grievance felt by them and shared throughout the Arab world are understood it is impossible even to begin to understand the essence of the problem in the Middle East and the possibility of achieving a settlement that will stick.
1078 Earlier, the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. George Brown) made a speech of great authority. Whenever he speaks on the question of the Middle East, people who know the area are prepared to listen, because the contribution that he has made on behalf of Britain has been far from negligible.
I did not quite understand the right hon. Gentleman's perplexity about Russian policy. Of course, the Russians are out to exploit any possible advantages that they may have in the area. It is up to the West, by pursuing an intelligent policy, which it has frequently failed to do, to make it as difficult as possible for the Soviet Union to intervene and to strengthen its position there. Of course, it would be to the advantage of the Soviet Union on a short-term basis that there should not be a settlement.
The best thing of all for the Soviet Union would be that there should be continuing chaos, that the Russians would be able to continue putting themselves forward as the champions of the Arab world, that United States policy should continue to be far too attached to Israel, that there should be a polarisation between East and West, and that the Russians should use this to strengthen their hold in the Middle East.
On the other hand, the Russians must realise, and I believe that they do realise, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) emphasised, that in a situation which is as dangerous as this things could get out of hand and a war could start. Should this happen the Soviet Union would find itself in the dilemma of not just being able to support the Arab countries verbally and with equipment but either of having to intervene militarily, thereby facing a confrontation with the United States, or of losing all the propaganda advantages that its policy at present has gained it and that the mistakes made by the West have gratuitously given to it. Therefore, I think that appreciating this risk the Soviet Union is willing to try to work for a settlement albeit reluctantly.
The debate so far has come as a welcome recognition that the Middle East continues to be an area of vital importance to Britain and to the West as a whole and that the promotion of peace 1079 and stability there must be a primary object of British policy.
As it is fairly obvious that the major obstacle to this aim remains the continuance of the Arab-Israel conflict and its repercussions on the political orientation of the area, it follows that the settlement of the conflict should be our first priority.
All those who are anxiously looking for possible new openings will have been very depressed by the Israeli Government's suppression at birth of the visit by Dr. Nahum Goldmann to Cairo, which had all the makings of an interesting and hopeful initiative. I was rather pleased to read in the Observer yesterday that Israeli students had protested at Mrs. Meir's policy towards the Arabs, had demonstrated in Jerusalem on Saturday, and had carried placards which had said, among other things:Goldmann to Cairo. Settlers to the Negev. Mrs. Meir to an old people's home.
§ Mr. Eric Moonman (Billericay)
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will agree that it will be equally satisfactory and warming if there were similar demonstrations in Cairo and other Arab cities protesting against the policy of Arab Governments.
§ Mr. Walters
I would say two things in reply. First, the Arabs are not occupying other people's territory, and no doubt any desire to demonstrate in Cairo must have been curbed by the vicious attack which killed 30 school children last week.
With regard to Mrs. Meir and the suggestion that she should go into an old people's home, in view of the remarks that were made by the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) during his visit to Israel—which seemed to me to combine in fairly equal quantities ignorance and mischievousness—he could profitably join her there. I am confirmed in this belief by the speech that he made in this House recently during debate on the Middle East.
I thought that the proposal in the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire was most interesting. If I understood him correctly, a British initiative in New York would propose that a conference should be convened at Geneva, composed of the Secretary-General, the four permanent members of the Security 1080 Council, the three or four battlefield Arab States and Israel. I do not know whether he referred to the possibiity of the Palestine Liberation Movement also being represented, but obviously that would be useful.
It seems to me that a conference like that would represent a positive attempt to escape the fruitless exchanges among the four Powers which have taken place since 1968, and that if Britain could persuade the United States, France and the Soviet Union that such a conference was desirable, something could be given to Dr. Jarring to bite on and to propose in a concrete form and something which would have at least a hope of succeeding.
To the Arabs, who have always refused a direct confrontation with the Israelis, the presence of the other parties would help to dilute the starkness of the confrontation and, moreover, it would probably be the best opportunity of getting the November resolution, which has been constantly referred to, implemented.
I believe that our efforts should be concentrated on achieving what is attainable; and the essence of a settlement which has been referred to by the Foreign Secretary this afternoon and by my right hon. Friend must be the withdrawal by the Israelis to the 1967 frontiers, a recognition by the Arab States of an ending of the state of war, the establishment of demilitarised zones—this was rather amplified by the right hon. Member for Woolwich, East—and these frontiers and demilitarised zones should be guaranteed by the great Powers.
The remainder of the United Nations resolution could be implemented in stages, and the need to solve the problem of the refugees, which is perhaps the most fundamental of all, would have to be recognised——
§ Sir B. Janner
Before the hon. Gentleman goes any further, may I ask him why he left out the recognition by the Arab States of Israel as a sovereign State as being fundamental?
§ Mr. Walters
I said that the resolution would be implemented in stages. The termination of the state of war, which would come with guaranteed boundaries and demilitarised zones, is something which the Israelis always said they most wanted.
1081 As I was saying, the rights of the refugees would have to be recognised in any preliminary agreement. No solution could be reached without the participation of the United States and the Soviet Union. That is obvious. I believe that France and Britain have much to contribute. France, when it implemented the policy of General de Gaulle after the June war, played an important part in keeping the lines open from the West to the Arab world, and to some degree we did the same. The proposals put forward by the United States Secretary of State, Mr. Rogers, show that the Americans are not unaware of what shape a possible settlement might take.
The real question seems to me to be whether the Americans will take those steps which alone can make the implementation of their own proposals possible. If such American intervention had taken place soon after June, 1967, there would have been a much greater chance of success than today. But the Johnson Administration, which was entirely preoccupied with the Vietnam war, ensured that the United States detached itself from the Middle East, and when it was not detached its policy was openly pro-Israel.
The Rogers proposals, which, after all, fully recognise the rights of Israel, nevertheless were rejected out of hand by the Israeli Government. They would, however, be a relevant step forward in American policy, but only if the United States has the determination to implement them with the support of Britain and France and, at least in part, in agreement with the Soviet Union, and this means putting necessary pressure on Israel. It is at this stage that the proposal put forward by my right hon. Friend this afternoon is so interesting. Such a proposal would make the implementation by the Americans of their initiative very much easier.
I do not see the difficulty referred to by the right hon. Member for Belper. He referred to what he had been told in Cairo about bipartite talks and the dangers of those talks between Israel and the U.A.R.Such dangers and disadvantages would obviously not apply to a public conference with the participation of the four great Powers, with the Secretary-General of the United Nations and of the other Arab States, directly involved. When one studies the complexities of the problem and the difficulties of achieving a 1082 achieving a settlement in the Middle East, any new proposals should be followed up; and, certainly, any proposal as positive as this one would seem to be.
§ 6.28 p.m.
§ Mr. E. Shinwell (Easington)
I gathered that the hon. Member for Westbury (Mr. Walters) was trying to provoke me. At any rate, that was my impression from one observation that he made. If that was his intention, he was just wasting his time. I thought I gave him a proper hiding the last time we engaged in debate—so much so that he ran away whining, and then demanded apologies.
The hon. Member is the sort of Member who likes to give knocks, but is unable to take them. I am quite able to take all the knocks that he or any of his friends, including his pro-Arab friends, wish to give. I can take them and shall survive. Probably I shall survive much longer politically than he will.
I am in a very good temper this afternoon. I want to begin by offering congratulations to my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary for his studied moderation. As far as I could gather, it was a manifestation of benevolent neutrality. Secondly, I offer my congratulations, not for the first time, to the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home). I was intensely interested in his possible scheme of pacification. I recognise his integrity in this matter. But I doubt whether his scheme would meet with any measure of success.
I was asked a question today by a prominent Member from this side of the House who is not at the moment in the Chamber. He asked, "How is it that Labour Members who regard themselves as confirmed Socialists, who have advocated Socialism for a long time, are resentful of the State of Israel, which is a Socialist, or in large measure a Socialist, and at any rate a progressive country? What is the reason for this resentment?". Indeed, in the case of my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew)—and I say what I feel—there is not merely resentment, but occasionally there is a spitting out of venom. What is the reason for it? There must be some reason. I wonder.
§ Mrs. Anne Kerr (Rochester and Chatham)
There is a deep sense of disappointment about the State of Israel. First, many of us feel that the killing of Eichmann was a terrible thing to do, even bearing in mind the things which have been done to my right hon. Friend's own people and to the human race. Secondly, there is the use of napalm and bombing against the very people—the poor, the children—whom we have tried to back. Over the years it has been disastrous. Does not my right hon. Friend recognise that it is appalling?
§ Mr. Shinwell
I willingly gave way because I understand that in the House there is a preference for back-bench Members against Privy Councillors. But in any event I did not understand what my hon. Friend said.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I hope that my hon. Friend does not intend to repeat what she said, because I want to get on with my speech.
I referred to the scheme for pacification put forward by the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire, but there is one item to which he did not direct attention—the presence of the Soviet Union in the Arab countries. It is remarkable that there has been no condemnation of the Soviet Union, even by the Foreign Secretary. The Soviet Union is one of the four Powers and as such one might expect her not to be involved in the Middle East. As a member of the four Powers she is a judge or one of the jury. I find it difficult to understand why Russia has involved herself actively in Arab States who are engaged in hostilities with the State of Israel, while at the same time pretending to seek pacification of the Middle East.
There has been a remarkable change in the Russian attitude. Over the weekend I received a document from which I should like to quote as a manifestation of the change of attitude by the Soviet Union since 1947. It is a speech by Andrei Gromyko, made on 14th May, 1947, before the United Nations General 1084 Assembly, and I will read an extract from it:The Jewish people suffered extreme misery and deprivation during the war. It can be said without exaggeration that the sufferings and miseries of the Jewish people are beyond description. It would be difficult to express by mere dry figures the losses and sacrifices of the Jewish people at the hands of the Fascist occupiers. In the territories where the Hitlerites were in control the Jews suffered almost complete extinction.Mr. Gromyko continued:The fact that not a single Western European State has been in a position to guarantee the defence of the elementary rights of the Jewish people or compensation for the violence they have suffered at the hands of the Fascist hangmen explains the aspiration of the Jews for the creation of a State of their own. It would be unjust not to take this into account and to deny the right of the Jewish people to the realisation of such an aspiration.What is the reason far the change? I suggest that it is not that the Russians have any affection for the Arabs. Rather, they are using the Arabs as cats' paws. It is not merely, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. George Brown) said, that the Russians are concerned about the Persian Gulf. They are concerned about something much further afield—the Indian Ocean. It is not merely a matter of resentment against Israel or affection for the Arabs, but the matter of a direct means of approach through the Suez Canal, when it is reconstructed, into the Indian Ocean, not merely gaining control of the oil resources of the Middle East, which is their intention, but becoming more intentionally hostile to the United States, the Western Powers and the free world.
§ Mr. Shinwell
That is why the Russians are in the Middle East, and for no other purpose. It ought to be stated.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I cannot help it if my hon. Friend supports the Soviet Union and Communist ideology. I do not. I dislike it intensely.
I recognise that the Soviet Union is not merely out for mischief. It is in a dangerous state of mind and is ready to adopt any possible measure, short of war, to achieve its ends. During the defence debate I said that the Russians did not need war. They have gained almost 1085 everything they wanted in Europe without hostilities, and they propose to do the same in the Mediterranean and further afield. But that is all that I want to say about the Russians.
I now turn to the general situation. I wish that it were possible to provide a solution, not perhaps immediately but in the foreseeable future. Among other things, the United Nations resolution demanded the withdrawal by Israel from the occupied territories. That cannot be gainsaid; it is implicit in the resolution, although there were references to guarantees, with which I will deal later. If the Israelis are not prepared to withdraw from the occupied territories, the Arabs will not agree to negotiations, nor will they receive any aid from the four Powers—not that the four Powers matter very much. In a previous debate, when I derided the four Powers, I was told by some of my hon. Friends that I was wrong and that the four Powers were the only hope. Today, we have been told by my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper that the four-Power conference is of no significance. That would be the position.
We are asked to agree that the Israeli Government should withdraw from the occupied territories and, as compensation, receive guarantees. Do hon. Members recall the Tripartite Agreement, when Britain, the United States and France gave guarantees to come to the aid of any of the Middle East countries in the event of aggression against them? It was not worth the paper it was written on.
In my opinion, no guarantees by the United Nations or the four Powers would be of any value unless it was clearly understood that those associated with the Arab States, the Arab leaders, must come to the conference table in a confrontation with the representatives of the State of Israel. I would not object to representatives of the four Powers or of the Security Council being present, but unless there is such a confrontation there is no hope of a solution.
A suggestion has been made in the debate that Dr. Jarring's services should be reinvoked. I do not believe that that would be effective, for various reasons into which I shall not enter now. What would be effective and is, indeed, essen- 1086 tial, is an initiative taken by U Thant, who was responsible in large measure for the United Nations resolution. I wonder why he has failed to do so. Let us not forget his terrible mistake. He made a grievous blunder when he agreed to withdraw the United Nations military force from the area with which we are concerned. That was an initial blunder from which a great deal of trouble has emerged. But now there is an opportunity to remedy the situation.
U Thant should take the initiative, approach both sides—both Israelis and those associated with the Arab States—to find out exactly where they stand, never mind about speeches, here or in Jerusalem, or Tel Aviv, or Cairo, or Baghdad, or Beirut, or anywhere else, and take whatever decision is required in the circumstances. If he found that they were intractable, then we should have to be prepared for eventualities, and in my judgment those would probably be of a disastrous character.
Reference was made by the hon. Member for Westbury to my recent visit to Israel. I went there in order to form a frank assessment of the position. It was my second visit. I was there first 15 years ago. I found a vast transformation—reconstruction, technological and other developments about which I am not prepared to say anything in this House. But they could be frightening—I repeat, they could be frightening—not for the State of Israel, but for the Arab States and perhaps for the world as a whole.
§ Mr. Shinwell
My right hon. Friend the Member for Belper referred to the question whether the Arabs hate the Jews, and he denied that this was so. Let us accept that. I am not arguing about it. I made inquiries myself among Israelis to find out whether they hated the Arabs. There was not a word from them except one of friendliness.
I was told by the Secretary-General of The Histadrut that 100,000 Arabs are working in the State of Israel with higher wages and better social conditions than they have ever known before. I saw never a manifestation of hatred or even 1087 dislike for the Arabs. I am prepared to accept the suggestion that the Arabs are prepared to live in peace with the Israelis.
It is remarkable that in this House, despite our differences and the sneers which I see and hear around me, we all want peace. Israel wants peace and the Arabs say they want it. What is standing in the way? It is not hatred; it is not even the refugee problem. It is, first of all, simply the fact that the United Nations has not taken the measures which are essential in view of the resolution passed by the Security Council, and, secondly, because of the involvement of the Soviet Union in the Middle East.
I make a suggestion—not that I believe that it offers a complete solution. Why do not the Government call upon the Soviet Union to take out their technologists and technicians and advisers from the Arab States? Why should not our representative at the United Nations ask that it be done? Let these Russian technicians and advisers leave the Arab States and then there might be the possibility of an approach to negotiations—I am not asking for more than that at this stage. As long as these emissaries of the Soviet Union are in the Arab States, I do not believe that there is any likelihood of finding a solution—and we need a solution.
The Israelis are not likely to withdraw from the occupied territories unless they get firm guarantees provided not only by the four Powers, but also by the Security Council, with the proposition that strong military forces should be placed in the territory to prevent any outbreak of hostiilties. I do not think that they will accept anything else. At the same time, I am not so foolish as to suggest that they are prepared to give up every inch of the territory they have occupied. From their point of view, that would be disastrous.
What does all this mean? I come to what I think is the only possible solution. During the course of my conversations with very prominent people in Israel, I discovered that there is an under-current of anxiety. They want to bring this business to an end. At the same time, I discovered that there are those who believe that the quarrel will go on for many years, 1088 with aggression on both sides and with many casualties until the Arab States discover that the Israelis are determined to remain where they are and are going to survive.
It may be that, as my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, East said, this may lead to the involvement of other nations—for example, the Soviet Union and even the United States. But one thing is certain. It is that the Israelis are not prepared to withdraw unless they are absolutely certain beyond any possibility of doubt that they have real security.
What we are asking for is peace. We all want peace. But we want security as well. I make no apology for making that statement in the House and making my position abundantly clear. It is not a question of standing on one side and rejecting the other—nothing of the sort. I would like to see a Middle East more prosperous, in the process of development and using all the resources of the area not only for the benefit of the Israelis, but for the good of all the peoples of the Arab States as well.
I am a Socialist, but I am not like some Socialists, who take one side against the other. I do not take one side against the other. I want Israel to be protected and secure, but, at the same time, I do not dislike the Arabs. Why should I? I want to see them as prosperous as the people in the State of Israel. That should be the position of every one of us. We should make our position clear not only in this country but throughout the civilised world and, in particular, in the Middle East itself.
I hope that the message that will go forth from the House—I hope that it will go from the Government, but if it is not from the Government, I take the responsibility, for what it may be worth—will be to the Russians to get out of the Middle East. They have enough trouble on their own plate.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I am not saying that the hon. Lady should get out. I am saying that the Russians should get out. I wish that the hon. Lady would not interrupt me: it breaks the thread of my discourse.
1089 The first thing is for the Government to be prepared to say to the Soviet Union, either directly or through our United Nations representative, "Get out of the Middle East; get back to your own quarters; deal with your own problems; do not indulge in any more interference". We have a right to say that to them. Are we afraid to say that to them?
Secondly, we must make our position as clear as the noonday sun—peace in the Middle East accompanied by security for all concerned. Thirdly, we must ask the United Nations, through U Thant, to take the initiative, to get out to the Middle East, not to stay in New York and not to send Dr. Jarring or any other representative or organisation, but to go to the Middle East and ask both sides to meet him separately—I understand that they will not meet together—and to ask them to state their positions and on what conditions they are prepared to enter negotiations leading to a settlement.
Those are the demands that we are entitled to make, and that is the message which should go forth from this House.
§ 6.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Ian Gilmour (Norfolk, Central)
The right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) said that my hon. Friend the Member for Westbury (Mr. Walters) could not take a hiding and had run away. The right hon. Gentleman will remember perfectly well that what happened in the last debate was that the right hon. Gentleman made a grossly offensive personal attack on my hon. Friend under the cloak of parliamentary privilege, an attack which, if he had made it outside the House, would have seen him ending up in the law courts. The right hon. Gentleman cannot claim to have behaved very gallantly in this matter, nor can he talk about other people running away.
The right hon. Gentleman went on to say that he was always surprised that some Socialists did not take his view of Israel. I am not an authority on Socialism, but I dare say that his hon. Friends who take that view are rather disturbed that something more than 1 million people of the original inhabitants of Palestine have been expelled from their homes and displaced by an invading settler State. That is something to which his Socialist friends, and not only his Socialist friends, object.
1090 No one would deny that Bertrand Russell was a Socialist. He said:It is abundantly clear that the refugees have every right to the homeland from which they were driven, and the denial of this right is at the heart of the continuing conflict. No people anywhere in the world would accept being expelled en masse from their own country; how can anyone require the people of Palestine to accept a punishment which nobody else would tolerate? A permanent just settlement of the refugees in their homelands is an essential ingredient of any genuine settlement in the Middle East.That may help to remove the right hon. Gentleman's puzzlement about the attitude of some of his hon. Friends.
What was most striking about the first three speeches in the debate was that the Foreign Secretary had much the least of the three to say about how a settlement should be reached. My right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) put forward, as he said, in only 10 minutes, nevertheless fairly detailed and extremely helpful proposals for a settlement. And the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. George Brown) also put forward proposals, although it seems to me that he ignored the fact that the Dr. Jarring had been unsuccessful during his last tour of duty in the Middle East and, therefore, just to send him around again in the next few months was unlikely to lead to any different result.
The reason the Foreign Secretary relied almost entirely on piety and was very short on practicality was that Her Majesty's Government have done virtually nothing in the Middle East over the last few months. Great Britain has been a passenger in the four-Power talks and has made very little positive contribution. That is open to the strongest possible criticism on two grounds. First, as the Foreign Secretary and my right hon. Friend pointed out, we have considerable and important interests in the Middle East and they are jeopardised by the present situation.
Secondly, there is one simple fact. This will annoy the right hon. Member for Easington and a number of others, but I hope to produce detailed evidence for it. That simple fact is that the ruling clique in Israel today—I am not talking about the Israeli people as a whole; I cannot judge them and I dare say that they are quite different—does not want 1091 peace on any terms that it can conceivably get it in present circumstances. I will produce detailed evidence for that in a moment.
If that is right, and I think that it is, the only way in which peace may be produced in the Middle East is, contrary to what was said by the right hon. Member for Belper, by the four Powers producing a settlement and then by Russia bringing pressure to bear on the Arabs and America bringing pressure to bear on Israel. We all know how difficult it is for America to bring pressure to bear on Israel—because the Zionist lobby in America is extremely powerful. For the American Government to have the courage needed to do such a thing, it needs every conceivable support from every other quarter, and one of those quarters should be Her Majesty's Government. They should be using their influence with the American Government to stand up to the Zionist lobby and to the "hawks" in Israel. This, so far, is what they have singularly failed to do.
My reason for saying that the present Israeli clique does not want peace is based on the following items—and the same is true before 1967 and before 1948. The Zionist objective has always been, since the days of Herzl, the whole of Palestine and perhaps a bit more. It has always been the whole of Palestine with no or as few Arabs as possible. That, too, goes back to Herzl.
§ Mr. Gilmour
I was excluding some members of the Israeli Government from my strictures. I think that there are some members of the Israeli Government—I should not like to harm their prospects by naming them—who are in favour of a peace settlement, but I do not believe that that is true of all. By "clique" I do not mean to generalise, or to refer to the Israeli Government. I am referring to the inner cabinet, if that will smooth the hon. and learned Gentleman's susceptibilities.
The first piece of evidence that indicates that since 1967 Israel has not wanted peace is her refusal to allow the 1092 new refugees to return to the West Bank. Those of us who have been to Jordan and the West Bank and have seen the refugees camps in Jordan—just across the river in 1967, but now, because of the shelling, further back—and who have seen the appalling misery in which so many hundreds of thousands of people are made to live because of the grossly inhumane refusal of the Israeli Government to allow the new refugees to return must come to the conclusion that here is a Government who are concerned more with keeping these people out of their homes than with making peace with its neighbours.
The second item is Israel's purported annexation of Jerusalem—a large part of Jerusalem was Israeli any way—the Arab city of Jerusalem. There could hardly be a more provocative act in the face of almost united world opinion, and it would certainly encourage any Arab to believe that Israel was not interested in peace.
§ Sir B. Janner
Will the hon. Gentleman tell the House whether he ever protested against the Jordanian annexation of Jerusalem?
§ Mr. Gilmour
No. Nor, before 1967, did I protest against the Israeli annexation of new Jerusalem. I would have preferred an international city in Jerusalem, but that would have had to be in the Israeli part of the city, too. I was perfectly equable on that matter.
The third point is the refusal, in effect, of Israel to accept the famous 1967 resolution. The Foreign Secretary read out a form of words from Mr. Eban accepting the 1967 resolution, which was only a form of words. Dr. Jarring was obstructed at every point. The Israelis have never shown any desire to carry out that resolution. Indeed, when Mrs. Meir formed her last Cabinet, mention of the 1967 resolution had to be left out of her letter of intent.
The fourth item, which has even been mentioned by such a friend and supporter of Israel as the Leader of the Liberal Party, is the establishment of 30 settlements in the occupied territories. That could hardly be a more aggressive and provocative thing to do, particularly when we remember that this is the same tactic that Israel carried out after 1948 when she was occuping land which did not belong to her, and which eventually solidified into permanent frontiers.
1093 It is encouraging that some people in Israel are prepared to protest against the building of these settlements. The Foreign Secretary said that it is easy enough to produce statements from either side indicating non-peaceful intentions, so I will not dwell on any of those, although there have been a great number.
The fifth point is Israel's behaviour in the occupied territories which, with one exception for which I give her great credit, again does not indicate a people anxious to have peace with the Arabs. The exception for which I give her great credit is the refusal to bring back capital punishment. Although some El Fatah and other people have certainly died in Israeli prisons, this is a matter for which her opponents should praise her. But the rest of her behaviour in occupied territories has not been so admirable—the blowing-up of houses in large numbers, the razing of whole villages to the ground, the imposition of collective punishment and people punished for refusing to be collaborators or Quislings to the occupying Power. That is, indeed, taking occupation very far.
We have also had strong evidence about the torture of prisoners. We have had the Amnesty report, the United Nations Special Committee report, and the Economist correspondent saying that he has also come across cases which appear to be well-founded; and I have had a whole sheaf of cases sent to me which have also been sent to the Israeli Government. At the very least, there seems to be the strongest possible prima facie case that that has been going on.
Sixthly, we have had no conciliatory gesture of any kind by Israel. As the hon. Member for Leicester, North-West (Sir B. Janner) has pointed out, we have had Mrs. Meir from time to time offering to go to meet President Nasser. That is a gesture which impresses the gullible Western Press, but everybody knows that it has no significance. Indeed, the Israeli correspondent of the Economist last week called Mrs. Meirthe most hawkish Prime Minister Israel has had.If one bears in mind that that includes Mr. Ben Gurion, that is pitching it pretty high.
1094 The seventh item is Israel's denial of the existence of the Palestinians as a people. This is going very much further than any other settlor State has gone in Africa. Luckily, apparently many Israelis do not agree with Mrs. Meir who, we must remember, told the Sunday Times that the Palestinians did not exist. As I have been critical of the Israeli inner Cabinet, I should like to praise the General Secretary of Mapai, Mr. Eliav, who was quoted in Tribune as saying:The Palestinian nation is identifiable as a national entity by a national consciousness, by continuous territory where most of the Palestinians live, by a history of several decades replete with battles and wars, and a diaspora which maintains a link with the Palestinian homeland. At the same time it is conscious of a common national catastrophe, sacrifice, suffering, heroes. It has dreams and the start of a national literature and poetry.Mr. Eliav continues:Our relations with the Palestinian Arabs constitute the most important element of our relations with the Arab world as a whole, and the two are inseparably linked. Herein lies the key to the solution of the overall problem.He goes on to argue that the Israelis mustlet the Arab states know that we shall never deny the Palestinians' right to self determination and fulfilment of their national aspirations.What a great step forward towards peace it would be is Mrs. Meir or General Dayan subscribed to those sentiments.
§ Mrs. Anne Kerr
Would the hon. Gentleman agree that it is not because Mrs. Meir is a woman that she is taking up this rather difficult position which many of us cannot totally accept, but because she is one woman among many men, and that it is exceedingly difficult for a woman in such a situation to pursue the course that should be permitted to her? Were there more women in all the Parliaments of the world rather than—[Interruption.] Permit me, please
§ Mrs. Kerr
I should like to finish my point, because I think that it is important.
Would the hon. Gentleman agree that, were there more women in all the Parliaments of the world, we would have a 1095 more reasonable attitude to all the problems confronting mankind and not necessarily throw up oddities and novelties—such as myself?
§ Mr. Gilmour
I should not like to go into the psychology of Mrs. Meir. I am not an authority on that. If she is put off by having so many men around her, she should either leave politics or get more women in. The fact that she is a woman is not all that significant.
The eighth piece of evidence is Israel's deep air raids into Egypt. General Dayan must have known that, sooner or later, these were bound to end up with heavy civilian casualties. But that did not deter him. Incidentally, in all the smokescreen that has gone out trying to wash out the tragic deaths of now, I think, 36 Egyptian children, one word which we have not heard from General Dayan, one word which is missing from what he said, is the word "Sorry". I think that, instead of trying to pretend it was a military target and that the Egyptians were irresponsible in sending their children to school, he would have done better to say "Sorry".
More significant perhaps than that is the reason why the raids took place at all and there was a significant report by M. Eric Rouleau, in Le Monde on 4th February, 1970, which said:Western diplomats in Cairo are wondering what led Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Dayan to escalate military action just when Egypt seemed inclined to accept peaceful settlement.They point out that President Nasser refused to be drawn into demagogy, or to denounce the Security Council resolution at Rabat. And M. Rouleau goes on to speculate that what was alarming the Israelis was that the four-Power talks were progressing and that Egypt showed signs of being very interested in the Rogers proposal.
Those pieces of evidence seem to me to be far more important since they concern what Israel does rather than what Israel says. We do better to judge Israel by what she does than by what she says. But since so much is made of talks it is worth pointing out that when there was a chance of talks between Dr. Goldmann and President Nasser they were vetoed by the Israelis. All that body of 1096 evidence seems to me to indicate the truth of the proposition which I have put forward that the present Israeli Inner Cabinet does not want peace. Therefore, pressure must be brought to bear on her. The only people who can do it are the Americans and we should help by bringing pressure to bear on the Americans.
It seems to me that my right hon. Friend, by his proposals today, has pointed a most hopeful way which I hope the Government will explore, because it is high time that there was an initiative taken by our own Government in the four-Power talks. Our position in the Arab world has been steadily eroded by our inactivity. President Nasser rather harshly said that we were servile executors of American policy and during the past few months I think that this has had a good deal of truth to it. It is high time that we got out from under the Americans and adopted a policy of our own which could be put forward in the Middle East and which showed our friends that we are mindful of our interests and of the interests of justice. If we do not do that Her Majesty's Government will be throwing up the chances of peace and jeopardising their interests in the Middle East.
§ 7.12 p.m.
§ Sir Dingle Foot (Ipswich)
It seems to me that this debate is long overdue. As the right hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) said, we are dealing with a constantly deteriorating situation. As long ago as 19th February of this year during Business questions I pressed for a debate on the situation in the Middle East. What is much more important is that a similar request was made by the Leader of the Opposition on 12th March last. We have had to wait more than a month for a debate on these matters. It seems to me that that is a grave reflection on the way in which we conduct our business in this House. We are dealing here with a position of increasing danger and something which may affect the whole peace of the world. But for the last month we have been debating matters of far less consequence than this, and no time has been found until today for a debate on this issue.
As the House knows, from time to time I have endeavoured to put the Arab point of view as I understand it. I make no apology for that. I have a fairly 1097 long parliamentary memory and I remember how, before the war, the Zionist cause was always expressed with great force, sometimes with great passion and very effectively. The case for the Arabs almost always went by default. And there are still many hon. Members who fully appreciate all the arguments in favour of the Israelis but who completely ignore what can be said on behalf of the Arabs.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell)—and I am sorry that he is no longer in his place—quite unjustly accused my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) of spitting out venom at the Israelis. My hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, East did nothing of the kind. What he did was to try to put in some respects the point of view of the Arabs and particularly of the Arab refugees. That is something of which my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington has never shown at any time the slightest appreciation or understanding. Of course we all deplore as much as he did the suffering of the Jews in earlier years, but unlike him we also take into account what has happened to the Arabs of Palestine.
The hon. Member far Norfolk, Central (Mr. Ian Gilmour) referred to the last statement made in his lifetime by the late Lord Russell. I shall quote further from that statement, because I think it summarises the position. Lord Russell said:The tragedy of the people of Palestine is that their country was 'given' by a foreign power to another people for the creation of a new State. The result was that many hundreds of thousands of innocent people were made permanently homeless. With every new conflict their numbers have increased. How much longer is the world willing to endure this spectacle of wanton cruelty? It is abundantly clear that the refugees have every right to the homeland from which they were driven, and the denial of this right is at the heart of the continuing conflict.Later, Lord Russell said:We are frequently told that we must sympathise with Israel because of the suffering of the Jews in Europe at the hands of the Nazis. I see in this suggestion no reason to perpetuate any suffering. What Israel is doing today cannot be condoned, and to invoke the horrors of the past to justify those of the present is gross hypocrisy. Not only does Israel condemn a vast number of refugees to misery; not only are many Arabs under occupation condemned to military rule; but also 1098 Israel condemns the Arab nations, only recently emerging from colonial status, to continuing impoverishment as military demands take precedence over national development.Surely these passages ought to appeal particularly to any member of the Jewish community. They ought to understand this better than anybody else.By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion…If I forget thee, 0 Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning.That is echoed by a great many hon. Members.
But it should apply equally to the dispossessed Arabs of Palestine. Everything really depends in the last resort upon the provision which is to be made for the refugees. I think that the House should recall this. The State of Israel was founded, or at least it was invested with legality, by a United Nations resolution in 1949. It is upon that resolution that it has always relied. But since then almost every single year there has been another resolution of the United Nations calling either for the repatriation or the compensation of the Arab refugees. No effect has ever been given in any way to a single one of those resolutions.
Again, I am sorry that my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington is not in his place. He emphasised today Israel's need for security. He has done so before in the House. In the debate on 24th March last year, he said:All I want for Israel is peace and security. The people of Israel are entitled to it. For far too long they have been subject to persecution. Many of them have been forced to go to Israel to escape pogroms, persecution, death, misery, deprivation and the rest. I want peace and security for them and for their country."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th March, 1969; Vol. 780, c. 1096.]We all understand that, and I think that nearly all of us would agree. But the point is that the Israelis could have had that security, if that was all they wanted, at any time during the past two years.
During the discussion, one or two of my hon. Friends sitting on the bench below me have raised some challenge about what had been said by President Nasser. I remind the House of something which I have quoted before but which is particularly material in this debate. In March last year, President Nasser gave a 1099 widely publicised interview to Newsweek. He was asked this question:And if they pulled back now, how would Israel's security be enhanced? What quid pro quo would the Arab States offer for evacuation?This was President Nasser's answer:First, a declaration of non-belligerence. Second, the recognition of the right of each country to live in peace. Third, the territorial integrity of all countries in the Middle East, including Israel, in recognised and secure borders. Fourth, freedom of navigation in international waterways. Fifth, a just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem.That was offering to the Israelis everything they can legitimately want, and everything that is claimed for them by their friends and advocates in this House.
§ Sir D. Foot
For reasons which have been frequently explained. One does not want a confrontation between victors and vanquished. Since the question is put to me by my hon. and learned Friend, let me follow it up. I myself saw President Nasser in October, 1967. He then proposed that there should be a revival of the Armistice Commission between Egypt and Israel, and that there should be three on each side. The only condition he made was that there should be an impartial chairman nominated by the United Nations. That proposal, an eminently reasonable proposal, one would think, was contemptuously rejected in Tel Aviv.
As I say, the Israelis could have had the security of their frontiers, and they could have had freedom of navigation in their waterways, granted three conditions: first, a withdrawal from the occupied territories; second, some form of internationalisation of Jerusalem; third, at least a projected attempt to deal with the problem of the refugees. None of those has ever been conceded.
One may, indeed, ask the question—this also is relevant to my hon. and learned Friend's intervention—why was Mr. Nahum Goldmann prevented from going to Cairo to meet President Nasser? What possible damage could it have done to the Israeli cause if he had gone?
One has to consider what it is that the leaders of Israel want. Inevitably, 1100 the question presents itself: do they intend to withdraw from the occupied territories? This was referred to by the hon. Member for Norfolk, Central, and I shall direct attention to a specific example, the city of Hebron, 20 miles south of Jerusalem. This is a holy city to both Jews and Muslims. It was captured in the six-day war. It is now proposed that, although it is part of the occupied territories, it should receive a new Israeli Jewish colony of 250 families.
§ Sir D. Foot
I remind my hon. Friend of the massacre at Beir Hashim. I was pointing out that Hebron is part of the occupied territories, and it is proposed to settle 250 families there. I quote now from an article in the Sunday Times of 29th March, a report from its correspondent in Jerusalem:'What you call the occupied territories I call Israel. Hebron was, is and will be part of Zion'. With these words the colourful Minister of Transport in Israel's coalition Cabinet, General Ezer Weizmann, recently brushed aside a question about his country's policy towards the towns and territories captured from the Arabs in the Six-Day War".I shall not quote, though I could, all the provocative statements through the years of General Moshe Dayan, actually referring to advances on Amman and even on Cairo, but I recall one recent incident. There was a public opinion poll conducted in Israel only a few days ago on the question of the treatment of the occupied territories. It is reported that no fewer than 86.4 per cent. were in favour of Israeli settlement of these territories; in other words, what they had in mind was that these territories should remain permanently theirs.
The question must inevitably be asked in the Arab countries: have the Israelis any intention of leaving the occupied territories in any circumstances?
Various hon. Members have spoken of possible terms of a settlement. We need a settlement not merely as an act of justice to the Arabs of Palestine, but, equally, in the interests of the Israelis themselves. In Israel and the occupied territories today there are no fewer than 1,400,000 Palestinian Arabs. Their birth rate is double that of the Jews. Does 1101 anyone suppose that they will ever be reconciled to alien rule?
I quote again from the article in the Sunday Times:Against this the Israelis can only act severely; by arrests in the night, by ever-tightening police surveillance, by blowing up 600 houses believed to have sheltered terrorists. This severity is effective. But the terriists also win because an even greater fear is created among the occupied peoples who, willy nilly, are being included within Israel itself. This is the internal time bomb that Israel is manufacturing for itself in the occupied territories whose acquisition gave the nation for the first time secure external frontiers.It is true, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. George Brown) and others have said, that the Arabs can lose many times, the Israelis only once.
I refer now to a subject which has concerned many hon. Members in this debate, that is, the part being played by the Russians. Like my right hon. Friends the Members for Belper and Easington, I am greatly concerned about Russian expansionism. As has been said, it does not stop at the Middle East. We can see examples of it all through the Indian Ocean. When I last addressed the House in a foreign affairs debate, I drew attention to Russian infiltration in Malaysia in the weeks and months since the events of last May. The Russians are there for their own purposes. They are there to enlarge their sphere of influence. The Arab Governments concerned, particularly the Egyptian Government, look to the Russians not because they are in any way favourable to Marxist doctrines but because there is nowhere else they can look. This is the matter with which the House ought to be concerned.
I fully agree with what my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said about the attitude of the Arab peoples towards ourselves. He said that the people of the Arab world look to us. That is true. It must have been manifest to anyone who has visited Middle Eastern countries, particularly Egypt, during the last year or two. They look to us, and they would far rather look to us than towards Moscow.
In November, 1967, our prestige was very high. That was when my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper was responsible for the passing of the United Nations resolution, which was immediately accepted by the Egyptian Govern- 1102 ment. Indeed, it would have met the aspirations of nearly all the Arab Governments in the Middle East. Our standing is not quite so high today, because since November, 1967, no lead has been given by Her Majesty's Government. They have done nothing whatever to follow up the resolution. There are many things which they could have done. I know that there are objections to this, but they could have proposed a timetable for the implementation of the resolution. They could have proposed at least a partial withdrawal from the banks of the Canal so that the reopening of the Canal might be undertaken. They have done none of those things. They have simply rested on the words of the 1967 resolution.
Before I close I want to refer to a suggestion made by the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home). He suggested that there should be a Geneva Conference, that there should be a conference of the four Powers, together with Israel and the Arab countries. It seems to me that if such a conference were summoned that would not be enough. We would need to have representatives of the people who are most concerned of all, that is, the Arabs of Palestine; those, it may be, who are contributing to the guerrilla struggle at the present time. Those are the people most closely concerned, and those are the people who ought to be represented at the conference.
§ Mr. Lambton
I admit the great strength of the Palestine movement in various countries, and I admit, too, the growing strength of that organisation, but can the right hon. and learned Member say how it could be admitted to any conference without undermining the State from which it came?
§ Sir D. Foot
It is not undermining the State from which it comes. It is standing up for the country to which it belongs, a very different thing. There are many precedents for dealing with insurgents. There was the attempt to deal with Colonel Grivas in Cyprus, and there must be many other cases in which there have been meetings between the Governments and leaders of revolutionary movements. I do not believe that the sort of conference which the right hon. Gentleman suggested could be of any 1103 value unless these people, the people who are most intimately concerned, were also represented.
§ 7.33 p.m.
§ Sir Henry d'Avigdor-Goldsmid (Walsall, South)
The right hon. and learned Member for Ipswich (Sir Dingle Foot) began by saying that in earlier days the Arab cause was very poorly represented in this Chamber. I have listened to three strongly worded Arab speeches out of the last four. Therefore, on this occasion, in numbers anyway, the Arab cause is pretty well represented.
I know that there are many hon. Members who wish to take part in the debate. I shall curtail my comments, but there are a few things which are on the record with authority, but which should not be.
When I heard the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. George Brown) making his interesting speech, I nearly jumped out of my skin. He said that the Jews were still in business in Moslem communities. I think of the time spent by the hon. Member for Leicester, North-West (Sir B. Janner) and myself dealing with the plight of Jews in Iraq, in Damascus, in Cairo, and in Tripoli. Their only desire is to become refugees. They are detained in those countries in very harsh conditions, without any contact with the outside world, and their only desire is to get out. I felt that that was an unqualified comment in what was otherwise a well-informed speech.
I think that the hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew), whom I am pleased to see in the Chamber, underrates his own standing. He has, over the years, very consistently and with great force, been the spokesman of the Arab cause. He cannot, therefore, when he comes to Israel, come as a private Member of Parliament seeking information. He comes not as a spy. He comes overtly, but his fame has gone before him and he cannot expect to get from the Israeli authorities the same co-operation that he would get if he had not made his views about them so abundantly clear.
There are two things to which I want to refer particularly. First, there have been many comments about the pre-1967 boundaries, as if these had been laid 1104 down by natural force. The pre-1967 boundaries were the cease-fire lines at the end of the 1948 war, a war which was started by the Arab nations to destroy Israel, but which they failed to bring to the conclusion they had expected. They were the cease-fire lines, and they were laid down not for any natural reason, but by agreement and for convenience.
As the right hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) said, one would not expect any country in possession to go back to a narrow neck of land less than 10 miles wide. I do not think that either Front Bench speaker thought that that was a likely possibility, but there is nothing sacred about the pre-1967 frontiers. They were the cease fire lines of the 1948 war, a war started by the Arab nations.
My hon. Friend the Member for Westbury (Mr. Walters) said that the Soviet Union was willing to work for a settlement. My comment is that if one can believe that, one can believe anything, because, if the Soviet Union is willing to work for a settlement, it will very easily be obtained.
Before this debate I looked up the debate on 31st May, 1967. It was interesting to see that none of the speakers, who propounded all sorts of solutions, realised that the war was actually on us. Listening to this debate, I have the feeling that the situation is a good deal later and more dangerous than has been admitted. I shall not produce eight answers for this, as my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, Central (Mr. Ian Gilmour) did, but there is one which the Israeli Government published which is the biggest possible proof that the war in its present terms is coming to an end, and that is the state of that country's reserves. During the calendar year 1969 the Israeli reserves were depleted by 1,000 million dollars, so that in January of this year they stood at about 400 million dollars. I attach no special importance to that, but I am advised that the cost of an air raid such as we have been hearing about is about 500,000 dollars. There is, therefore, a limited possibility, indeed, of Israel keeping up that form of warfare.
Israel took the decision, and I think rightly, to seek every means of bringing the El Fatah terrorism to an end. The means she decided on was the use of sophisticated weapons, in the hope that 1105 the force of them would be appreciated. I believe that the Israelis are bound to recognise, if for logistic reasons only, that that policy is a failure.
§ Mr. Will Griffiths
Does the hon. Gentleman believe that the use of sophisticated weapons, such as the employment of Phantom fighter bombers, against schools in Cairo will have any effect whatsoever on El Fatah?
§ Sir H. d'Avigdor-Goldsmid
The hon. Gentleman must form his own conclusions. I do not speak for the Israeli Government. I am talking in military terms. There is clearly no military advantage in bombing schools in Cairo, but that is not the point of the argument. If bombs are used, they sometimes fall in the wrong place.
I would also have thought that there was no special military advantage in bombing civilian bases in Jerusalem, or setting off bombs in stores—but hon. Members may have different opinions about that. The basic fact is that the policy of using sophisticated weapons cannot last long.
What is the answer? I stress with all the earnestness at my command that this is not the sort of situation which, many years ago, Neville Chamberlain talked about in connection with Czechoslovakia, when he referred to "a country a long way away in which we have no concern". This situation is near at hand, and not only because of the movement of trans-continental airliners.
The right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) referred to such horrors as he did not dare to speak of. I see no reason not to dot the "i's" and cross the "t's". Israel has had a nuclear pile for many years. I have not seen it, and I have not met anyone who will admit to having seen it, but it exists. It is certainly not being used for producing electricity or for the desalination of the ocean. What it is being used for is not for me to speculate, but it exists.
In nuclear matters we talk about a first-strike capability—that is, the capability of destroying an opponent in such a way that he cannot revenge himself. Neither Russia nor the United States would allow the other to have a first-strike capability. I do not wish more to be read into my 1106 remark than I am saying, because I have absolutely no ground for saying it, but I would have thought that, vis-à-vis her neighbours, Israel has a first-strike capability, because she has total air superiority and if—I say "if", because I have no knowledge of it and I am prepared-for what I say to be denied—she has this first-strike capability and if, for financial reasons, the use of sophisticated weapons is becoming impossible—because the order for Phantoms which has been held up by President Nixon is for delivery in two years' time, and this crisis will come much sooner than that—knowing the quality of the people and their absolute determination to live, I would not rule out the consequence of their having a first-strike superiority. I should have thought that, in those circumstances, there was an advantage in not denying Israel conventional weapons.
Knowing that the Israelis have this determination and bearing in mind what they have gone through—and remembering also that the excavation at Masada, which was fully described in the Observer, showed that the Israeli garrison put women and children to the sword rather than surrender to the Romans—I would have thought that there was not the slightest possibility in the world of Israel, now constituted as a sovereign nation, giving in. I am also absolutely certain that she did not fight for 3,000 years to establish themselves as a nation in order to commit suicide.
There is a real urgency in this matter. The present situation could have very grave consequences, and it would not be simply a question of rectifying the 1967 frontiers. I am sure that if Israel had had reason to trust the United Nations there would have been no need for the six-days' war. If Israel trusted the United Nations as at present situated, the situation could be put right.
But do not let us forget what the Russians are doing. As far as I can judge from the Russian propaganda machine, El Fatah and the Arab cause has taken the place of Vietnam as topic No. 1. I am told that there are El Fatah branches in some of our universities—not because our universities are full of Arabs, but because the new Left has fully identified itself with El Fatah.
In our debate in 1967 the hon. Member for Clapham (Mrs. McKay), whom I am 1107 disappointed not to see here today—said thatthe Arabs are so bad at stating the case, if they have one"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 31st May, 1967; Vol. 747, c. 167.]That is not the case now. The Arabs are stating the case very well and spending a lot of money on it. The estimate that I have obtained of their expenditure in this country is £1 million. This is a public relations exercise. I see that the ex-leader of the Young Liberals has hurried off to Jordan to join El Fatah. That is a much more intelligent form of propaganda than even the use by the Russians of 8,000 technicians in Cairo.
It would seem that the solution to this problem lies in Russia, as Dr. Goldmann suggested. Many references have been made to Dr. Goldmann. It should be made clear that he is quite free to go to Cairo at any time he likes. If he does not care to go, that is his look-out. The Israel Government have not prevented his going. He is not even an Israeli citizen.
That is a side-issue. The real issue is that this war has now been going on for over two years. From what I have said, hon. Members will gather that I do not believe that it will go on for very much longer. I am certain that the Israelis will not surrender. Having said that, I leave it to the House to decide how a solution is to be reached.
§ 7.47 p.m.
§ Sir Barnett Janner (Leicester, North-West)
I am sorry that my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. George Brown) is not here. I tried to intervene when he was dealing with the question of the treatment of the Jews in Arab countries. I ought to give the House the information which is available in this respect. It is extremely serious. U Thant, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, wrote in his introduction of the yearly report of the present session of the General Assembly:I share the widely-held concern for the plight of another, smaller group of helpless persons. Although I have no direct means of knowing exactly the conditions of life of the small Jewish minorities in certain Arab States, it is clear that, in some cases at least, these minorities would be better off elsewhere and that the countries in which they now live would also be better off, given the prevailing circumstances, if the departure of those who 1108 would wish to leave could be sanctioned and arranged… I hope, therefore, that it may soon be possible to find sensible ways of solving this largely humanitarian problem.In Iraq the number of Jews has dwindled from 130,000 at the end of the 1940s to about 2,700.
When hon. Members talk about the refugee problem, where do they think that those Jews have gone, those Jews from an Arab country? They were living in conditions which could not be tolerated. They had been divested of all their possessions, and this was in a time of peace, at least officially. Those who are left suffer such hardships that many are prepared to flee from oppression with only a few rags. The same is true in Syria.
This is not unknown. It is not unknown that the Arab refugee problem had been created by the inhumane and barbaric practice of keeping men, women and children in camps and not allowing them to be assimilated into any countries. We keep hearing much about these humane people, but they were not prepared to allow fellow Arabs to enter their own countries. This is true of Iraq with its vast territories and its tremendous potential, for example, along the Tigris, and it is true of Egypt. These countries treated the refugees as human pawns.
Anyone visiting a school in an Arab country after the 1967 war would have found children being taught, with the help of U.N.R.R.A., to which Israel contributes, not that two and two make four or that four minus two is two, but if an Arab kills two Israelis, how many Israelis two Arabs would kill. What is the use of hon. Members talking as though they are advocating a cause of great moral strength?
The attack on Israel has brought out the worst type of attitude among Arabs determined to see the Jews of Israel driven into the sea. Does any hon. Member doubt that? I have often said that I am prepared for anyone to interrupt me and prove me wrong. Everybody knows that what I am saying is right. Israel exists to create and develop a culture and civilisation—and I say this, as a Jew, with great pride—the like of which few other countries have been able to display. Israel does not want war and does not want to hurt anybody.
1109 The Arabs in Israel have not been treated as some hon. Members have suggested. The next time the hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) visits the Middle East, I hope that he will go to the small township of Abbu Qosh near Jerusalem where there is a flourishing Arab colony. Arab leaders told the Arabs in Israel in 1948 to leave because within a few days the Israelis would be driven into the sea. The dwellers in Abbu Qosh took the advice of the Israelis and stayed. I appeal to the supporters of the Arab cause to look at the facts of the case.
How can it be said that the Arab world has accepted the Security Council resolution when the Arabs are spending about £2 million in this country on propaganda? I saw a doubtful smile on the face of an hon. Member when the sum of £1 million was mentioned, but in fact it is expected to be about £2 million. Is that money necessary to be spent on advertising proved truth, or on creating a wrong image which can exist only by advertising?
How can it be said that the Arabs accept the Security Council resolution when a fundamental of that resolution is that the creation of the State of Israel was right? It has been suggested that the terrorists and the gangsters who are prepared to blow up planes and to boast about it must also be accepted into the consultations if the Security Council resolution is to be implemented, but that resolution says that the State of Israel exists and those terrorists and gangsters not only do not accept its existence, but some talk about destroying every man, woman and child in it, by driving them into the sea.
Some hon. Members may smile, but do they not remember that when in 1967 Israel begged Jordan to keep out of it, orders had already been issued—and I read them in the House on a previous occasion—for a military unit in Jordan, saying that every inhabitant in an Israeli village should be killed? The terrorists and gangsters who have attacked not only Israel, but the citizens of other countries outside the area of conflict do not accept the existence of the State of Israel.
§ Mr. Ian Gilmour
The hon. Gentleman talks about terrorists and gangsters, but 1110 what does he say about the presence in the Israeli Cabinet of the biggest terrorist and gangster of them all, Menachem Begin, who was responsible for serious massacres? Will he be included in any future peace talks?
§ Sir B. Janner
Has the hon. Gentleman ever heard of Kenyatta? The individual to whom he referred represents a small minority. That kind of thing has happened in numerous States and the hon. Member must not use the exception to try to prove the rule. The Israeli people are a peace-loving people. They do not hate the Arabs, even though Arabs have been under orders to destroy them.
May I try to put into proper perspective the recent unhappy incidents, which we all deplore. It is no good saying that Dayan does not deplore them. He feels the deepest sympathy with those involved. But he has pointed out, and has produced photographs to show, that the Israelis were bombing a military area which was part and parcel of the war which Egypt is determined to continue against Israel. If a school were put anywhere near that area, it was a diabolical thing on the part of those who put it there.
§ Mr. Raymond Fletcher
Does not my hon. Friend agree that the bombing of Dresden was a blunder and a crime but that that comment in no way invalidated the war in the course of which it took place?
§ Sir B. Janner
Everybody grieves at the deaths. But if Nasser is determined to avoid the cease-fire, which is acceptable to the Israelis and for which they have asked time after time, and if Nasser insists that he is still at war, what are the Israelis to do? Are they to wait until he bombs and kills them or until he crosses the Suez? Would my hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Faulds) do that if he were a member of the State of Israel? Of course not. He would defend himself to the best of his ability. The Israelis believe—and I think there is very much in this—that if they show the Egyptians that they are in a 1111 position to defend themselves, a full-scale war will be avoided.
I want my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary to see the situation realistically. If the Arab States were fully convinced that Israel was in a position to defend herself, that they would not continue the war. That is why it is wrong to sell tanks to Libya. Does not everybody realise that Libya is acting in collusion and in co-operation with the other Arab States? The French, who in the four-Power talks are to act as a judge of what Israel should do, are providing Libya with aircraft and other hardware. Is not that hypocritical?
§ Dr. M. S. Miller (Glasgow, Kelvingrove)
Does not my hon. Friend place any store by the pledge of the French Government to the effect that these planes will go nowhere other than where they are supposed to go—to Libya?
§ Sir B. Janner
If hon. Members look at the arguments which have been used about the four-Power talks, they will see that they do not hold water. Everyone can see the machinations of Russia in the activities in the Middle East. Why does not the hon. Member for Norfolk, Central (Mr. Ian Gilmour) send a letter to Russia on the subject or do something else about it? Why does he not ask the Russians, "Why are you sending all these arms to the Arabs, the opponents of Israel?"
§ Mr. Ian Gilmour
I welcome very much the provision of these arms, because they are likely to cut down air raids on civilians and other targets.
§ Sir B. Janner
The hon. Member is not as naive as that. He knows that the Russians will provide arms irrespective of any arrangements which they make with anybody else. What happened about the provision of more Phantom aircraft for Israel? The Russians had agreed with the Americans about it, but practically the following day they sent more weapons to Egypt.
It ought to be made absolutely certain and clear that Israel is in a position to defend herself. She has the courage and she has wonderful citizens—among the most amazing citizens in the world. The officers who lead are not professional soldiers but ordinary students, teachers, 1112 intellectuals and so on—the people who are building up the State, as are the men they lead. They form a citizen army defending themselves in the way in which any citizen army worthy of its salt would defend itself. They are defending their right to exist—and that is all that they want.
We have heard nonsense about Israel wishing to extend her territory. We know the conditions of the Jews in Russia. There was a Motion on the Order Paper on the subject signed by some 396 Members. What a terrible suggestion that Israel should not accept as many of the three million Jews who are in Russia as may ultimately be allowed to leave that country. Do hon. Members realise what the situation would have been if this little land, the size of Wales, had existed at the time of the Nazi murders and horrors? If Israel had then existed, there would have been no question of Jews drowning in the sea because nobody would take them and no question of Jews being refused asylum anywhere in the world. They would have been accepted as brothers and relations by their own kith and kin, who have a history dating back thousands of years. Israel has never been without Jewish people since they first arrived.
Hon. Members have referred to the waters of Babylon. The Babylonian Jews went back to Israel when the second temple was erected. Deep in his heart, his mind and his conscience, the Jew has a spiritual need of Israel in the same way that an Irishman in America, a good American citizen, has in his heart a deep affection for Ireland. That applies to the Scots and it applies for example, to the Welsh citizens of Patagonia. These sentiments are not born in a day. They are tremendously important and we must view them in their right perspective.
Hon. Members and others who say that President Nasser would be delighted to put the U.N. Security Council resolution into effect should note what was said about the resolution. Israel's permanent delegate to the U.N. said in the Security Council,Israel accepts the Security Council Resolution of 22nd November for the promotion of agreement on the establishment of a just and durable peace and is willing to seek agreement through direct negotiation with each Arab State…1113 On 23rd November, the day following the adoption of the resolution, President Nasser said:We will not recognise Israel. We will not permit Israel navigation of the Suez Canal. A decision of the Security Council is useless. There are many decisions that have not been implemented.Statements of that kind can be multiplied by the dozen.
Our job is to see that the resolution is put into effect. In the past, whenever there has been a war, the parties who have been engaged in conflict have eventually come together to negotiate and then to sign an ultimate treaty. That has been the basis on which sovereign nations have reached agreement. Nobody can impose a solution on sovereign nations. Why do not those who are anxious for peace come forward honestly and, instead of agitating—instead of advertising false images all the time—support and urge that the method to reach a settlement is for the contending parties to come together?
As long as encouragement is given to the Arab States to believe that their methods are right, they will not come to the conference table. If the civilised world were to say, "It is time you came to the conference table, as sovereign nations have always done", they would most probably be influenced by their friends, of whom there is quite a number in this House.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harry Gourlay)
Order. Many hon. Members still wish to speak in the debate. I remind the House that brief speeches will enable the Chair to call more hon. Members to take part.
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Neil Marten (Banbury)
This debate is about the Middle East. So far, all the speeches from the back benches have been deploying either the Jewish or the Arab case.
If the House will bear with me, I will deploy the British case. I suggest that the debate has tended to concentrate rather too much on the Arab-Israel war, although the Foreign Secretary pointed out that there were some other questions with which we must deal.
I was at the United Nations in October of last year, as an observer. While I 1114 was there, U Thant said in a speech that he thought that we might now be starting in the Middle East on a 100-years' war. That was a very depressing view of it.
While there, I visited the missions of the Arabs, Israelis, Russians, Americans and, of course, the British. Although the right hon. and learned Member for Ipswich (Sir Dingle Foot) virtually said that Nasser had offered the Israelis everything, and he wondered why they had not accepted it, the answer that I would give, having talked about this at the United Nations among the missions there, is that the Israelis will not enter into a settlement with the Arabs—this is their view—until they are certain that the Arabs really mean never to push them into the sea. That is the root of the problem. In other words, they will not have peace just to allow the Arabs reculer pour mieux sauter at a later date.
As this debate is about the Middle East, and Britain, could we be told something about "our old friends" the ships that are rusting away in the Suez Canal zone? Perhaps we are entitled to take the subject away from the Arab-Israel conflict to be given an answer to this question.
§ Sir B. Janner
I want the hon. Gentleman to realise that, in my view, the interests of Israel, of the Arabs and Britain all coincide. That is why I spoke on this subject in the way I did.
§ Mr. Marten
That is why I am putting the other leg of the argument, which is the British interest in all this. What have Her Majesty's Government been doing in, say, the last nine months—we have not heard much in the House on this issue—about the British ships in the canal? The present state of affairs is a sad commentary on the inability of the United Nations to take action, as opposed to talk, because here was a perfect case where a United Nations force could have liberated those ships.
A point which the Foreign Secretary mentioned, but which has not been raised by hon. Members in the debate, is the question of the defence of the Prime Minister and the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. George Brown) over an article by Mr. Walter Terry, in the Daily Mail. I have read and reread the debates which took place at that time and, with respect 1115 to Walter Terry, I think that he has got the story rather wrong.
It is in part right in that the report talks about the proposal that we should intervene in the international waterway up the Gulf of Aqaba. However, it was about a week before the war started that that proposal was made by the then Foreign Secretary in the House, when he said that while we would like the matter to be dealt with by the United Nations perhaps we should get all the maritime Powers together and follow exactly the wording of the 1957 Resolution; just before the Suez intervention of that time.
It seemed that the right hon. Member for Be1per was talking to the maritime Powers in an effort to get them to form a fleet which would sail up the Gulf of Aqaba and preserve that international waterway. If he tried to do that and if the other maritime Powers did not have the ships available in time in the area—at that time we had H.M.S. "Hermes" at Aden—it would have had to be done by those Powers which had ships available, and that would have been Britain intervening up the Gulf of Aqaba, as happened in 1957 in Suez.
If one wants confirmation of this fact, then I believe that Her Majesty's Government were, rightly at the time, considering an intervention of that nature, bearing in mind what was hinted at broadly on 31st May of that year in this House. That was before the war started, and the Prime Minister said:The House will not expect me to say more about what we will do, or what we feel it will be right to do, if, first, action through the Security Council proves ineffective, or the mere issuing of a declaration fails to maintain the freedom of passage through these Straits."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 31st May, 1957; Vol. 747, c. 207.]From that it is clear that the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary were planning to intervene, up the Gulf of Aqaba, to preserve the right of international waters and they were quite right to be doing so. Had they not been thinking along these lines they would have been guilty of dereliction of duty in the interests of this country.
One thing mentioned by many speakers, particularly by the right hon. Member for Belper and the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell), has been the great anxiety about the extent of the 1116 Russian influence spreading through the Middle East. It is possible to build up bogies about this, but it is there, and it is something which we, with our interests there, should certainly recognise and not treat lightly. Secondhand, through Egypt they have influence in Libya and probably a training mission there.
We know that they are in Egypt, Sudan, South Yemen and Iraq. Perhaps they have an infleuence with the Kurds, stretching from Turkey through to the Gulf. We know that the harbour is being built in West Pakistan, not far from the Iranian border with Russian material, probably for the use of the Russians. We have in the Middle East area a Russian military, naval and air presence and we would be failing as a country to ignore that.
I know that hon. Gentlemen opposite will not agree with this, but I believe it to be folly at this stage to withdraw from the Gulf by the end of 1971. That decision is entirely devoid of any military sense, in the context I have described. I have three anxieties. One is that if we do withdraw at the end of 1971, and I am not here trying to predict who will win the General Election, it leaves yet another area for which, inevitably, America will have to become responsible. We cannot, if we believe in freedom, and so on, leave everything to the Americans. If America has to fill that gap and look after that area, that will strengthen her case for withdrawing more troops from Europe. This is something that none of us particularly wants to see.
Secondly, we have to consider the people in the Middle East, not our interests. Are they better off in Aden since we left, in the South Yemen? No one can say that they are. Our presence there was of benefit to those people. We have, all the time in our assessment, to consider how this affects individuals on the ground, in the villages, whether Arab or Jew.
My third anxiety has to do with our direct British interest, which we are right to consider. We have great oil interests in that 86 per cent. of the oil consumed in this country comes from the Middle East and Africa. A total of 54 per cent. of our oil comes from the Gulf area about which I am talking, via the Cape. 1117 If the flow of oil was significantly disturbed it would have a dire effect upon our industry and upon workers' jobs.
As for the Europeans—and we must always think now of our friends in Europe—83 per cent. of their oil comes from the Middle East and Africa, and 37 per cent. direct from the Persian Gulf via the Cape. What we have to do is to make absolutely certain that we maintain as much stability as possible in that area.
This brings me to the second point in the Foreign Secretary's speech, when he talked about the Union of Arab Emirates being formed. He said that because of this new development in Bahrain we were well on the way to the formation of such a union. I understand that there is no agreement yet and I feel that with the rivalries and traditional local feudings among the Emirates, such an agreement is fairly unlikely. There is certainly no agreement, as I understand it, on the command of this army, or on the location of its headquarters or upon its financing.
Unless there is significant progress in the formation of this army fairly soon it will not be effective by 1971 when we leave. We ought not to leave before it is effective and before it can hold the ring when we have gone.
We want stability. It has been summed up in the words of the right hon. Member for Belper, when he was Foreign Secretary. He said:Our interests in the Middle East, notably those affecting our trade and investment, as elsewhere, depend on the maintenance of conditions in which peaceful and orderly development in the area can proceed."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 31st May, 1967; Vol. 747, c. 108.]That should be our policy in the Middle East. It is because we want this ordered progress for the people of the Middle East that we should try to retain this stability. If we look at what happened in Nigeria, and how events there disturbed the flow of oil, we can see how a similar disturbance breaking out in the Gulf, because we have left an unstable area, could affect the flow of oil to this country.
If we go, that instability will certainly be increased by a further attempted spread of Arab nationalism, be it from President Nasser, the Baathists, or whatever. If this happens, almost inevitably the Russians will seize their opportunity— 1118 and I am not trying to dramatise this—and become caught up in the spread of nationalism. Therefore, both to the people of the Gulf and to our British interests there is a very great danger.
It could almost reach the proportions of the Vietnam situation. The Russians become hooked, almost against their will, at the start perhaps, then as things build up they find that they cannot extricate themselves. That is one of the dangers of leaving this vacuum in the area.
The last danger is that during recent years Iran and Saudi Arabia have been getting on with the development of their countries, socially and economically. Iran, in particular, has been getting on well and is at a fairly good take-off point. If we go, and there is a dispute as to who takes over in this area between the two, it would upset the ordered progress that the two countries have made. For that reason we ought not to go until the Emirate Army is built up and is sufficiently strong to hold the ring.
It is essential to maintain stability, essential to give military reassurance to all the people in the area, to instil confidence in our ability while we are there, to deter subversion and incidents and, if we can do it, to lessen the risk of our intervention. After all, it was our intervention in Kuwait which dealt with the situation there and brought about stability. From that moment Kuwait has gone ahead as one of the most successful and prosperous countries in the Middle East. On the other hand, our premature withdrawal from Aden has resulted in the people there suffering under the present administration in no mean fashion.
The lesson is clear: The Government must rethink their Middle East policy as far as it concerns the Gulf. The best thing would be to forget the precise date that they have set for going, in the interests of peace and stability in those areas.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Eric Moonman (Billericay)
I shall not follow the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten) in the presentation of the case, which was extremely thoughtful and very serious-minded but which suggested to me a rather wider canvas than I have time to cover. I wish to allow other colleagues to get into the debate.
1119 It rather depresses me that in this debate there has been a tendency to use extremely strong negative language and perhaps to encourage general attitudes which I do not believe are helpful or constructive. I can understand my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ipswich (Sir Dingle Foot) putting his views forward on behalf of the Arab States; and my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, North-West (Sir B. Janner) has put the Jewish case with the same no-nonsense approach.
What was particularly depressing to me were those speeches by my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) who, I think, revealed great bitterness and contempt on this issue, and the speech of the hon. Member for Norfolk, Central (Mr. Ian Gilmour), which, I thought, attributed quite disgraceful motives to the part of the Israeli Government. This did not help.
It is extremely odd that here we have two hon. Members, however well-meaning, offering advice in a situation of conflict in which they have not been able to show any compassion in their approach nor in the language they used. I may be naive and I realise that there are a lot of heavyweights and potential Foreign Secretaries in the House but it does strike me as extremely odd and, perhaps more important, rather unhelpful.
I want to try to take up the problem of getting Israel and the Arab States to the conference table. That is, therefore, the limited approach I want to deal with. Some hon. Members, such as my hon. Friend the Member for Barrow-in-Furness (Mr. Booth), myself and others have been trying during the past few months to discuss at public meetings and elsewhere areas of agreement on this question of the Middle East. Plenty of people will argue about areas of disagreement and quickly take up the negative aspects associated with the Middle East, but we have been reasonably successful in gathering together a lot of support from both sides with this object. This is exactly the sort of approach which was outlined by the Foreign Secretary and, to some extent, also by the Shadow Foreign Secretary.
The great difficulty that hinders negotiations in regard to Israel is the correct 1120 concern with security. It is often said that world opinion would not allow the State of Israel to be obliterated, yet the questions have to be put forcibly: what action the Western Powers took in 1948 and again on the eve of the six-days' war? Nevertheless, many commentators on this subject, including some M.P.s, tend to devote more thought to the nature of a peace settlement than to the means of getting both parties to agree. In all areas of negotiation, whether in industry or in international affairs, the crucial step is the first step, getting people of influence and varying interests to meet together.
Two possible ways have been suggested and actively supported for doing this by a number of people and particularly by The Guardian. They show a hopeful sign of getting the countries concerned to take the first step. This calls for preliminary statements from the Arab and the Israeli Governments. On the Arab side, three things have to be said. The first is that the negotiation and settlement shall be based on the United Nations Resolution 242. Secondly, when the negotiations begin the Arab Government should meet the Israeli Government face-to-face and sign a peace agreement. The third part of the approach is that during the negotiations a cease-fire shall be secured.
I should have thought that the third point presented no difficulties, because President Nasser has said that his Government adhered to Resolution 242 and was prepared to apply it. Of course, this opinion will have to be tested, but it is not hopeless. It is less hopeless than many approaches which have been made.
The second point is a little more difficult, but it does not go beyond what President Nasser has already said privately and it is in line with the Egyptian diplomatic contention that negotiations need not count as negotiations unless and until they achieve agreement. The third point is no more than a reasonable provision to improve the chances of successful negotiations.
In support of Israel, three similar considerations apply. The first is the same as that for the Arabs. The second requires a new emphasis—that the negotiations can begin by being indirect so long as there is a clear undertaking by the Arab 1121 Governments that progress will lead to a face-to-face meeting and the signing of a peace agreement.
The third point applies equally to Israel. It has been pointed out that Abba Eban, the Israeli Foreign Minister, has accepted Resolution 242 as the basis of a settlement. He said at the General Assembly of the United Nations in September:The States in the Middle East should declare their readiness to establish permanent peace to liquidate their 21-year-old conflict and to negotiate detailed agreements on all the matters at issue between them. In a communication to Ambassador Jarring on April 2nd, 1969, Israel declared that 'it accepts the Security Council Resolution 242 calling for the promotion of a just and lasting peace to be reached by negotiation and agreement between the Governments concerned. Implementation of agreements should begin when agreements have been concluded on all their provisions. In discussing the arrangements, the venue and agenda for such negotiations, we should make full use of the good offices of Ambassador Jarring'.The other side of this attempt to get the parties around the negotiating table is what we might call a simultaneous presence. An alternative to simultaneous statements is simultaneous presence. This is a proposal whereby Dr. Jarring or another mediator would invite the parties individually to meet him on a set date in Nicosia, Rome or some other convenient centre to discuss the application of Resolution 242. Although the invitations would go to the Israeli, Egyptian and Jordanian Governments separately, it would be tacitly understood that the others were likely to be present at the same time.
This was an approach that Dr. Jarring wanted to attempt in 1968, but he was discouraged by the initial response. He might think it worth trying again now or, if four-Power disunity continues to block his path, it is an approach that someone else could try. It has the advantages of simplicity and informality. It keeps Resolution 242 as the basis of a settlement, but it leaves freedom to negotiate a time-table on when and how to apply the resolution's principles.
Of course, this is a basis for the various States and parties to get together. I am not ignoring the initial conflict. It is necessary to restate what the Middle East crisis is about. It was about the fact that nations fail to live together and to trust each other; and despite the three 1122 campaigns this will not disappear unless there is a genuine desire for this to happen.
There is the inadequacy of the United Nations. This has been pointed out, not only today, but on other occasions. It would be unfair not to recognise that the inadequacy of the United Nations arises, not because of the power struggle within it, but because of its very limited resources. This has been exposed on a number of occasions. Also, part of the difficulty of the United Nations establishing itself or a standard arises because the large Powers have opted out when it suited them. Therefore, it is difficult for the United States or the Soviet Union to take more than a nominal interest in the channels of discussion on an issue like the Middle East, when they are not only involved but when they have themselves chosen to work against the interests of the United Nations when it suited them.
On the Russian side, I am thinking of what has happened in satellite countries like Czechoslovakia. On the United States side I am thinking in terms of Cuba and South America. This means that, although we add great emphasis to the work of these Powers, no doubt their currency will always be a little dubious. Therefore, it makes it all the more difficult and complex for the nations in the Middle East to take them seriously. This is very understandable.
So I believe that the simultaneous statement and the simultaneous presence is one approach in trying to get the parties to agree that they could in fact overcome some of the complications, some of the problems associated, not only with their own fears, but with all the arguments that have been aired today.
The encouraging remarks made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State today suggest that this is possible. I believe that Britain has a unique rôle to play. I do not accept for one moment some of the remarks made by hon. Members opposite to the effect that the British Government have been dragging their feet. We still have a very important contribution to make; and of the four Powers we are perhaps the one country that has been able to show that it has acted with some integrity and that it has an opportunity of continuing to keep the communication channels open with both Israel and the Arab States.
§ 8.41 p.m.
§ Mr. John Peel (Leicester, South-East)
During the debate both the Arab and the Israeli cases have been ably put by speakers on both sides. I want for a few minutes to go back to the opening speeches and see how we can pursue the vital British and Western European interests in this very difficult and dangerous situation in the Middle East which is created by Arab-Israeli hostility.
Front Bench speakers on both sides have often told us—rightly—that Britain should not take sides in this hostility. However, there is one side that we must take—that is, the side of peace, justice and stability, because this is the side that is essentially a British interest. It is a British interest for every important conceivable reason—economically; morally, because, after all, we have been responsible for the administration of the peoples of the Middle East over a considerable period. We have been, and I trust still are, friends of both Arabs and Israelis. It is to our interest in every possible way to ensure that peace and stability are established and maintained in the area.
I do not believe that it is a Russian interest. It is clear that it is only because of the Arab-Israeli situation that Russia has been able to penetrate the area to the extent that she has by deliberately taking a side. She stands to gain great advantages if she can get well-established in the area. It is for her access to more oil, which she may well need before long. It is a bridge to Africa, to the Indian Ocean and to the Arabian Gulf.
All these things would enable her to dominate a vital area and to make life extremely difficult and awkward for her potential enemies in the West. Therefore, the one major Power which stands to gain from Arab-Israeli hostility is Russia. She is not particularly interested in seeing that peace and stability are reintroduced there, at any rate in the foreseeable future.
Which policy should we pursue to get what we want in the face of Arab-Israeli hostility? In present circumstances, I do not think that the outlook is very hopeful. We are watching a steadily increasing supply of arms from Russia to the Arabs. So long as Russia is prepared on an 1124 escalating scale to do this, the Arabs will not give the Israelis a basic and firm guarantee that they would recognise her essential right to exist as a sovereign State in peace. I see absolutely no sign of that in present circumstances. It is also abundantly clear that, unless Israel can get a firm and absolute guarantee from the Arabs that she has a right to exist in peace, she, too, is not prepared to discuss other things. That is the first basic requirement. In the circumstances of Russian activities in that part of the world, I do not see it happening.
Whatever may have been the rights and wrongs of past history, and particularly the Balfour Declaration, the world, except for the Arabs but including Russia, has recognised the right of Israel to exist as a sovereign State and in peace, and she is a member of the United Nations. This is not to say that I do not understand the bitterness of many Arabs. I certainly do, and I have talked to many of them. But until this basic requirement of a firm guarantee to the Israelis is given by the Arabs, I do not see how negotiations can start.
Once that happens, I think that negotiations between the two sides should begin, but again I do not think that any satisfactory agreement can possibly be reached unless in the end there is direct agreement and negotiation between Arabs and Israelis. If and when that happened, I think the Israelis would certainly have to be very generous and magnanimous. I think they would be prepared to be so because all their interests depend upon their being helpful and magnanimous in that part of the world.
If and when this process got under way, Britain and Western Europe, whose interests are vitally important in the Middle East, could and should play a helpful and important part. But certainly I see no hope of their being able to do this unless they can co-ordinate their policies beforehand. Continuous efforts should be made by our Government and by the other members of Western Europe to accomplish this.
We often hear from the Arab side that the Israelis are constantly expansionist and say that they will not stop at their present boundaries. I do not believe this. I think that the Israelis are far too intelligent to try to absorb more 1125 and more Arab populations who would rapidly outnumber them. But until they can get round a conference table, I do not see how the Israelis can give up their present boundaries which appear to me to be an absolute basic minimum to their safety. I have seen the occupied territories, and certainly from a military safety point of view I think that their present boundaries are the absolute minimum for safety.
The whole of this situation is especially distressing and difficult for Britain and Western Europe. The Russians have certainly recognised this fact. As the situation is today, America has no alternative but to meet the challenge of the Russian position in the Middle East, on behalf of the Western world, which means the possibility of direct confrontation between the two super-Powers in the event of open war breaking out again in the Middle East.
It seems to me that the risk of such an occurrence is growing week by week and it seems to me, too, that in this situation Western Europe could play an immensely valuable part if our countries could coordinate their policies and their forces. I do not believe it is any good in present circumstances leaving it to the United Nations or expecting to lean indefinitely on America whose vital interests are not nearly so much involved and who is indicating that she expects Europe to do more in the defence of her own interests in Europe and the Middle East.
It is, therefore, in this context that I so much regret the untimely British withdrawal from Aden and the proposed withdrawal shortly from the Gulf. It certainly makes it all the more vital that Britain and Western Europe, through Western European Union, should regard as their top priority the co-ordination of their policies and forces to help deal with this very dangerous situation.
I do not believe that it can do anything but good to try to create further agencies that would help to bring the parties round the conference table and to maintain stability in that part of the world. Therefore, there is nothing for the countries of Western European Union to lose in trying as hard as possible, and for our Government to take the initiative constantly, to see whether we can agree our policies towards the Middle East, where we have vital interests. Unless we do this I see 1126 increasing dangers there, because Russia stands to gain far too much in that part of the world lightly to give up her very mischievous aotions, which we see daily.
§ 8.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Colin Jackson (Brighouse and Spenborough)
I agree with the hon. Member for Leicester, South-East (Mr. Peel) that European countries should play a bigger part in the Middle East crisis.
My impression, having travelled around the area, is that the peoples of the Arab world certainly do not welcome the Soviet Union as a powerful force in the area. There is a great bitterness amongst the Arab peoples towards the United States. Many people whom I met urged that Paris and London should have a more concrete rôle in the present situation. It is strange to see how history has come full circle.
Members such as my right hon. Friends the Members for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) and Belper (Mr. George Brown), who have heavily stressed the presence of the Soviet Union in the area may not be entirely up to date with the situation. My recent impression is that the Russians, who certainly initially enjoyed being in the area and exploiting the Arab sense of dissatisfaction and injustice, and thought that they were on to a good thing, may be beginning to feel that they are riding on the back of the tiger, as the crisis has spiralled and the situation deteriorated, now that they cannot control it in terms of the limited hostility towards Israel and the United States.
Recently, in Cairo, after the bombing of an area near the airport, the feeling of Egyptian public opinion—and I am expressing this in a purely pragmatic fashion—was, "We must counter-attack." The mounting bitterness in Egypt has added to the escalation of the crisis, and the Soviet Union, I think reluctantly, has been drawn in with the supply of ground-to-air missiles.
The luxury of Soviet power in the Middle East is now becoming an expensive luxury. That is why I agree with the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) that it is possible that the Soviet Union would be prepared to join in helping towards a settlement, because the Russians are in a dilemma. They want their 1127 power in the Middle East, but they do not want to drift into a situation, which is already occurring, of Russian civilians and technicians being killed, and this mounting to a point where there might be a direct involvement with the United States.
§ Mr. Mayhew
Does my hon. Friend agree that the Russians are concentrating on their confrontation with China, and do not want to be involved in both places at once?
§ Mr. Jackson
My hon. Friend has anticipated me.
The other point is the Chinese involvement not only in Siberia with the Soviet Union, but in the Middle East. The Chinese Communists are now seizing the extremist elements of, for instance, the Palestine nationalist forces. The Soviet Union is in a dilemma. If it does not help towards a settlement soon, it will lose this section of Arab opinion.
That brings me to the whole question of the prospects for a settlement. I see the United Nations Resolution 242 slipping in strength, possibly even day to day. It is only in Cairo that one gets complete across-the-board acceptance of the resolution as official policy. In Jordan, the Government of King Hussein, in a subdued fashion, still espouses the resolution, but another element in Jordan is the Palestinian element, which is rapidly gaining in strength. Obviously, countries like Syria refuse to accept the resolution in any fashion. However, as the resolution says that Israeli forces should withdraw from all territories they have occupied, it is unlikely that Syria would refuse to accept that action. Indeed, whether it officially accepts or not it is rather immaterial.
Lebanon, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper said, is a desperately sad and unhappy country with a Fedayeen force of perhaps 200,000 poisoning the relationships between the Christians and Moslems which made that country so successful. The poisoning is caused by the bitterness, by-products of the Arab-Israeli war.
There is little time for a settlement to be achieved on the basis of the resolution. It is not because there is not a feeling amongst mature and responsible 1128 statesmen in the area that the resolution, although second-best all round, could be an answer that could keep people alive. But there is mounting feeling, particularly among Palestinians and the younger generation of Arabs, that they will not settle for this alien state in their midst. This kind of mood increases or is matched by increasing intolerance in Israel.
About 15 years ago in Jerusalem, I had a long and interesting conversation with Nathan Goldmann, one of the finest and most civilised persons of this century. He even then was expressing disquiet about the way in which the State of Israel was developing. He said that he had envisaged the State of Israel as an in-gathering in its tolerance and in its international quality an example to the world. But he expressed disquiet that it was becoming too much of a nationalist State.
I fear that the position since then has deteriorated sharply. There is a strange kind of dichotomy in Israel. My right hon. Friend the Member for Easington mentioned the internal conditions. They are magnificent in terms of Israel's democratic achievement and social advance. But when Israel turns outwards, it has a kind of Jekyll and Hyde approach and the natural tolerance which is at the basis of the people of Jewish faith seems to disappear as they look outwards. I very much fear that the moderation of the resolution and the chances of a settlement could be less because of a mounting arrogance on the part of Israel and a fury and desperation on the part of the Arabs.
I believe that it is the job of the Government at this stage to step up their activities. I know that, for a long time, it has been felt that we should not attempt too much initiative, that we should not take too many positive steps in case we upset the balance. But there is little time left. I would like to see the Government taking a more active part, because I do not see the giants, Russia and America, getting anywhere near a solution, while France is too partisan on the side of the Arabs. That leaves us in a key position.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Jasper More (Ludlow)
The hon. Member for Brighouse and Spenborough 1129 (Mr. Colin Jackson) has given us reasons to have some hopes from Russia. If his hopes are not justified. I would very much agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) that we ought at least to confront the Russians and make them publicly show their hand.
Personally, I am not temperamentally an optimist. After having heard what has been said in the debate about Israeli interests and Arab interests and British interests, I want to say a brief word about world interests, because we must all face the fact that since the 1967 war the world has entered a situation similar to that in which it was in the early years of this century leading up to 1914. We now have two lesser Powers, the Arabs and the Israelis, in permanent conflict, as before 1914 were Austria and Serbia. We have now two major Powers, Russia and the United States, committed to supporting the two different sides, as before 1914 were Germany and Russia. We have now two sets of military advisers dedicated inevitably to the all-importance of the first strike now, because of the facts of nuclear warfare, as before 1914 by the requirements of their respective mobilisations.
Only three things now are needed—and of course they must be in conjunction—for the ultimate disaster: first, a spark to ignite the powder keg and such sparks we now get several times a year; secondly, a finally irresponsible reaction from one of the lesser Powers, such as we had in 1914 with the Austrian ultimatum; thirdly, a moment or a period in which the Government of a super-Power finds itself too frightened, too irresolute, or too confused on the one hand to control its lesser ally and, on the other hand, its own military advisers, as in July, 1914, was the German Government of Kaiser Wilhelm II. The world is now as near as that to the third world war and Armageddon.
After the nuclear conflict, after the last of the fall-out has settled, two things will become apparent. First, the Arab world will have emerged damaged, but not irretrievably, nor, indeed, fundamentally changed. Secondly, the State of Israel will have been obliterated. As between the Arabs and the Israelis, the risks and the dangers are as unequal as that.
1130 Not only, as the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. George Brown) said, can Israel not survive one straight defeat; it would be wholly unrealistic to suppose that she could survive a world conflict. For anyone who takes any except the shortest view the inescapable condition for the survival of the State of Israel in any form is peace.
Our own country now perhaps carries less weight than it used to in Near Eastern affairs, yet there is one way in which events may be influenced. We have in this country, we have in this House, a number of influential people, a number of influential hon. Members, dedicated to the support of Israel. In the interests of Israel and of everything for which it is striving it is surely their inescapable duty to put pressure on the Israeli Government and to say to it, and it is a matter of urgency, that at whatever cost to its authority in Israel, it must begin visible and public steps to de-escalate the present conflict.
If not, there will be proved in Palestine the truth of the modern equivalent of that utterance first heard in Palestine 2,000 years ago, "They that live by the sword shall perish by the sword."
§ 9.5 p.m.
§ Dr. M. S. Miller (Glasgow, Kelvingrove)
In the few minutes available to me I should like to make one or two points. I do not want to comment on what was said by the hon. Member for Ludlow (Mr. More). With few exceptions, I believe that the speeches in this debate have been about 25 years out of date. The State of Israel exists. Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen who cling to the contention that the Israelis have no right to be there or that they are there only on sufferance and that only Israel's suicide will satisfy them have made very little contribution to a solution of the problems facing both the Israelis and the Arabs. It is a sad commentary on the House of Commons that so many right hon. and hon. Members should have adopted the view that Israel has no right to live or should live in an emasculated form.
There are many paths along which one could stray in the debate. All Israelis are concerned, for example, with refugees. I put it to my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) that when partition of a country occurs it is not unusual for refugees to be loosed into 1131 other parts of the world. For example, when India was partitioned in 1947, about 16 million people were made refugees. A similar situation developed in Germany and in many other parts of the world after the Second World War. France had her share of refugees as a result of other kinds of tragedies.
I submit that in order to right the wrongs—I am not suggesting that no injustice was done—to obliterate the State of Israel is to create an even greater injustice. There are those who think that, rather than going back over the period since the State of Israel was established, we should be considering that Israel has every right to exist as the State that it is. We should be looking for methods of bringing together these two peoples, who both evince and have logical, reasonable, legal and moral rights to this part of the world, with a view to a peaceful solution.
I cannot, in the short time allotted to me tonight, even touch on many of the points to which reference has been made.
I am sorry that my right hon. Friend the Member for Be1per (Mr. George Brown) is not present. It was rather touching to hear him say that there is no hatred of the Jews in the Arab world. I think that my right hon. Friend was careful to use the word "Jews" in general. I am sure that he does not mean to imply that there is no hatred in the Arab world of the Jews in Israel, because there is ample documentation, to which one of my hon. Friends alluded, that this kind of hatred exists.
§ 9.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Antony Lambton (Berwick-upon-Tweed)
I am sure that the House will forgive me if I do not answer the points made by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Kelvingrove (Dr. Miller). It would be rather difficult, as he has not had enough time to say very much.
I should like, first, to remark on what a notable debate this has been in the sense that right hon. and hon. Members on both sides have voiced the same general conclusion: the need for the ending of hostilities betwen the Israelis and the Arabs and the establishment of a cease-fire. When there has been disaueement, it has been of variation and of degree. Throughout the House speaker after speaker has stressed the great diffi- 1132 culties of this problem and the need, somehow or other, for the hostilities to end. Therefore, it is most important that both sides should be quite certain of the meaning of Resolution 242 which was passed at the Security Council in 1967.
It is no use asking both sides to return to an armistice if each of them fundamentally disagrees about the terms which they thought they had agreed to. In November, I asked the Under-Secretary to elucidate the meaning of paragraph 1(1) of the resolution, so that if the armistice terms were ever returned to there should be no misunderstanding. I also asked him on 8th December last, and the hon. Member again declined to do so, and on being pressed by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, he replied:It is not for me to give a unilateral interpretation of the meaning of this crucial phrase in the Resolution while those discussions are going on."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th December, 1969; Vol. 793, c. 163.]At last today, the Foreign Secretary has cleared the matter up after what one can really only describe as three years of confusion. All I would comment is this. During this period of three years the Arab League believed, and was encouraged to believe, that this resolution meant something else. So the question which I must ask is whether this period of belief will not discourage any concessions, however tactically justified, to Israel. Does this not really illustrate the danger of verbal gymnastics?
§ Mr. George Brown
What does that mean? Three years must obviously involve me, so the phrase "verbal gymnastics" is clearly and obviously intended to be offensive. Would the hon. Gentleman tell the House, in my hearing, what he thinks it is which has been verbally gymnasted and what he thinks the Foreign Secretary has said today which is different from what has been said during the past three years?
§ Mr. Lambton
The question which I asked the Under-Secretary was what was the meaning of subsection (1)—The withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict.At the time it was put forward this conveyed to the Arabs that it meant withdrawal of Israel from all territories, while it conveyed to the Israelis that it did not. 1133 That is what I meant by verbal gymnastics.
§ Mr. George Brown
The verbal gymnastics are now being performed by the hon. Gentleman, and not very creditably, either. I said earlier today that I have been asked many times to qualify or amend. In the appointment of Shadow Under-Secretaries the Front Bench opposite would do a lot better by the Middle East and this country if they did not try that kind of trick at this time of night.
§ Mr. Lambton
We got the definition for the first time today. What I really hoped was that this debate would maintain the rather high tone which it has done throughout the evening——
§ Mr. Lambton
—and which included the previous speech made by the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. George Brown), which was made in a markedly different manner from that in which he has come back to the House.
I turn now to the broader aspects of the situation, a situation which could escalate into war and could conceivably result in a confrontation between the United States and Russia. First, I touch on the suggestion made by my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, Central (Mr. Ian Gilmour), who, in an ably presented speech urged, as I understood him, that our policy in the Middle East should be more self-interested and that we should trade with and establish friendships with members of the Arab League, in variance to the past support we have given to Israel and the underlying guarantees given by the United States.
The trouble with this idea, which has often been put forward, is that it seems to neglect our total involvement with the United States in the oil-producing countries. For example, in Kuwait there are now one-fifth of the total oil reserves of the free world. We have a concession in which B.P. has a 50 per cent. share with Gulf Oil, an American company. In both Iraq and Abu Dhabi, British Petroleum and American oil companies own the Iraq and Abu Dhabi Petroleum Companies in shares of about 23 per cent. each.
1134 Therefore, even if it be desirable, which I would not for a moment argue, to divorce ourselves from American interests in Arab countries, it is simply not possible to do so. Our interests are physically integrated there. Any stand which America takes or any stand taken against America in the Arab-Israeli dispute could bring retaliation against us. However friendly they wish to remain with us, the three producing areas, Abu Dhabi, Iraq and Kuwait, could in no way retaliate against America without affecting us.
So any decisions by the American Administration must affect us. However much we might wish to be friendly with the Arab countries, we should run the risk that, in the event of there being a direct confrontation in the Middle East between the Soviet Union supporting the United Arab Republic and the United States supporting the continuance of Israel as a State, any retaliation, regardless of our policy of friendship, would be directed, and could only be directed, against companies in which we had an equal share with the Americans. Much the same applies to the French position in Iraq and Abu Dhabi.
Against that certainty, we must examine the relative positions of Israel and the United Arab Republic. It is only right to point out here that the ceasefire was originally broken, as the United Nations observers have endorsed, by the U.A.R., and every act of retaliation by Israel has resulted from that. But there are few either in this country or in Israel who would not agree that the continuance of this present state of what really amounts to warfare is proving a great strain economically to Israel.
The case for Israel—the case, but not the solution—was put with great feeling in a sincere and touching speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, South (Sir H. d'Avigdor-Goldsmid) and by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Leicester, North-West (Sir B. Janner). Yet there is no doubt, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Belper said earlier this afternoon, that Israel cannot afford to lose a war. On the other hand, can she win a victory? Looking back over the last two wars, in each of which Israeli armies ignominously routed and defeated 1135 Egypt, one cannot but notice that, although the victory in each case was overwhelming, in a short time the Egyptian Army was being rebuilt in a way which few defeated nations have been able to achieve before.
They were able to do that not only because of the friendship and aid provided by Russia, but because of the huge sums of money which were paid to them—what one might describe as conscience money—by the Arab countries which did not join in either of those conflicts. Despite all the protests of loyalty, in the first war the U.A.R. fought alone, and in the second war it was only effectively, or officially, joined by Jordan and Syria. That meant that the wealth of the Arab world, as represented by the countries of Iraq, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia, and one must now add Libya and Abu Dahbi, was untouched. Indeed, the very fact that they escaped the consesquences of involvement enabled their economies to retain their strength, which meant that they were able to provide immediate remedial aid to Egypt.
Such is the nature of present-day warfare, and the proximity of Israeli troops to Egypt that, in the event of another war, in all probability a decision would be reached before what I call the rich members of the Arab League could do anything physical to aid Egypt. In other words, Israel is really faced with a hydra-headed enemy. Though she may be able to cut off one, or even two heads, it is of little fundamental avail, because the majority of the Arab States remain untouched, and such is their richness and strength that the heads of the defeated countries almost automatically grow very quickly again.
That brings me to what must be one of the crucial points of the debate, and one which has been made by many hon. Members. How can Israel hope to achieve a total success which will not again be limited and leave the situation in much the same state as it is prior to the invasion? President Nasser has undoubtedly been aware of this fact, but his policy has been of little good to Egypt, a poor country which should not be spending so large a percentage of its revenue on defence. He appears unable to get out of that vicious circle which twice has reached its climax in defeats, 1136 and which has meant that few of the basic problems facing the country—the need for land reclamation, the need to raise the standard of living, and so on—have been adequately helped. Thus, although he has recovered marvellously from two defeats, the cost has been high.
Internally, it is as much in the interests of Egypt as of Israel that there should be peace now. It is, therefore, necessary to examine some of the pressures on President Nasser, pressures to which in the past he has always responded like a willow to the wind, and which has resulted in his becoming the idol of the Arab world.
Internally, the army and public opinion have been encouraged to grow bold again by three years of daily fictional accounts of local victories. There is also throughout the Middle East the influence of the Palestinian refugees. This problem was dealt with by my right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home), and the hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew). It illustrates a fact which ought to be brought to the notice of the House again. After 1948, the refugees numbered about 1 million.
A large percentage of this number, which has now increased to 2¼ million, remain stateless, while the rest have been absorbed into various Middle Eastern States. But into whichever State they have been absorbed they are united by what can only be described as a detestation of Israel. I specifically do not say "a detestation of the Jews"; they have a detestation of Israel. The right hon. Member for Woolwich, East gave typical reasons for this. The fact remains that this detestation exists.
The refugees have also ceased to be in any sense what they were originally—farmers, and so on. They have taken to other trades and 50,000 of their children, born since 1948, have already received university education. They now therefore make up a powerful, educated and dissatisfied intellectual minority, spread throughout the States of the Middle East. They are united not only by their detestation of Israel, but by their determination—and this the irony of history—to return to the promised land of Palestine.
1137 The effect of this minority cannot be over-estimated. They are probably at their strongest in Jordan, where the King at one time appeared to be the prisoner of those to whom he gave refuge in 1948. Such is the strength of their numbers now that they are, in effect, a State within a State, and they carry out a policy of uncontrolled violence which in itself leads to retaliation by Israel.
The same sort of situation exists in a lesser degree in the Lebanon, which is now divided as never before between those who wish the country to continue its policy of what might be described as neutrality—a policy on which the country has grown rich—and those who support the Palestinian commandos and wish to use their country as a base against Israel. That is a new movement this year.
In Libya, the King has been overthrown and replaced by a Prime Minister, himself an ex-Palestinian, who has pledged himself and his country to the creation of a State of Palestine. It is, therefore, no exaggeration to say, as the right hon. Member for Belper said, that the coming-of-age of the Palestinian refugees has changed the whole balance of power in the Middle East. Whereas in 1956 Israel could say, with justification, that her chief enemy was Egypt, events have moved in such a manner during the last 14 years that now not only the other countries that I have mentioned but Egypt herself are constantly and effectively hindered from making any peace, even if they wanted it—of which I confess I have seen no sign.
They have been prevented from doing this by the intellectual strength of the Palestinian influence, which constantly demands action against Israel. There are some who hold that it is doubtful whether any ruler could survive in Egypt or Jordan who did not take a positive anti-Israel line.
As the number of Palestinians has increased their power has increased since 1967. As the Foreign Secretary said, unless there is a peace now every year will increase the difficulty of winning one. We must face that awkward fact. It is difficult to see what the British Government can do. About the Palestinians we can do nothing; they are part of the sombre background of the Middle East.
1138 I would be the first to admit that I have been what might be described as unconstructive tonight, not that in any way I do not desire peace, but because the difficulties of establishing it seem so great that it is difficult to see what could be proposed that could meet with success. However, it is worth noting that nearly every hon. Member who has spoken believes that there should be some initiative. The difference of opinion is about by whom it should be taken.
The right hon. Member for Belper suggests that Dr. Jarring should be unhindered by the big Powers. Although the Security Council cannot divorce itself from his efforts, who else is there to guarantee the peace? The chief hope would appear to be not in an absolute rejection of the right hon. Gentleman's case, but to rely on U thant's own efforts, or efforts emanating from him, to get both sides to agree to a cease-fire, when some such programme of piecemeal settlement as was suggested by my right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire could be considered. Nor do I think that we can conceivably count the four Powers out of the matter and allow it to be merely one individual attempting to settle the peace himself.
I turn to another subject which was mentioned by the right hon. and learned Member for Ipswich (Sir Dingle Foot) and my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten). The other day I asked the Under-Secretary about Russian infiltration in the Middle East. I asked him about a report that Soviet advisers had actually been in a plane used by the Sudanese Government in a bombing attack on Aba Island, in the Nile, when reportedly several thousand people lost their lives. It seemed to me that in disclaiming any knowledge of the incident the Under-Secretary was looking rather calmly at the matter.
After all, if this report was true, it initiated the opening of a new and dangerous chapter in the Middle East. If Soviet instructors are to fly alongside foreign pilots in the Sudan, it is not inconceivable that they will do the same in Egyptian planes. As the basic fear in the Middle East must now rest on the possibility that events will escalate until the two Powers face each other, backing respectively the States of Israel and the United Arab Republic, this 1139 information must be viewed with the greatest alarm. Perhaps we may have a little information about this attack.
The House will remember a recent speech by the Secretary of State for Defence in which he assured the people of this country that it would be possible to blow the Russian fleet out of the Mediterranean within a matter of minutes. We can be certain that the implications of that outburst were not lost on the Soviet Union. As the Russians now have a fleet of no less than 60 ships in the Mediterranean without a covering air base, they must be very anxious to protect themselves against the Armageddon described by the right hon. Gentleman.
The question about which we should have some information is whether they are working towards the establishment of such a covering base in Egypt and whether the whole status of that country is to be changed. The amount of arms flowing into Egypt is alarming compared with the small amount of money spent on aid—billions of dollars on arms compared with £1½ million of aid. This grave threat must hang over all our deliberations on the vexed question of bringing peace to the Middle East.
§ 9.35 p.m.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Evan Luard)
As is so often the case, in the debate the House has accurately reflected the fears, the apprehensions and the concern of many members of the public about the situation in the Middle East. Very varied views have been expressed. Indeed, sometimes it has seemed as if the Middle East war was being fought out in the Chamber. But although the views have been varied, there has been considerable agreement on two points. The first is an expression of deep concern at the grave and deteriorating situation in the Middle East. The second is the hope that the British Government would make the maximum possible contribution to the search for peace in the Middle East.
Before I speak of the situation in the Middle East generally, I want to reply to one or two specific questions which have been put to me. The right hon. 1140 Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) addressed two questions to me, and one of them was repeated by his hon. Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Lambton). I was asked whether it was true, as far as we were aware, that Russian pilots had been involved in the attack on Aba Island in the recent disturbances in the Sudan. We have been aware of these reports and have looked into them. To the best of our knowledge, we know of no evidence that any Soviet personnel were involved in these operations.
Secondly, I was asked whether it was true that the missiles and radar equipment recently introduced in to the U.A.R. by the Soviet Union were being manned by Russians. It is, I think, common knowledge that there have been Russian advisers and instructors in the U.A.R. for a considerable period. There is nothing new in that situation. Some of the missiles recently introduced are of a sophisticated kind not previously used in the U.A.R., and it is perhaps a reasonable presumption that there may be Soviet personnel involved in the operation of these missiles.
I was asked by the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten)—I was not here at the time—why more was not being done by the British Government to secure the release of the ships trapped in the Suez Canal. I am sure that he is well aware that intensive efforts have been made on this subject for well over two years. If he was present in the House last Monday when I answered Questions on the subject, he will realise that it is not open to us at present to bring about the release of these ships. Their release would have to be preceded by a very careful survey of the Canal and of the various obstructions which there may be in the Canal. Given the present scale of hostilities, it is not possible to undertake that survey. We, in common with a number of other countries, have one or two of our ships remaining trapped in the Canal.
§ Mr. George Brown
I was not here either when the question was asked. Are the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten) and my hon. Friend not aware that certain of our crews are already back? I raised this point when I was there. The crews have come back. The hulks are sitting in the Canal—and who are we to worry about that?
§ Mr. Luard
I do not exactly share my right hon. Friend's indifference to the fact that the ships remain in the Canal. Nor, I think, is he entirely accurate about the crews. Some of the crews have returned, but one of the crews remains. Seven or eight men remain in the ships in the Canal.
The hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed asked about the exact interpretation of Resolution No. 242. He seems to have an obsessive interest in that question. I find it somewhat surprising that it was not raised by him or his colleagues two-and-a-half years ago when Resolution 242 was passed. In the eyes of most people it was a matter of the utmost importance that it referred only to a withdrawal from "territories occupied by Israel" rather than from "the territories" or "all territories". That fact was widely commented upon at the time. That phrase must be taken in conjunction with the other provisions of the resolution which refer to the need for secure and recognised boundaries.
We have always given as our view—my right hon. Friend expressed it in the House not long ago—that those two phrases must be taken together. It is precisely because there are certain uncertainties, perhaps ambiguities, in the wording that the four Powers are now engaged in New York on the task of arriving at a more exact interpretation of the resolution and the obligations which it entails.
§ Mr. Lambton
Why, if the matter is so simple and explicable, did the hon. Gentleman say last December that it was not for him to give a unilateral interpretation of the meaning of this crucial phrase?
§ Mr. Luard
That remains precisely the position. It is not for me to do that. I did not say that the interpretation itself was simple. It is a matter of acute international concern and not one on which we in the Government—let alone I personally—can give a single interpretation. It is precisely to arrive at an interpretation that the four Powers are discussing the matter in New York.
§ Mr. Lambton
Are we now to believe that, in proposing this resolution, the right hon. Gentleman did not know what he was proposing?
§ Mr. Luard
The hon. Gentleman is showing an extraordinary ignorance of normal diplomatic intercourse if he thinks that it is simple to arrive at common agreement on a matter of this kind, namely, the exact obligations required of all the parties to the Middle East conflict. If that were so, there would not be the situation in the Middle East that we have today and there would have been a settlement long ago. Precisely because there were acute difficulties as to what the obligations were in respect of withdrawal, if a resolution were to be passed in the United Nations at all, it had to contain certain uncertainties or ambiguities. That is the position. It is now for the four Powers meeting in New York to try to give a more precise interpretation of what is now required by the parties.
I wish to divide my remarks on the Middle East situation generally into four parts. I shall speak, first, about the situation in the area itself; secondly, about the four-Power talks, on which a great deal of comment has been made during the debate; thirdly, on our rôle in these four-Power talks; and fourthly, I will consider briefly what are the prospects for a settlement of the problem as a whole.
First, the situation in the area. It is an unhappy fact that the Arab-Israel problem is not among those which time helps to resolve. Indeed, in many ways it seems to many of us that the situation becomes more serious and more violent as more time passes. Many hon. Members have pointed to various trends which have this effect. In many ways the attitudes of the Governments themselves harden. There is a rise in influence of extremist elements on both sides, and this makes it more difficult for Governments to agree to concessions and the kind of settlement that will finally be needed. There is a growth in the readiness to believe that only military methods can secure the kind of settlement which both sides need. There is the growth in distrust on both sides. And, above all, there is the increasing scale of the conflict in the area as a whole. Indeed, the scale of violence has probably been greater during the last six to nine months than at any time since the war finished. This is clearly a very unhappy background to the four-Power talks.
1143 During the last nine months we saw a situation in which a very intensive artillery barrage across the Suez Canal was followed, in the succeeding months, by deep penetration raids by Israeli aircraft into the U.A.R. That, in turn, was followed by the introduction into the U.A.R. of more powerful missiles, supplied by the Soviet Union, to help to defend it against Israeli air raids. Perhaps the only slightly hopeful development during this period was, a month or so ago, the decision of the United States Government concerning the supply of Phantom aircraft to Israel. It is the hope of many of us that this decision will set an example to other countries engaged in the supply of arms to countries in the area—that it may, perhaps, introduce a period in which greater restraint is shown in this respect than has been shown in the past.
§ Mr. Luard
I cannot give way. I have only a short time left. We have many times made clear our readiness to agree, either to a total embargo on the supply of arms in the area, or at least to a limitation on the supply of arms. This view was repeated by the Prime Minister in a message to Mr. Kosygin only a month or so ago. It is very much a matter of regret that that proposal has not been accepted by the Soviet Government.
§ Mr. Luard
I am sorry I cannot give way. I do not have the time.
I turn now to the second question, the four-Power talks. Two misconceptions about these are widespread in the country, both of which have been repeated during the debate. The first is the view, expressed by my right hon. Friends the Members for Belper (Mr. George Brown) and Easington (Mr. Shinwell) that the four-Power talks are a total waste of time and should be abandoned immediately. Her Majesty's Government cannot accept this proposition. Indeed, it is the main function of the United Nations to be an organisation concerned with seeking settlements to the major areas of conflict in the world at any one time. It would be a total abnegation of that responsibility if the United Nations were not to attempt to arrive at a settlement 1144 in this case. It has been involved in the process for many years. For more than 20 years the United Nations has been engaged in attempts at peacemaking and peacekeeping in the Middle East. In November, 1967, it was responsible, with the help of my right hon. Friend, for the passage of the resolution which, as my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has emphasised, all parties at one time or another have accepted as the basis for a settlement.
It would be quite impossible for the United Nations, even if it were desirable at this stage, to wash its hands of this responsibility. What is required now, as I suggested earlier to the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed, is some more detailed interpretation of precisely what the necessarily somewhat general provisions of the resolution should mean in terms of specific, concrete obligations and commitments by the parties to the disputs. It is on this that the four Powers in New York are engaged. It is not true, as has sometimes been suggested, that there has been no progress in this effort. There has been significant progress during the last few months, perhaps not enough but certainly the progress is not to be despised.
Only two weeks go there was agreement to ask the deputies of the representatives of the Four to draft a document setting out the degree of agreement so far reached in the discussions, in the hope that this would provide the basis for a document which could be used by Ambassador Jarring in his mission in the area. There have already been several meetings of the deputies and a certain amount of progress has been made in that task. There have been significant concessions made by all the parties in the talks and it is not true to say that all the concessions come from one side. This must be the basis for the effort that has been made by the U.N. to arrive at a settlement.
I come now to the third of the subjects I mentioned, that is the British rôle within these talks. Here we come to the second misleading conception about the four-Power talks, expressed in a number of speeches, including those by the hon. Member for Norfolk, South Central (Mr. Ian Gilmour) and my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ipswich (Sir Dingle Foot). This view is that the 1145 British Government have been playing no part, or only a totally inactive and ineffective part, in the four-Power discussions in recent months. This is the reverse of the truth. My right hon. and noble Friend, Lord Caradon, in New York has been, as anyone who knows him would expect, among the most active of the participants in the talks in seeking to arrive at satisfactory formulations to be the basis of agreement. It is true that we have not drafted and proposed a paper for a general settlement as the other three parties have, for the simple reason that there are already quite enough papers on the table without our own. It would not be any significant contribution to a settlement for us simply to put forward our own proposals.
It is true that we have not shouted so much about our achievements in the four-Power talks as some others have about what they have been doing there, but that is because it is our firmly held view that it is not helpful to the aim of reaching a settlement for publicity to be given to these talks. The fact that there has not been publicity should not be taken to mean that we have not in fact been extremely active in the talks. Only within the last week we have put forward two important proposals on the two essential commitments which it is generally agreed are required in any settlement of this problem. These were formulations on the commitment to withdraw to be made by Israel and the commitment to be made by the Arab States to live in peace with Israel. We certainly hope that these, or something like them, may be adopted.
It is not open to us not to play an active part in these talks. Some have suggested that it would be desirable to keep our heads down and not to expose ourselves to unfavourable comments from the parties. But we are permanent members of the Security Council. We have important interests in the area and important contacts with the parties themselves. Even if we thought it wise to do so, therefore, it would not be possible for us to opt out from seeking to promote agreement among the Four for a settlement.
I turn to the last and perhaps the most difficult of the four subjects I mentioned at the beginning of my speech. This is what type of settlement should we be aiming at and by what procedure should 1146 we hope to arrive at that settlement? I think most of us in this House will agree that there can be no simple magic formula for a settlement. It is not enough, for example, to call for withdrawal without the undertaking of any corresponding commitments on the other side; or simply to call for direct talks in the hope that this alone will provide a settlement in itself. What is needed is something which is very difficult: a complex exchange of undertakings and commitments by all the parties covering a wide number of different subjects. There are not only the two essential questions of withdrawal by Israel and corresponding commitments to live in peace with Israel by the Arab States; but also the vitally important question of the refugees, which has been a festering sore in the Middle East for so long and the solution of which is essential to a settlement. There must be provision for guarantees of freedom of navigation both in the Suez Canal and the Gulf of Aqaba. There must be satisfactory security provisions for Israel, perhaps in the form of demilitarised zones, U.N. forces, and other measures which can reconcile withdrawal of Israel from the areas she has occupied with the justified need for Israel to enjoy security in future. Finally, and this is perhaps the most difficult problem of all, some solution is required to the terribly complex problem of Jerusalem, which is an area of such vital concern to both parties.
The issues themselves are difficult enough to resolve, but there is in addition the question of what procedure should be used to arrive at a solution of some of these involved problems. As we all know, it has been on this issue that particularly acute conflicts have arisen. Much has been said on this question, too, during the debate.
Here, too, there are no simple solutions. It is not enough simply to say, as one side has tended to say, that everything must be left to the four-Power talks, that we must hope that they come up with the detailed terms of a settlement. Here I take issue with the suggestion made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper that the Arab countries are no longer concerned about the four-Power talks. We are in close contact with the Arab countries. That is not what they tell us. They are extremely concerned about this question.
1147 It is true, on the other hand, that Israel is not so concerned about the four-Power talks, for perhaps understandable reasons. The Israelis demand direct negotiations between the parties, and they do not want to feel that their own position may be prejudiced in advance by what is agreed in the four-Power talks.
Surely the conclusion to be drawn from this is the need for the maximum flexibility in the choice of the necessary procedures for arriving at a settlement. No procedure should be excluded. I mentioned that direct talks perhaps cannot be regarded as a magic formula. It would be equally wrong to exclude direct talks, which are perhaps the most natural means of arriving at a settlement after a conflict of this kind.
It was in an attempt to overcome the difficulty that had arisen over procedure and the acute differences between the parties that the so-called Rhodes Formula was evolved. This contained within it the necessary ambiguity perhaps to provide some satisfaction for both sides. Unfortunately, that ambiguity was not allowed to survive for long; and, as a result, the formula totally lost the value it might have had as a compromise. But it is surely not beyond the wit of man to discover other formulations which might in a similar way resolve the great difference that exists between the parties on the question of procedure.
The right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire made the interesting suggestion that a conference should be called at which there should be present, not only the four Powers, but the parties, perhaps in some general way under U.N. auspices. This, it is true, has some of the advantages of the Rhodes Formula, in that it might serve to help to overcome the difficulties that have arisen over the question of procedure. Her Majesty's Government have themselves considered a very similar suggestion. Lord Caradon in New York has himself publicly put forward an idea of this sort. In our view, if such a proposal were to come about, it would be better that such a conference 1148 should take place in New York where it was evidently under the auspices of the U.N. and in some ways an extension of the existing discussions among the Four in New York, who might perhaps call representatives of the parties to appear before them during such discussions.
The important point to make about this is that the success of any such proposal would depend crucially upon its timing. The present time would not be a favourable one for the calling of such a conference. As I have described, the Four are at present engaged, with some success and some progress, in the search for an agreed document which could be used by Ambassador Jarring in a resumed mission in the area itself. It is still our hope that this will succeed. In our view, this should be the next stage. It may be that at some time in the future some formulation of the kind which the right hon. Gentleman has suggested could be valuable in overcoming this difficult question of procedure and providing some further progress towards a settlement.
It is precisely to seek to overcome these kinds of problems that the four-Power talks in New York are so necessary. Although the situation in the Middle East, as many hon. Members have described, is intensely depressing from some points of view, it would be wrong to suggest that there is no hope of progress in the future. Certainly if the four-Power talks, as some speakers have suggested, were to be abandoned, there would be little hope to offer to the parties other than the attempt to obtain a settlement by brute force. We must surely retain the hope for the parties that the U.N. has not lost interest in this bitter and tragic struggle, that it is continuing to pursue the search for a settlement, and that it may finally arrive at terms to which both parties can agree. It is to this end that Her Majesty's Government are devoting their own endeavours. It is certainly our hope that we shall succeed.
§ It being Ten o'clock, the Motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.