§ 3.58 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Sir Alec Douglas-Home)
The roots of this latest Arab-Israel war reach back more than half a century. Since 1917 there has never been peace, neither during the years of dispute as to the meaning of the Balfour Declaration, nor since the time when the international community accepted the State of Israel into the United Nations.
Since the 1967 war the situation has been greatly aggravated by the inability of the parties to the dispute to come to the negotiating table. Every kind of initiative has been taken to help them into conference, but there has always been breakdown on two pre-conditions, one laid down by each side. The Arab stipulation has been that Israel must first commit herself to withdraw from the territories occupied in the 1967 war. The Israeli insistence has been that there must be substantial changes to their pre-1967 physical frontiers so that their security may be assured. That has been the essence of the deadlock all this time.
If there is total stalemate, what can anyone else do about it? Some will take sides. That is their decision. I think I state the situation correctly when I say that the attitude of successive British Governments has been to try to understand, but not to take sides.
Resolution 242 of the United Nations was an attempt to translate this attitude into practice by laying down a framework within which a peace agreement would be able to meet the two requirements—first the return of occupied territory and, second, physical safety for Israel. There was, and is, an ambiguity in the interpretation of Resolution 242, but the definition of the nature of the settlement required was sufficiently comprehensive to allow the settlement to be completed under that resolution, given the will. That, of course, is what has been absent. It was in an attempt to create that will that the Jarring mission was appointed but so far, as right hon. and hon. Members know, it has been unable to create conditions for a peace conference or to bring together the two sides mainly concerned.
420 There is, however, one good feature of recent years which should be marked, as it is of the first significance. On many occasions in the last three years President Sadat of Egypt has said that it is his wish to live in peace with the State of Israel and that the signature of a peace treaty between Egypt and Israel will be with the State of Israel. Jordan has said the same, and I have no doubt that President Sadat and the King of Jordan would carry Syria with them.
This is a great change in the Arab attitude as hon. Members will recall it over the years, and, although it is only one factor, I believe its significance has been very much underrated. It was and is the essential key to any permanent peace between Israel and the Arab world and it has been provided.
May I now consider the Israeli situation? Taking their past experience they have considered that the life of their country may be at stake and they have decided that they should rely only on their own strength as reliance on others had proved in the past to be a broken reed.
So far, Israel takes the attitude that the only way to lead a peaceful life is to prove to the Arabs her overwhelming strength so that they will never challenge her frontiers, or if they do they will be crushed. Israel is certainly entitled to her security and she is certainly entitled to take her decisions and this, one feels, is her decision. No one can take decisions for the State of Israel. A fact of geography is that if this is her conclusion she will then have to live in a hostile environment always unless peace is made. This is for Israel to judge. Nobody else can judge this for her.
But there is another system which would have a chance of gaining for her that permanent peace which has been so elusive, namely buffer demilitarised zones and an international force policing them, with the insistence that that international force should not be withdrawn by one side or the other to the dispute. That is a system. Otherwise I am afraid a situation will exist in which Israel will be among Arab countries which will not rest until the occupied territories are returned.
The decision for Israel is really this: is it to be her old policies or her present 421 Policy, which is the continued occupation of Arab territory so that there should be a buffer between her Arab neighbours and herself, or can that buffer be provided in any other way by international action?
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
I am trying to present a very careful argument. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will restrain himself until I have finished.
Even if Israel were to win a decisive victory in the present war there would only be another trial by arms sooner or later. After this long history of violence over all these years I do not believe that it profits us to try to apportion blame. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why are you doing it?"] The last Government did not do it in 1967 and we have not done so now. The only constructive course is to put ourselves in the best position possible to try to reconcile and ensure that there is no more war between the Arab countries and the State of Israel. This is the main motive behind the embargo on arms which we have applied to both sides. The same policy is being followed by virtually all the European countries. In 1967 the Socialist Government applied an embargo but this was modified on the third day of the Six Day War when the Soviet Union would not join it. A universal embargo would still be the right answer but there is a very substantial difference between then and now.
In recent years we have been supplying Israel and the Arab countries with arms. In doing so we have tried to maintain a balance which would give some sense of security to each country but would not tempt either to launch a war against its neighbour. I fully understand the very deep feeling among hon. Members on both sides of the House about the embargo. Our only motive in imposing it has been the belief that by so doing we would bring peace nearer.
The continued existence and prosperity of Israel as a State has been one of the cardinal points in our whole policy towards the Middle East. We are totally determined that the State of Israel shall continue to exist within secure frontiers.
422 At the outbreak of this war however, we were faced with a state of affairs where Egypt, Israel and Jordan had all paid for certain consignments of arms. We allowed those which were on the sea to proceed. We stopped those which were still ashore. There are, I recognise, doubts on both sides about the evenhandedness of our policy.
We do not give details of our arms supplies—no Government would do that—but I can tell the House that export licences had been approved and shipment was expected in the next few weeks of combat arms, spares and ammunition to the Arab States affected by the embargo and of far greater value in money terms than those to Israel and at least equal in terms of combat effectiveness. Furthermore, Centurion ammunition spares were in the immediate pipeline to Jordan, many more than had been intended for Israel.
It is a fact that Israel has other sources for Centurion ammunition than Britain and it is true that she manufactures Centurion ammunition for herself.
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
May I go on, because it is important for the House to get the whole picture.
Over the years, Israel has made extremely good use—and I hope that hon. Members on both sides of the House will not underestimate Israel's intelligence—of the contract with Britain to accumulate spare parts, and some of these she, too, can manufacture. We do not, for obvious reasons, define our arms sales, but some of the equipment ordered by Egypt and awaiting delivery now would have a very significant effect in a battle of armour. But I will take the obvious case which is public knowledge.
It could be argued that sending to Jordan the requirements for their Centurians—the majority of their tanks are Centurions while about half of Israel's tanks are Centurions—could have the implication that it would put Israel at a disadvantage. It was and is, therefore, a choice between adding to the fire power of both sides or of withholding fire power from both sides, and the calculation is pretty well even. Israel cannot be pre- 423 ferred as against Jordan and Egypt, or vice versa. So it is a question of withholding from both sides or of giving to both sides because both have made these contracts, both have ordered the arms. Thus, those who advocate the sale to Israel must face the fact that to be consistent they are advocating the sale of Centurion ammunition and spares to Jordan on a very much greater scale than those to Israel. The Jordanian Ambassador called on the Minister of State this morning to represent to us the harsh effect which the embargo is having in his country.
§ Mr. Faulds
Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that in the massive American shipments to Israel there are shells which fit the Centurion tank and that it is totally fallacious to argue that without our supplying the arms those tanks are useless?
§ Mr. Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Ardwick)
The right hon. Gentleman talked a moment ago about even-handedness in supplies of spares and ammunition for Centurion tanks possessed by Israel and Jordan. Should he not be frank with the House and point out that Israel possesses 1,000 Centurion tanks, which are a major part of her armaments, compared with about 100 Centurion tanks owned by Jordan and that Jordan did not take part in the blitzkreig on Israel on 6th October which Israel had to resist with those 1,000 Centurion tanks?
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
The proportions are not as given. The Israelis have many more Centurion tanks than the Jordanians, but the whole Jordanian Army armour consists of Centurion tanks. I give one figure about ammunition. The desire of the Israelis at present is for 4,000 rounds. The order from Jordan which would have been delivered if the ban had not been put on is for 10,000 rounds.
There are two prime reasons why I am convinced that our policy is right for the time being. First, it is the right policy overall because it limits the area and degree of military damage and casualties. If America and Russia adopted it, we should all applaud. I 424 find that all our European partners are of the same mind and have adopted the same policy. In the last 10 days we have been in active political contact with the United States and the European countries and in touch with the Soviet Union. The House will have read in the Press today of Mr. Kosygin's arrival in Cairo. I believe that he is there on a mission of peace. The House will also have heard of the high level contacts now taking place between the Americans and Russians to bring about peace. Hon. Members will have read of Mr. Eban's statement that Israel is ready to make substantial compromises provided her security is assured.
It begins to look as though there may be a gleam of light, a hope that powerful forces are beginning to work towards a ceasefire and a settlement. Is this the time, now as I speak, for us to resume sending arms and ammunition to the combatants? How could that possibly help towards an end to the bloodshed? Surely the opposite must be true.
I know that many people in this country are worried that by denying ammunition and spares to Israel we are putting her very existence in jeopardy. I can give the House the firm assurance that were the existence of Israel at any stage to be at risk we would reconsider our policy, and I would see to it that it would not be too late. I repeat that it is our firm intention that Israel should continue to exist within secure frontiers.
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
Will the right hon. Gentleman recollect that the assurance that we would reverse our policy if the existence of Israel were menaced is precisely the same undertaking which we gave to Czechoslovakia?
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
This time it is meant—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] May I withdraw that, because the House will know that it is not what I intended to say. As I am talking now in the context of the Israel-Arab war, I say solemnly on behalf of Her Majesty's Government—and I repeat this—that we cannot, of course, allow any risk to the security of Israel and the State of Israel, which is recognised in the United Nations as an entity in its own right.
§ Mr. Jeremy Thorpe (Devon, North)
Accepting as we do that this country 425 would not allow the State of Israel to be extinguished, may we take it that the right hon. Gentleman is relieved that the Americans are supplying the ammunition which we are not supplying in order to shell the tanks which we have provided?
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
No. That is not right. We are concerned with the State of Israel and its existence and ability to defend itself. The question is whether at this particular time an embargo applied by this country is right or wrong. There is no danger of an Israel collapse.
The question has been raised about the extension of the embargo to certain arms deliveries to the Gulf countries. The House generally recognises that the stability of the Gulf now depends on the security and strength of all the States around the Gulf. We should not put this at hazard because of the Arab-Israel war; there are others ready to profit from it should we do so. Our contributions are directed to the medium and long-term defence capability of Saudia Arabia and the other Gulf States in the interests of their security. Military aircraft now in Saudi Arabia which had been sold by us to Saudi Arabia are subject to a clause in the contract preventing their use by anyone else. No new major arms are going to the area for at least a month.
May I say a few words about oil? I shall be brief because to this subject we shall surely return. We cannot—and here I echo something said by the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) the other day—be diverted from policies which we believe to be right by threats to our oil supplies. It is timely that I should make that clear. The House will have read of the decision taken by the Arab oil-producing Governments in Kuwait yesterday. The full implications are not clear, but two things stand out. First, the nature of the measures to be taken to carry out that decision have not yet been worked out. In the immensely complicated machinery of oil production and distribution the effect of those measures, whatever they may be, will need very careful study before they can be taken as the basis for any decision of policy on our part. Second, there is no evidence that the decision made in Kuwait is directed at this country. What evidence we have seen so far suggests 426 the opposite. In these circumstances, it would be quite wrong to take any precipitate decisions today which might prove wrong tomorrow or wrong in a week's time.
I have said that we shall not be diverted from our policy by threats. Nor should we be diverted by indignation which may be premature. I will listen always to the voices of Israel and the Arab countries and it is right to hear their respective interests as they describe them to us, but my concern must be with the British interest as it affects our own future and may affect our future for many years to come, both economically and politically.
It will affect, too, our ability to exercise some influence in limiting and ending this war whenever the opportunity is offered to us. The House today must be acutely aware of the stakes for Britain. This war could increase in scale until the Soviet Union and the United States were so deeply involved that neither could diplomatically influence the other. We are, of course, in the closest touch with the Americans. We have been in touch with the Soviet Ambassador; the latest conversation that I had with him was this morning, when I pointed out that unless the Soviet Union will lend its influence to stopping the war, the whole framework of East-West détente could be put in jeopardy, with the return, with all its horrible consequences, of total cold war. I believe that he understood, and that the Russians understand, this danger.
The Arabs, as the House can readily see, could get themselves, in the heat of emotion, so involved as to do most serious damage to the Europeans and the Western world who are essentially their friends. We must preserve our ability as a country to persuade the Arabs that this is totally against their interests. We are perhaps the country of all in the world best able to do this.
I say to the House most solemnly that these issues are easily the most serious—the situation in the war in the Middle East and the oil situation—that we in Western Europe and indeed the Western world have faced since the war. The overwhelming, overriding British interest is to stop the war, not to stoke its fires—especially at the very moment 427 when the dread consequences of its continuation are beginning to be fully understood and moves towards peace may be afoot.
With all that is at stake, I believe that the embargo is right for the present. I hope that I am not an obstinate politician. At least—let me put it to the House another way—I hope that I am obstinate only where a paramount British interest is concerned. I believe that it is a paramount British interest that this war should stop and that we have a diplomatic rôle of the first importance to play in stopping it.
In that context, as I stand here, I believe that the embargo is right. I will review the policy from day to day, even hour to hour, but I ask the House not to cripple our diplomacy at a time when it is needed most in the cause of peace.
What I can offer to the House is this: I will listen to everything that is said today, I am available at any time over the next few days to see right hon. and hon. Gentlemen to discuss this matter. Certainly I should like to keep in touch with the Leader of the Opposition on it. Subject to that, and what I hear today, I would not like, while these intensive peace moves are going on, to indicate any timing in which a modification of policy might be right.
These peace moves are bound to take a little time before we know whether they will succeed. That they will succeed must be the hope echoed by every hon. Member. Should they fail, then a new situation would arise. I hope that they will not, but should they fail, I will come to this House—and anyway I will come to the House next week—and try to advise the House to the best of my ability and judgment how best to proceed.
§ 4.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Harold Wilson (Huyton)
The House today is debating a tragedy. It is a tragedy, first, in terms of the heavy casualties on both sides and, unless peace comes quickly, of the inevitability of many, many more casualties. Many of us throughout the House have friends, both Jew and Arab, suddenly torn from their families by the outbreak of fighting, many wil not return, and daily each of us waits anxiously for bad news.
428 The uneasy security under which those families have lived, Jew and Arab, for the past six years, has been shattered. Now they have nothing to look forward to, even after the fighting stops, except further insecurity. That is the abiding reality underlying the power politics, underlying the deep feelings aroused by national loyalties, religious loyalties and by history. That is the reality underlying the world reaction. There is also underlying all our debates, the grave danger that what has already been described as a super-Power struggle by proxy could escalate into global conflict.
There is tragedy for Britain—for one family in Britain and for a wider circle. We all mourn the death yesterday in the course of duty of a distinguished and highly respected journalist known to many of us. I know that we would all wish to express our sympathy to his wife and young Family and to his editor and colleagues.
When, from our different approaches, we analyse the events which have led to this fresh outbreak of fighting, we are faced with a further tragedy—the tragedy of missed opportunities, of six years of attempts to bring the parties together, to reconcile under the wide sweep—and it is a wide sweep—of Resolution 242 what proved for so long to be irreconcilable claims and demands—on Israel's side the acknowledgement of her right to exist as a nation, her right to secure defensive frontiers, as Resolution 242 set out; on the Egyptian and Syrian side, their claim based on the resolution's denial of the right of any nation to acquire territories by force; and the problem, far older than those created by the Six-Day War, of the Palestinians who lost their homes, what they too regard as the land of their fathers, in 1948.
This is a problem that I have constantly raised. I have raised it in Israel, in private and in public, and, as many of my hon. Friends know, I have spelled it out on the record at Jewish gatherings in this country. Let there be no argument about this. The Palestinian problem must be dealt with not only in any ultimate permanent solution but even in a temporary and limited solution. Last year, in Israel, I said that, if there were to be a limited settlement on, for example, the opening of the Canal, this 429 matter would have to be brought under it.
As the head of the Government that sponsored Resolution 242, I would be the first to concede that it has proved capable of very differing interpretations, particularly in the reference to… withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict".But if it had not been so wide there would never have been agreement in the United Nations Security Council in November 1967.
For three years the Security Council tailed to obtain agreement. For two of those three years the work was put into commission on a four-Power basis, with the United States, the Soviet Union, France and Britain. The Jarring mission failed to bring the parties together. The Israelis were willing, right up to this present outbreak of fighting, to sit down with their neighbours. I have every reason to know—I emphasise the word "know"; not to "think"—that had their neighbours sat down with them, the Israelis were prepared to make very substantial offers within the terms of Resolution 242. Their neighbours, for their part, were unwilling to meet Israel in direct confrontation until there had been Israeli compliance with, or an Israeli Government undertaking to comply with, the Egyptian and Syrian interpretation of Resolution 242 so far as it related to evacuation of captured territories.
One of the greatest tragedies is that failure to reach agreement has meant that the nations in that region of the Middle East had to remain in a semi-mobilised state with a prodigious defence burden. Failure meant the deferment of the day which I believe everyone, Jew and Arab, longs to see, when all the nations of that area can co-operate and can work together in economic and social development.
In such a task Israel, from her experience, has a great deal to give, after her own successful experience—but not only Israel. Others have a great deal to give as well. The Foreign Secretary, in his approach, which he put before the House both on Tuesday and again today, is right in one thing above all. However apparently hopeless the immediate prospect, it is not too early even now to begin think- 430 ing of the kind of terms on which a ceasefire can be achieved and, still more, about a long-term and lasting solution. If the Foreign Secretary's speech at Blackpool last Friday still represents his position, I shall probably have considerable disagreement with him about where the ceasefire lines might be—but I shall not press that matter today. On the long-term solution he has revived the proposal for an international peacekeeping force, in my view rightly.
For many years peace was kept by the tripartite declaration, which perished with Suez. It was, I think, the then Conservative Government in this country who said that the tripartite declaration and guarantees were dead. For 10 years longer the United Nations carried out its peacekeeping rôle, but that was rudely shattered by U Thant's regrettable decision to recall the United Nations troops when asked to do so by President Nasser. I am not simply saying that now. I said it to U Thant at the time and, indeed, publicly.
From then on, Israel decided that her security could be entrusted to none but her own fighting men. Her neighbours have shown this month that they take the same view about their security. But the right hon. Gentleman is right to canvass the idea again. We may have to return to it.
Apart from the question of the arms embargo, I do not want to press too many points of basic disagreement. There are disagreements, and it is absolutely fair to say that, where they occur, they occur on each side of the House. No party can claim today to put forward homogeneous views, either supporting the Foreign Secretary's policy and basic attitude or opposing them. The only disagreement I would refer to at this point is this: there will be many of us who regret that the right hon. Gentleman, having over the past year on a number of occasions voted for and, indeed, on three occasions having sponsored, separately or with the French Government, resolutions condemning Israel for alleged military raids, should have remained silent in condemning the vastly greater act of aggression on the Day of Atonement. Whether or not right hon. and hon. Members on either side of the House like it, I did condemn that aggression and I identified it early on the following Sunday morning. I stand by what I said.
431 I come now to the difficult question of arms supply. Here again, the division between us is not a simple one across the Table. There are divisions on each side of the House.
Britain has been a principal supplier for the Israeli army and navy, most of all for tanks, guns mounted on tanks, ammunition for those guns, and spares. This war, like that of six years ago, is a war predominantly of tanks, anti-tank weapons and aircraft, but now with the new dimension of lethal missiles.
Successive British Governments have supplied Israel, as we have supplied Jordan, in good faith. On Tuesday, some hon. Members on both sides of the House challenged the good faith of the present Government for their action in dishonouring contractual obligations at the very moment of Israel's greatest need. One right hon. Gentleman was reported as having gone so far, outside the House, as to compare them with a dud insurance company which continued to collect premiums but failed to honour the contract when a claim had to be met. I hope that the Government would agree that where arms have been supplied on a continuing basis, only absolutely overriding considerations could justify a failure to honour the letter and the spirit of the contract.
Reference has been made—I raised the matter myself in the House on Tuesday—to the embargo imposed by the Labour Government when the fighting began on 5th June 1967. That was not an unconditional embargo. It was for 24 hours in the first instance, as the House was told. It was conditional on all other arms-supplying countries coming into line. As soon as it became clear that the Soviet Union would not accept it and were, indeed, shipping prodigious supplies, the arms embargo was ended, two days after it was imposed. The overriding consideration that we had in mind—and there must be one—namely, an international embargo on arms supplies into the area, had not been fulfilled.
On 8th June 1967, three days after the war began, the then Foreign Secretary told the House:We still have no positive response from the Soviet Government about arms supplies and it is clear that for the time being there is no immediate prospect of a general embargo, We are, therefore, reverting to our normal practice of scrutinising applications for arms 432 in each particular case, and we are, naturally, doing so particularly carefully in the present situation.I should like, however, to remind the House of the reaction of the right hon. Gentleman the present Foreign Secretary to that statement by the then Foreign Secretary. Having referred to something else which the then Foreign Secretary said about the Arabs' oil embargo, the present Foreign Secretary said:We would support, too, the right hon. Gentleman's decision on arms as long as the Russians do not co-operate. There are rumours that arms are going into Alexandria.—obviously Russian arms—The Government's decision is right "[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th June, 1967; Vol. 747, c. 1292–93.]The right hon. Gentleman said in 1967 that the Government's decision was right. But if it were right then, why is it wrong today?
I accept that there is a different situation. I shall refer to some of the differences shortly. There has not been, for example, at any time over the past fortnight, any hope, any reason for hope, or any remote possibility that an embargo would be followed by other major arms suppliers, as we thought that there could have been in 1967. As soon as the fighting began this time. States on the North African littoral of the Mediterranean not merely announced their determination to supply arms, and, indeed, troops, but immediately began to supply them within hours of the fighting beginning. It was clear also that no lead by us or by anyone else would have stopped the massive shipment of arms from the Soviet Union, and now from the United States. So the Government, in their arms embargo policy, do not have and do not purport to have the justification that, as we hoped six years ago, it would be followed by other countries.
§ Mr. John Gorst (Hendon, North)
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that official Israeli sources in this country have confirmed that military equipment supplied to Israel and returned to this country either for repair or for servicing has been withheld from return to Israel under the present embargo and that this supports his point about the difference between the time about which he is talking and the present?
§ Mr. Wilson
I was not aware of that. I thought I was aware of most things in 433 the present situation. If what the hon. Gentleman says is true, it underlines some of the things that I am now saying. If we were right then to supply these arms, as the Foreign Secretary said we were, he must deduce some other overriding situation sufficient to justify this palpable breach of our relationship on arms supplies to Israel. He has set out to say what the overriding consideration is. He did so on Tuesday. He based his case on more tenuous grounds. He said:We did this"—he was referring to the arms embargo—because we considered it inconsistent to call for an immediate end to the fighting and yet to continue to send arms to the conflict."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th October 1973; Vol. 861. c. 30.]That is what he said, and that is what I understand him to say today.
We did not consider it inconsistent in 1967. There has been a major shift of policy since 1967 with the change of Government, despite undisputed and admitted evidence of aggression on 6th October this year. I could have understood the right hon. Gentleman if in 1967 he had taken a different line on an arms embargo, on the ground that Israel had started the war. He might have argued that, and he might have taken a different view this time on the ground that the aggression came from the Egyptians and the Syrians. No one can argue about that. It has been admitted. Strangely, however, in 1967, when he supported the withdrawal of the arms embargo he felt, as most people felt, that Israel had struck the first blow. Now in 1973 when he imposes an arms embargo, he knows perfectly well that the arms embargo is favourable to the very people who started the war. This is a very big shift in the situation.
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
Of course, the situation now is that we have contracts with the Arab countries as well. Ellis seems to me to make a considerable difference to the situation. Is the right hon. Gentleman saying that we should alter our policy and send arms to Israel alone, or that we should send them to Jordar and Israel as well?
§ Mr. Wilson
I think that is a very thin explanation of the change from 1967. [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."] Certainly 434 I will answer, but I must comment on what the right hon. Gentleman said. We were supplying the Arab countries in 1967. He asks whether I would say that we should modify the embargo in order to supply only Israel. No. My answer is "No". I was asked this question on television two days ago and I answered absolutely categorically as far as Jordan and other Arab States were concerned.
What I say our policy should be is what I quoted from the then Foreign Secretary in 1967, endorsed by the right hon. Gentleman, that we should resume our traditional posture of supplying arms subject to a check case by case. That is what I said then and that is what I say now to the right hon. Gentleman. This is what I am saying, and this is the logic of what the right hon. Gentleman said. [interruption.] I cannot expect to speak for all hon. Members on either side of the House. I am saying where the Labour Government stood, and that is where the right hon. Gentleman, who supported the Labour Government's attitude, should stand today.
§ Mr. Patrick Cormack (Cannock)
The right hon. Gentleman is advocating supplying the aggressor and the defender in that case?
§ Mr. Wilson
For what that interruption may constitute in the hon. Member's mind, I am saying that we should revert to our position which we adopted after the two-day attempt in 1967, that where we have contractual obligations we should fulfil them subject to checking each individual case on its merits. That is what the Labour Government did. That is what the right hon. Gentleman supported in 1967 and that is what I am pressing him to do now. This has been the policy of successive Governments for 20 years. There is no problem here.
The right hon. Gentleman's argument today is that since her Majesty's Government have sought to secure a cease-fire resolution through the Security Council, such action would be incompatible with a decision to supply ammunition or other contracted requirements to Israel, that it would affect the validity of his approach. I do not accept this argument at all. The fact that arms were being sent to Israel by the Labour Government did not prevent us in 1967 from taking the lead and successfully 435 sponsoring Resolution No. 242 which is still the governing resolution. We were supplying arms to the Middle East at that time. It did not stop us taking a lead in the Security Council, which the right hon. Gentleman has so far not been able to do.
Our position as arms suppliers did not prevent us taking, a lead in the negotiations which began to make that resolution a reality. I want to underline this point. It did not prevent our selection by the Security Council as one of the four countries to whom the task of peacemaking was delegated in those years of quadripartite discussion. We were chosen as one of those four countries not because our hands were clean of arms supplies—we were supplying arms—but because the Security Council felt that progress could best be made on the basis of the selection of four countries, two of them super-Powers and two of them middle-rank Powers, of which it could be reasonably assumed that the United States and Britain took a broadly Israel line and the USSR and France took a broadly Arab line. That is why we were in the inner circle of mediation from 1967 onwards, because it was thought that we, with the United States, would support Israel and the other two would support the Arabs.
The Foreign Secretary must ask himself—indeed, the House must ask—whether, if his aim is to win a ticket to the mediators' table, he is not just as likely to be disqualifying himself from such a rôle. I will explain this. The whole House will hope that the initiatives of the Soviet Union and the American Government lead to a speedy and honourable solution. It was not easy in 1967 when the initiative of Lord Caradon proved successful, but an infernally difficult question is now complicated by a new dimension, the dimension of China—a China which has been in a highly competitive situation with the Soviet Union in Africa, a China which I suspect aspires to similar influence with the Arab countries, and a China, in the Security Council context, with a veto.
All this makes Russia's task that much harder, and it makes the right hon. Gentleman's task that much harder as well. After Chinese claims that it had won the day in Vietnam, let none of us 436 forget that the Soviet Union has its own domino theorem—the fear of being pushed from pillar to post, which is no less acute than the one we used to hear from the United States.
To return to the present issue, I have to say that the present Government's refusal to meet our obligations in the matter of arms supplies is symptomatic of a wider general attitude to Middle East affairs, a total change in Britain's present position since 1967.
§ Mr. Christopher Mayhew (Woolwich, East)
I am still unclear. Is my right hon. Friend proposing that we should lift the embargo both for the 10,000 Jordanian rounds and the 4,000 Israeli rounds?
§ Mr. Harold Wilson
I have already answered that question. [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."] I have already answered it. I hope hon. Members will treat this subject with the gravity that it deserves. None of us wants a party fight on this issue. If some hon. Members do, they must be warned of the consequences. [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."] I have already answered it, and it is in the recollection of the House. [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes or No?"] I have answered it twice this afternoon and once on television. Can I do more? I have said that as far as the arms embargo is concerned, it should be ended. We should revert to the 1967 posture, whether it is arms for Israel or for the Arab countries.
§ Mr. Wilson
No. I was saying that to some of us the Government's refusal to meet our obligations in the matter of arms supplies is symptomatic of a wider general attitude to Middle East affairs and a total change in Britain's position since 1967. The Harrogate speech, referred to by the right hon. Gentleman on Tuesday, is a total reversal of the policy of the previous Government, and he cannot expect us to go along in a bipartisan way on the basis of that speech, which was not the position either of Lord Caradon or of the Government at that time.
I say this to the right hon. Gentleman, and I say it in all seriousness and not in 437 a contumacious manner. He will, I think, have cause to remember the international problems of the 1930s, in part dominated by the Spanish Civil War. There is almost a ghoulish similarity—[Laughter.] This is not a laughing matter. The hon. Gentleman could laugh as much as he liked yesterday, but I ask him not to do so today. There is an almost ghoulish similarity in what is happening now and what happened during the Spanish Civil War, including the use of a localised war to test the products of super-Power military technology, hitherto untested, and with no loss of blood on the part of those supplying the technological weapons. [Laughter.] I wish that hon. Members would be serious. This is too important a debate for an attitude like that.
The other parallel with the Spanish Civil War is this: Britain's rôle in the Spanish Civil War was a policy of what was called—in capital letters—Non-Intervention. That was the posture of the Conservative Government towards the Spanish Civil War and I must remind the right hon. Gentleman that statesmen who elevate a posture of non-intervention into an act of State must sometimes expect to be asked, "Who are you non-intervening against?". That was the position in the Spanish Civil War. I believe that it is the position today. I shall not press that point further now, but how far my suspicions are valid we shall see in the next few days. I must, however, press the question of the arms embargo.
I do not believe that any hon. Member wishes, over so grave a matter as this, that we should have a major confrontation in the Division Lobby. I hope that there will not be a Division. I do not want a Division. As far as I am concerned, there will be no vote, if the right hon. Gentleman now, or when winding up tonight, will tell us that the Government have decided to accept the argument put to them by right hon. and hon. Members on both sides. I shall spell out what it means. It will mean adopting the stance which the Labour Government adopted in 1967 after the failure of our attempt to secure a general embargo, namely, a reversion toour normal practice of scrutinising applications for arms in each particular case".438 If we cannot have that assurance—it will be a grave step to take—many of my right hon. and hon. Friends and I shall feel that we have no alternative but to vote.
I do not know how far the Foreign Secretary's posture is dictated by a desire, an understandable desire—I say that, whatever differences we have had on the subject—to present a united front on the part of the EEC countries. That is understandable, but my experience in these matters is that the highest common factor of European agreement on Middle East affairs tends to be a simple reflection of the views of the French Government, which in 1967 turned from pro-Israel to sharply pro-Arab.
I hope that I am wrong in my assessment of the Foreign Secretary's speech today, but I doubt that there will be in this case much of a rôle for the professional neutral. The rôle of mediation is most likely to rest upon those who have won the confidence not of both sides—the right hon. Gentleman has not won the confidence of both sides, and, though we all regret it, the fact is that there cannot be such notions—but upon those who have won the confidence of one side.
I think that it is likely to be most fruitful if the 1967 precedent is followed, however disappointing the consequences were, with a small group of super-Powers and medium-rank Powers chosen as friends of one side or the other who, being friends, are likely to have some influence in assisting the warring parties to begin to accept a process of give and take.
I think that we can best understand this situation in the Middle East if we regard it as a duel. Both sides have spoken as though it is a duel to the death. Peace is likely to come only after great bloodshed. It will come, I believe, through the wisdom and patience of the duellists' seconds, of the duellists' friends, not from those who may have tried to avoid any commitment in this situation.
I referred a minute ago to the use of the products of advanced military technology, and there is one matter which, I think, should be put before the House. It is a matter of history and it may not be generally known. Again, I do not propose to press it home, but the House should have the facts.
439 Between 1968 and 1970, the Israeli Government repeatedly pressed the Labour Government to supply Chieftain tanks in place of Centurions. We had similar requests from Libya. One of the arguments used by the Israelis was the likelihood—indeed, the certainty in their minds—that in time the Arab forces would be supplied with Soviet T62s. It was a difficult decision for us to make.
We informed the Israeli Government that we could not at that time accede to the request for Chieftains. But there was an understanding between the Labour Government and Israel that if at any time the Soviet Government started to supply T62s to Israel's neighbours we would make Chieftains available in strength. We made clear to the Israeli Government that, while we could not in that matter and on every occasion agree to all they asked of us, we would not in the matter of arms supplies put them at peril.
In this fight, many hundreds—the Government know the figure, and I know it—of T62s have been deployed against Israel, on both the Sinai and Syrian fronts. The intelligence facilities available to Her Majesty's Government are such that Ministers must have known of the supply of T62 tanks. They cannot deny it. Both of us know. The right hon. Gentleman, the Prime Minister and I know the quality of the intelligence sources. Therefore, they must have known not only of the understanding which we had with the Israelis, but also of the supply of T62s to Israel's neighbours.
But the understanding, which my right hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. Michael Stewart), then Foreign Secretary, can confirm, has clearly not been accepted by the present Government. It was, of course, within their rights not to accept it. I think that the House should know—the Government know it, and it is a cheerful factor which, I hope, the right hon. Gentleman will confirm—that the Centurions have given a very good account of themselves in destroying T62s on both fronts. I am glad to see the Foreign Secretary nod his head to that. But, if that is so, the Government, who have not followed up our understanding by supplying Chieftains, have even less justification now for refusing to implement contractual obligations relating to the Centurions.
440 I said earlier that no spokesman from either Front Bench today could claim that everything he said carried the support of all his right hon. and hon. Friends. I certainly do not claim that In one sense, the approach of each of us to all these problems is uniquely personal. That is the special character of this debate. My position is, I believe, well understood, and it has been made clear over many years.
I do not lay claim to the support of hon. Friends who, with equal sincerity, have taken a diametrically opposed view. I respect their sincerity and I hope that they respect mine. I cannot speak for them. For them, as for me and for many others on both sides of the House, a time when our friends, be they Jew or Arab, are bleeding and in great need is a time to proclaim and not to conceal a personal declaration of a faith. I believe, also, that this is where Britain's highest interest lies, with the interest of world peace.
But there is another argument in my mind and that of many of my hon. Friends. I recognise that this will have no appeal to hon. Members opposite. Perhaps they will switch off listening for the moment. It is something which concerns us more than them, and I do not apologise.
Israel is a democratic socialist country. More than that, it is a community with a national wealth as well as national burdens shared in common. It is a country which, despite her prodigious arms burden, has established a remarkable record in the social services and care for people, especially for her children. [An HON. MEMBER: "Palestinians?"] It is now producing better facilities for educating Arabs than they ever had before 1967. I have seen them, as other hon. Gentlemen have. By certain very difficult tests Israel's record in education, one of the social services, is the finest in the world with the exception of Canada, and I should be prepared to give my evidence for that.
Therefore I believe that something is owed by some of us to the only democratic social State in that vast region. Indeed, by any test that would apply it is the only democracy in that region, and I bitterly regret that at this time more of my fellow democratic Socialist leaders in the Socialist International have not declared where their loyalties lie. Some 441 are corralled in the Foreign Secretary's EEC—the see-no-evil, hear-no-evil, speak-no-evil camp. But the silence has not been confined to them.
I must before I close refer to oil, as the right hon. Gentleman did. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman. We must not be blackmailed by oil sanctions. No one underestimates the gravity of what is happening on this front—the cost, simply, of the increase in prices and its effect on inflation in this country. We had to face the same situation in 1967. I hope that I may show a little more understanding to the problems of the present Prime Minister than he did then, because that was a most important factor leading to the devaluation in 1967. I understand the position, but we must not be blackmailed. We must decide what is right as a nation, as a Government, as a Parliament, and abide by it. Danegeld is Danegeld, whether exacted by pillagers from the Kattegat or by oil-rich monarchs and presidents.
But the characteristic of Danegeld through the ages is insatiability. They come again. Their appetite feeds on appeasement. That is why I was glad to hear what the Foreign Secretary said this afternoon.
I am grateful to the House for its forbearance in what has been for me a very difficult speech to make. I raised earlier in a Business Question the idea of a further debate, if that becomes necessary—the Leader of the House was forthcoming—on the proposition that if there is a change in the Middle East for good or for ill, be it good news or grave news, the House of Commons will not be put in baulk by the preliminaries to Prorogation.
I end as I began. This war is taking place against a background of almost unimaginable tragedy. Each of us, with our different approaches to the issues, can never forget that tragedy, and that is why for each of us this is so anxious a debate. We must all hope that current efforts to promote a cease-fire will be successful. I have expresed my doubts—I have understated them—about whether the Government's actions are likely to contribute to this. But whatever doubts there may be, the conditions of the ceasefire must include a demand binding all 442 the parties concerned to meet directly and not by proxy, and to reach a settlement.
§ 4.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Philip Goodhart (Beckenham)
I do not pretend to this House that I am an impartial observer of the scene in the Middle East, but even this afternoon I would not urge this Government to depart from what the Foreign Secretary described as the traditional policy of successive Governments of not taking sides.
Of course I understand the Government's predicament. The Government, quite rightly, want to be in a position to mediate when the combatants are perhaps at long last prepared to talk. Then, again, the Government must protect this country's fuel supplies. Everyone in the House agrees, I am sure, that we must not give way to blackmail on oil. But, at the same time, I appreciate how desperately difficult it is to walk this line between safeguarding the oil supplies of this country and giving way to unreasonable demands.
Therefore this afternoon I would not even go as far as the Leader of the Opposition, when he said that Ministers should have gone to the Dispatch Box to condemn the massive assault by Egypt and Syria on Israel on the holiest day in the Jewish Year. I do not even argue that this country, this Government, should go out of their way to rush arms to Israel. But I do argue that this Government are wrong when they describe their present arms embargo policy as even-handed.
One does not even have to go to the battlefield to learn the facts. Most of them are outlined by the Institute of Strategic Studies in their volume on the balance of forces. Every student of the military scene knows that Syria has no British equipment worth talking about; it all comes from the Soviet Union. The vast bulk of Egyptian equipment also comes from the Soviet Union. There is nothing of substantial importance to them that the Egyptians purchase from us. Jordan has 200 Centurion tanks in its army but it seems, thank heaven, highly unlikely—and I was on the Jordan border only two days ago—that Jordan will play a major offensive role in this war. On the other hand, British Centurion tanks make up about half of Israel's tank force 443 on which her very survival depends, and these Centurions have performed magnificently in the past 10 days.
The Leader of the Opposition referred to clashes between the British Centurion tanks and the Soviet T62s. I have seen six Soviet T62 tanks that had been knocked out by British Centurion tanks, and I have talked to the Israeli tank crews who were in that battle when the T62s were knocked out. I saw the dents in the armour of one of these Centurion tanks after it had received a direct hit from the gun of a T62. The Centurion survived to fight again, but the T62 did not.
I do not pretend that the arms, the shells and the spare parts—or the equipment which my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, North (Mr. Gorst) quite rightly said has already been in use in Israel and has been sent back to this country for servicing, but has then not been allowed to return to Israel—are at this moment essential to Israel's survival. But I know that the way in which this embargo has been drawn has caused the Israelis pain and uncertainty at a moment of enormous stress to them. They know that it would have been perfectly easy to redraw the embargo in a way that prevented the supply of fresh weapons to this area but allowed the dispatch of these items of equipment on which, eventually, they may have to depend. It looks to the Israeli Government like a gratuitous and unnecessary attempt to hurt them. I am afraid that when the Foreign Secretary came to do his military sums on this matter his advisers gave him the wrong box of matches.
§ Mr. Wilkinson
My hon. Friend referred to Jordan. He will recall that about 60 per cent. or 70 per cent. of the Jordanian Air Force, which has no surface-to-air guided weapons, is British equipped. He will recall, too, that at least three-quarters of the Jordanian Army's armoured vehicles and artillery are British. Jordan has no Russian weapons, and cannot get them, and has no recourse to weapons from the United States in the way that Israel has. In 1967 Jordan proved herself vulnerable. I hope that my hon. Friend will bring that out in his speech. [Interruption.]
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Miss Harvie Anderson)
Order. I hope hon. Mem- 444 bers will remember that more than 40 hon. Members wish to take part in the debate.
§ Mr. Goodhart
I accept the point made by my hon. Friend, and I am willing to see the embargo lifted for the Jordanian orders, too.
Irael's frustrations are much increased by the knowledge that for more than a week the Soviet Union has been pouring arms into Egypt and Syria. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary believes that Mr. Kosygin is in Cairo on a mission of peace. I wish that I believed that, and I hope that whoever winds up the debate will be able to give us more evidence for my right hon. Friend's assertion. It looks to me as though during the last week the hawks in the Soviet Union have won their internal argument with the doves. Do we intend to stand aside for long while the Soviet Union makes a mockery of the present policy of détente? Do not we care whether the Soviet hawks try to secure a cheap victory? Can we stand aside with detachment, day after day, while the Soviet Union tries to inflict grievous wounds on a country which has a special relationship with our major ally in NATO?
Years ago, when we desperately needed arms from the United States, Winston Churchill said. "Give us the tools and we will finish the job". Today, Israel is making no such extravagant request. All that she says is, "Give us the supplies that we have already bought and paid for and we will try to use them to deter present and future aggression".
There was much in the Foreign Secretary's speech with which I agreed, but, alas, I am sorry to part company from hon. Friends, and particularly from my right hon. Friend, but I could not this afternoon accept his argument about the embargo. I cannot accept it, and I will not.
§ 5.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Jeremy Thorpe (Devon, North)
The hon. Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart), although recently returned from Israel and obviously emotionally much more recently and more closely associated with that country than any of us who have not been there since this war, spoke with feeling, but with great moderation. Whether or not the House 445 agrees with what the hon. Gentleman said, I declare at once that I do. I think that his speech was a distinguished contribution to the debate.
The tragic and terrifying nature of the present dispute and the widely differing views held in the House should not obscure the fact that in this House of Commons there are certain points on which there can be total agreement. First, that the House is appalled at the loss of human life and suffering, wherever that may be occurring. Secondly, that we must deplore the failure of the international political scene whereby we still have a situation, remaining totally unresolved, there where there is territory which the Arabs find occupied by foreign Powers, carrying with it the logical consequences of a refugee problem, whilst Israel for her part finds for the fourth time that her existence is threatened. I am sure the House must agree that there can be no achievement of a lasting peace through force.
§ Mr. Thorpe
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will allow me to continue, and I may in a moment or two cover the point that he wishes to raise. Perhaps I may deal with matters in my own way.
There cannot, either, in my view, be a settlement which does not convincingly remedy existing grievances on both sides, and I therefore want to do three things: First, to examine what has happened—not to apportion blame, but to put it in a world perspective—because sometimes there are events which are so menacing and threatening that to adopt a position of total neutrality can be taken as condoning something that is incredibly evil.
Next, I want to examine the posture of so-called even-handedness and ask whether it is wise and honest, and whether it will achieve its objective, and then to answer, in a slightly different way from the Leader of the Opposition with whose views I did not agree on this issue, the question about what should be our posture over the supply of arms. That was the question which the Foreign Secretary quite properly and justifiably put to those who are opposed to his policies. Thirdly, I propose to say shortly what, tentatively, might be done.
446 We all agree with the Leader of the Opposition about the tragic nature of this war, but I do not think that on this occasion we should mince words. The fact that the Arab nations have many grievances and that much of their territory is occupied is accepted and, indeed, was recognised in Resolution 242, but the fact remains that between 1356 and 1400 hours on 6th October Syrian and Egyptian forces attacked territory occupied, rightly or wrongly, by Israel. In other words, two attacks hundreds of miles apart were launched within four minutes of each other on the most sacred day for the Jewish people and they were totally unprepared.
I happen to believe that the coincidence of the timing of the attacks on the Syrian and Egyptian frontiers, the build-up of modern equipment which was put in not three days, but possibly up to six months before, and the total surprise of what happened indicated how the fighting began. That, in my view, makes it all the more imperative that a settlement should, in so far as it is possible, safeguard both sides against the dangers of sudden attack, and that is why the Foreign Secretary's Harrogate speech and his subsequent speech at Blackpool were unrealistic.
I think he suggested that the only matter for negotiation in Sinai was the Gaza Strip, and the question of the Golan Heights must, he hoped, be settled on the basis that people were back to their own pre-1967 frontiers, on the supposition that Syria will accept Resolution 242, which hitherto she has not. While I believe that the Israelis will have to make major withdrawals, I believe that we shall have to be flexible in negotiating what the subsequent frontiers will be.
To put it in the broadest political terms, if I were the Prime Minister of Israel and I gave up the Golan Heights and allowed the kibbutzim to be in a position in which they could be shelled again, I should not expect my administration to last more than five minutes.
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
I agree, but the choice for the Israelis and for everybody is whether the buffer is provided by occupied territory or by a demilitarised zone with an international force.
§ Mr. Thorpe
I take the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary's present position. I accept that he is saying that there must be a buffer. But it is only fair to say that Harrogate and Blackpool did not refer to a buffer but simply referred to withdrawal to the 1967 lines. All I am saying is that that position was not realistic. The right hon. Gentleman's present position is more flexible, and therefore to be welcomed.
Secondly, we must realise that Syria and Egypt are, as the Leader of the Opposition said, using the most up-to-date equipment which the Soviet Union possesses. Much of it is not even available to its partners in the Warsaw Pact. Some of it has -never been outside the Soviet Union, and some of it has never been operational before. The 600–650 T62 tanks have never before seen combat. The SAM 6 missiles are out of the Soviet Union for the first time, and they took at least three months to set up on their launching pads. The Suchoi 20 is the most up-to-date long-range fighter possessed by the Soviet Union. The Celt missile, with an 80-mile range, was originally refused to the Egyptians when they requested it because it was on the top secret list in the Soviet Union. It was granted to them only when Soviet military advisers left.
It would be simplistic to say that those arms are supplied because the Soviet Union is using the Middle East as a testing ground, as the Italians and Germans used Spain in the Spanish Civil War. Why should the Soviet Union wish to endanger Helsinki, to endanger the whole possibility of European détente? It is very simply because it wishes to dominate the Middle East.
What is tragic is that the Soviet involvement has much less to do with the problem of the Palestine refugees, with the problem of Arab unity, with the problem of Arab nationalism, than with the old-fashioned Soviet aim to dominate the area politically and economically. That is why we must be realistic about the involvement of the Soviet Union, whose motives are very different from those of the Arabs whom they are backing and using, because there could be an Arab victory only with total Russian backing.
If the Soviet Union were politically and economically to dominate the area, as she would, she could dictate the course 448 of the economy for the whole of the free world. That is why the United States is supplying arms, not just out of any sentiment but because she realises that if the Soviet Union is allowed to crush Israel, using Arab forces with her own equipment, it will politically dominate the area.
It is extraordinary that the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary, who is a hard-liner in Helsinki, asking what is tactics and what is genuine in the Russian attitude, manages to take a position of total neutrality when the Russians carry out policies which he would deplore in certain parts of the world. He remains strangely neutral on those policies in the Middle East. Therefore, I believe that if there are peace feelers from the Soviet Union one has to ask whether those feelers are put forward to assist Russian political objectives in the area, or whether Russia is repeating her position of 1967 of merely accepting that those whom she seeks to use cannot be successful and therefore wanting to cut her losses. It is wholly wrong if we do not recognise and publicly state that the Arab nations are being armed by the Soviet Union with the most up-to-date equipment that the Soviet Union possesses in order to assist the Soviet Union in her own political and economic strategy in the Mediterranean, and that the interests of the Arab nations come second, very far down on the list.
I accept that the embargo is the Government's attempt to become an honest broker. To be an honest broker one does not have to be the ally of both sides, but one must be regarded as someone who can honour obligations and be trusted. I do not believe that the embargo on the 200 tons comprising 4,000 shells waiting in Liverpool, paid for and simply awaiting an Israeli ship, equipment which would have been shipped 10 days before the war broke out if the Israelis had not decided that they would wait and take two months' shipments at a time, has strategically had a tremendous impact or effect in Israel. But psycholgically what has happened has been about as maladroit as anything could be.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary does not assist his concept of evenhandedness by telling me, as he did on Tuesday that it was all right to train Egyptian helicopter 449 pilots because they would be going back in six weeks but were trained only in helicopters which they had not got in Egypt and which would be sold much further into the future. In the mind of the world, those six pilots will be going back having been trained in Britain, having put in some extra hours in helicopters in Britain, and will be taking to other helicopters in the front line.
I do not believe either that to say that we should supply Lightnings to Saudi Arabia, which two days ago pulled out one of her armoured car regiments in Jordan, a regiment now in the front line in Syria, is evidence of being even-handed.
I turn to the question of tanks to be supplied to Dubai, a country which I know well and for which I have friendly feelings. I declare an interest, in that for a while I worked on an economic project for Dubai. We are told on the one hand that the purpose of the tanks is purely ceremonial. If that is so, there does not seem to be tremendous urgency in supplying them. On the other hand, it is said that they are to be used for the security of the Gulf. [Interruption.] We have had both explanations, without guarantees, and I accept that they conflict. It seems to me that that is not being even-handed in the supply of arms to the Arab countries.
Even if there were guarantees, I do not believe that they would be particularly valuable in time of war, after the guarantees which Libya gave to France. She guaranteed that the Mirages would not be used, but two have already been shot down on the Syrian front.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary may lead us all to the view that supplying arms is rather a dirty business.
§ Mr. Thorpe
The right hon. Gentleman may have done something to discourage people from buying British arms in the future. No one will buy British arms for his self-defence if he believes that the minute they are needed for self-defence he will not have the ammunition to make them operational.
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
Before the right hon. Gentleman spoke I looked up on how many countries we had imposed arms embargoes since 1960. The' answer is eight or nine. All of them are now buying arms from us.
§ Mr. Thorpe
Whether that is a matter for pride, I do not know. If the right hon. Gentleman is saying that the embargoes have not been bad for business, so that we need not worry, it is not an elevating or good argument. The right hon. Gentleman is saying that it does not matter, that our long-term interests are all right because the customers still come, and therefore I am wrong. I believe that confidence in a country from which one purchased arms would be undermined if one were denied ammunition when it was really needed, but the right hon. Gentleman tells me that that has not been out experience.
We are a traditional supplier of arms to both sides. I accept that. I should be surprised if the volume of arms we sell to Israel is less than £15 million a year, and it may be as much as £20 million. I believe that there is a considerable defence purchasing mission in the Israeli Embassy, with the knowledge of the Government, and presumably with their consent.
I believe that it would have been right to send to Israel the ammunition to which I have referred and then to say that there would be a rigorous embargo on further deliveries. I will tell the right hon. Gentleman why. He answered it in his own statement when he said that of course we would never allow the State of Israel to go under. If ever that happened, he said, he would immediately reconsider the position.
He did not feel it necessary to give the same undertaking to the Arabs because the future existence of the Arab States is not threatened. That is the difference. Territorial acquisitions there have been and certainly there will have to be territorrial concessions but there has never been a threat to the existence of any Arab country. Were that so the Egyptians would have found the Israelis in Cairo last time just as the Syrians might find them in Damascus this time. [An HON. MEMBER: "What happened to Palestine?"] To go back to the Balfour Declaration of 1917 would so elongate. 451 this debate that we should need at least 10 days for it.
The Foreign Secretary said he would not allow Israel to go under, to be extinguished. It might have run that risk had the Americans followed the policy which he is following in regard to arms. He is like the car salesman who offers to sell someone a car and says that he will not sell spare parts or do repairs but that the garage down the road will. That is an easy way to luxuriate in neutrality, in the safe knowledge that someone else will see that the country in question is not extinguished. Therefore I certainly would have supplied the ammunition and would have wanted thereafter to be satisfied that there was sufficient ammunition to ensure that that country was not extinguished.
§ Mr. Reginald Freeson (Willesden, East)
The position is even worse than that which the right hon. Gentleman the Liberal leader has described. The embargo became effective the day after the invasion by Syria and Egypt took place when no one could know what the results of that invasion would be. That is a disgraceful thing to have happened.
§ Mr. Thorpe
That is why I am appalled at the Foreign Secretary's attitude that he will judge when Israel runs the risk of extinction and then he will act. That does not seem to be a satisfactory basis for security.
There is one other worrying aspect. All the indications are that the country with which this country may well seek to take a joint initiative is the Republic of France. We damned ourselves psychologically by the manner of the embargo—and it is the psychological way in which the embargo was handled and not the actuality of the ammunition which caused the damage. But there is no European country which could be more mistrusted, certainly in Israel, than France. It cut off the supply of Mirages in 1967, then sold them to Libya with the undertaking that they would not be used when, as everyone knows, they have been.
I am delighted that the right hon. Gentleman said he would review the situation and I hope that Israel will not be in extremis before the review is carried out. I do not believe the Foreign Secretary has achieved the rôle of the honest 452 broker. He is totally mistrusted—perhaps not mistrusted but there is bitterness in Israel which will take many years to live down, and he has not gained the confidence of the Arabs.
There will be a settlement only when the super-Powers and others become convinced that there can be no victory through war and that there may be no alternative to peaceful negotiations without preconditions. The full appalling tragedy and irony is that the longer the war goes on, the more bloodshed, slaughter and destruction, the greater will be the likelihood of the beginning of wisdom and that out of the carnage it will be realised there can be no settlement without peaceful negotiation.
Otherwise there will only be a stalemate or a five-year peace at the best.
What I am sad about is that the British Government, without winning the respect of the Arabs, have lost the trust of the Israelis. The Government have probably proved more pliable than Moscow ever dreamed they would be and that is the supreme irony for the right hon. Gentleman who was always regarded as the hardliner in Helsinki.
I believe the Government's posture has been wrong and if they will now try and make amends by using the United Nations and trying to get a peacekeeping force going, of which it would be difficult for us to be a part, then we may find a Cuba situation once again in which the terror of mutual destruction is such that the super-Powers will come together.
They cannot impose a settlement. They must realise that a settlement is vital and that applies particularly to the Soviet Union. If the super-Powers realise that, the Arabs and Israelis must do likewise. They must realise that in a Middle East war there can be no victor; there can be no peace without negotiations between the parties without preconditions; and the hawks on both sides must be prepared to make generous concessions. I am saddened only that my country has not played a more positive rôle and has so bitterly divided people by its policies.
§ 5.26 p.m.
§ Sir Frederic Bennett (Torquay)
The only reason I have sought to make a short intervention is that I have believed since this tragic struggle began that there was 453 room for a third voice by someone with the same sincerity of passion as others who have spoken, but which was neither pro-Israeli nor pro-Arab. That third voice, to which my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary referred briefly, like him wants to consider what is the basic British interest at stake.
I welcome my right hon. Friend's assertion. I notice that the Leader of the Opposition said he respected the sincerity of those who were emotionally involved on one side or another. I, too, respect their sincerity and I understand it, but I believe that respect is also due to people like myself who are doing their best not to be emotionally involved on one side or the other but to consider the best interests for this country and for gaining an enduring peace settlement in the Middle East. I stress "enduring". We shall be doing no service if we merely patch up something which in a period of years will lead to a renewal of a struggle which will be even more painful.
Therefore I ask for the same understanding that I am willing to accord to those with different views from my own. I have been considering what are the best chances of obtaining an enduring peace settlement. Several right hon. and hon. Members commented earlier in such a way that though they may differ in their conclusions they did not differ much from my thinking. I notice the right hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) gave a fair and graphic description of how Soviet penetration in the Middle East was seeking to exploit the struggle in order to further its own aims. I do not differ from that. There is no doubt that the Soviet Union is trying and has been trying to exploit Arab-Israeli differences since they first emerged not just for the purpose of gaining a just settlement for its allies but to further its own penetration in that part of the world.
However, having agreed with the right hon. Gentleman on that, I wonder how we serve our ends in persuading the Arab countries that they should not be lured wholeheartedly into the Soviet camp, how we achieve that by driving them into the position where they think that their only friends in the world are the Soviet Union. To that the right hon. 454 Gentleman did not address himself. He correctly described what the Soviet Union was achieving but he did not show how we should seek to divert the overwhelming influence of the Soviet Union, with perhaps China at a later date, on the Arabs of the Middle East.
§ Mr. Thorpe
Did the hon. Member notice the very important initiatives taken around 25th September this year by Dr. Kissinger for a peace settlement? They were well received by the King of Saudi Arabia and in other Arab capitals. It is untrue to say there was no initiative from the West.
§ Sir F. Bennett
I did not say that. I did not say there had been no initiatives. The question which I was posing to all right hon. and hon. Members is that, whatever Dr. Kissinger may or may not have done, one of our aims within the next few weeks should be not to make the Arabs feel that they have no home to go to other than the Soviet Union. That is the only point which I am seeking to make in that context if we are to achieve an enduring peace and a settlement.
Surely we should realise that a crushing defeat of Israel would be unacceptable not only here but throughout the Western world. Such a defeat would obviously not lead to a tenable state of affairs. The Israelis would be driven to the most desperate ends if that position faced them. Nor do I believe that a lasting settlement would be achieved by a crushing defeat for the Arabs. If we think of the bitterness which is built up from century to century when a country has suffered successive defeats and is occupied by alien forces, it is clear that such bitterness continues over the centuries.
If there is another crushing defeat for the Arab States, they will retire once again to lick their wounds and to put themselves even further in pawn to the Soviet Union. Eventually the unhappy tragedy would be unfolded once again for the whole world to face, including Great Britain and this House.
I am guided by two factors. First, we should not adopt policies which drive the Arab States irrevocably into the arms of the Soviet Union, nor should we treat Israel unfairly. Secondly, we should not 455 stand idly by, and by a negative or positive move encourage a crushing defeat for either side. We would be singularly, blindly short-term in our thinking if we did so.
I have noticed that there is a tendency to try to allocate responsibility for aggression. I shall not yield to that temptation. When nations feel themselves passionately affronted, whether they be Arabs or Israelis, what we say will not affect their feelings of outrage. We must dismiss from our minds a one-sided outlook. Many hon. Members have been in this House a long time. We have seen repeatedly—for example, India and Pakistan—that it does no good for us to determine who is the aggressor. What matters is what the people on the spot think, and who they consider to have been the aggressor.
There is not the slightest doubt that both sides from time to time, and sometimes more clearly than at other times, have sought to gain a lasting advantage by hostilities. It would be folly to do otherwise than to agree that the physical aggression on this occasion took place from the Arab side. Yet I ask hon. Members to put themselves in the picture and to try to understand the feelings of those whose national territory is being occupied by someone else. If in this country there had been a large section of territory placed in foreign hands as a result of the last war, and if we had sought to get back that national territory, I doubt whether the British people would regard such action as aggression. That is a matter I plead with those who take a partisan view.
I endorse the remarks of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. We shall do no good now if we seek to allocate responsibility to one side or the other. Such action will not go towards a settlement. I expressed exactly the same opinion on the last occasion and on the occasion before that.
The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition was questioned closely about the lifting of the present embargo. With his usual facility he avoided giving a definitive answer. He avoided saying whether he was asking for the embargo to be lifted on both sides or only on one side.
§ Sir F. Bennett
What the right hon. Gentleman said can be checked in HANSARD tomorrow. I heard very well what he said and I shall repeat it. He said that he favoured the lifting of the embargo on both sides subject to the usual checks. I am not sure what "subject to the usual checks" means.
Let us assume that the tide of the war turns. Let us assume that Jordan invades Israel and that Jordan runs out of spare parts for its Centurion tanks and requires further spare parts. Will the right hon. Gentleman's statement that he favours an all-round lifting of the embargo subject to the usual checks cover such a contingency? Would Opposition hon. Members and some of my hon. Friends applaud my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he were to come to the House at a time when Jordanian troops were marching on Israel and to say, "I have had to respond to a plea to lift the embargo and supplies of ammunition and spare parts are on their way to Jordan."?
We all know that the response which would greet my right hon. Friend would be 10 times more antagonistic than the response which he has already received from certain sections. It is not honest for those who want the embargo on supplies to Israel lifted to claim that they equally want the embargo lifted for both sides. In their hearts they know different. My hon. Friends who are partisan to Israel know what it is that they mean. They do not mean that there should be an all-round lifting of the embargo. To make that clear would be a far more honest way in which to portray their feelings, but that has not been the way in which it has been done, at least by the Leader of the Opposition.
I do not believe that we should ever yield to blackmail from whatever source. Equally, if we are elected to this House we should not gratuitously take steps which will not improve the chances of an enduring peace. At the same time, we should not take steps which would harm the industrial life of this country. I have a shrewd suspicion that many hon. Members and many people outside this House are thinking in terms of petrol rationing as only affecting so 457 many gallons for a private car. I am not sure that everybody realises the extent to which the whole of our industrial life is affected—for example, workers, factories and power generators depend on the import of oil.
It is not to yield to blackmail to face the reality of the situation. If we were to do so because it appeared that there was no other way out and because it was thought that such action would bring peace, I should be the first to say, "Let us put up with any of the consequences because this will help to bring about peace". I do not believe that to drive the Arab countries into the arms of the Soviet Union will help to bring about an enduring peace. Nor do I believe that a crushing victory for either side will help the cause of peace. Hence I do not see why we should contemplate damaging the interest of this country for what I regard as a negative policy.
I have been interested to listen to those who have pleaded that once a contract has been drawn up there is a sanctity. It has been suggested that once arms sales have been arranged and promises made that the sanctity should be overriding and that we should fulfil our obligations. I have listened to debates in the past and I suspect that I shall live to hear differing views in future about the sanctity of such contracts. I am in no doubt that I shall suspect again that the propriety of sales of arms in various parts of the world will be often subject to differing selective interpretations according to individuals' prejudices.
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Christopher Mayhew (Woolwich, East)
I agree warmly with a number of points made by the hon. Member for Torquay (Sir F. Bennett)—and I hope that that does not embarrass him in his non-partisan aspirations. I particularly agreed with his common sense and clarifying remarks about the nature of aggression in this case. I want particularly to refer to what the Leader of the Liberal Party said about the arms embargo
The right hon. Gentleman's position seems to me to be consistent and to have principle in it. The Liberal Party has long been an avowed supporter of Israel and he takes the view that the embargo should therefore be lifted from an important shipment of arms to Israel and 458 thereafter reimposed on all countries. I disagree with that view but it has some principle in it, as I understand it.
What puzzles me is the attitude of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition. He, too, showed an undoubted and frank sympathy with Israel. I do not agree with that at all. Indeed, one might have expected him—I am glad that he did not—to take the view expressed by the Leader of the Liberal Party. But my right hon. Friend's view of the embargo is quite different. It is that it must be lifted for the Israelis and the Arabs, that we need to suspend it both for 10,000 rounds for Jordan and 4,000 rounds for Israel. My right hon. Friend could not have been plainer about this in the end, although I agree with the hon. Member for Torquay that it took a little getting to.
What is the moral principle behind that policy? Is it really the policy of the British Labour Party to sell arms to both sides in a bloody war? I was brought up on the theory that the private manufacture of weapons was immoral and should be abolished. The facts of life have pushed the party away from that. But I never thought that I would live to hear the Leader of the Labour Party saying that the private manufacture and sale of arms to both sides at once in a bloody war was Labour policy. It is inconceivable.
I would rather take the Russian view, or the American view. The European countries have imposed a total embargo which is what we have done. But the Americans and the Russians are at least being consistent and logical. The action of the Americans is not even in Israel's interest, according to my information or to the information available to the Foreign Secretary. I cannot understand how my right hon. Friend got himself into this position.
I have always supported the idea—and would do so now—of allowing arms to go from this country to Israel to increase her security within her own frontiers in support of a peaceful settlement in accordance with the United Nations charter. But that is not what the Leader of the Liberal party is suggesting. He is suggesting sending arms to Israel for use outside Israeli territory, in Arab lands, to help her maintain if not extend her conquered territories. The right hon. 459 Gentleman laid down no conditions. They could be used to conquer Damascus or Amman, to enable Israel, as she has done in the past, to decline to co-operate fully in a Resolution 242 settlement.
There are other conditions to be considered. Has the Leader of the Liberal Party considered that if the war continues there are likely to be serious internal security problems for Israel in the Gaza Strip and on the West Bank of the Jordan? Is he laying down conditions about the use of these British-made tanks for internal security? That has always been the policy of the Labour Party. I believe that the Leader of the Liberal Party protested when British-made Saracen armoured cars were used at Sharpeville. Does he want Centurion tanks used in Gaza and on the West Bank? Or has he not considered it?
What about the position of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition in this? I hope that the Opposition Front Bench will assure us that the Labour Party will in no circumstances send Centurions to Israel to be used in an internal security rôle against the Palestinians.
But the most important point, on which the House is most divided, on which the Israelis are most divided and which has done most to hold up a settlement—and it was reflected in the reaction below the Gangway on this side of the House when the Foreign Secretary referred to it—concerns what he called "preventing the destruction of the State of Israel". The Foreign Secretary said that he would prevent it. All through this debate we have heard resistance to any kind of compromise involving the withdrawal to Israel's frontiers because of a sincerely-held feeling below the Gangway and in Israel that if they got to the frontiers the Arabs would not stop there. I believe profoundly that this is the major difficulty we have to deal with.
I believe that it is the feeling in Israel that if ever they had a settlement which brought the Arabs to their frontiers the Arabs would escalate their demands, would start supporting the Palestinian solution for a united Jewish-Arab Palestine and dismantling the Israeli State. Therefore, they believe that what they are fighting for in keeping the Arabs outside, what they are fighting for in the 460 conquered territories, which they do not value, in themselves, is their existence, their survival, even the physical safety of themselves and their families. I believe that this is the basic problem we have to overcome. It is this fear in the minds of the Israelis—a fear which I know is shared by many of my hon. Friends below the Gangway—that this is what would happen in a settlement of the kind we are proposing.
I beg the Israelis themselves to try to analyse this feeling, to try to reason with themselves about how rational or how irrational it is. Some part of it at least is unreasonable. Those who have been to Israel, as I have, and have been on the receiving end of a great deal of Israeli opinion—hon. Members may imagine that—know that there is strong Israeli feeling, a feeling that goes so far as to imagine undisciplined Arab soldiers and terrorists at loose in Israel; it imagines massacre, even extermination. That feeling is there and we can none of us underestimate the obstacle it presents to the achievement of a peaceful settlement in the present circumstances. No one should deride those fears in a people with such a tragic and terrible history.
I do not need to spell out the settlement which we envisage but I am more optimistic than others. I see a settlement coming to the fore in which Israel agrees to withdraw to the pre-1967 frontiers as defined by Mr. William Rodgers, the former United States Secretary of State, and in which she also agrees to make some restitution to the Palestinians for the grievous sufferings she has imposed upon them, and, on the other side, in which she receives, as she can now both through Resolution 242 and from President Sadat's very moderate speech, recognition by her Arab neighbours, an end to the 26-year-old state of belligerancy, the freeing of the Suez Canal and the Gulf of Aqaba and a demilitarised zone on both sides of the pre-1967 frontiers, with an international force inside it, not recallable except by unanimous vote of the Security Council, unlike the case in 1967, and with British and French troops, and with, in addition, a conference at which President Sadat has said that Arabs and Israelis could meet face to face. The whole thing would be underwritten by a peace treaty guaranteed by the great Powers.
461 All this is on offer to Israel. I beg the Israelis now to accept a cease-fire and settlement terms of this kind. I am profoundly convinced that it is in their interest to do so, that they will do no good for themselves by continuing this fighting to the bitter end. I ask them to reflect back on the past and to consider whose advice to them has been soundest. Was it the advice of the friends of Israel or the advice of the critics of Israel? Was it the advice of those who said, "Be careful—the Arabs intend to drive the Israelis into the sea and you are right to be very careful to keep the enemy at a distance and to insist on preconditions for negotiations"?
Or were those right who said that Israel was wrong, that the balance of power was changing, that there could never be peace while she insisted on occupying the territory of her neighbours and therefore she should compromise while she is strong and agree to Resolution 242? Whose advice was best from the Israeli point of view? Let them listen less to some of their more bellicose friends who are trying to encourage, to help them to prolong the war, who are telling them not to accept a settlement or a cease-fire. Let them listen to those who tell them in complete sincerity that now is the time to accept the terms for the cease-fire and settlement available to them.
§ Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South-East)
May I intervene, as a non-bellicose friend? My hon. Friend has told us what is on offer for Israel in this search for a solution. I understood from President Sadat's speech that it was a precondition, that there should first be a withdrawal to the 1967 frontiers and then these things would be negotiable and perhaps, as my hon. Friend has said, would be fulfilled. Does he think it is reasonable to ask Israel to withdraw to the 1967 frontiers in advance of negotiations about particular matters which he says are are on offer?
§ Mr. Mayhew
I do not think it reasonable and I have never said that. What I have said is that they should agree to withdraw before negotiations begin. This is what President Sadat said, as my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition made clear. There is all the difference in the world between withdrawing before negotiations and 462 agreeing to withdraw before negotiations. That is what is at stake.
This is the important part. If we had this settlement then these fears I have been talking about will not be rational. For example, if we have this settlement no Arab soldiers will ever reach Israeli frontiers. None will even reach the borders of the demilitarised zone until that zone is occupied by an international force. Those who reach the zone will not be undisciplined mobs of soldiers and terrorists. They will be the soldiers of the Egyptian, Syrian and Jordanian armed forces who we now see to be good soldiers, who are disciplined and who have observed the rules of war.
These are the simple facts about a settlement and I wish those who had influence in Israel would convey them and try to put them across to the people of Israel rather than the stories we have heard so often, usually apocryphal, often taken out of context, often mis-translated, to the effect that the soldiers of the neighbouring countries wish to drive the Jews into the sea.
§ Mr. Mayhew
Perhaps I could repeat what I said on television two years ago. I offered £5,000 to anyone who could give me documentation for such a statement from any responsible Arab leader. I repeat the offer now. The statements are damaging, they are not true and they make a settlement infinitely more difficult.
§ Mr. Mayhew
I am sorry that I gave way. I have spoken of the unreasonable fears of the Israelis. May I deal now with what is a reasonable fear. That is a fear that the Palestinians will oppose and disrupt the settlement and seek the destruction of the Israeli State. The Israelis are right in thinking that a strong minority of Palestinians oppose a settlement of this kind. They do. But in the event of this settlement the situation is wholly changed.
When the settlement comes some Palestinians will continue demanding the whole loaf and there might be one or 463 two terrorists among them. But for the vast majority of Palestinians the settlement will transform their lives. Those on the West Bank will have the job and opportunity of building their own free Palestinian community. Hundreds of thousands of refugees will have the opportunity of returning to the occupied territories and building a new life there. Thus the militancy, the bitterness and frustrations of the Palestinians after a settlement will net be comparable with their frustrations and bitterness today or, even worse, as it might become if Israel does not make this move towards a settlement.
My plea to those who have influence in Israel is this: ask Israel to consider carefully whether her best interests would not be served by accepting the Resolution 242 settlement and cease-fire.
§ 5.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Hugh Fraser (Stafford and Stone)
We have heard the argument put forward today by the hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) many times before. It is a view which is scarcely relevant to what has happened today. What has happened is that the State of Israel has been, attacked, attacked on a holy day in the Jewish Year. What the hon. Member said therefore does not really reflect the realities of the situation. The realities are that a country has been attacked with a front-line strength of something like 2,000 tanks—
§ Mr. Fraser
—in an all-out attack. This is a question not of territory but of existence. This is an attack against the existence of Israel as a State. It is not for the hon. Gentleman or others to say that territory is the issue for the Israeli people. It is because they believe, after four wars in one generation, that there are those who are determined to thrust the Israelis into the sea.
That is why it is difficult for people in Israel to understand the point of view put forward by the hon. Gentleman. The issue before the House is infinitely more simple than trying to put forward great schemes for settling this matter. Many such schemes have been put forward over the years.
464 There are two issues here to which I want to address myself. The first is the question of the British Government and the arms embargo and the second is the question to which the right hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) addressed himself, the long-term interest of this country in the Middle East.
These two matters are inextricably interlinked and can be discussed as one. The first point deals with the talk by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary about level, even-handed action over the embargo. That is totally unacceptable when one looks at some of the facts. This is not a level or even-handed decision. It is undoubtedly regarded by the Israelis and anyone who has studied the immediate situation as a positive attack on the military situation. Israel is being attacked by the most sophisticated weapons in the world.
Those weapons are not even given to the satellite Slates. Now they are being hurled against Israel. More and more are being hurled every day as the forces fly in to Syria, Damascus and Cairo. This is the fact. Israel is fighting for her life, on the whole with equipment which is much more out of date than the equipment available to the other side. The question of ammunition for the Centurion tanks is of enormous importance. It is not a small matter. It is a matter of 4,000 rounds of antitank ammunition. I do not know how many hon. Members have taken part in an antitank battle. The character of armour-piercing ammunition is totally different from that put down in an artillery barrage. Armour-piercing ammunition of the type that we are committed to sell—that is to say, a tungsten penetrator with a cap built round it that falls away—is extremely difficult to manufacture. I do not think it can be obtained elsewhere. It is the key to Israel's tank defences.
To say that 4,000 rounds of this ammunition is a small matter for a country fighting for its life is to mistake the facts. Four thousand rounds of antitank armour-penetrating ammunition could have turned the battle of El Alamein. Four thousand rounds of this ammunition could knock out 400 tanks. My right hon. Friends on the Front Bench are saying that this is a small matter, but more is given to Jordan, and 465 Jordan is not engaged in the war except in a small way. Most of the Jordanian tanks are protecting the royal palace or along the river line, apart from the 30 or 40 which are helping the Syrians in their attack on Israel.
That is why what the Government have done can only be interpreted by the people of Israel as a hostile act. It is a great mistake for Her Majesty's Government to imagine that after this they can have any influence whatsoever in the Middle East.
§ Mr. Carol Mather (Esher)
Is my right hon. Friend aware that this ammunition is available from other countries?
§ Mr. Fraser
I am saying what will be the reaction of the ordinary Israeli and the Israeli chiefs of staff when they are told "We are terribly sorry, what we premised to give you we will not give you".
I am net sure that the 105-mm. ammunition of the armour-piercing type is available from other countries. I do not know that what my hon. Friend says or has been told to say by the Whips is even accurate. This ammunition is essentially of a British character and it is needed.
It therefore follows as clear as day follows night that my right hon. Friend and the Government will be regarded in Israel as perfidious characters. We shall be unable to do anything to bring together the two sides.
The right hon. Member for Devon, North touched on certain facts which are the key to our understanding of what this conflict is about. In the Middle East there is a struggle between the great Powers for hegemony and power. It would be foolish and weak-minded of us to imagine that our interests there are other than those of the United States of America. It may be said that we made a mistake over Suez, but in 1973 the interests of the West are concentrated on the American attitude to the Middle East, and the survival of Israel is essential to our interests. Any step, however feeble or vaguely malevolent, taken by the British Government which led to the destruction of Israel would be a disaster.
There is a danger after this aggression against Israel of the Foreign Secretary's 466 speech-writers rewriting the parable of the Good Samaritan in terms of the man who was on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho being kicked in the teeth.
§ 6.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Stewart (Fulham)
A great deal has been said and written over the years about the general situation in the Middle East but now that war has broken out we have to strip the argument down to its essentials. We shall never get it in the right perspective unless we realise that what is at issue is the right of the State of Israel to continue to exist. In framing a settlement many other factors have to be taken into account, but if we neglect that one we shall get nowhere
I must confess that when I held office there were occasions when I could not agree with the Israeli Government. In the years after the Six-Day War they snowed a lack of patience and a lack of flexibility—though, if I were an Israeli who had lived through the previous 20 years in mortal peril I do not know how much patience and flexibility would be left in my personality. I did occasionally warn Israel that not everything could be solved by Israel's strong right arm and valour, strong and valorous as she is.
Against those criticisms two factors should be considered. As doubt has been thrown on this it had better be reasserted. First, Israel after the Six-Day War, was prepared to accept and carry out Resolution 242 on the clear understanding that that meant the whole of Resolution 242. What she was not prepared to do was to carry out a clause about withdrawing from territories and then look round to see whether anything would be done about the rest of Resolution 242. Moreover, anyone who sincerely accepted Resolution 242 must have known that it was not a completely detailed treaty and that many details on doubtful points had to be filled in. Therefore, anyone who was sincere about accepting Resolution 242 would have been ready to meet the other side to reach an exact settlement based on Resolution 242.
The other factor to consider is the steady refusal of the Arab Governments to do that. I use the words "Arab Governments" deliberately because among the sufferers in this tragedy of the Middle East have been the people of 467 the Arab countries who are so desperately in need of good government and of some of the money which is now being spent on armaments to be spent on welfare. They are tragically encouraged to believe that a great benefit will accrue to them if Israel is mortally injured.
That is what the Arab Governments have done. Not only did they refuse to meet at the conference table, but from the time when Israel became a member of the United Nations the Arab Governments steadily refused to carry out the ordinary duties that one member of the United Nations has to another, particularly if that other is a neighbour.
For example, the Arab Governments continued to say that they were at war with Israel. They made repeated raids, harassed the Israelis and refused to come to the conference table. It is in that situation that one has to judge what is happening now.
When one remembers those essential facts, what follows if this conflict results in any substantial military advantage to the Arab Governments is that the struggle would be renewed at the first moment that suited them. It cannot be in the interests of peace in the Middle East or in the interests of Israel, Britain and the whole Western Alliance that this conflict should result in a substantial military advantage to the Arab Governments. None of us knows what the coming few days may bring. But I would set that as a guiding principle of how we should judge any proposals for a settlement.
It may be said that perhaps the Arabs are changing their minds. We were all interested and to some extent gratified by President Sadat's speech. I wish only that I had heard from him a speech like that a considerable time ago. But I am bound to wonder and still more the Israelis are bound to wonder whether, if the past 12 days had brought substantial military victory to the Arab Governments, that speech would have been made at all. Israel cannot be expected to barter away her security for the sake of a speech which unhappily still contains the impossible proposition that Israel must first withdraw before the rest of the agreement is tied up and settled firmly.
What we have to do if it is at all possible is to get back to Resolution 242 468 on the understanding this time that the parties will meet in a conference and work out the necessary details. That will not happen if in a week or two the Arab countries feel that what they have done recently has given them a substantial advantage and that they can therefore think in terms of trying again later on rather than in terms of coming to a conference table.
It is again in these contexts that one must judge the immediate problem before us today concerning the policy of Her Majesty's Government. It is always a serious matter to break a contract. I accept that circumstances, especially the outbreak of war, may create a situation in which it is right to do so. But I am sure that everyone will agree that we must look very closely at the reasons that we give for doing so.
What were the reasons in this case? The Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary said that he believed this to be the right policy for us and for everyone. That is the whole point. Most of us will agree that it is the right policy for everyone. But everyone is not pursuing it. If everyone was pursuing it we should be facing a totally different situation. We ask whether it is the right policy for us when quite plainly it is not everyone's policy.
The right hon. Gentleman went on to argue that it was even-handed. I put forward these points in any consideration of the reasons why it does not seem to me to be even-handed.
First, it does not take into account the comparative numbers of Centurions on both sides. With respect, the proportion of Centurions in the total armament of one side or the other is not what is in issue. What is in issue is the total amount on both sides. After all, the Jordanian army is nothing like as much in issue as the armies of the other Arab belligerents who are nothing like as dependent on Centurion spares and ammunition as Israel.
Secondly, the right hon. Gentleman's even-handed argument does not take into account the total balance of forces between Israel and her enemies. If that is taken into account it must be apparent that this embargo, coming when it does and in the form that it does, will make Arab success more likely so far as it 469 has any effect at all. Here I agree with a number of right hon. and hon. Members that the actual physical effect might not be all that great. But if it has any effect—and the Government will hardly defend their policy on the ground that it will not have any effect—it will be the wrong effect of encouraging the kind of result which will not promote a peaceful settlement in the future.
Thirdly, the right hon. Gentleman's argument does not take into account arms, some of which are of British origin, supplied to other Arab countries further from the field of conflict but which are now being thrown into the scales.
The fourth point is the very important one mentioned by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition. It is the presence on the Arab side now of considerable numbers of Russian TU62s. As my right hon. Friend said, if those had been supplied to the Arab countries when we were in office we should have taken a very different view of what we ought to make available to Israel. It appears therefore that while the present Government have been responsible for these matters the balance of armour has shifted considerably in favour of the Arab States, and that that is not taken into account when this embargo is called "even-handed".
The last reason why it is not even-handed is that it does not take into account the fact that the stakes of the two sides are very different. The worst that the Arabs face is defeat and disappointment. The Israelis face destruction.
§ Mr. Mayhew
Once again my right hon. Friend says that the Israelis face total destruction. That is the kind of language which makes a settlement infinitely more difficult. A peaceful Resolution 242 settlement does not mean total destruction for the Israelis.
§ Mr. Stewart
Of course it does not. But if out of this conflict there results a victory for the Arab Governments there will not be a Resolution 242 settlement.
If my hon. Friend really believes that he does not understand the situation at all.
The other argument used for the Government's policy is that the pursuit of what they are doing now may be helpful in enabling them to mediate later. If as a result of what they are doing now and as a result of other factors there is a substantial Arab success, as I was saying just now to my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew), all the resolutions and draft resolutions on the table of the Security Council will be swept into the dustbin. We shall not be speaking in terms of mediation then. We shall be speaking in terms of an arrogant victorious side which is not interested in a settlement.
Even if events turn out better than that, are we equipping ourselves to be a mediator by a gesture which is greeted on one side with indignation and on the other with amused contempt? Do not let the Government think that they will get any gratitude from the Arab Government. If their policy were even-handed, there would be very different reactions from the Middle East. If it were even-handed, I should have expected both Israel and the Arab countries all to be brusquely complaining about it—
§ Mr. Stewart
We are told that Jordan is. That was not public knowledge until today. Jordan, which is not a main belligerent, is said to have made a protest. Do we believe that the other Arab belligerents are protesting indignantly or feeling anything like what Israel feels about it?
It seems to me that none of these arguments stands up—[Interruption.] A number of my hon. Friends keep talking about the occupied territories. If the Arab countries had been prepared to come to a conference and if they had really meant what they said about Resolution 242, a settlement could have been achieved. If they had agreed to come to a conference table, signed a peace treaty and made it clear that they would live in peace with Israel, they would have been surprised at the concessions that they would have gained on every other point. The territories remain occupied 471 because the Arab countries were not prepared to take the necessary steps to put Resolution 242 into effect.
If as a result of our infirmity of purpose or for any other reason the conflict goes on to the destruction or to the reduction to servitude of the State of Israel, it will have three consequences. First, a State whose social order and method of government is a splendid example to mankind will have been removed from the map. Secondly, there will be planted in that part of the world a group of nations with no reason for gratitude towards Britain but with contempt for her, closely linked with the Soviet Union, altering the shift of power in the world and gravely endangering what were the great hopes of detente. Thirdly, the rule of law will be set at complete defiance, and countries like Britain, which is not one of the super-Powers, depend very much on the observance of the rule of law. Surely, on any analysis that looks further than the end of one's nose, these are British interests and it is these that the Government are neglecting.
§ 6.20 p.m.
§ Sir Douglas Dodds-Parker (Cheltenham)
The right hon. Member for Ful-ham (Mr. Michael Stewart) has had considerable experience in recent years of trying to solve this acute problem. I agree with much of his analysis but not with the conclusions to which he comes. I will not go backwards.
I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman, like every hon. Member is heart sick that we are again discussing the Middle East, for the fourth time as a war is raging in that part of the world between two branches of the great Semitic race who for so many centuries lived together in peace.
The Leader of the Opposition said that we all have many friends on both sides in this struggle. I have never believed, since 1948, that there will be complete victory for either side, but one day there must be a settlement acceptable to both sides in that part of the world.
Many hen. Members on both sides of the House try not to be partisan. It is much easier to be partisan, because whoever tries to reconcile the two sides will never get any thanks from either of them. They will never have any regard for the 472 peacemaker. It is said in the Book that is holy to all three religions in the Middle East that "blessed is the peacemaker." But he is pretty unpopular while trying to make peace. If he succeeds, well and good. If he does not, he certainly is not blessed.
I believe that in 1973, as never before, it is in the interests of this country, whose interests I am elected to represent, and of both sides in the struggle that the United Kingdom should try to act as the honest broker, which is what my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary is trying to do, when the time comes. The earlier that time comes, the better, as The Times set out in some detail in a leading article today.
I believe that there hopeful signs that both sides are prepared to consider a cease-fire and a conference leading to some settlement, however far-fetched the preconditions may be at present which both sides put forward. I believe that the declaration by the Foreign Secretary today has gone further than any other given by Her Majesty's Government in the last 25 years. I hope that it will help to reassure. Israel about some of the fears that have been expressed in this House today.
§ Dr. M. S. Miller (Glasgow, Kelvingrove)
Presumably the British Government were providing Israel with Centurion tanks, parts and ammunition for months, perhaps years, until new. What did Israel do on 6th October this year that made the British Government change their mind in that regard?
Sir D. Dodds-Parke?
It is no use putting that question to me. I am not a member of the Government. The hen. Gentleman must address that point to the Government or make it in a speech in due course. I am sure that if the hon. Gentleman manages to catch your eye Mr. Speaker, and puts that question, whoever replies to the debate will answer it.
§ Mr. R. J. Maxwell-Hyslop (Tiverton)
Is it not possible that on that day Israel was maintaining huge numbers of her armed forces in her neighbours territory contrary to the United Nations resolution? Surely that is what Israel was doing.
§ Sir D. Dodds-Parker
That is another point which it is for hon. Members on 473 both sides to put to the Government. I believe that the declaration made by my right hon. Friend should reassure the Israelis and remove some of the fears that have been expressed in the debate today.
I believe that any final settlement must be a package based broadly on the 1956 suggestion, in the Johnson Plan, that includes security, frontiers, access by sea, Jordan waters and refugees. I believe that one can see a better chance of a settlement today. Like the hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew), I am more optimistic, strange though it may seem at the moment, than I have been for some time. Were the political will present, it would not be too difficult for heads of agreement to be reached. I do not wish to embarrass those concerned on either side, many of whom I have known for a number of years, by naming them in this House. They have lived with this problem for a long time and know what would be an acceptable settlement. In my view, a solution is possibly nearer today than it has been in the past.
I have spent the last three days at the European Parliament in Strasbourg among Members who feel as do hon. Members in this House. Everybody to whom I spoke said that Europe should have a European policy on this matter. Although there is considerable divergence of opinion at the moment, I believe that emerging fairly rapidly is the idea of a European policy towards the Holy Land. They are working towards it in diplomatic moves. They will not do it by public statements and debate, because that is not the way to reach a solution. However, the European Declaration was welcomed by both sides in the Middle East. I understand that our European colleagues are taking the same line as ourselves on an arms embargo.
I do not want to go into the details, but the Leader of the Opposition seemed to be suggesting that we should raise the embargo "subject to the usual checks". Of course, any Government could say "We will raise the embargo, but the checks show that we should not make any deliveries". Perhaps that would satisfy the right hon. Gentleman and allow us to proceed with unanimity this evening. However, that would not be entirely straightforward. We must 474 make it clear that we are putting on an embargo. I will not use pejorative terms about what would happen if we took off the embargo, but I can imagine some hon. Members saying rude things.
I have for many years advocated that as the super-Powers are now partisan in this issue, Europe should be willing to underwrite any settlement. After all, Europe has great historic ties—religious, cultural and trade—with the Eastern Mediterranean. Those of us who work in Europe find that these ties are getting stronger every day and are frustrated only by this Arab-Israel problem in one part of that area.
Therefore, I again put forward the suggestion that, when it comes to a settlement, we in this country should play our part within Europe as one area not committed to either side in the struggle in helping to reach a settlement. It is in the interests of world peace, of Europe and of this country that we should get a settlement.
My experience in the past, and particularly the last few days, leads me to believe that nobody is better placed than my right hon. Friend by personal authority and experience to work towards some settlement of this issue. I hope that the House will tonight show the greatest degree of support for the Government on the line they are taking.
We must remain neutral, whatever emotions any of us may feel at one time or another. If we breached that neutrality it would not necessarily help one side or the other. Some details have been given about figures today; but it was the practice, starting in 1950, not to give such details. I also believe that to breach our neutrality would destroy our ability to help stop the fighting, which I am sure is the object of everyone in this House and beyond, and to work towards a permanent settlement.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. It is obvious that many hon. Members wish to speak in this debate and I hope that it will be possible for those who catch my eye to confine themselves to about 10 minutes each.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Raymond Fletcher (Ilkeston)
There is no need for me to remind the House, particularly those hon. Members 475 on this side, where I stand in relation to Israel. I am a partisan of Israel. I have been a partisan of Israel for many years and I state the fact without any qualification. But I feel that it is my duty in this debate only to make one or two observations about what the general attitude of this country and of Her Majesty's Government should be in the unfolding situation in the Middle East.
The first point I wish to make, again rather dogmatically and without qualification, is that, unfortunately, I see the Middle East through exactly the same pair of spectacles as I see Europe, the Far East, Latin America and even North America. The principles which I try to apply to my observations on one continent apply equally to the others. Questions are raised about the legitimacy of Israel's existence and the legitimacy in law and in morality of Israel's presence on the Golan Heights and in Sinai. The same questions could be directed at other countries.
Britain has a presence in West Berlin not because of our superior morality but by right of conquest. I firmly support our right to be there. We are in Gibraltar as a result of a dubious treaty contracted more than two centuries ago. I firmly support the British presence in Gibraltar in defiance of the whole General Assembly of the United Nations organisation. We are in Hong Kong because opium wars were fought in the early part of the nineteenth century. We remain in Hong Kong not only because it is right for us to remain, but primarily because the Chinese, very sensibly, being very good businessmen want us to remain. If we were to raise questions of legitimacy against these three areas where we have a presence, we might go down if we approached it in the same arid way in which so many hon. Members approach the Middle East.
I cannot for the life of me see why there should be a special category reserved in the world today for the Arab States and Arab interests. There is a special reason for the Foreign Office considering very carefully what the Arab States want and what the Arab States may be, but I have never regarded due consideration for our oil supply as being a matter of the highest moral principle. Nevertheless, there is a general feeling 476 in certain quarters of the House that, for historical reasons, we must pay special attention to the Arab States and Arab interests. Of all the people who have been sinned against in the world since it exploded in violence 34 years ago, the Arabs have apparently been more sinned against and demand more consideration than any others.
When I was trying to compose my speech I heard from other hon. Members the sort of speech which I intended to make and there was an intervention from one of my hon. Friends about what had happened to Palestine. I replied that something happened to other countries in the course of the Second World War and as a consequence of that war. Something happened to Prussia, and here I inject a personal note. I have never had the misery of being a refugee but my wife has. She comes from East Prussia. Her family were driven out of East Prussia as one of the consequences of the Second World War. My father-in-law was murdered in what is now the German Democratic Republic. But my wife has never, as a consequence of these tragic events, indulged in hate propaganda against the Soviet Union, still less has she campaigned for a war of revenge in the Federal Republic of Germany. My wife is known to many hon. Members and her attitude is shared by our whole family and myself. Despite my wife being a refugee and despite the loss of my father-in-law, we have never felt that we should bang the drum for a war of revenge against the victor powers of World War Two.
The great majority of Germans are now taking the same attitude, as their voting behaviour indicates. They support a Chancellor who has accepted post-war realities in Eastern Europe and the new eastern frontiers of Germany. If the Germans can accept that in the interests of peace, why cannot the Arabs? What makes the Arabs so special? Why do they deserve more consideration than all the others who suffered from the splintering effects of World War Two and the immediate postwar consequences?
Why do so many assume that there is nothing wrong in the attack on Sinai or the Golan Heights because those territories—and this I do not deny—are Arab territories? Attacking with armed 477 forces is, after all, attacking with armed forces, whatever the historical justification may be. We live in an age when the very concept of victory has to be removed from the military and even the political vocabulary. No one can win in 1973, given the type of weapons which have to be used in armed conflicts, if these conflicts persist for any time.
I repeat, what is so special about the Arab claims? Why is it so impossible for the Arabs to take the same path as 10 million German refugees have taken in the last 25 years, in the Federal Republic, of relying on peaceful though painfully slow negotiation? What makes the Arabs so special? Why do they have to go to war when other ways are open to them?
My hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew), in what I thought was the best speech he has made in the House for some time on this question and to which I listened very carefully, said that certain options were open to the Israelis. He made the point that President Sadat had offered, at a certain stage, to meet the Israelis face to face in peaceful negotiations. When was this offer made? To whom was it extended? Why is it that no one in this House has ever heard of it? I do not pretend to be in the confidence of the Israeli Government. I have no influence, bellicose or otherwise, on the Israeli Government. I do not presume to make such a claim, but I am one Member of this House who would have heard very quickly if such an offer had been transmitted, no matter how secretly the channels through which it was transmitted.
The plain fact is that the Arabs have consistently since 1967 demanded a special role for themselves in the councils of the world and have repudiated those methods of negotiation to which other countries with grievances have had to resort. In these circumstances the interests of this country, and the interests of any British Government that correctly assesses the interests of this country, lie in world order. There may be injustices embedded in that world order. There are injustices embedded in our existing system of industrial relations in this country, but those of us who know something about industrial relations would never take the path of the Angry 478 Brigade, as I fear the Arabs have done on an international scale.
Accepting that the world order as we know it can embody injustices and perpetuate historic wrongs, the alternative to world order is not victory of the Arab States or even of Israel. It is disorder and chaos, and the chaos would be infinitely worse perhaps than world war three, which it would closely resemble.
In so far as the British Government have influence—and I think it has been virtually demolished by the decision against which I intend to vote—the whole of it should be directed to preserving order and then to remedying the injustices which were built into that order. Israel can win four or five wars but can never win complete victory on the battlefield, for reasons which we know quite well. Because of the disparity in populations and in equipment, Israel is constantly under threat as long as the present situation continues.
We have lost whatever influence we may have had with Israel and, for reasons slated by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition—on this occasion I find myself at one with him—we have given the impression that we do not particularly care what happens to Israel and that we accept, if I may use the patois of industrial relations negotiations, that the Arabs are a "special case" and are entitled to special consideration. In the present context, we must struggle to preserve some kind of working order in the world. Consequently, I shall do my duty by voting against the Governments decision in the Lobby tonight.
§ 6.42 p.m.
§ Sir Henry d'Avigdor-Goldsmid (Walsall, South)
You, Mr. Speaker, have been good enough to give me 10 minutes in which to speak. I shall not abuse your kindness. I apologise to the hon. Member for Ilkeston (Mr. Raymond Fletcher) for not commenting on his remarks, although I do not find myself in much disagreement with them.
It is correct that I should first declare an interest. For the last 25 years I have been actively engaged in fomenting, encouraging and building up agricultural colonies in Israel. It is a non-profit-making activity, but it does not leave me emotionally half-hearted. Emotionally I am entirely one-sided in this matter.
479 We had a debate on this problem on 31st May 1967, when I was sitting on the benches opposite. The circumstances then were very different. As a supporter of the State of Israel, I saw it as being seemingly on the point of being overwhelmed by the massed Arab forces on each side of it. I prayed for the intervention of the major Powers—the United States and Russia—to prevent what seemed to be the inevitable holocaust and the obliteration of Israel, which we were promised and which I think most of us expected.
But the miracle happened. There was the Six Day War which the Israelis won by an unbelievable margin. I am sorry to say that I think the completeness and speed of that victory has had an influence which is not entirely useful. Most of us in Europe know that wars are long and painful and do not end in the way one expects. Nor do we feel that we solve any problems by them. In 1918 Siegfried Sassoon, after the war in which he played a gallant part, went on the salt marshes when the armistice was signed. I was in a military hospital at the corresponding time in 1945 and that was not the most auspicious circumstances in which to celebrate. People do not celebrate victories which are won at such cost.
I hope I shall not be regarded as being hypocritical, bat I am sorry to say that the Israelis won too easily. They got the impression that they could ride roughshod over their neighbours whom they thought were a contemptible military force. Clearly the Arabs, who are an ancient race, were not prepared to live with that, and we have seen in 10 days of bitter bloodshed, which does not show much sign of ending, the price which is exacted for undervaluing one's opponents.
The traumatic experience which the Israelis enjoyed in 1967 is behind them and they must think in terms of 1973. They had the idea that overwhelming scientific knowledge, technological sophistication in modern weapons and well-trained and brave soldiers are the answer. They may be the answer, but their aim cannot be achieved without much and huge suffering such as that which is going on.
Sir H. d'Avigder-Goldsmid
It would be fairer not to give way; I am limiting myself to 10 minutes.
This may be purely romanticism, but I believe that in future the Israelis will look quite differently on their Arab neighbours. Whatever their thoughts, they will realise that the Arabs are not simply the squalid nuisance which they seem to have been over the past 20 years. They are people to regarded. Clearly one can in certain circumstances come to terms with people whom one regards. I should not be taken as supporting the hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew). I am not suggesting capitulation, and I do not think there is any question of capitulation. I go further: the Israelis will fight; they will not stop. However, I am worried when I learn from an article in The Times about the sophisticated weapons which have not yet played their part in the battle, one of which is called the Jericho. I. know nothing of such instruments. Some of us have guesses about the atomic capability of Israel. Do any of us think that Israel will surrender without deploying every ounce of muscle? Of course she will not.
That brings me to the arms embargo. I shall not quarrel with my hon. Friends about 4,000 rounds of ammunition. However, I cannot agree with what has been said about "even-handed justice". There is no such thing as even-handed justice when Israel fights for its life with Centurion tanks, Jordan, wisely enough, keeps them in reserve and the Syrians and Eqyptians do not have them.
I remind my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary of a quotation from Macbeth in the Financial Times today:This even handed justice commends the ingredients of our poison'd chalice to our own lips.This is my lesson. I shall not seek to drink or hand on this poisoned chalice to someone else. I shall vote against it tonight.
§ 6.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Pannell (Leeds, West)
I am glad to follow the hon. Member for Walsall, South (Sir H. d'Avigdor-Goldsmid), whom I have known for a very long time. He declared his interest at the start, and I think that anybody rising in this debate at this time of night 481 who has listened to most of the speeches should declare his interest.
I have completed something like 24 years as a representative of the City of Leeds, which I believe has one of the highest, if not the highest, percentage of Jews in the United Kingdom. One could not share the friendship of those people without understanding what a community they are. They are largely locked together in suffering, which is their past, but if there is anything that will unite them in the future it is the survival of the State of Israel. It represents something far more than merely terrain, and it often exposes them to the charge which my hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Faulds) brought against them, that they are people of a dual nationality.
That is part of the answer that I would make to the point put by my hon. Friend the Member for Ilkeston (Mr. Raymond Fletcher) who said that the people in Germany do not have the continuing hatred that the Arabs appear to have. I can only tell him that the continuing memories of the Jews who suffered at the hands of the Germans are an essential element in their lives, and unless one realises that one will not understand them at all.
§ Mr. Maurice Edelman (Coventry, North)
My right hon. Friend has made a very important point. He quoted my hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Faulds) and he referred to the question of dual nationality. I hope that he is not supporting the thought that Jews in this country have dual nationality. Jews in Britain have a single allegiance to this country. They have sympathies with their fellow Jews dating very often, alas, from a tragic past.
§ Mr. Pannell
I thought I made it perfectly clear that I was quoting what my hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick said.
§ Mr. Pannell
Dual loyalty or dual nationality, it does not matter which, for this purpose. An old friend of mine who has just died, who served all through the war, used to say, "I do not know whether I am a Jewish Yorkshireman or a Yorkshire Jew." I knew what he meant, because his loyalties were absolutely fundamental. I am merely trying to make the point that nothing else of which I know, from my mental and spiritual experience, can be likened to the fervent hope that goes out from the Jewish community for the sustenance of the State of Israel.
So when at the beginning of this year I was asked to lead a parliamentary delegation to Egypt, I took with me all of my prejudices, all of my animosities and all of my opinions—largely from Leeds—about Egypt. We arrived a day or two after the Libyan air crash, when an aircraft had been brought down by the Israelis. I have read everything that has been written on the subject and I do not want to give an opinion today about who was responsible. But when we arrived in Egypt there was a curtain of hostility and we were subjected to a great deal of interrogation. There was an attempt on the part of the Egyptian Prime Minister to issue a joint communique, in which the British parliamentary delegation would have condemned something which they considered to be an atrocity. But I told them that the Minister of Slate was coming out the following week and it was for him to issue a joint communique. But having talked to the Egyptian Prime Minister for one-and-a-half hours and having met the friendly people all over the country, the words of Norman Angell were borne in upon me He said,Wars are not fought by bad men believing they are wicked, but by good men on both sides passionately believing they are right.Considering the rather one-sided speeches that I have heard here today, it seems to me that that is a truth which has to be appreciated.
When one speaks about the influence of Russia on Egypt and the Arab countries, one needs to go up to the High Dam at Aswan and see all the benefits that Russian involvement has brought to that country on such a vast scale. As an engineer, I would say that it is one of the engineering wonders of the world and 483 it leaves one gasping. It is no use mixing up terms such as "democracy", because, fundamentally, the Arab people are a feudal people. I want to say straight away that I am as appalled as anybody at the brooding presence of Russia in the Middle East but I can understand it, and it is due to Foster Dulles, Eisenhower and the sheer stupidity of Anthony Eden. If we understand that, it is easier to understand a nation's history.
The Egyptians said, "We cannot have these people"—meaning the Israelis—"indefinitely on our soil". I asked them when they were going to shift them and they said, "Probably before the end of the year." There is no doubt about the terrific resentment against the presence of the Israelis on what is regarded as Egyptian soil. One of the factors which annoyed them—and I hope that I am not blamed in Leeds for these opinions—was what they considered to be the Israeli arrogance and the setting up of communities in the Sinai Desert. My understanding of what the Israelis and Egyptians wanted in the way of a confrontation is not the view put out here this afternoon. When I asked the Egyptians, "Why will you not have a direct confrontation with the Israelis?", they replied, "In that sort of confrontation we would be there only as the conquered in front of the conquerors. So we shall have a confrontation under the aegis of a world community or any other form of negotiation you like."
They gave almost biblical significance to Resolution 242 which I must say—because its authorship does not seem to have been recognised here today—came largely from the inspiration of George Brown. They want the implementation of Resolution 242, which involves going back to the 1967 frontiers. But we all know that that is just not "on", because one benefit of the present position is that the present unpleasantness has not broken out on Israeli soil. There needs to be a great buffer zone between the countries.
One therefore looks to what will come out of all this. One must consider this in the context of the peace that one hopes will come. It seems that the United States and Russia are fighting a war by proxy, piling in arms on both sides, but we know that at the end of the day by 484 the direction only of these super-Powers—both of them; it is not a one-sided idea—peace will be imposed in the Middle East. I do not know whether there will be a buffer State in which there will be a cease-fire area of 25 miles or so, but something like that will have to be done at the end of the day.
I had no doubt that the Egyptian people passionately wanted peace. The whole thing was bedevilled by what Nasser said in 1967 about driving the Israelis into the sea. That language is not used nowadays. Reference has been made to what Sadat said. I thought that it was said before the Egyptian Parliament a day or two ago. I have read a long account of that.
§ Mr. Raymond Fletcher
Will my right hon. Friend tell us exactly what was said, and whether at any point President Sadat offered direct negotiations with Israel to end this conflict?
§ Mr. Pannell
That was my comprehension. I do not know whether the Minister of State can underwrite that.
§ The Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Lord Balniel)
I think that it is point 2 of President Sadat's speech, and as monitored by the BBC the words are:We are prepared to accept a cease-fire on the basis of the immediate withdrawal of the Israeli forces from all the occupied territories, under international supervision, to the pre-5th June 1967 lines.I hope that that is a correct interpretation.
§ Mr. Pannell
I think that that involves the recognition of the State of Israel, which is important.
I passionately believe in the State of Israel, for many of the reasons given by my hon. Friends. It is a democratic Socialist State. When I went there I marvelled because so many of the things that we in this country see as dim in the future are coming true there now. I recognise the dynamic of its citizens who serve not only in war but in peace, too. One of the things that we lack in this country is that we do great things in time of war but appear to disunite in time of peace.
The Israelis have learned their lesson. The continuing war is welding them together as a terrific community which at 485 any price must be cherished. I do not brush on one side issues such as the balance of payments, sterling balances, the threat to oil supplies, and the vulnerable position in which we find ourselves in the world, but those are secondary considerations. This is a time when men must stand up and be counted.
§ 7.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Dennis Walters (Westbury)
My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary made an important and moderate speech, the kind of speech that one would expect from a British Foreign Secretary at a time of crisis. The Leader of the Opposition made an extraordinary speech. Quite apart from his posture over the arms embargo, he did not speak as the Leader of Her Majesty's Opposition. He spoke as a committed Zionist, a Socialist Zionist, but nevertheless a committed and emotional Zionist. It was a strange performance.
The Leader of the Liberal Party spoke about the obliteration of Israel. My right hon. Friend the Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Hugh Fraser) repeated that view more dramatically. The right hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. Michael Stewart) put forward a similar view. But this is simply not true. Why is it that people are not prepared to accept that nobody is talking about destroying Israel? President Sadat has said, and repeated, that such an end is the opposite of the aims of the Egyptians, the Jordanians and the Syrians. Surely it must be in the interests of the friends of Israel to accept that what is being asked for is Resolution 242 and the 1967 boundaries.
There is a Zionist campaign directed at whipping up feeling. It is seen in the attitude adopted towards the Foreign Office. The other day there was an article in The Times by the right hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Cross-man), perhaps the leading British Zionist if this position has not now been pre-empted by the right hon. Member for Stepney (Mr. Shore), in which he alleged that the Foreign Office was wildly pro-Arab.
The reason for all this is that Zionists will not forgive the fact that the Foreign Office is concerned primarily with British interests. Is that so extraordinary? That is what a British Foreign Office should be concerned with. The Israeli Foreign 486 Office should be concerned primarily with Israeli interests, and it would be odd if it were not.
§ Mr. Walters
I shall not give way, because of the time. And this campaign is being orchestrated in spite of the fact that Israel is not threatened and that this fact has been repeated by all the relevant Arab leaders.
The new outbreak of fighting in the Middle East started precisely because, as my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said at Blackpool last week, it was not possible for the Arabs to continue indefinitely gazing across a cease-fire line at their lands without war erupting, and that is what some hon. Members on both sides of the House have been saying consistently for the last five years.
Let us look at the record. Hon. members will know that that interruption we have just seen from the Gallery is typical of what goes on at every meeting—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Robert Grant-Ferris)
Order. Perhaps the hon. Member will resume his seat for a moment and continue when order has been restored.
§ Mr. Walters
After that bit of fun I can go back to saying that an examination of the record strengthens my conviction that it was despair at the attitude of the United States and the failure to make any progress towards an acceptable peaceful settlement that were the primary causes of the last round of the war.
When I spoke to President Sadat in Cairo about four weeks ago, his major disappointment over the policy of the United States was the central theme of our conversation. He found it profoundly difficult to understand why, in spite of his response to the Jarring questionnaire of two years ago, the expulsion of the Russians last year and the repeated series of diplomatic overtures in public speeches, the United States continued to pursue a course which seemed almost slavishly in line with Israeli policy however hawkish.
Resolution 242, passed unanimously nearly six years ago, states categorically in its preamble that the acquisition of territory by force is inadmissible. That unequivocal statement stands in spite of 487 the many legalistic and largely irrelevant arguments about the exact meaning of "territory". Withdrawal on the one hand and the recognition of Israel behind secure and recognised boundaries were the essence of the resolution.
The next important milestone was the Egyptian response to the Jarring questionnaire of February 1971. I regret that the right hon. Member for Fulham did not mention that. In its response, Egypt declared its readiness to enter into a peace agreement with Israel and in particular to terminate all states of belligerency, to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of both parties and to respect the right of the two parties to live in peace within secure and recognised boundaries. It also declared its acceptance of non-interference in the internal affairs of each party, liberty of navigation in the Suez Canal and the Straits of Tiran, the stationing of United Nations forces at Sharm-el-Sheikh, and demilitarisation of certain areas. That can all be read by anybody who wishes to read the documents and take an objective view of the situation and not a biased or slanted view.
The Israeli response to the Jarring questionnaire did not embody any of the commitments sought. It ignored them completely. But in spite of the negative response by Israel, the United States failed to put on any pressure, which Mr. Rogers had privately assured the Egyptians he would do in the event of a positive Egyptian response. Instead it supplied a further number of Phantom strike aircraft. That caused a serious political situation in Egypt, where President Sadat's position was seriously threatened because, in spite of his major concessions, he had apparently achieved nothing. There was an attempted coup by Ali Sabri, which fortunately failed, but inevitably that and the American behaviour were not forgotten.
The next important development was the expulsion of the Russian military advisers by Egypt in the summer of 1972. This courageous and, in the view of many objective observers, rash step by the Egyptian President, although it evoked a warm and constructive response from Britain and France, completely failed to move the American position. When I 488 spoke to President Sadat in September 1972, soon after those events, his disillusionment and disappointment with the negative American reaction were overwhelming and acute.
In July this year the next step was a United Nations Resolution which was submitted to the Security Council, reaffirming Resolution No. 242 and endorsing the February 1971 proposals of Ambassador Jarring. The Resolution went on to oppose any changes in the occupied territories which might obstruct a settlement or affect the rights of the inhabitants, and to ask the Secretary-General to resume peace efforts. It stressed respect for the rights and legitimate aspirations of the Palestinians, and finally it expressed serious concern at Israel's lack of co-operation with the United Nations Middle East peace efforts and its continued occupation of the territories occupied in 1967. Our Permanent Representative, Sir Colin Crowe, in supporting the resolution on behalf of Britain, indicated that it was fully in line with Resolution No. 242. The resolution was vetoed by the United States.
At that stage a number of us asked ourselves what would happen next, what further diplomatic move the Egyptions hoped would take place. Many of us thought that war was inevitable sooner or later.
What are Britain's interests? In the war it used to be said that they were oil and communications. We lost communications in 1956. There is now a danger to oil. There has always been a third interest which bracketed the other two: that the area should be at peace. That has not happened because of a non-peaceful presence in the area, the State of Israel, becoming increasingly nationalistic and aggressive and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, South (Sir H. d'Avigdor-Goldsmid) said in a moving speech, over-confident as a result of its sensational victory in 1967. Looking at the situation from the point of view of Britain, I would say that it is the Arabs who can provide us with the communications and oil that we need, and also share our interests in the sort of stability that should be arranged.
When we try to find some of the positive factors in the present situation, it might be pointed out that often things keep on going round in circles until a 489 new element is introduced. The 1967 war was a new element. Now, in a quite different way, a new element is the war which started 10 days ago. It has shown Egypt acting independently and unexpectedly. It has shown that the Egyptians and Syrians can fight well, that their officers can get them to the right place at the right time and that they know how to handle modern weapons, including sea and air weapons. [An HON. MEMBER: "Russian weapons."] Whatever the outcome, the situation will never be the same again.
Egypt and Syria have gone into battle saying that they are fighting for the cause of peace. No doubt that is what people always say when they go to war, but on the whole Arabs have not said it in the past. I think they mean it. I believe that they are genuinely willing to talk peace, if peace is now what the Israelis really want—peace, not territories.
I should like an assurance from my right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary that there is the closest consultation with our European partners on the question of the Middle East. In spite of all that has been said about the loss of British influence in the area, I believe that British influence there is infinitely greater today than it has been for many years and that an offer by Britain for a European or Anglo-French peace-keeping force on the ground at the right moment would have a significant effect.
§ 7.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Maurice Edelman (Coventry, North)
The hon. Member for Westbury (Mr. Walters), who has just advocated the Egyptian case so ably, used the term "Zionist" in an opprobrious sense. I remind him that Sir Winston Churchill was not ashamed to apply that label to himself. In view of the greatness of one who was concerned with British interests and world peace, the application of that label to Sir Winston Churchill establishes it as one not inconsistent with the interests of Britain. Indeed, my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition said today that the subject of the debate was Britain's interests and the interests of world peace. Few in the Chamber tonight will disagree with that.
Everyone must deplore the carnage that is taking place. Everyone wants to see a cease-fire bringing an end to a 490 slaughter that has been on a scale not exceeded by anything during the Second World War. The fact that Israel is asking that the arms embargo should be raised, when it will mean that she will obtain 4,000 shells compared with at any rate the potential 10,000 shells for Jordan's Centurions, is a measure of the desperation of the battle.
I want to recall briefly the circumstances and conditions in which the situation has arisen. The war was not a spontaneous outbreak of rage of countries which were looking across the frontiers at the occupied land. It was a product of careful preparation by Egypt and Syria to break the cease-fire with Soviet connivance and help. It was a war prepared and supported by the Soviet Union for many years, and that preparation began long before the Six-Day War on which occasion Israel made her pre-emptive strike against troops massed by President Nasser on its frontiers.
After Israel's victory the Soviet Union, perhaps understandably, burned with resentment because Israel had captured quantities of Soviet equipment in the Sinai Desert. What hurt the Russians was not Israel's alleged aggression in 1967. After all, the invaders of Czechoslovakia had no reason to claim that they were not aggressors themselves. What they objected to was that Israel had defied them. More than that, Israel, having defied them, continued to defy them by giving support to immigrants from the Soviet Union who were intellectual dissenters who established that the Soviet Union was not a worker's paradise but a country they should get away from as quickly as possible.
No one should be hoodwinked by the fact that Soviet technicians retreated from Syria before the outbreak of hostilities as if to suggest that somehow the Soviet Union, alarmed by the possibilities of the outbreak of war, decided to have nothing to do with it. On the contrary, although President Sadat invited some of the Soviet technicians to leave, there remained behind the most expert technicians dealing with rocketry and with weapons such as SAM and Frog. They left them behind so that when Egypt and Syria struck they would have the benefit of this expertise and advice.
491 The day after the war broke out the Antonovs started arriving with supplies for Egypt and Syria at the rate of about 800 tons a day. What was the Foreign Secretary's response to that? Was it to aid Israel in her hour of difficulty when action had been taken against her in breach of the cease-fire previously agreed? No, the response of the Foreign Secretary was primarily to order an embargo on arms which could mean only damage to Israel. The Egyptians relied on the Russians. Jordan was not in the war and was therefore exempt from the ban. Syria was being supplied by Russia in large quantities and sustained and supported by Soviet technicians who could be seen at any time in Damascus. Only Israel, which relied to such great measure on Centurion tanks, was hurt.
The Foreign Secretary has come forward with his talk of non-intervention—one of those double-talk expressions which the Foreign Office provides with such skill. It provided them at the time of the Spanish Civil War when in the name of non-intervention, while the German Nazis and the Italian Fascists were able to pour arms into Spain in aid of Franco, the accredited Government of the day was denied the arms with which to defend itself.
After non-intervention came appeasement which the Foreign Secretary supported so ardently in 1938 and which was the prelude to war.
Now the policy of alleged non-intervention has been described by the Foreign Secretary as even-handed. I recall him the other day using a simile, moving his hands about in order to show that the even-handedness was merely a matter of balancing two weights. But what sort of even-handedness is it that shackles a side relying on British supplies while it leaves the other side free to obtain massive quantities of Russian arms to the detriment of Israel?
Let us conceive something that is almost impossible. Let us conceive that Israel had promised Britain certain vital commodities if the need arose and when the moment came for those commodities to be supplied simply broke its word and its contract. After the Six-Day War General de Gaulle, with a certain cynicism and with a strong commercial sense, 492 decided he would sell arms to Libya. I was in Paris the day the decision was taken. I believe that I was the first to be told by M. Maurice Schumann that the Mirages were to be sent to Libya and he gave me an assurance that in no circumstances would they be allowed to be transferred from Libya to any of the potential combatant countries in the area. Everyone knew that that was cynicism. Everyone knew that in time of need those aircraft would be transferred to the friends of Libya who wanted to fight Israel.
I ask the Foreign Secretary whether there is not an element of that kind of cynicism in the even-handedness which he refers to with such persuasiveness. He has spoken of Britain able to use its good offices to restore peace. Does he imagine that anyone in Israel and far beyond will believe that, not in view of his having shown even-handedness—because the moment has come to dismiss the term—but in view of his having shown effective partiality, an objective partiality perhaps, and not a partiality intended, against Israel in the supply of arms? Does he believe that Israel or anyone sympathetic with Israel, including America, will imagine that he is qualified to be a mediator in the conflict? I do not believe that. Nor do I believe there is any validity in his undertaking that should Israel's position become dire, the matter will be reconsidered and possibly the embargo raised.
How will he measure these things? So far his policy of even-handedness has consisted of getting intelligence reports and of giving licences for arms to be exported from one side to another. But how will he gauge when the circumstance arises that Israel is in such a position that it is right for the embargo to be lifted and arms to be exported there? Will it be when the Egyptians and Syrians are at the gates of Tel Aviv and Haifa? Will he suddenly decide by an act of inspiration that the time has come to succour these people who are fighting with their backs to the sea for survival? Is that when he will decide that the embargo must be lifted? If that moment were to come he would be unable to send arms. All he would be able to send would be condolences.
What does the Foreign Secretary imagine he can do when he seeks to appease, because that is the word and 493 no doubt he will forgive me if I dwell upon it. As my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition said, I do not want to be contumacious. Why does he retain his concern for appeasement in the present conflict? Whom is he seeking to appease by immobilising Israel's Centurion tanks? By denying them spare parts he will immobilise them. By denying them ammunition he is rendering them useless. Does he expect to appease the Russians, because their propaganda is against Western Zionist imperialism, and their propaganda against imperialism is directed against Britain.
The other day in New York he said that there should be a real détente but we must not be misled by a word trap. He was right but détente is meaningless if it is simply a word. It must have reality. The Russians have translated that word into reality by sending 800 tons of tanks and aircraft daily into the Middle East. No one can possibly believe that that is détente.
Does the right hon. Gentleman believe that he will appease the Arabs and deflect them from their oil blackmail by denying to the Israelis the equipment which they need for their defence? I do not think that the Arabs will be appeased. Faced with the present oil blackmail, to which the hon. Member for Hendon, North (Mr. Gorst) referred, I have the feeling which I have had in the past when there have been hijackings and we have seen great and proud States surrendering their principles and honour to the demands of a couple of blackmailers with guns. Appeasement in that sense does not pay.
If by chance a combination or a coalition of the Soviet Union and the present belligerents, Egypt, Syria and others who support them, were to result in the crushing of Israel, it would not be Egypt or Syria who would control the Mediterranean, it would be the Soviet Union. Britain would then not even be in a negotiating position about arms with the Arab States. It would be the Russians who would then decide how and when to turn off the oil tap.
Even-handedness is a bogus term. It is a policy of discrimination against Israel, which is now fighting not for territory but for life. I earnestly ask the right hon. Gentleman to reconsider his 494 decision to place what is, in effect, a one-sided embargo on arms to Israel.
Israel has many reasons to thank those noble British statesmen who, through the Balfour Declaration, provided after 2,000 years for the return of many Jews to the Holy Land. Israel has reason to thank the British people who, with traditional generosity, gave refuge to those who fled from the Tsar's pogroms, to those who escaped from Hitler's gas chambers and to those who fled from religious persecution by Mr. Brezhnev in the Soviet Union.
Israel is now fighting with its back to the wall. There are 3 million people surrounded by 100 million enemies. Is this a time for the right hon. Gentleman to take away their arms? I say emphatically that there are millions of Britons who will feel a deep sense of shame at the right hon. Gentleman's betrayal. The war is not yet over. When peace eventually comes there will be men and women throughout the world who will feel grateful to those who tonight go into the Division Lobby against the right hon. Gentleman's bogus ambivalence about arms for Israel. I believe that they will remember with gratitude those who upheld the honour of Britain and with contempt those who conspired to stab Israel in the back.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Robert Grant-Ferris)
Before I call the next hon. Member, I am asked by Mr. Speaker to remind the House of what he said earlier—namely, that if anything like the number of hon. Members who wish to speak are to speak, hon. Members would do well to confine their remarks to 10 minutes each.
§ 7.36 p.m.
§ Mr. Hugh Dykes (Harrow, East)
I shall try to follow your exhortation, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to be brief. I shall adhere to it because there are many hon. Members who wish to speak. I hope that the hon. Member for Coventry, North (Mr. Edelman) will forgive me if I do not deal in detail with many of his comments, I agree with a great deal of what he said and his views are familiar to the House.
I do not expect for one moment that my views will be familiar to the House. However, I am concerned to make a few brief comments about what I think is a 495 sad policy selected by my right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary on this grave matter. It makes me sad to say that because of the respect which I hold for my right hon. Friend. That is a respect which transcends party lines and which is held widely outside the House while, of course, it is held most powerfully of all on the Government beaches.
I say with a great deal of reluctance that I am grievously and most anxiously disappointed by the announcement of policy today by my right hon. Friend. I know that that feeling is shared by others of my hon. Friends. My right hon. Friend's anouncement of policy today is. except for a few changes of minor matters on the margin, a reiteration of Tuesday's statement. With all due respect to my right hon. Friend, I do not think that his speech today did enough to allay the anxieties felt by many Conservative Members about the Government's policy. I say that in a paradoxical context because I feel that there are many aspects of the policy which paradoxically are attractive per se.
There is some validity in Britain trying to b;: a bit of a neutral in this tragic context. There is a certain validity in Britain saying that it has a peace-making potential, even if that is in a subsidiary role alongside the United States and other interested parties. There is a strong case and a natural preoccupation by the Foreign Office, which is its duty and the duly of the Government as a whole, with the oil threat to this country. That is understood. However, where we hesitate is over the realities of the situation as they now exist in the Middle East. I am not commenting or, the military campaign. There is fundamentally a different position facing Israel than that which faces all the other combatants, even individually, let alone combined.
I shall not apportion blame in the narrow sense or use the word "aggression" about the initial action which Syria and Egypt perpetrated. I do not think that it helps the matter to do so. A real settlement of the conflict will come out of a serious and realistic compromise by both sides, by the Israelis as well as by the Arabs.
I fear the extremists' view which is expressed not by the leaders of any of 496 the countries involved. We have only the written and visible evidence to go on. We are limited in our judgment in that respect. The extremists' views are expressed by the extremists on either side. There are those in Israel who say that the only prospect for their country is years of struggle. That is no privilege for the children of Israel. That is no resolution of the solemn obligation of Israel's citizens to provide its children and grandchildren with a secure future.
On the other side, there are Arabs who say "Yes, we freely admit that our ultimate aim is the disappearance of Israel." Neither of those views should be upheld by any hon. Members. I do not think that they would be. I believe that they would be rejected outside by the world as a whole. I do not believe that the leaders of the various communities hold such views.
There is a minor role for Britain to play as a peacemaker on a modest level. It has nothing to do with the final analysis and with the realities and obligations of contracts of a residual nature in so far as they are operational and in a certain sense obligatory for fulfilment when an embargo is introduced and the curtain falls. That is the awful dilemma faced by my right hon. Friend.
With respect, my right hon. Friend is -now stuck with a policy in which the minor detail, which is important for Israel, of an unresolved delivery or a series of deliveries of vitally important equipment leads him into the embarrassing justificatory position of saying that his policy is even-handed.
That cannot be. It is not even-handed in that the residual deliveries were delayed by an artificial accident. They would already have been on their way had that not occurred. Nor can it be even-handed in the longer run when Israel's real position is considered. Its position, without any action by the United States, would be progressively deteriorating. That is axiomatic and it is by definition a result of Israel's preponderant dependence on British equipment.
We now know that new United States supplies are being sent. That changes the situation but it does so to only a certain extent. I submit that it does not change the real position. It does not change the dubious moral position into which we now seem to have put ourselves.
497 I ask my right hon. Friend when he replies to the debate to state clearly, if he can, whether our position in this scenario has the full approval of the United States. We have had conflicting views on this publicly and it is a confusing situation. I would be more comforted by the British position if it had that approval but I have serious doubts about it.
One appreciates his difficulties but I hope that my right hon. Friend will say a little more about the background of the situation. One realises the enormous constraints which lie upon him. I hope he will say a little more about any possible measure of modification or adjustment to the policy should the position of Israel significantly deteriorate, because it will be very difficult for the policy to change quickly and in a sympathetic fashion as a result of a fundamental change without the timing going wrong and Israel being grossly let down in a way which the whole House would regret.
§ 7.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Andrew Faulds (Smethwick)
I hope that the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes) will forgive me if I do not take up any of my 10 minutes by commenting on his speech, although I disagreed with many of the points he made.
It is Israeli intransigence which has made the fourth round of the Arab-Israeli conflict inevitable. No one has been more to blame for the impasse since 1967 than the Israeli Government under Mrs. Meir and General Dyan. They have adopted a totally intransigent attitude both towards implementing Resolution 242 and to the many signs which have come from Arab countries of willingness to negotiate.
Egypt early on declared both her acceptance of the existence of the State of Israel—which was a considerable step in advance of her previous opposition—and of Resolution 242. So did Jordan Although Syria opposed Resolution 242, her stance has changed considerably in the last couple of years. I sensed this in a visit to Damascus last year. [Interruption.] Perhaps it would do some of our Zionist friends a lot of good if they would listen just now and again to reasonable Arab opinion. I sensed that 498 change of opinion in Syria when we had the resumption of diplomatic relations between the Syrian and United Kingdom Governments.
The gross misjudgment of the Israeli leaders—they suffer from this—was that they themselves fell prey to the myth of Israeli superiority. Their pre-emptive strike in 1967 destroyed the Arab forces not only materially but morally, and that tremendous advantage gained by starting the war in 1967 has led them since to underestimate Arab will and spirit. [Interruption.] These poor fellows do not want to listen because they are so convinced of the Tightness of the Israeli case.
From my visits to the Middle East—visits from which these unfortunate fellows do not benefit, although they would have done Zionists good—I sensed in the Arab countries a determination to regain their lost territories—and as a Scot I understand that attitude. If Israel had had the sense to relinquish the lands she conquered in 1967, that Arab will would not have had to assert itself on 6th October.
Let us remember that the Israelis had clearly indicated—through Mrs. Meir's speeches and others—that they had no intention of allowing certain areas of occupied territory to be negotiable. Jerusalem was not negotiable; settlements in Sinai, on the Golan Heights and on the West Bank were built to create facts which were not negotiable. But the Zionist machine poured out propaganda that it was the Arabs who refused negotiations because they would not sit down across a table for bilateral talks.
Of course the Arabs were not prepared to accept the terms of the conqueror. Would we have accepted the terms offered by the Nazis? That Zionist propaganda machine acts as a fifth column in every country in the world with a Jewish community—[HON. MEMBERS: "Shame."]—and that is why I talk of dual loyalties, not dual nationalities. That machine has got into top gear again to convince the world that Egypt and Syria were guilty of aggression on 6th October. What nonsense that argument is.
Egypt and Syria were re-occupying their own territories, by force because the Israelis were not prepared in any other circumstances to yield them up. Would the allies in 1944 have accepted such a 499 description of our operations on D-Day? That was not aggression, and if it was not aggression, how can we talk of aggression when Egypt and Syria go in to re-conquer their own territories? The 6th October was the Arabs' D-Day.
In a letter to The Times I have said that it is clear that Egypt and Syria in these operations have a limited objective—the recovery of their territories. They could not have intended an invasion of Israel or an occupation of that country because their astute leaders know that no conceivable American Government would allow that to happen. Syria and Egypt have no wish to take on the might of America in defence of its satrapy, its settlement in the Middle East.
I remind many of my hon. Friends who opposed the disastrous Suez adventure—rightly—that Israel was involved in that disgraceful and dishonest collusion, yet I am surprised that now many of them seem prepared to take on the Arab countries with all that that means in order to fortify this neo-colonialist State of Israel. All the argument about ammunition for Centurion tanks is a cover for the belief of certain hon. Members—and some are honest enough to admit it—that Britain should openly support Israel against the Arabs, support a State which has consistently refused to implement United Nations resolutions on refugees, on Jerusalem, on withdrawal from occupied territories, on attacks on the Lebanon.
As a Socialist, I find it particularly difficult to understand how colleagues who, I believe, share my belief in the international nature of Socialism and my profound hatred of racialism—[Laughter.]—I expect some uncomprehending idiots opposite with their selfish interests to giggle, but my own colleagues understand—can support a Government whose policies are based on belief in racial exclusivity, a society in which non-Jews, who are those not blessed by the special qualities of a Jewish womb, are second-class citizens. [HON. MEMBERS: "Drivel."] These facts should have sunk in by now.
This is a State which has created millions of displaced and dispossessed people, the wandering Palestinians. How can we accept this Zionist nonsense of 500 racial exclusivity? I say to Zionist supporters on both sides of the House that one day they must start questioning their present emotional and uncritical support of the Israeli State. Whether they like it or not, there is simply no future for the present theocratic State that Israel is. It is historically inevitable that Israel at some stage will have to come to terms with her Arab neighbours.
But now people perhaps are beginning to realise that the Israelis may have to come to terms which the Arabs are prepared to agree. I believe, sadly, that the Jews in the Middle East will come to this realisation probably before Zionist supporters elsewhere—and let us remember, when we discuss the present intransigence of Israel, that it is a democratic parliamentary State, with equal rights for all communities, Moslems. Christians, and Jews, that the Palestinians want to see as the future for Palestine.
There is no reason—although this is what will happen unless we change our attitude in the West towards Israel—why the world should tag along to Armageddon behind the intransigence and arrogance of this or any other Zionist Government. [Interruption.] I remind my hon. Friends that the 1967 United Nations resolution, which, some of us should remember, was proposed by one of our right hon. Friends, is still valid as a starting point towards peace in the Middle East. But peace is not promoted by the British Government fuelling the armaments of both sides, yet that apparently is what the Labour Front Bench wants to do. The arms embargo must be maintained.
Fundamentally I believe it to be a proper rule of thumb that in any international crisis Britain should clearly and calmly assess where her real interests lie. I stress "British interests". In this situation I am much more concerned with them than with Israeli interests. It is British interests which are the paramount consideration for this House.
It is no good dismissing the reality of our dependence upon oil resources. We can talk as we like about oil blackmail. Britain receives two-thirds of her oil supplies from the Middle East and no responsible British Government—the Labour Party could not do it if our leader sat where the Foreign Secretary sits tonight—can pretend that they can disregard the effect of a chronic oil shortage 501 on this country. The wheels of industry would grind to a halt—[Interruption.] Transport would slow drastically. Unemployment would be widespread— [Interruption.] You may not want to listen to this, my friends, but it happens to be true and you had better take it in. The economy would totter more dangerously than it has ever done under all the stresses of stop and go.
We need the oil, we need good relations with the Arabs. We need to understand, if we can adopt a little humility, which the Zionists do not have, the justifiable anger that the Arab States have both against Israeli aggression and intransigence and against the West over this alien State which has been imposed on Arab territory by a Western decision without regard to the rights of the indigenous people.
The Government are right to adopt an embargo and to call for a cease-fire. If we had an end to fighting, issues of right and wrong might be adjudged more coolly perhaps between the combatants, because the Arabs have re-asserted their rights and self-respect and because the intransigence of Israel might have been somewhat chastened, if possible, by the destruction of her self-propagated image of invincibility and her conviction of superiority. President Sadat has given the opportunity in his speech a couple of days ago. Let us hope that the Israelis have the sense to grab it. It is because I believe the Government's policies to be correct and in Britain's real interests that I shall support the Government in the Lobby this evening.
§ 7.53 p.m.
§ Mr. R. J. Maxwell-Hyslop (Tiverton)
As I listened to the Leader of the Opposition opening the debate today my mind went back to a debate in 1969, when I was sitting on the Opposition benches, to an event of which I felt deeply ashamed.
The House will recollect that in 1939 three countries which feared they might be over-run by their enemies deposited the whole of their gold reserves with the Bank of England for one purpose—for safekeeping in case they were over-run. On that disgraceful evening the right hon. Gentleman, who was then the Prime Minister, came to the House and asked it, by retroactive legislation, to sanction 502 what he had already promised to do, which was to hand over the whole of those gold reserves of Latvia, Lithuania and Esthonia to the country which had overrun them, Russia. It was a shameful thing. When I heard him talking of a breach of trust today I wondered how the words could come out of his mouth.
That was not an occasion when the world was at war, that was not done in the course of bringing about peace between warring countries. That was a flagrant, shameful breach of faith with no redeeming virtue whatever. I honestly believe that what my right hon. Friend is endeavouring to do is not just to bring about a cease-fire but to bring about a state of peace. The two are not the same and it is easy to mistake a cease-fire for peace. The difference between the two is that one is an unstable condition while the other is a stable condition.
It might appear that this debate is about ammunition. If it is about peace rather than a cease-fire it is about attitudes rather than ammunition. In his moving and constructive speech my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, South (Sir H. d'Avigdor-Goldsmid) grasped the point that part of the desperate damage done in the war of 1967 was to do with the attitude which it generated.
Six weeks after that war six hon. Members of this House, three from each side, including myself, went to Israel and to Jordan as the guests of those countries. There was a horrifying moment for me. We were all present as guests at lunch of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Knesset in Jerusalem. After lunch the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Knesset spoke with great intemperance and at great length to us about the Arabs. When he drew breath I was constrained to say, "Doctor Hacohen, I am profoundly shocked that you should speak of other human beings in terms similar to those in which Julius Streicher spoke of the Jews. Have you learned nothing?" I shall remember his reply to my dying day. He smote the table with both hands and said, "But they are not human beings, they are not people, they are Arabs." He was speaking of the Arab refugees.
As long as that attitude persists there will be no peace between Arab and Jew. Cease-fires may come and go, there may 503 be first strikes from one side or the other but there will not be peace. Nor will there be peace while 750,000 people are permanently driven out of the land of their birth, and while huge numbers of people who are encompassed within a territory taken by armed force are refused the elementary human rights which elsewhere we take for granted. They are refused the vote and higher education. They are even refused the right to marry whom they wish.
In this country we have enacted legislation against religious and racial discrimination. When we see it in South Africa, and I deplore it, we use a Dutch word and call it "apartheid". But in Israel an Arab is not allowed to marry a Jew unless the former changes his or her religion.
§ Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop
It has a lot to do with it because Israel has conquered by military force a large number of other people who have no wish to live in Israel. Her armies have overrun those countries. Some people in Israel can see this. That is why there is political argument between those in Israel who say that they should embody at any rate the West Bank permanently within their State and those who have a little perspicacity and who can see what the result of that will be in the long run in terms of a lack of cohesion within the community. I am profoundly convinced that it is the attitudes rather than arguments about ammunition which are most real for a peaceful solution.
The next question is: do we want peace or do we want a cease-fire? I repeat, these are not the same. It is all very well to say that one can have negotiations, but if one knows that to a huge number of people a certain situation is literally unacceptable, any cease-fire that is built on those foundations will never transmute itself into peace. As a result of the war which began on 6th October, this truth will be apparent to more and more people throughout the Middle East, be they Jew or Arab.
To that extent the appalling violence of the last 12 days may in the light of 504 history prove to have been a necessary prelude in the transmutation of unstable cease-fire into stable peace. If history does show that, then those lives will not have been lost in vain.
It has been said that these are not wicked men full of wicked ideas who are fighting each other but, by and large, good men with worthy ideas. That may well be a true analysis. If so, this violence that we deplore will not have been in vain. But that is not so say that we should lift a finger to prolong it. How the supply of munitions of war can be construed as other than taking steps to prolong it, I cannot conceive. It is another question entirely, and not one for tonight, to inquire into the ethics of arms supply.
I end with the historical comment that every country of which I am aware that is an armaments manufacturer and exporter has always regarded the export of armaments as being in a different category from any other form of trade, a category in which the overriding policy of the State implicitly must give the right to infringe the normal laws of contract. Although there is a solecism that all arms are supplied for defence, the truth is that arms are supplied to kill people, and that it why it is right that the overriding policy of the Government of the day should take precedence over the commercial wording of a contract to supply arms. That is why I shall with a clear conscience go into the Lobby to support my right hon. Friend.
§ 8.2 p.m.
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
This House is full of surprises. After listening to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Faulds) I did not expect it to be followed by an even sillier speech. Reference was made to the Baltic reserves. If one holds the reserves of a nation what does one do with them if one does not hand them back to the Government of that nation, however reluctantly one may have recognised that Government?
The hon. Member for Westbury (Mr. Walters) made a good pro-Arab speech. He posed a fundamental question when he asked what diplomatic avenue was open to Egypt. Surely there was one—to negotiate peace with Israel. That is 505 what Israel had always asked for, but neither Egypt nor any of her neighbours was prepared to negotiate with Israel. Their view is that Israel does not exist and must be destroyed. If that is not so, why did they not negotiate?
For all these years Israel has been saying that it does not want to hold this land permanently but wants to negotiate to secure peace. The Arabs have said, "We will not negotiate, we will not meet you." The hon. Gentleman said that the Foreign Office was not prejudiced in favour of the Arabs, but was prejudiced in favour of British interests. One may sometimes take too narrow a view of British interests. Among British interests may be placed honour and self-respect. These are intangible interests. It is these intangible interests that enable the State of Israel to live. She has them. I wonder whether we do.
This is a simple issue. We made a contract to supply Israel with arms. Those arms were to be used to enable Israel to defend herself within the borders she was occupying. Let us have no hypocrisy about it being Arab land. It was Arab land when we supplied the tanks. It was Arab land when we agreed to maintain the tanks and supply armaments. It was Arab land when we operated the contract. There was no change on 6th October.
The contract for the tanks and ammunition was for a specific purpose. It was to enable Israel to defend herself if she were attacked. When she was attacked, we reneged. Surely in our history we have done few things, if any, more dis-honourable than that. That is what horrifies me.
The position with Jordan is wholly different. There was, I presume, in our Jordan arms contract, as I think there is in all our arms contracts, an undertaking not to transfer these arms to any State without our permission. That is what Jordan has done. She is not using her arms to defend Jordan. There is peace on that frontier. The arms have been lent to Syria in breach of our contract. They are being used to take part in aggression somewhere else under the command of other people. Of course we are entitled to stop that. Israel is needing the arms for the one purpose for which the con- 506 tract was made and maintained. To refuse them is dishonourable.
It is said that this action is to enable us to be in the best position to arbitrate. I am becoming an old man, I am about at the end of my course, but I have a horrid feeling that this is where I came in. When I came into politics the great issue before us was the Spanish war. We heard talk about non-intervention while Fascist armies intervened in Spain and all the weapons which were subsequently to be used against us were tested in Spain. While all this happened we insisted on non-intervention and said that the Spanish Government must not be allowed the means to defend themselves.
It is said that at the end we want to be in a position to arbitrate. At the end we were in a position to arbitrate between the Fascists and their victims. We arbitrated at Munich, where we ordered Czechoslovakia to surrender to Germany areas in which the majority of the population was German. We compelled her to do so with the assurance that we guaranteed the integrity of her national existence. Unfortunately that land was occupied by a majority of Germans but it was also totally necessary to her defence and existence. When she lost that land, her existence lasted four months.
The Israelis remember that. They ask themselves what would have happened on their Day of Atonement if they had been on their old frontiers and whether they could have survived this surprise attack. It was the new frontiers which saved them. It was this land—call it Arab land or what you will—which is as necessary for Israel's existence as the Sudetenland was for Czechoslovakia. That is the land in issue—
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
That is not what the Israelis are saying. They are not arguing that these lands have to be occupied for the defence of Israel for all time.
§ Mr. Paget
They have to be occupied until an equally safe frontier and construction can be made. At this stage, the Israelis could not possibly surrender them. They must defend them and their invaders must go back. But this is the stage at which we are reneging on our contract. That is what horrifies me.
507 We are saying that this is to put us into a position in which we can arbitrate. This is a neo-Chamberlain situation. It is the situation of the 1930s back again. It is inconceivable that the Israelis could accept such an arbitrator on such terms—
§ Mr. Faulds
I am obliged to my hon. and learned Friend for his courtesy. He is equalling Arabs with Fascists.
§ Mr. Paget
That is the situation that we face today. If we want to arbitrate we should be backing America with all that we have. The Americans and the Russians are the people who can stop the conflict. If we add our determination that Israel shall survive to the American determination, we raise the risk to the Russians and we create an arbitrating situation. It is our sitting back with these appeasement era pretences all coming to life again that I find so horrifying.
We are told that we cannot be diverted from the right policy by a threat to our oil. But we are being diverted by just that. That is the trouble. Blackmail cannot buy certain things. It cannot buy respect. We shall not buy the respect of the Arabs by reneging on our friends. It cannot buy security because the price always goes up and up. Ultimately it cannot buy oil because, once the Arabs recognise that we are willing to dishonour ourselves for oil, we are at their mercy.
My awful feeling is that I do not weep for Israel; I weep for my own country. I believe that Israel will survive. She has the will and the determination to do so. I am wondering whether we have. I am wondering whether in these new circumstances we can survive in this era. We have lost our Empire. We have lost our means to defend ourselves, having put our Army into commission with NATO where it cannot fight, and we have failed to train a generation. We have lost our Gulf oil without having shown the energy to garner our North Sea oil. Now we are losing our self-respect. Israel will live. I hope that our fate will not be that of an- 508 other great and distinguished trading empire—that of Venice—which died finally without a whimper.
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ Mr. John Gorst (Hendon, North)
A country which has only interests to defend and no feelings to express is no nation at all. We have heard a great deal today about the interests of this country. We have not heard very much about the feelings of the people who live in it towards affairs in the Middle East.
During recent years we have become accustomed to the deeply-felt attachment shown by many of our fellow countrymen to those whom we choose to call our kith and kin in Rhodesia. Much more profoundly, many of my constituents, of whom perhaps a third are of Jewish origin, feel an emotional bond with the Israelis because they regard them as their kith and kin. This is no divided loyalty. It is a sense of identity with them. Many of them have expressed the feeling in correspondence and telegrams to me that they are British as well as being Jewish. They fought in the last war. They were not members of a fifth column. They were members of the British columns fighting in the last war and naturally they feel a considerable involvement in and concern about what this country is doing in the Middle East. The attitude that they have expresed to me is not the stiff upper lip, British type of sentiment. It is not like the attitude which some of us feel towards our kith and kin in Rhodesia, and for a very good reason. No one is actually dying in Rhodesia. But a great many people are dying in the Middle East and, rightly, they are very concerned.
I ask this House, therefore, not to expect either a cerebral or a dialectical nicety of argument to appease, persuade or mollify very large numbers of my constituents in this situation. No Jews and few Gentiles accept that the claims about our even-handedness, which in my view is heavy-handedness, are in the least bit to be believed.
I want my right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary to tell us how we are to explain and justify the disparity and unfairness which dictates that an Israeli resort to arms in 1967 merited United Nations and British condemnation whereas an Arab assault in 509 1973 deserves no such condemnation. Both are acts of hostility, and it is those acts and the resort to violence, rather than the territorial acquisitions or losses, which merit our disapproval not only in 1967 but now. So why are Her Majesty's Government silent now? Where is the even-handedness in an attitude of that kind?
The Arabs have asserted that the recapture of the land lost in the 1967 war is their first objective. The Syrians have made it clear that, although that is their first objective, their second and ultimate remains the liberation of Palestine. Let us have no mealy-mouthed misunderstanding of what that means. It means the destruction of Israel.
In that situation no nation can afford to stand on the sideline playing the role of Good Samaritan and at the same time limping furtively on the other side of world events as if no hurt or harm existed. Nevertheless, that is the position of Her Majesty's Government if the arms embargo is not lifted and if this spurious neutrality is pursued any longer.
I admit readily that commitment to a cause or any form of ideal creates hazards for people and countries. But if we are cowed into failing to face these facts of life, we shall for ever remain cowardly, because timidity and cowardice are attitudes which breed like rabbits.
Yesterday the conference in Kuwait articulated the oil threat from the Arab States. We all knew that it was coming. Since it is here, we are now faced with two choices. We can submit with discredit to the Mafia threats of oil-rich bullies—we can, as the Leader of the Opposition put it, pay the Dane his Danegeld—in the hope that buying an ignominious neutrality will give us the dubious affluence of a sort of latterday Switzerland or Sweden; or we can stand up honourably and be counted, as the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) said, not just in Heaven one day, but here and now, along with those who are proud to repulse the imperialist overtures of the Russians in the Middle East and along with those who acknowledge Israel as a bastion of democracy in an area which is Balkan-style in its turbulence.
Britain must be explicit and candid, because no one aids the cause of 510 democracy by concealing their support for it. It is one thing, rightly and wisely, to jettison old colonial connections, but let us not abandon our self-respect.
Her Majesty's Government have aspirations to act as an honest broker and peace maker when this calamitous war is finished, but these ambitions will be a mockery if Israel lies prostrate, snuffed out, and neglected by her friends. I am sure that the Government do not wish to countenance this. It has been quite clear from what the Foreign Secretary said that he does not wish to do so. That being so, let the Government say as much now and do something about it. I implore the Foreign Secretary to drop this mask of non-alignment. If we are not careful, this excursion into neutrality will hang round the neck of this country and will choke and throttle us with shame in years to come. We are no International Court at the Hague which can stand idly by unmoved, unruffled and impervious.
Finally, does the Foreign Secretary seriously think that the Second World War might have evaporated had the United States embargoed arms supplies to Churchillian Britain and Hitlerite Germany? Of course, it is true that the United States came late to the rescue, but they came and helped us to win the war. Likewise, we are late to support Israel, but we are not too late.
Unless a radical reconsideration, leading to the lifting of the arms embargo, can be immediately announced at the end of the debate, I regret that I shall feel obliged, when there is a Division, which I hope there will be, to vote against what I believe to be a misguided and discreditable policy.
§ 8.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Frank Judd (Portsmouth, West)
Throughout the debate we have been aware of the background of the intensity of the struggle in the Middle East and of the desperate loss of life on both sides. We have also been aware of the deep personal involvement of right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House in friendships and acquaintances with both sides in this battle. Therefore, if we are genuine in our anxiety not only for a cease-fire but, as was so ably pointed out earlier, for a lasting peace, it behoves all of us to 511 maintain as much dispassionate objectivity as is possible about the situation and the way we assess it.
I am in a difficult situation, because I regard myself as having genuine friends on both sides in this conflict. I have visited Israel on a number of occasions. I was in Israel in 1967 while the battle was raging. Therefore, I regard myself in every sense as a friend of the people who make the nation of Israel. However, I believe that genuine friendship demands candidness in relationships. Despite the heat of the battle at the moment, if we are looking for a long-term solution it is essential that we speak with candour as well as with objectivity in this debate.
The first point about which we should remind ourselves over and over again is that the tragedy of this conflict is that there are two sides to the argument. I find it almost impossible to think of any crisis in world affairs which I have experienced which more clearly had two sides to the argument.
There is the Israeli position. There is no need to rehearse it in detail. The whole historical experience of the Jewish people, of persecution for generations across the surface of the world, is relevant to the Jewish position. Unless one takes that into account, one cannot begin to understand it at this juncture.
Also fundamental to the Israeli position is the need for a guarantee of security for Israel within the Middle East. I believe that we in this House have an inescapable responsibility in this context, because Britain played a major part in the creation of Israel. Therefore, we have a responsibility to follow through what is necessary to guarantee what we helped to bring into being.
But there is the Arab side to the argument as well. One must not overlook that. One can accept or discard it, but it is a very real argument seen from the Arab position. The Arabs say "There were 5 million Jews killed in the Second World War. We did not kill them. The creation of the State of Israel was a neat European solution to the Jewish problem. But at Arab territorial expense." There is also the Arab argument that we talk of justice and of the need for guaranteed security, but what of the rights of the Palestinians within 512 Israel as it operates at the moment? We have two deeply-held convictions and we must somehow in the long run find a solution which will accommodate both positions.
The point has been well brought out in the debate by the way the word "aggression" has been sincerely bandied about by people from quite different standpoints. Undoubtedly the Israelis see what happened at the beginning of this bout in the war as an act of aggression on Israeli security, but the Arabs see it as an inevitable step towards the liberation of occupied Arab territories. Here again we have a genuine conflict with deeply-held convictions and emotions which we must take into account.
How are we to set about finding a lasting solution, which must be based on the principles of justice as applied to all the people involved in the Middle East confrontation? We must learn sooner or later that any so-called solution which is imposed cannot be a lasting solution in a conflict of this kind. A solution, if it is really to be a solution, has to be seen as one which desperately tries to achieve greater justice for all the people involved in the conflict.
My hon. Friend the Member for Ilkeston (Mr. Raymond Fletcher) made a speech in which I could see the logic of his case for order, but are we blind to the realities of the generation of politicians in which we live? One of the lessons of the urban guerrilla warfare techniques as they have developed is that where there is a wide constituency of unrest caused by a deep feeling of frustration and injustice, it is virtually impossible to build with certainty security and stability for the future. It is easy to talk of the principle of order and of orderly advance towards justice in a system of order, but it is not always as practical as it sounds.
I am sorry if I appear to repeat the obvious, but if there are to be negotiations I believe that they must take account of the rights of the Palestianians. They must also take into account—this is sometimes unthinkable to many—the rights of the Arabs in Jerusalem as well as the rights of the Jewish community. They will have to take into account the position of the occupied territories and Arab rights as well as Israeli demands for guaranteed 513 security. Above all, the Israeli need for a cast-iron guarantee for the integrity and security of the nation must be taken into account.
If we fail to move towards this, the sad truth about the future is that we may expect repeated outbreaks of conflict between Israel and her Arab neighbours. This would be disastrous for them. It could mean, in the long run, the bleeding to death of the younger generation in Israel, on whom the future of Israel depends.
The nuclear dimension must also be considered, because we know that it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that, sooner perhaps rather than later, a nuclear weapon may become a factor in the conflict. When there is a nuclear dimension to a conflict of this kind, with the super-Powers involved but not altogether in control, there can be long-term dangerous implications for the international community as a whole.
How are we to move towards providing what I believe to be absolutely essential from the Israeli standpoint, namely, guaranteed frontiers? I can understand Israeli cynicism about this, bearing in mind what happened earlier.
I differ in one respect from the sentiments expressed in the very sincere personal speech by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition this afternoon. He spoke in criticism of U Thant. But he misunderstands the legality of the situation as it affected the United Nations force. It was there before 1967, not on the instructions of the Security Council because of the veto in the council, but because of the tolerance of the Egyptians who allowed it to be present on their territory. The Israelis refused to allow its presence on their territory, as was their right, but if U Thant had delayed for days let alone for weeks when the Egyptians asked for its removel, the whole of the United Nations and the entire machinery of the international system at the UN would immediately have been condemned by the entire Third World as a tool of imperialism. It is easy to condemn U Thant, but the legal position must be taken into account. If we are to guarantee Israel her rights this time, there must be a force there with the full backing of the Security Council.
It may be said that this is difficult to achieve with the full involvement of 514 the super-Powers, but simply because of the nuclear dimension, the wider international dimension to which I have referred, there is a greater chance than ever of that happening. That in itself can only be an interim solution.
We can only have peace in the Middle East, as several hon. Members have said, when the parties to the conflict want it. In the end what we must aim for is the policing of the areas by the parties to the conflict themselves in some form of direct international local involvement. That means direct local negotiations between the parties to the conflict.
Our duty in the House and the duty of the Government must be to do everything possible to facilitate moves forward in this direction. The Government by their action in this context have forgone the opportunity to influence the Israelis effectively. The Israelis believe that we have not retreated to a position of impartiality. But by our refusal to see through our obligation—and I hate the whole despicable business of exporting arms for profit—having invited the Israelis on to the mat only to draw it away from under their feet at their hour of need we seem to have doubled the cynicism of our handling of the arms deal.
Therefore, with many regrets, I find myself compelled to vote against the Foreign Secretary, although I believe that he is sincere and earnest in much of what he is trying to do. I wish to put it on record that at least some of us will vote with misgivings, because we do not wish our action to be interpreted as meaning that we endorse everything which has been said in the name of Israel before and during this present conflict.
§ 8.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Richard Luce (Arundel and Shoreham)
I am glad to follow the hon. Member for Portsmouth, West (Mr. Judd) in the debate because I liked the tone of his speech.
We in the House have an overwhelming duty to show a great deal of humility in our approach to this problem in an extremely dangerous situation. Our duty is not to be inflammatory. As perhaps with Ireland, the Middle East creates a great deal of passion in the House, perhaps understandably. It is, however, easy to express passionate convictions in 515 favour of one side or the other. It is easy to make well-intentioned but quite often unwise statements such as the one John Foster Dulles made when he went to the Middle East in the 1950s in the middle of a crisis and said "Let us settle this problem in a truly Christian manner." I shall try to avoid making statements of that kind.
Inevitably, but probably understandably, we have become bogged down on the problem of the arms embargo. It would be wrong to make a speech without at least touching on it because it seems to be becoming the dominant issue in discussions in Britain about the Middle East. I sympathise with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and with the Government in taking what is inevitably an extremely difficult decision. They are presented with a dilemma. The arguments against the embargo—that we should in time of peace supply arms and the moment war comes stop doing so, and that the supplying of arms gives us influence—are strong. On the other hand, it is hypocritical to put forward peace proposals—I hope that in the context of Europe we are not alone, because some of us still think that we have great influence there, much greater influence than we have in the Middle East—and to stoke up the fires by continuing to supply arms to both sides. That is why for the time being I shall support the present line. However, if I understood aright what the Foreign Secretary said, the other European countries are imposing an embargo. If they are, and if there is a prospect of the Community evolving a common approach towards the Middle East, I would for the time being support the embargo.
§ Dr. Tom Stuttaford (Norwich, South)
Does my hon. Friend agree that there is quite a difference between supplying new arms and supplying spares for arms which we have already sold? My hon. Friend talks about the arms embargo, but he does not say whether he means supplying the necessary spares to maintain arms already sold or supplying new arms. This is where Europe comes into it.
§ Mr. Luce
I was coming to that. I agree with my hon. Friend to some extent, but the reasons why I shall continue for the time being to support this policy are, 516 first, that my right hon. Friend has said he will review it literally from hour to hour, according to the situation and. secondly, that I have doubts about the spare parts aspect. I think it is right when one has an embargo to say that one will not send any new equipment, but one of the reasons why I have been through some personal agonies on this point—alhough I still support the embargo—is that I think it would have been better to say both to Jordan and to Israel "We shall continue to provide ammunition and spare parts."
That having been said, I want to reinforce another point which my right hon. Friend made about the Gulf area—and I ask hon. Members to note that I said neither "Persian Gulf" nor "Arabian Gulf". I do not think some people realise what is at stake if stability does not continue in that area, and what would happen if we stopped supplying arms to, for example, the United Arab Emirate. If we stopped supplying them we should be opening up opportunities to the Russians, for example, to exploit the situation, and that would create greater instability.
But the overwhelming question that we must answer is: what are British interests in the Middle East conflict at the present time? We have to consider two major factors. First, as we all know, we in Britain and Western Europe depend to a large extent on the Middle East for our oil supples. Secondly, and allied to that, we are also concerned with peace and stability in the Middle East. A settlement between the Arabs and the Israelis is therefore of vital interest to Great Britain. We have seen that the existence of a conflict between the Arab world and the Israeli world leads to a breakdown in the supply of oil.
My point, therefore, is that the free flow of oil supplies and a settlement between the Arab and the Israeli worlds are indivisible. For this reason, it is as much in Britain's interest to support a secure Israel as it is to keep on friendly terms with the Arab world. There is no contradiction in those two statements. However difficult or even impossible the problem, we must seek our areas for hope and progress in the future.
I want to mention four factors. The first, which has already been touched 517 upon, is the Russian rôle in the Middle East. The differences of opinion between one side and the other provide the right kind of explosive material for Russian intrusion into the Middle East. Therefore, it is a common interest of the Arab world, of the Israelis and of Great Britain and Western Europe to ensure that we counteract the Russian influence. There is thus great value in Britain having a strong relationship with and influence in the Arab world.
The second factor is the position of the United States. It is right and understandable that it should give support to Israel in contradistinction to the Russian support of the Arab world. But the fact is that by 1980 something like one-eighth of the total oil supplies of the United States will come from the Arab world, so it is vital for us to try to influence the Israelis, as much as anyone else, to compromise so far as possible when the ceasefire comes about.
The third factor is that while Resolution 242 must be the right basis, nevertheless there is room for manoeuvre. To say that Israel must withdraw to the 1967 boundaries is neither satisfactory nor fair to her, and there is room for compromise on the need for a demilitarised zone in Sinai, in the Golan Heights and in Sharmel-Sheikh. So we must negotiate on that basis.
The last factor that I want to mention is this. On my recent visit to Israel, which I found most impressive in many respects, I was interested in the attitude of the Israelis towards the Arabs in the occupied territories. There are a great number of Israelis who wish to prove that they can live side by side with the Arabs on a friendly basis, although there are some extremists, as there are in any country, who do not wish to prove this.
The Israelis do not wish to have a country that is dominated by Arabs, and therefore, in the long-term, they cannot wish to have the whole of the occupied territories under their control. It was said that they did not react in a favourable way to King Hussein's proposals, but they can be persuaded to take a positive interest in the kind of proposals that he put forward last year. The only thing that has spoiled it is the rather provocative way in which the Israelis have established settlements in several parts of the occupied territories.
518 The British rôle must be to try to take a lead in the European Community. The European Community and the Arab world depend upon each other. The Community wants the Arab world's oil supplies, and the Arab world sells most of its oil supplies to Europe.
We also have an interest in peace and stability, and our rôle now is to take the initiative within the Community to try to set mediation going. A crisis has its dangers, but it is also a catalyst for a new initiative and that is what we have to take in Britain.
§ 8.46 p.m.
§ Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)
I have been a friend of the State of Israel from the day that it was formed, but I want to explain to my hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Faulds), who apparently is not in his place, that I have not been an uncritical friend. When I have thought that the State of Israel has been wrong, I have said so. That is what a friend is for. He is not there just to say that everything that is being done is right. He is there to say so when something wrong is being done.
I have always been reinforced in my criticisms of various aspects of Israeli policy by the knowledge that many people in Israel were saying precisely the same as I was saying. The Israeli State is extremely democratic. There is a saying in Israel that everyone wants to be the Foreign Minister. When I went there I thought that they all were, because everyone wishes to express an opinion on everything. I say that I have not been an uncritical friend of Israel, and that is true, but it is also true that the Israelis themselves are not uncritical of their State.
My hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth, West (Mr. Judd) said that he had friends on both sides and that he, too, was not uncritical. I believe that friendship carries the responsibility of being critical when the need arises, and also of standing shoulder to shoulder with a friend when he is in trouble.
Let us look at the history of Israel. It is true that it is an artificial State, created because of conditions for which the Jewish people were not responsible—largely because of the holocaust. If the Germans had not destroyed 6 million 519 Jews, there would never have been a State of Israel. But there is such a State, and from the day on which it was formed it has been living in a state of siege.
The State of Israel has never been accepted by the Arab countries that surround it. To that extent it is a case of right against right. Both sides have a good case, but let us consider the situation. I say to my friends on the Left of the Labour Party who do not accept my position that there is only one democratic State in the whole of the Middle East, and that is Israel. Will anyone suggest that King Feisal and his régime are a régime of great social progress advancing the peasantry to higher levels? From all the money made out of oil, what have the peasantry gained in that country? Is that not true of most of the Middle East countries? Can anyone say of any one of them that it is as democratic a State as is Israel?
In Israel there are two Communist parties—not one, two. That is typical of Israel. It is surprising that there are not 27 Communist parties. One can be a Communist and be safe in Israel. One can be elected to a local authority or to the Knesset. One can be an Arab Communist in Israel and be elected to a city council or even to the Knesset, provided, of course, that one gets sufficient votes. Where will a Communist in Saudi Arabia get? Or in Syria? Or the Sudan? They hanged them in the Sudan.
In considering Israel we are considering the most democratic State in the Middle East, and, in certain respects, possibly the most democratic State in the world. I said "in certain respects", I would not expect all my colleagues to go along with that argument. I have heard arguments advanced tonight which made me wonder where I was. One hon. Member on the Government side said that if one were an Arab one would not have a vote in Israel. Where did he get that nonsense? He talked about Jews and Arabs not looking kindly on a Jew and Arab inter-marrying. The hon. Member should come to Liverpool, to my own home town, where a good Catholic boy is not looked on all that kindly by some people if he marries a Protestant girl—and vice versa. So do 520 no talk about inter-marriage in that way; there are such problems in our own country.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. E. L. Mallalieu)
A great many people still want to speak in the debate. There should not be too many interruptions.
§ Mr. Heffer
I do not want to be discourteous but I do not want to take too much time. I will take my hon. Friend's point if he will be quick.
§ Mr. Mayhew
My hon. Friend is quite right in paying tribute to the democratic institutions in Israel but he has slightly overstated the case, for Israel does not permit an Arab political party and Arabs cannot vote in the occupied territories.
§ Mr. Heffer
Obviously I ought not to have given way to my hon. Friend because to answer that specific point I should have to go into the whole question of Arabs and political parties in Israel, but one does not have to have separate racial parties to have democracy. I think it a good thing if Arabs and Jews are in the same political party, and I think that is the measure of the advanced state of Israel at the present time.
I shall conclude by talking of the Government's policy. I do not like the idea of Britain selling arms to anyone. I hate the whole concept of that. I remember that during the last days of the Labour Government we had a disarmament Minister and an arms salesman at the same time—a somewhat contradictory situation, I thought. I did not like it. I always objected to it. But I regard the situation in the following way. We talk about even-handedness. That is the expression used by the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary. Even-handedness? Has anyone totted up the total numbers of armed men in the 10 Arab countries 521 which say they are opposed to Israel, and the number of their tanks, aircraft and missiles compared with Israel's?
Some of my friends on the Left will say that Israel is getting its arms from America. Israel would be entitled to get its arms from the Devil to defend itself in the present situation. When we consider the differences we see that there is no question of even-handedness. The Israeli people have their backs to the wall.
I have been to Israel and talked to Israeli politicians. The last thing they want is to expand their borders and control more and more territory. They have always been embarrassed by the fact that they have been controlling territory since the Six-Day War. They would have loved to get rid of it on the basis of peace and secure borders. That is what the Israeli people want—all of them.
The Government must help by honouring their contract but at the same time exerting their influence to ensure that the people of Israel can settle with the Arabs and have peace and secure borders.
§ 8.57 p.m.
§ Mr. T. L. Iremonger (Ilford, North)
The hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) observed that it is safe to be a Communist in Israel. He might have added that it is not safe to be a Jew in Communist Russia, as many have reason to know.
My right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary and the Leader of the Opposition both referred to Members who take sides, and expressed disapproval of taking sides. I can announce with relish that I have the disapproval of both my right hon. Friend and the Leader of the Opposition, because I take a side—Britain's side. I take the side of this country, and in my view that is the side of Israel.
The only school that I know in my constituency at whose speech day the national anthem is sung is the Jewish school. The children in that school are taught to sing their national anthem, as they feel that it is—and it is. They are also taught to sing Israeli songs. Their parents and grandparents came to find refuge from cruelty and oppression, and today Jews come here from the Soviet Union, when they can, and find here, 522 as they find in the United States, a country that has freedom and had the courage to defend that freedom in the same way as the people of Israel have the courage to defend their country now.
I am profoundly disappointed in and dissatisfied with the Government's policy as announced by my right hon. Friend. A more realistic view of what is happening in terms of power is that the Arab side, which I do not take, has been built up and is being maintained by the Soviet Union. The Soviet purpose has been expressed explicitly time and again, just as explicitly as Hitler's purpose was expressed in "Mein Kampf". Krushchev expressed it in a classic phrase when he said to us, to the free world, to the democracies, of which Israel is the only one in the Middle East, "We shall bury you." That is the expression of the abiding dream and determination of Soviet policy in the world. Its policy in the Middle East is to make the Arab nations an instrument of its determination to dominate the entire world and to eliminate democracy's only bastion in the Middle East, which is the State of Israel.
The Soviet method of achieving its purpose is perfectly obvious and sensible and it makes no bones about it. It is to exploit Arab grievances so as to dominate the Middle East and thereby to dominate the Western world which depends entirely upon the Middle East for its supplies of oil. The obstacle to achieving that purpose is the survival and integrity of the State of Israel, and that is what the war in the Middle East is about. That is why Israel's side is our side and why our side is Israel's side.
I am not satisfied at the Government's attitude in refusing to supply arms to Israel. I would not be satisfied if it were neutrality but still less am I satisfied because it is neutrality in favour of the Arab side. It is not even-handed justice. I do not want to go into the pettifogging bookkeeping arguments, but even if we were to supply arms to Israel alone and to stop supplying them to the Arabs I would regard that as perfectly right and justified, because when we supply arms to one Arab country we supply them to the rest. I am not persuaded that letting Israel down now will give us an opportunity to influence the Arabs as mediators. That is a pathetic illusion. I am 523 regretfully persuaded that the idea of a United Nations peace-keeping force, which has always been attractive and which still seems to attract my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and the Leader of the Opposition, has also been shown to be an illusion.
To be fair to the Foreign Secretary, I welcome certain of his statements today. He actually said specifically in terms that the Government were determined to maintain the State of Israel and that it should continue to exist within secure frontiers. That was welcome. My right hon. Friend said that if the existence of Israel were at risk the Government would consider a change of policy, and that is welcome, though it is difficult to see how it could be done at the right moment. My right hon. Friend said on Tuesday that he would keep his policies under review. He moved a little this afternoon because he said that he would keep them under review from hour to hour. He said that our policy was the policy for the present, and all this was an improvement. I welcome the shift of emphasis and I do not want to be ungrateful, but I am sorry; the shift is not enough to satisfy me.
I say with great regret, therefore, that I shall vote against the motion for the Adjournment tonight. This matter is a source of shame and anger to many of my constituents, by no means all of them Jewish, and it is a source of shame and anger to me.
§ 9.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Greville Janner (Leicester, North-West)
My position is exactly the opposite in one sense to that of the hon. Member for Ilford, North (Mr. Iremonger). I am a Jew and a Zionist and I sit for a constituency with practically no Jews in it. I have received tonight a telegram of support from my executive and for that I am grateful. The views I express I believe to be the views of hundreds of thousands of people in this country, irrespective of their religion.
I have listened to the debate all day, and to me the most interesting exchange came almost by mistake. It was when one of my hon. Friends challenged the Foreign Secretary when he said that he would not let Israel go under. My hon. Friend said, "What about Czecho- 524 slovakia?" and the Foreign Secretary said, "Ah, this time it is meant." He then withdrew it and made it appear as if it were a slip, but if it were, it was a most potent slip because it shows precisely how the Israelis feel. They are not prepared to have that sort of mistake made at their expense. They have lived for years under the guns of the Golan and they are not prepared to have their children live that way again. They were in borders before 1967 to which it is said they should now return. Those borders did not prevent a war in 1967.
They want peace. I have been to Israel many times and I have never met one person whose aim was not peace. I have never met one who did not want only to live with his wife and children without living in fear. That is all they want. Whether we talk in terms of aggression or invasion, we know who started the present war and we know that the people who brought it about have a debt to pay in Arab lives and in Israeli lives, including those hundreds of refugees from Arab countries. I mourn for the life of my friend Nicholas Tomalin. This is war and they are all dead, the Arabs and the Jews.
What matters to Israel, first, is to survive and, second, to have a peace in which it is worth living. For her survival Israel needs our help, and for once the House has the power to give that help. It is rare these days—in the old colonial days it was common—but we have in our power tonight to see whether Israel can survive. That is because we sold to Israel two-thirds of its tanks and we are refusing ammunition for those tanks.
What is the excuse which is given? It is that contracts can be suspended. Suspended until when? Suspended until Israel is defeated, until the war is over or until the arms are no longer needed? Or is it, maybe, that for some other reason when we sold the tanks to Israel the Israelis were in exactly the same position as they were on the day the war started? There was no question of saying, "Here are tanks which you may use in your defence, but if war breaks out and you have to defend yourself we shall not provide you with ammunition or the spare parts."
The fact is that the embargo has been totally one-sided. If the right hon. 525 Gentleman wishes to act as a peacemaker he should at least attempt to recognise that he needs the respect of both sides before Britain can act as a peacemaker. What has happened? There is no embargo on Saudi Arabia. The Strike-masters are still being built and will be delivered in a few weeks' time. There is no embargo on any Gulf State. Tanks are being supplied to Dubai. There are 1,500 British Aircraft Corporation personnel in Saudi Arabia. How can that situation be regarded in any sense as an embargo on the Gulf States?
The right hon. Gentleman will find it impossible, if he continues in this way, to act as a peacemaker. His embargo is regarded, and I regard it so, as spurious, fraudulent, bogus and one-sided. If we intervene in a war of survival of this sort on the side of four or five nations which do not need our arms, we are acting against the one nation which needs them desperately for two-thirds of its tank force.
Those are the facts. That is the even-handedness. Tonight we have an opportunity to vote in a way which matters. Anyone who goes into the Lobby with the Government should test his own conscience. If something should happen tomorrow he will bear a personal responsibility.
§ 9.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Fidler (Bury and Radcliffe)
I never thought that the moment would come when I should rise to speak with a sense of shame about the action of my own Government. We have had many history lessons tonight and I do not propose to add to them. I say to the hon. Members for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) and Smethwick (Mr. Faulds) that their words will hardly be acceptable to the Israeli Government as a guarantee of Israel's future security.
Ever since 1947 Israel has been under attack. Six years ago it was faced with an Arab mobilisation threat on all sides. Israel launched a pre-emptive strike for which she was condemned internationally. Israel has been condemned since when it has engaged in punitive expeditions to deal with Arab terrorism. There has been condemnation of what Israel did when armies marched on her pre-June 1967 borders.
526 Six years ago the Arab States sought war and sued for and obtained a cease-fire to end hostilities, a cease-fire which they accepted and which became recognised in international law. During the ensuing six years, Israel has over and over again offered to enter into negotiations, preferably direct, with her Arab neighbours in the spirit of and accepting Resolution 242 as the way of effecting permanent peace in the Middle East.
For six years Israel's efforts in this direction have been thwarted by the Arab States, which have refused to enter into such direct negotiations and, despite persuasion from both Conservative and Labour Governments in the United Kingdom, to withdraw from the administered territories. Israel has held on to what she thought was the only way of guaranteeing her sovereignty. A week ago last Saturday her fears and beliefs materialised because once again the massing of Arab forces in Egypt and Syria led to that quite unprovoked aggression. Two sovereign member States of the United Nations committed an act of aggression against a third sovereign State, also a member of the United Nations.
Six years ago we condemned Israel for starting the war. Where has been the United Nations denunciation of Syria and Egypt for the war begun a week last Saturday? Where is the thundering condemnation from the United Nations or, indeed, from the United Kingdom? Our representative at the United Nations says that he does not seek to apportion blame. Last Tuesday my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary talked about what should be our best posture. I suggest that our best posture cannot be a recumbent posture.
Here we have a clear case of aggressor and victim. One cannot talk of evenhanded policies in such a situation—between antagonists, yes, but where an aggressor and victim are concerned it is our clear duty to go to the aid of the victim in line with the great traditions of this country.
I do not support the Leader of the Opposition in talking of lifting the embargo for all. I say categorically that in this case, where there is a victim of aggression, we have a bounden duty not to abandon the supply of arms to that victim which she so sorely needs in her 527 defence, particularly at a time when we are still, despite the embargo, supplying countries like Saudi Arabia, which has a detachment of troops fighting alongside the Syrian forces on the Golan Heights.
Nor should we underestimate the Russian evil influence in this matter. Six years ago it was lying Russian statements that Israel had mobilised which were used as an excuse for condemning Israel. A week last Saturday we had aggression by Egypt and Syria and two days later the Soviet Government published, through its Press department at the Soviet Embassy in London, this statement:In recent days Israel had concentrated considerable armed forces on the ceasefire lines with Syria and Egypt, had called up reservists and, having thereby heated up the situation to the limit, unleashed military operations.It so happens that, unlike most if not all other hon. Members, I have children living in Israel, and I spoke to my son-in-law on 6th October. He confirmed that the order for mobilisation began after the attack on that Saturday afternoon, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar. It is a blatant Russian propaganda lie to say that there had been mobilisation and the massing of military equipment by the Israelis before what happened a week last Saturday.
I believe that it is shameful for us to be reneging on our legal contract to supply 4,000 or so shells to Israel's Centurion tanks. But even worse is the attitude which the Government have taken in another place. My noble Friend the Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs said on Tuesday:I should like to inform the House that in fact there is another major Power which manufactures this ammunition under licence from this country and therefore Israel is able to secure it not only from this country.When taxed the noble Lady answered:it is the United States of America."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. House of Lords, 16th Oct., 1973; Vol. 345, c. 181–2.]In the same breath, according to the Press reports we refused the Americans landing facilities in Cyprus to airlift ammunition and spares to Israel.
Well might the House think back on what was said by so many of us about Portugal—that it is Portugal and not Great Britain that becomes the medium for American succour to Israel. Great Britain has a responsibility to itself. 528 Every hon. Member ought to be animated not by considerations of what is best for Israel, Egypt or Syria, but of what is in the best interests of this country.
In an advance of his position last Tuesday my right hon. Friend said this afternoon that we would go to Israel's rescue in dire straits. We know that we in this country are in no position to mount the transport exercise which would be involved if the "dire straits" materialised. I am more concerned with the precedent which is set if we do not lift our embargo on the supply of arms.
We use a lot of American equipment and arms. So do our European allies. Are we saying that America can say to us, having supplied us with weaponry, that in the event of our being involved in a war she will apply our formula to us and refuse to supply ammunition or spare parts? If so, then Heaven forfend that we should ever suffer an invasion, that we or our European allies should ever become victims of aggression. America would then be able to say to us that because we were a battlefield it could not supply arms, ammunition or spares but would instead maintain a position of neutrality. That cannot be in the best interests of this country.
If we believe that it is in our interests to have a reliable friend in the Middle East, let us subscribe to the view expressed on Tuesday that there is only one democratic free State in that area on whom we can rely—Israel. Let us remember that we supplied military weapons, including Centurion tanks, to Israel, which believed that our intention was that when danger threatened she would be able to use those weapons. I plead with my right hon. Friend on behalf of many hon. Members and certainly on behalf of the overwhelming majority in the country. We have nothing to gain by continuing to interfere with the supply of arms and spares to Israel, contracted before the war and ready now to be flown out.
America has not lost her ability to intervene and secure a settlement because she has supplied one side. Neither has Russia in any way destroyed her position of influence by supplying the other side. Israel relies on limited resources while the Arab aggressors rely on large resources. I ask my right hon. Friend to tell the House that, in response to the 529 feeling expressed tonight, he will lift this interference with the supply of arms. Without such an assurance I shall, unhappily and most reluctantly, have to vote against the Government.
§ Mr. Raphael Tuck (Watford)
The hon. Member for Westbury (Mr. Walters) said that if only Israel would get back behind the 1967 lines everything in the garden would be lovely. But before the Six-Day War Israel was in that very position—behind the 1967 lines—yet the Arab States were massing vast armies on their borders with the result which we all know.
The Foreign Secretary said he wanted even-handedness, but the Russians have been pouring arms into the Arab States while we stand supinely by. Is this even-handedness? "But", says the Foreign Secretary, "If Israel looks like being exterminated we will act." By that time it will be too late to act.
The Foreign Secretary also said that he welcomed the peace overtures. May I remind him that it is only because the Arabs are not triumphing over Israel that peace overtures are being made. If they were victorious over Israel there would be no peace talks at all and Israel would be exterminated. I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. Michael Stewart) that there would be no peace talks and no Resolution 242.
The Foreign Secretary said that he did not want to be blackmailed. Is that not exactly what is happening now? We are being blackmailed. The Arab nations are saying that they will supply oil to friendly nations and we want to keep friendly so that the Arabs supply us with oil, so we dance to their tune. [Interruption.] I am making only a short speech.
In conclusion, I remind the Foreign Secretary of what Abba Eban said some years ago at the United Nations:The British Government have taken the Imperial Crown, dipped it in Jewish blood and washed it clean with Arabian oil.I hope that the Foreign Secretary will not act in such a way that this can be said of the present Government. If he does, history will never forgive him.
§ 9.22 p.m.
§ Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South-East)
My hon. Friend the Member for Watford (Mr. Raphael Tuck) has sat here 530 all day. He made a very short speech, as did most hon. Members, and it is right that the Front Benches should yield to the expressed views of others that we should take as little time as possible in concluding the debate.
We have heard many excellent speeches filled with passion, conviction and sincerity. I take the view of my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) that it is not necessary when espousing one side to be entirely oblivious to the faults of that side and to the virtues of the other side. I have heard every speech except two in this debate. Although there has been passionate advocacy by those who feel that the Israeli position is beyond dispute and by those who feel that the Arab case has by no means been given a fair hearing, whatever view has been taken, in many speeches there has been a recognition of the other side of the case. That is a matter for some hope. If we are to get progress not merely towards a cease-fire but towards a settlement, that is an absolute imperative.
Most hon. and right hon. Members have declared where they stand. I suppose that I should do the same. Having visited Israel and the Arab States, like most people, I see faults and virtues in both. No one who goes to Israel can fail to be moved by the way in which that small State, starting from such humble beginnings, has built itself on a basis of democracy and Socialist practice into a community to which almost anyone would be proud to belong. I was animated by that feeling when I went there. Likewise, none of us can fail to understand and sympathise with the desire of the Arab people for self-respect, dignity and recognition of their claims.
I thought that one of the encouraging features of the debate was the way in which, to take but one example, the hon. Member for Walsall, South (Sir H. d'Avigdor-Goldsmid) spoke about the position of Israel. It could not have come from anyone better. Likewise it seems to me that if those who are passionate advocates of one side are willing not only to advocate that side, as he did, but also to put forward constructive views on the other side, perhaps out of this holocaust there is the prospect of some peace being achieved which will be lasting.
531 I come to the sentence used by my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth, West (Mr. Judd) which struck me as truer than almost anything else said today, and I repeat it for those who were not present at the time. My hon. Friend said that no peace can last if it is imposed. We have only to read our history books and to look at the lessons of the past to see how true that is. A peace will last only if it is acceptable to both sides. In this conflict that means that there can be no victor if there is to be a permanent peace and that there must be an agreed solution and a settlement.
In view of that we ask the Foreign Secretary not merely to work for a ceasefire. We ask him to work for a cease-fire which will have a continuing momentum in carrying forward discussions so that, however long they may take, some kind of settlement acceptable to both sides can be achieved. If we do not do that, all that we shall secure, valuable though it may be, is a breathing space for some months, perhaps even for some years, but with the inevitable result that there will be an outbreak of war again in due course.
The merits have been debated. One of my complaints against the Foreign Secretary is that by his decision on the embargo on the ammunition he has focused attention on the arms embargo itself. We have heard many speeches about the merits or otherwise of supplying the ammunition to the Israelis for use in their Centurion tanks. But the debate is about wider issues, some of which I have tried to outline already.
Following the Foreign Secretary's decision, it was almost inevitable that the Israelis should feel that the decision was not even-handed. If they feel that, then that is important in the interests which the Foreign Secretary has to take into account.
I have been asked about the position of the Labour Party on an arms embargo. I want to state it as clearly as I can and to interpret my own view of it, because a number of hon. Members have expressed their own views today. I speak for the Labour Party and probably for everyone in it, bearing in mind its deep elements of pacifism and the feeling that profits should not be made out of arms, when I say that the Labour movement 532 at its deepest levels is strenuously opposed to the sale of arms at all.
It is not enough to say, "But you have done it". Perhaps it is worse to say that we are doing it to both sides. I do not contest that. But as a number of right hon. and hon. Members have pointed out, we have reached the position where the tanks have been supplied and the ammunition is at the dockside. As I said earlier in the week, had it not been for the prospect of another consignment being linked with it, it would have been on its way now.
The position taken by the Labour Party on arms is that, just as we did in 1967, we believe that if it is possible to get a universal embargo that would be the best thing. If that is not possible, we believe that every case should be reviewed on its merits. Speaking only for myself, although I hope that I carry others with me, it is my view that although we should review every case on its merits, there is now only one case which has merit, and that relates to the supply of ammunition to Israel.
People may quite properly say to me, "But what about Jordan?" This is a hypothetical case because Jordan is not at the moment directly involved face to face and is not under attack by Israel. Therefore, it is not pressing upon the Foreign Secretary to decide that issue. As he said, he wants to get back to day-by-day consideration case by case. If a moment arrived when Jordan should be subject to invasion—that might not necessarily be from Israel; it could be from other quarters, too—the Foreign Secretary would then be entitled to say that he will consider that case as it stands.
I want to make my position clear. There is only one case that stands up. It stands up on merits. It stands up because of the Israeli position at this time. If we are considering cases on their merits, clearly there must be distinctions between countries and the cases that they make. Jordan might later have a case. I do not know. I do not think that Jordan has a case now. That is where I stand and where it is sensible to stand on the matter of arms supply.
§ Mr. Mayhew
Will my right hon. Friend explain the statement made by 533 his right hon. Friend? I thought quite clearly that he wished the embargo to be raised not only on both Arab and Israeli arms supplies, but, when I asked him about it, on the 10,000 shells for Jordan and the 4,000 shells for Israel. I understood him to say that he was in favour of that when I put it to him.
§ Mr. Callaghan
My right hon. Friend stated the position as I have just stated it—namely, that every case should be considered on its merits. That is the case that has to be made and that is the way that the House should consider it. I do not think that my right hon. Friend was trying to carry forward the argument that we should be having about it. The case I have made is perfectly valid. Israel should now be supplied with the ammunition for the various reasons that have been adduced throughout the whole of this debate. Any other case should be considered on its merits when it is made. I do not know that such a case has been made. If one were made it should be scrutinised. I do not at this moment believe that such a case exists by whoever it is made.
I pass from that point to other questions that have arisen in the debate. We feel that the Foreign Secretary is correct in saying that he will try to work for a peaceful settlement that will recognise the needs of both sides. But the nub of the problem will be the statement that has been made by President Sadat about withdrawal from Sinai.
This afternoon my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) said that he took the view that it would be unreasonable to expect Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories in advance of a settlement. I think that I have interpreted him fairly. I am glad that he said that, because that would be the view of most of us, whichever side we happen to take.
That is not the position of President Sadat, as reported in The Times. In his open letter to President Nixon, which is reproduced here, dated Beirut, 16th October, President Sadat says that Egypt's "theory of peace" is based on five points, the second being:We are ready to accept a ceasefire based on immediate and complete withdrawal of Israel to borders existing before June 5, 1967. 534 As soon as the withdrawal is complete we shall observe the ceasefire.There is only one interpretation that I can place on that: withdrawal first, cease-fire second, and negotiations third. That is the reverse of the position that my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, East thought was reasonable. I agree with him, but I think there is a long way to go before his position and that of President Sadat will be reconciled on this matter.
This is the nub of the problem. It seems totally unrealistic, whatever one's views about the merits, to expect the Israelis to withdraw in advance of negotiations and a cease-fire. I do not believe that any of us faced with that kind of situation could accept such a position.
The Israelis are, therefore, standing where they are. Some would argue that they should go back to the Canal. It may be that the best solution, if a military stalemate builds up, as we are told by some military experts—Heaven knows, I am not an expert—would be for a cease-fire to take place on the lines which exist at present or wherever they may be when a cease-fire is agreed.
Whatever the position is, one of the most difficult tasks facing the Foreign Secretary is to try to reconcile the statement of President Sadat with what can reasonably be expected from the Israeli Army, which has not been defeated in the field, and which is standing fast on territories and borders which it believes it rightfully holds for its own security. This is the beginning of the problem which has to be solved.
Any steps which the right hon. Gentleman can take to find a formula to achieve a cease-fire on this basis will have support from this side of the House in general and from myself. We ask him to do what he can to get direct talks going. The question of voting tonight is a matter of judgment.
We do not believe that the right hon. Gentleman will prejudice his position if he yields to considerations of honour, fair play and justice which could lead him to complete this contract with the Israelis for the ammunition. If 200 tons of ammunition is involved from Britain, and if the USA and the USSR have provided 5,000 tons apiece in the last few days, I cannot believe that whatever we 535 in this Chamber do would endanger any rôle he has to play—and I hope he will have one to play—as mediator.
Although basically the Shadow Cabinet believes that the Foreign Secretary is wrong in this narrow aspect, if a vote is called we shall vote only on this narrow aspect. If the right hon. Gentleman could even now say that the embargo will be lifted and that the arms and ammunition will be supplied, we shall not feel it necessary at this stage to vote. No Opposition Whip will be imposed on anybody. Members of the Opposition will be free to vote in accordance with their conscience and judgment.
I would like to feel that the same applied to hon. Members opposite. On an issue like this, clearly there is a considerable difference of view and judgment, and no one need attempt to hide it. This is an issue on which an individual Member should be free to express his view as best he thinks. That is our broad attitude throughout this matter.
We welcome the Foreign Secretary's undertaking to keep in touch and to keep us informed as to what is taking place. We shall be available to him at any time he wishes. We welcome his intentions to follow up the issue of mediation. We believe he can follow it up perfectly well, even if he takes the course which our judgment convinces us is right.
We also welcome the Foreign Secretary's statement about oil. We are in agreement on all these matters. There is the single matter of judgment on the question of supplying ammunition. If, when the right hon. Gentleman replies, he can give an assurance that not only will he review this problem but he will reverse his decision, we can avoid a Division tonight and we shall give him our support in his efforts to bring about a cease-fire and to find a permanent and just solution which will ensure not only the security of the Israeli boundary and territory but some solace and a final settlement for the Palestinian refugees who have suffered so much during the years of occupation.
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis (West Ham, North)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I seek your guidance? At ten o'clock we may be called upon to vote. We have been debating a serious issue, and I have 536 in my hand a copy of what has appeared on the tape, which states that a private meeting of the Tory Party has been taking place at which secret information has been given by the Prime Minister—
§ Mr. Lewis
With great respect, Mr. Speaker, until you have heard my point surely you are not in a position to rule on it. If information is available which could and should have been given to the House, should not the Prime Minister have given it to the House and not to a private meeting upstairs? We are supposed to take a decision, but there is information of which the right hon. Gentleman has not apprised us.
§ 9.41 p.m.
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
With your permission, Mr. Speaker, and by leave of the House, I should like to say a few words.
It was clear even before the start of the debate that emotions would run deep and that hon. Members would express their passionate feelings. That is as it should be. No one listening to the debate could doubt the sincerity of the widely-held, diverse views which have been expressed. No one could doubt the sincerity of the views expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, South (Sir H. d'Avigdor-Goldsmid) and the hon. Member for Coventry, North (Mr. Edelman), who passionately opposed the view which I had advanced. They put their case extremely moderately and in a way about which I could not possibly complain.
Nor has there been any absence of appreciation of the magnitude of the issues involved. We have to work for a cease-fire; but a cease-fire is not enough. That point was stressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop). If we have a ceasefire, of which we have had many in the last few years, everything will simply happen all over again, with its dreary monotony and danger. A cease-fire must be followed by a real peace. It is no good unless it is a prelude to a real peace.
537 I should like to say a few words about one aspect of the broad canvas against which the debate has taken place. The Leader of the Liberal Party called attention to the strategic purpose of the Soviet Union in the Gulf. He asked me whether I had forgotten it. With deep respect, I have been calling attention to it for a very long time and all too few have listened. I have also been acutely aware that the only thing which enabled the Russians to be champions of the Arab cause was the existence of the Israel-Arab war. That, and that alone, is why they are able to pose today as the champions of the Arabs, because Arab instincts are antagonistic to Communism.
Over the past three years I have tried to convince the Arab countries that there are other countries to which they can look, which are sympathetic about their development and about their desire to be independent, and which understand, that there is a threat to their security as well as the other way round. The purpose of my approaches to the Arab Governments has been not to back their fight against Israel, but the very opposite—to convince them that a policy of seeking to annihilate the State of Israel is futile and wrong and that there must be a negotiated peace which guarantees Israel's security and theirs.
I believe that the statements by President Sadat and the King of Jordan—and I hope that Syria will soon join in them—that they will make peace with the State of Israel is evidence that we have had some success, because this is a very different attitude from their attitude three years ago.
To speak of policy is really no good if it takes the form of unqualified support for either Israelis or Arabs. The purpose must be to achieve a recognition by each that force cannot pay and that their security and prosperity lie in living in peace with each other—an extraordinarily difficult task in which every diplomat everywhere has failed up to now, including Dr. Jarring and the Secretary-General of the United Nations. But we must not accept failure. We must not be fatalistic in this respect.
But I now believe, although one may be disproved, that at long last Israel is beginning to realise that there may be a better way of guaranteeing her security than by her own strength—I am not sure 538 about this, but I think it is likely—and that the Arabs may be beginning to realise that they cannot any longer tenably hold their position and say that their object is to annihilate the State of Israel; that they are at least accepting that they have to live in peace with the State of Israel and that that will pay. That is the background against which we have held our debate.
I come now to the speech of the Leader of the Opposition. I think that the main difference—I do not want to harp on this, because we have debated it fairly fully—between 1967 and now is this. In 1967 a continuing embargo would have worked quickly and to the disadvantage of Israel, and if that war had been prolonged the disadvantage to Israel would have been very severe. I shall leave Jordan out of the argument, although I would correct the right hon. Gentleman and point out that the Jordanian army was in an armoured battle yesterday in which it inflicted casualties and suffered casualties. It has been in the battle and could very easily get back into the battle again. I think that the right hon. Gentleman—
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
But Jordan did, I am afraid, make an attack and was repulsed and, therefore, suffered casualties.
But there is also powerful weaponry which has been ordered by Egypt, and which was due to go to Egypt on exactly the same terms of contract as the contract with Israel. On the whole, the orders that Jordan and Egypt together had placed would, as I said this afternoon, have tipped the scales against Israel. The United States and the Russians are clearly continuing to supply both sides. Our supplies are marginal. Our supplies were not so marginal in 1967 and, as I said, if the war had continued and if the supplies had not continued they would have made a great difference to Israel.
The Leader of the Opposition stated his policy on the embargo, and the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) has tried again to enlighten us. I am not sure how far he has succeeded. Was he saying that existing contracts which have been signed should be fulfilled and that any new orders should be scrutinised in the normal way? 539 Or was he saying that everything which is now in the pipeline, including existing contracts, should be scrutinised?
There is a big difference here, as the House will realise. If the right hon. Gentleman was saying that all contracts should be rescrutinised now, that would mean that the Government could supply everything to Israel and nothing to any of the Arab States—that was what he seemed to be suggesting—and it would be within the Government's discretion to make up their own minds on this matter. On the other hand, if the right hon. Gentleman believes that existing contracts should be fulfilled—this was, I thought, the line of the Leader of the Opposition—it inevitably follows that not only should we supply Israel but we should also supply considerable quantities both to Egypt and to Jordan: in other words, the 10,000 rounds of ammunition to Jordan and the 4,000 rounds to Israel. I do not ask the two right hon. Gentlemen to clarify that point any further but, if they do not mind my saying so, there is a difference between the two.
The Leader of the Opposition said that his administration had given the Israeli Government an undertaking that, if T62 tanks were delivered by the Russians to the Arabs, the British Government would supply Chieftains to Israel. What undertakings the right hon. Gentleman may have given to other Governments is within his knowledge only. We have no access to such knowledge, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, and perfectly properly so. This is a constitutional matter, and we have no knowledge of the deal done by the right hon. Gentleman.
The right hon. Gentleman has told me what happened, but I can tell him that since the election in 1970 the Israeli Government have never made any request for Chieftain tanks, and I can tell him why. It is because, having been refused Chieftain tanks, the Israelis went for American tanks and gave up the idea of the Chieftain. I think that that is the correct interpretation. I hope, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman will not imply—he has no right to imply—that Her Majesty's Government have in some way defaulted on an obligation which his administration may have undertaken with the Government of Israel.
540 This afternoon I spoke only briefly about oil. There are two questions which the right hon. Gentleman might fairly say face the Western world, price and cutoff. The risk of serious damage to Western Europe by action taken in an atmosphere of emotion, charged and overflowing, is obvious. We must try to be in a position to bring sanity and comprehension to the Arabs about where their real interests lie in this matter, and their interest cannot he to destroy the economy of Western Europe.
Quite a lot has been said this afternoon about contracts. There must be occasions, I am afraid, when wider considerations override contracts. I remember my right hon. Friend the Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Hugh Fraser) making the most passionate plea that humanity should override contracts in the context of Biafra. I remember that argument very well. There must, I am afraid, be occasions when, in the wider interest, contracts must be overridden.
All these licences have in them provision for modification or cancellation, but the overriding interest now is to stop this war. The only phrase of what I said this afternoon that I shall repeat is that our overriding purpose must be to stop the war, not to stoke it. I cannot see how supplying arms to both sides does anything but stoke the war. British Governments have taken that view on at least 11 occasions since 1945 and applied temporary embargoes, and I believe that this is such an occasion.
§ Mr. Arthur Latham (Paddington, North)
Is it not reasonable to say that arms can be supplied only on the assumption that they may be used Is it not therefore true, in terms of principle, that there can be only two consistent decisions: first, that one is in favour of supplying arms before the outbreak of hostilities and afterwards; and secondly, that one is opposed on principle to supplying arms both before and after the outbreak of hostilities?
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
The hon. Gentleman cannot say that his party is opposed in principle to the sale of arms, because the Labour administration appointed the arms salesman. That is not a tenable position.
541 Peace making must take preference over the supply of marginal quantities of arms to both sides. I repeat to the House that we shall keep the most vigilant watch on the state of the battle. The destruction of Israel could not be tolerated. This is a commitment of the whole Western world.
Some hon. Members have suggested a total loss of trust between the Israeli Government and ourselves. I can only say to the House that almost every day we are in the closest contact and discussion with the Israeli Government in a constructive dialogue—
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
The right hon. Gentleman, I hope, is not arguing now that we should not be in dialogue with the Russians or the Israelis, or indeed anybody else.
§ Mr. Thorpe
I am sure the right hon. Gentleman wants to be fair. He is suggesting that Anglo-Israeli relations are based on complete trust because he is in daily contact with the Israelis. He also told us he is in almost daily contact with the Russians. Has he total trust in them as well?
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
I said that it has been suggested that we were not in a position where we had easy relations with Israel. This is not true. We are having them daily—every day. I think that the right hon. Gentleman probably did not mean to suggest what he clearly was suggesting to the House by his first intervention while still sitting down. Dialogue must be a good thing in all the circumstances. I am glad that he assents.
I cannot say to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cardiff. South-East that I will modify my policy now or in
§ a fixed number of days. That is not the way international affairs of this complexity and magnitude can be conducted. The Soviet Union, the United States, we ourselves, the Europeans, are all making very complicated diplomatic contacts at this moment trying to arrange the basis on which a cease-fire and, following the cease-fire, a peace conference can be built.
§ Mr. Harold Wilson
In 1967 when talks were going on for a cease-fire and were nearer to a case-fire than now, we ended our 24-hour embargo with the right hon. Gentleman's full assent. He said it was right. Will lie now tell us why it is not right?
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
I gave it my full assent because the circumstances were different. It was right to do it at the time. Whenever I could, in Opposition, I tried to help the Government of the day.
I renew the offer that I made earlier this afternoon. I will keep in touch with the right hon. Gentleman. I will from day to day—and as I said, from hour to hour—see whether any review of our policy is justified, but I cannot go further than that. We must give priority to the peace-making efforts of not only ourselves but America and the Soviet Union as well. So I renew the offer I made this afternoon, but I cannot go further. I will return to the House immediately I can see how the peace-making opportunities are developing and give the Government's guidance as to how it seems to us wise to proceed.
§ Question put, That this House do now adjourn:—
§ The House divided: Ayes, 175, Noes 251.545
|Division No. 212.||AYES||[10.0 p.m.|
|Abse, Leo||Brown, Robert C. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne, W.)||d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry|
|Albu, Austen||Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James||d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Maj.-Gen. Jack|
|Archer, Poter (Rowley Regis)||Cant, R. B.||Davis, Clinton (Hackney, C.)|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Carter, Ray (Birmingha'm, Northfield)||Davis, Terry (Bromsgrove)|
|Ashley, Jack||Carter-Jones, Lewis (Eccles)||de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey|
|Atkinson, Norman||Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara||Dell, Rt. Hn. Edmund|
|Austick, David||Clark, David (Colne Valley)||Duffy, A. E. P.|
|Barnes, Michael||Cohen, Stanley||Edelman, Maurice|
|Barnelt, Joel (Heywood and Royton)||Cox, Thomas (Wandsworth, C.)||Ellis, Tom|
|Beaney, Alan||Crawshaw, Richard||Fidler, Michael|
|Bishop, E. S||Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Finsberg, Geoffrey (Hampstead)|
|Boothroyd, Miss Betty||Dalyell, Tam||Fisher,Mrs.Doris (B'ham,Ladywood)|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur||Davidson, Arthur||Fitch, Alan (Wigan)|
|Bowden, Andrew||Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)|
|Boyden, James (Bishop Auckland)||Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Fraser,Rt.Hn.Hugh(St'fford & Stone)|
|Freeson, Reginald||Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.)||Probert, Arthur|
|Freud, Clement||Lipton, Marcus||Reed, D. (Sedgefield)|
|Galpern, Sir Meyer||Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)||Rees, Merlyn (Leeds, S.)|
|Gilbert, Dr. John||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Richard, Ivor|
|Ginsburg, David (Dewsbury)||McAdden, Sir Stephen||Roberts, Rt.Hn. Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Golding, John||McBride, Neil||Rose, Paul B.|
|Goodhart, Philip||Mackenzie, Gregor||Ross, Rt. Hn. William (Kilmarnock)|
|Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C.||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)||Rowlands, Ted|
|Gorst, John||McNamara, J. Kevin||Sandelson, Neville|
|Gourlay, Harry||Maginnis, John E.||Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-under-Lyne)|
|Grant, George (Morpeth)||Mahon, Simon (Bootle)||Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)|
|Grant, John D. (Islington, E.)||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)||Short, Rt.Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)|
|Grimond, Rt. Hn. J.||Marsden, F.||Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton, N.E.)|
|Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)|
|Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)||Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert||Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Hamling, William||Mendelson, John||Silverman, Julius|
|Hannan, William (G'gow, Maryhill)||Miller, Dr. M. S.||Soref, Harold|
|Hardy, Peter||Milne, Edward||Stallard, A. W.|
|Harper, Joseph||Mitchell, Lt. -Col. C.(Aberdeenshire, W)||Steel, David|
|Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Money, Ernie||Stewart, Donald (Western Isles)|
|Hattersley, Roy||Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)||Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael (Fulham)|
|Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Stewart-Smith, Geoffrey (Belper)|
|Heffer, Eric S.||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)||Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.|
|Hooson, Emlyn||Morris, Rt. Hn. John (Aberavon)||Summerskil, Hn. Dr. Shirley|
|Horam, John||Moyle, Roland||Thorpe, Rt. Hn. Jeremy|
|Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick||Tope, Graham|
|Howell, Denis (Small Heath)||Oakes, Gordon||Torney, Tom|
|Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Ogden, Eric||Tuck, Raphael|
|Hunter, Adam||O'Halloran, Michael||Varley, Eric G.|
|Iremonger, T. L.||O'Malley, Brian||Wainwright, Edwin|
|Irvine, Rt. Hn. Sir Arthur (Edge Hill)||Oppenheim, Mrs Sally||Walden, Brian (B'm'ham, All Saints)|
|Janner, Greville||Oram, Bert||Weitzman, David|
|Jeger, Mrs. Lena||Orbach, Maurice||Wellbeloved, James|
|Jessel, Toby||Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, Sutton)||Whitehead, Phillip|
|John, Brynmor||Paget, R. T.||Whitlock, William|
|Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)||Paisley, Rev. Ian||Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Jones, Barry (Flint, E.)||Palmer, Arthur||Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)|
|Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles||Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)|
|Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn(W.Ham,S.)||Pardoe, John||Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)|
|Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, W.)||Parker, John (Dagenham)||Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)|
|Judd, Frank||Parry, Robert (Liverpool, Exchange)|
|Kaufman, Gerald||Pavitt, Laurie||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick||Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred||Mr. Donald Coleman and|
|Leonard, Dick||Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg.||Mr. James A. Dunn|
|Lever, Rt. Hn. Harold||Price, William (Rugby)|
|Adley, Robert||Carlisle, Mark||Fisher, Nigel (Surbiton)|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert||Fletcher-Cooke, Charles|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Cary, Sir Robert||Fookes, Miss Janet|
|Amery, Rt. Hn. Julian||Channon, Paul||Fortescue, Tim|
|Archer, Jeffrey (Louth)||Chapman, Sydney||Foster, Sir John|
|Astor, John||Chataway, Rt. Hn. Christopher||Fowler, Norman|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Chichester-Clark, R.||Fox, Marcus|
|Awdry, Daniel||Clark, William (Surrey, E.)||Gibson-Watt, David|
|Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone)||Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.)|
|Baker, W. H. K. (Banff)||Cockeram, Eric||Glyn, Dr. Alan|
|Balniel, Rt. Hn. Lord||Conlan, Bernard||Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B.|
|Batsford, Brian||Cooke, Robert||Goodhew, Victor|
|Baxter, William||Coombs, Derek||Gower, Raymond|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Corfield, Rt. Hn. Sir Frederick||Grant, Anthony (Harrow, C.)|
|Bell, Ronald||Costain, A. P.||Gray, Hamish|
|Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay)||Crouch, David||Green, Alan|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport)||Crowder, F. P.||Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)|
|Benyon, W.||Davies, Rt. Hn. John (Knutsford)||Grylls, Michael|
|Berry, Hn. Anthony||Dean, Paul||Gummer, J. Selwyn|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Digby, Simon Wingfield||Hall, Miss Joan (Keighley)|
|Biffen, John||Dixon, Piers||Hall, Sir John (Wycombe)|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Dodds-Parker, Sir Douglas||Hall-Davis, A. G. F.|
|Blaker, Peter||Douglas-Home, Rt. Hn. Sir Alec||Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)|
|Body, Richard||Drayson, G. B.||Hannam, John (Exeter)|
|Boscawen, Hn. Robert||Driberg, Tom||Harrison, Brian (Maldon)|
|Bossom, Sir Clive||du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward||Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)|
|Braine, Sir Bernard||Eden, Rt. Hn. Sir John||Havers, Sir Michael|
|Bray, Ronald||Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Hawkins, Paul|
|Brewis, John||Elliott, R. W. (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, N.)||Hayhoe, Barney|
|Brinton, Sir Tatton||Emery, Peter||Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward|
|Brocklebank-Fowler, Christopher||Eyre, Reginald||Heseltine, Michael|
|Bruce-Gardyne, J.||Farr, John||Hicks, Robert|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N & M)||Faulds, Andrew||Higgins, Terence L|
|Buck, Antony||Fell, Anthony||Hiley, Joseph|
|Bullus, Sir Eric||Fenner, Mrs. Peggy||Holland, Philip|
|Butler, Adam (Bosworth)||Holt, Miss Mary|
|Hordern, Peter||Maudling, Rt Hn. Reginald||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Hornsby-Smith,Rt.Hn.Dame Patricia||Mawby, Ray||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Howe, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey (Reigate)||Maxwell-Hyslop. R. J.||Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington)|
|Howell, David (Guildford)||Mayhew, Christopher||Speed, Keith|
|Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N.)||Meyer, Sir Anthony||Spence, John|
|Hughes, Mark (Durham)||Mills, Peter (Torrington)||Sproat, lain|
|Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Miscampbell, Norman||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Hunt, John||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)||Stodart, Anthony (Edinburgh, W.)|
|Hutchison, Michael Clark||Moate, Roger||Stokes, John|
|Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Monks, Mrs. Connie||Stott, Roger|
|James, David||Montgomery, Fergus||Sutcliffe, John|
|Jenkin, Rt. Hn. Patrick (Woodford)||More, Jasper||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)||Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm.||Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)|
|Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead)||Morrison, Charles||Taylor, Robert (Croydon, N.W.)|
|Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)||Neave, Airey||Tebbit, Norman|
|Jopling, Michael||Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael||Temple, John M.|
|Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith||Nott, John||Thatcher, Rt. Hn. Mrs. Margaret|
|Kaberry, Sir Donald||Onslow, Cranley||Thomas, John Stradling (Monmouth)|
|Kellett-Bowman, Mrs. Elaine||Osborn, John||Thomas, Rt. Hn. Peter (Hendon, S.)|
|Kelley, Richard||Page, Rt. Hn. Graham (Crosby)||Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)|
|Kershaw, Anthony||Peer, Sir John||Tilney, Sir John|
|Kimball, Marcus||Percival, Ian||Tinn, James|
|King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)||Peyton, Rt. Hn. John||Trafford, Dr. Anthony|
|King, Tom (Bridgwater)||Pike, Miss Mervyn||Trew, Peter|
|Kinsey, J. R.||Pink, R. Bonner||Tugendhat, Christopher|
|Kitson, Timothy||Price, David (Eastleigh)||Turton, Rt. Hn. Sir Robin|
|Knight, Mrs. Jill||Prior, Rt. Hn J. M. L.||Vaughan, Dr. Gerard|
|Knox, David||Proundfoot, Wilfred||Vickers, Dame Joan|
|Lane, David||Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis||Waddington, David|
|Langford-Holt, Sir John||Raison, Timothy||Walder, David (Clitheroe)|
|Lawson, George||Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek|
|Le Marchant, Spencer||Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter||Wall, Patrick|
|Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Redmond, Robert||Wallers, Dennis|
|Lloyd, Rt.Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'nC'field)||Reed, Laurance (Bolton, E.)||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)||Rees, Peter (Dover)||Watkins, David|
|Longden, Sir Gilbert||Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Loveridge, John||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Luce, R. N.||Ridsdale, Julian||White, Roger (Gravesend)|
|McCrindle, R. A.||Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey||Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William|
|McGuire, Michael||Roberts, Wyn (Conway)||Wiggin, Jerry|
|McLaren, Martin||Royle, Anthony||Wilkinson, John|
|Maclean, Sir Fitzroy||Russell, Sir Ronald||Winterton, Nicholas|
|McMaster, Stanley||St. John-Stevas, Norman||Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard|
|McNair-Wilson, Michael||Sandys, Rt. Hn. D.||Woodnutt, Mark|
|McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest)||Scott, Nicholas||Wylie, Rt. Hn. N. R.|
|Madel, David||Scott-Hopkins, James||Younger, Hn. George|
|Marples, Rt. Hn. Ernest||Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Marten, Nell||Shelton, William (Clapham)||Mr. Walter Clegg and|
|Mather, Carol||Shersby, Michael||Mr. Oscar Murton|
§ Question accordingly negatived.