HC Deb 15 June 1977 vol 933 cc367-8
9. Mr. McCrindle

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he has any plans to visit Israel.

Dr. Owen

I hope to visit Israel as soon as it is convenient.

Mr. McCrindle

In the meantime, and while recognising that ultimately concessions will no doubt have to come from both sides if peace in the Middle East is to be maintained, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman to resist undue pressure on the new Israeli Administration in regard to the evacuation of territory, and to use the time between now and his expected visit to press the Palestinian interests to recognise the existence of the State of Israel?

Dr. Owen

I have already indicated that I think that a movement in this area of recognition would certainly help, although I realise the complexity of the problem. The Government's attitude to settlements in the occupied territory has been made absolutely clear. I agree with what the hon. Gentleman said about the new Government. They are a new Government, democratically elected, and they must be given the benefit of any doubt or anxieties that people may have about the future position over a negotiated peace settlement. I hope that when they look at the issues they will enter into the negotiations for a settlement with a readiness to reach an agreement that will bring stability to the area. It is certainly in that spirit that I approach the new Government.

Mr. Rifkind

Remembering that the British Government officially condemned the Arab boycott against Israel, will the right hon. Gentleman undertake to follow the example of the United States, Canada and the Netherlands by instructing officials of his own Department to stop authenticating signatures of discriminatory certificates of origin, as this is the one way in which the British Government actively enable the boycott against Israel to be continued?

Dr. Owen

I cannot accept that the certification of documents by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in any way implies that we condone or endorse the boycott. We do not. I have made the position clear on that. All that is certified is the signature of the public official.

Mr. Tapsell

Has the right hon. Gentleman noted that since the Israeli election Mr. Begin has publicly stated that he will go to Washington on the basis of Resolutions 242 and 338? Is not this a rather encouraging sign?

Dr. Owen

Yes, Sir. I think that it reflects the fact that the Israeli Government are ready to negotiate. I hope that that is the position. It is very important that we do not judge a Government by statements during the election period. I think that most of us would recognise that the best way of judging Governments is by what they actually do in office.