HC Deb 18 November 1981 vol 13 cc269-70
8. Mr. Hoyle

asked the Lord Privy Seal if, in his capacity as President of the European Council of Ministers, the Foreign Secretary has attempted to sound out the reactions of the people and Government of the State of Israel to the Saudi Arabian eight-point peace plan.

Mr. Hurd

We remain in close touch with the Government of Israel on all aspects of the Arab-Israel dispute and are aware of the initial Israeli reaction to Prince Fahd's plan. We are, of course also aware that lasting peace in the Middle East can be arrived at only with the full consent of Israel.

Mr. Hoyle

Does the Minister realise that the people of Israel view the plan with alarm, not least because the Saudi Government have disowned their United Nations representative for suggesting that explicit recognition for the State of Israel was contained in the plan? Does it not also lead one to believe that the talk of recognition being afforded by the plan was so much window dressing?

Mr. Hurd

That is not the American President's view and it is not ours. When my right hon. and noble Friend was in Riyadh he was left in no doubt that in the Saudi view the seventh of Prince Fahd's principles includes Israel in the context of a comprehensive settlement. The Saudi Foreign Minister, speaking in Riyadh during my right hon. Friend's visit, said on 5 November: There will not be any negotiation between Palestine and Israel unless they mutually recognise each other, and that is the important factor". Surely this is something that should be welcomed and not denounced.

Mr. Aitken

Is my right hon. Friend aware that when Prime Minister Begin recently asked the Knesset to vote for outright rejection of the Saudi peace plan, out of 100 Israeli Members of Parliament voting, no fewer than 45 either voted against rejection or abstained? Is not the very narrowness of the vote an encouraging sign that many people in Israel regard Crown Prince Fahd's peace plan as a wise and statesmanlike basis for negotiation towards a lasting settlement?

Mr. Hurd

I had not noted that point, and I am grateful to my hon. Friend for drawing attention to it. We hope that, on reflection, the Israeli Government will find it in them to welcome what is a substantial move on the part of the Saudis, as President Reagan has recognised, in the direction of a peaceful settlement.

Mr. David Watkins

May I press the Minister further on that point? Will Her Majesty's Government take positive steps to impress upon the Israeli Government that Palestinian self-determination is not only a fundamental principle in accordance with the principles of the United Nations, but is essential for peace in the area? Will he press the Israeli Government to recognise that fact?

Mr. Hurd

We shall do what we can, but it would be a help if the PLO, for its part, would make it clear that once there had been some Israeli recognition of the Palestinian rights, the PLO in turn would clearly and unequivocally recognise Israel's right to exist.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

Does my hon. Friend agree that clause 7 of the plan, which confirms the right of the countries in the region to live in peace, is significant because it has the support of the PLO?

Mr. Hurd

I think that it is significant as a statement of Saudi policy. We may know a little more about the PLO's attitude towards it after the Fez summit, the Arab summit, next week, which the PLO attends.

Mr. Russell Johnston

Did the Saudis express any reservations or doubts about British participation in the Sinai peacekeeping force?

Mr. Hurd

I hope and think that the basis on which we may participate in that force is increasingly understood by our Arab friends.

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