HC Deb 22 June 1982 vol 26 cc210-71

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Garel-Jones.]

7.22 pm
The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Francis Pym)

I welcome this opportunity to open a debate on the Middle East, an area of the world which always demands close attention and which has in recent weeks been an arena for yet further large-scale conflict.

War is always a matter for the gravest regret. It is more particularly so in this area, where there is an ever-present risk of escalation into a wider conflict into which much of the rest of the world, including the superpowers, could be dragged.

Although we are not the nearest of our European partners to the Middle East in geographical terms, none has enjoyed closer links to the countries in the area than we have. These are links which we continue to value, and which give added reason for our deep and legitimate anxiety about the problems of the Middle East. All British Governments have taken the view that peace and stability in the Middle East are important national and international interests, as well as being essential for the peoples of that troubled region.

Two major conflicts are currently in full swing: the Israeli invasion of Lebanon and the Iran-Iraq war. I propose to look at these in turn, and to consider the implications of what has happened for progress towards peace in the long term.

Everyone has been shocked by the scale and intensity of the fighting in Lebanon, and the terrible casualties, particularly among the civilian population. There has been a severity about this war which many have felt very alarming. To me, the Israeli invasion represents a major setback to prospects for a lasting peace in the region.

Lebanon was torn apart in a bloody civil war six years ago, and has now been further battered by the present invasion. The news today is that serious fighting has again broken out between Israeli and Syrian forces east of Beirut, near the main Beirut-Damascus highway. I am not aware of any renewed fighting today in West Beirut.

What has Israel's action been designed to achieve? It is argued in justification of the Israeli invasion that it was a legitimate measure of self-defence. It is also suggested that a major Israeli objective has been to secure the establishment of a strengthened Lebanese Government capable of maintaining their authority throughout their territory. In addition, it appears that the destruction of the Palestine Liberation Organisation may be regarded as an objective in itself, and as a means of reducing the Palestinian problem and making it easier to deal with. I want to comment on each of these points in turn.

First, the Israelis have justified their invasion on the grounds of self-defence. Our attitude is clear, both on the legal right to self-defence and on the importance of the security of Israel. On the first, every State has the legal right to self-defence, and it must obviously be allowed to exercise it in practice where this proves necessary.

On the second, we are not and cannot be indifferent to the future of Israel, a democratic State with which we are closely linked by many ties of history and culture. Israel has the same unchallengeable right to exist in peace and in security, within recognised and guaranteed borders, as every other State. In the Venice declaration, our European partners joined us in reaffirming this right and expressed their readiness to take part in concrete and binding international guarantees, including on the ground. But the fact remains that a State's exercise of the right to self-defence must be justified against the established legal criteria. It is a right to self-defence, and whatever action is taken must be in proportion to the threat.

Let us look for a moment at the background. After Israel invaded Lebanon in 1978, the United Nations set up a peacekeeping force, UNIFIL. This force was prevented by the Israelis from fully entering the area covered by its mandate, an area without which it could not possibly do its job. Nevertheless, after further border incidents for which all parties share the blame, President Reagan's representative, Mr. Habib, succeeded in the summer of 1981 in negotiating an effective ceasefire. For nine months this border was quiet, somewhat precariously, but nevertheless quiet. Then the quiet was broken by Israeli air raids. Only after these air raids was there artillery bombardment from the Lebanese side of the border. And it was this bombardment which was taken to serve as a pretext for the invasion.

I cannot accept that this background justifies a full-scale armed invasion. Nor does it justify the claim to cleanse an area of 25 miles or so of Lebanese territory. And even if it did, this professed objective would seem to bear little relation to the course that the Israeli armed forces have followed since, which has led them to the outskirts of Beirut.

Turning to the justification relating to the Government on the Lebanon, we certainly want to see Lebanon united under a strengthened central Government and at peace. If this were to be one result of the present conflict it would be a lasting benefit, albeit one that will have to be set against the extremely high costs in human lives and human suffering which have been incurred by the people of Lebanon. But a political settlement in the Lebanon, however desirable it may be, cannot justify an invasion by a neighbouring country. Nor is military action likely to produce a reliable answer to problems which require essentially a solution by political means.

It would be quite wrong for Israel to impose her own preferred political solution on Lebanon by armed force. And what is more, it would not work. Any settlement which was achieved under the shadow of the Israeli army could not last, because it would be seen by the Muslims in Lebanon, and by the Arab world generally, as imposed under duress.

If Israel is really interested in permitting the emergence of a more stable Lebanese political structure, she should withdraw her forces in accordance with Security Council resolution 509 and help to create the conditions that will make the free expression of the wishes of the Lebanese people possible.

There is also the justification that is related to the PLO. We recognise Israel's longing for security and understand her unwillingness to deal with the PLO while that organisation refuses to accept her existence and to renounce terrorism as a weapon in its armoury. But the scale of the Israeli invasion has been quite disproportionate to the objective of achieving security from terrorist attack. What is more, the destruction of the PLO's organisation in Beirut will not, in my view, enhance Israel's security.

Clearly Israel cannot destroy the entire Palestinian people. The PLO, whether we like it or not, enjoys widespread support among Palestinians throughout the Middle East. The destruction of the PLO's political structure will lead to frustration and despair—the very conditions in which extremists have always flourished.

The PLO leadership in Beirut are men who have tried to lead a disparate movement towards a diplomatic solution to their grievances. They may not always have done so consistently, but that has been their purpose. If they are routed, the diplomatic path will be discredited in the eyes of many young Palestinians, and I believe, even discarded by some. The destruction of the PLO in Beirut may provoke precisely what the Israelis and all of us most seek to avoid—which is a return to the extremism that produced the international terrorism of the early 1970s.

I have explained the Government's view that the Israeli invasion cannot be justified as a legitimate exercise of the inherent right of self-defence that Israel shares with all other States. It can be regarded only as a setback to the cause of peace in the Middle East. The problems of the Lebanon, and those which underlie the wider conflict between the Arabs and Israel, are made more rather than less complicated by the resort to arms. That makes it all the more necessary that we should add our weight to the search for an acceptable alternative. I assure the House that we shall do so. We do not delude ourselves that there are short cuts through the difficult terrain which I should now like to describe.

I shall deal first with the Palestinians. The crucial problem remains that of the Palestinians. Lebanon can bear witness to the fact that the Palestinian people will remain a factor for instability in the Middle East until their political aspirations can be met. The autonomy talks represent one approach to the problem of the political future of the Palestinians, but they have been dogged from the outset by disagreement both on what should be the ultimate objective of the autonomy process and on practical aspects of the powers to be granted to the Palestinians in the occupied territories.

We and our partners in Europe have always made it clear that we would not wish to undermine the efforts of the Camp David signatories to find a solution to the wider Palestinian problem. But we recognise that the autonomy process suffers from a further serious defect. It offers nothing to Palestinians outside the West Bank and Gaza. It cannot therefore be a long-term solution to the Palestinian question, unless it leads on to negotiations involving authentic Palestinian representatives.

The Government's view, which is shared by the other members of the Community remains that the Palestinian problem can be settled only by an overall peace settlement which takes account of the Palestinians' right to determine their future. However difficult it may seem—it seems more difficult now than before—it is as true now as before the Israeli invasion of Lebanon that this will have to be worked out in negotiations among all the interested parties, including Israel. The only territory in which an act of Palestinian self-determination could realistically be carried out is the territory of the West Bank and Gaza, which was occupied by Israel in the 1967 war. What would emerge on this territory would be for the Palestinians themselves to determine.

The options that are available to the Palestinians logically include that of a State, but the logic of self-determination points equally to the fact that other options are also open. The important point would be that it should be an act of free choice, taken in the knowledge of the political realities of the region. The interests of the Palestinian people, once their legitimate rights had been recognised, would surely be for co-operation with their powerful neighbour Israel.

Several Israeli leaders have spoken of Jordan as providing a solution to the dispossession of the Palestinian people. The trouble with that idea is that neither the Palestinians nor the Jordanians are prepared to accept it.

Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton, North)

Do the political realities of the region include, in my right hon. Friend's opinion, any existing Israeli settlements or any future settlements that might be put on the West Bank?

Mr. Pym

Yes, of course.

The Palestinians see their home as being on the West Bank of Jordan. Any negotiated settlement will have to take that into account, just as it will have to provide adequate guarantees for the security of Israel. A negotiated settlement that meets the aspirations of the Palestinian people—if it can ever be achieved—would provide a much sounder basis for a just and, therefore, lasting peace between Israel and Palestinians than the peace which Israel is attempting to impose by force of arms in the Lebanon and by its settlements policy on the West Bank. Those two principles—Palestinian rights and the Israeli right to security—remain as fundamental today as in June 1980 when they were affirmed in the Venice declaration. My main anxiety today is that we are further away now from the implementation of those principles than we were then.

I shall now deal with the Lebanon. The international community must now find effective means to ensure that a more secure future can be established for the people of the Lebanon. In my view, a strengthened peacekeeping presence is likely to be essential. Several possibilities are being considered, including a strengthened role for UNIFIL and a new multinational force outside the United Nations system.

UNIFIL's mandate, as the House knows, was renewed by the Security Council for two months on 18 June to leave all options open for the moment. The present situation is too fluid for final decisions to be made, and Mr. Habib continues his discussions. Meanwhile, there is an urgent need for humanitarian assistance. We have played our part in this and will continue to do so.

We have already made available about £55,000 to the Red Cross, mainly for medical supplies. We are also giving a further £200,000 to other relief agencies, mainly for tents and blankets and are contributing to the aid offered through the Community. We have told the Lebanese Government that we stand ready to do our best to meet any specific requests that they have. We look to the Israeli Government to do everything possible to speed up the flow of humanitarian supplies from international relief agencies. There have been disquieting reports of delay and hindrance. Events in the Lebanon have inevitably taken the headlines recently. I thought it right to speak about them at some length.

Mr. Anthony Nelson (Chichester)

Before my right hon. Friend moves on, as I believe he will, to deal with the Iran-Iraq problem, will he be kind enough to say a little about the American attitude towards the invasion of the Lebanon and whether the almost tacit support that the American Administration seem to have given the Israelis deserves to be passed over?

Mr. Pym

Yes, of course. President Reagan's visit to Europe, with two summits, and more particularly his visit to the United Kingdom, gave us a good opportunity to share our views with him and Secretary of State Haig, and we were able to do that continuously. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister goes to New York tomorrow and will have a further opportunity to meet President Reagan, when they will once again share their views. There is no doubt that the United States has a greater influence on Israel than any other country or group of countries. We have therefore thought it right to keep in very close touch, and as well as representing our views to Israel we have taken the opportunity to represent them strongly to the United States Government. That process continues.

Mr. Cyril D. Townsend (Bexleyheath)

I am sure that the House is anxious to learn how aid is to reach the troubled people in the Lebanon. My right hon. Friend mentioned "disquieting reports". I hope that he does not intend to leave it there. What has he heard about obstructions being put in the path of the international organisations? Why does he think the Israeli authorities are so loth to have aid moved into that area? Could it be that the fighting has not ceased, despite their claim that it has? Could it be that the Israelis do not wish the world to know what is really happening in Southern Lebanon tonight?

Mr. Pym

It is clear that the fighting has not ceased. I do not have absolute confirmation of this, but reports indicate that there have been delays. I say to my hon. Friend and to the House, therefore, that we are doing everything that we can, as a nation and with our Community partners, with Israel to bring the maximum possible relief, and we are ready to respond in the best way that we can to any requests that we receive from the Lebanese Government.

Mr. John Gorst (Hendon, North)

Will my right hon. Friend restate the Government's attitude to the PLO? First, will he make it clear that the Government will not negotiate or encourage anyone to negotiate with a terrorist organisation? Secondly, will he make clear his condemnation of the techniques that the PLO has employed?

Mr. Pym

I think that I have made clear the Government's position and my own in relation to the PLO and the Palestinian people. I have also described the relationship between the Palestinian people and the PLO. Certainly the attitude towards the PLO is not shared by all Palestinians. Nevertheless, it represents a major focus of the aspirations of the Palestinian people, as I sought earlier to make clear.

Mr. Robert Adley (Christchurch and Lymington)

I am sorry to interrupt my right hon. Friend, as he has been very generous with his time, but will he state the Government's position on what appears to be the Israeli Government's principle of reserving the right to dictate who their neighbours should be? Will he confirm that it is no part of the Government's policy to tolerate that kind of behaviour, whether by Israel in the Middle East or by the Soviet Union in Afghanistan?

Mr. Pym

I think that I would agree with what my hon. Friend says. I think that what I have said so far is broadly in sympathy with his view.

Mr. Marlow

Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Pym

I have given way four times already, and I gave way to my hon. Friend earlier. As others will wish to speak in the limited time available, I think that I should continue my remarks.

If I deal more briefly with the conflict between Iran and Iraq, it is certainly not because I regard it as less important. Indeed, its implications for stability in the region could be equally serious or even more serious than the invasion of Lebanon. The conflict remains a very real threat to the stability of all countries in an area of supreme importance to the West, quite apart from the ghastly waste of human and material resources. It is a situation which also contains the practical and real potential danger of escalation to a wider conflict.

Our alarm about the situation is widely shared. In a declaration on 24 May, Foreign Ministers of the Community expressed their deep concern at the continuation of the conflict, not least because of the potential implications if it continues and the grave suffering of the civilian populations. They repeated their call for an end to the fighting and for a negotiated settlement, and paid tribute to the persistent efforts at mediation made by the representatives of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the Non-Aligned Movement Foreign Ministers Committee and the Good Offices Committee of the Islamic Conference.

We believe that a peaceful solution should accord with the principles recognised by the international community and defined in Security Council resolution 479 of 28 September 1980, which calls on the parties to refrain from the use of force and to settle their dispute by peaceful means.

The Security Council may have a further useful role to play here, but we must be careful to get the timing right and to see that the necessary preparatory work has been done. In my view, a debate which did no more than record differences between the parties would not help. It might even make progress towards a settlement more difficult than it is already.

The international community should work for a resolution acceptable to both parties. The Secretary-General and his predecessor have been involved in mediation efforts from the very beginning of this conflict and it is right that all members of the Security Council should continue to support his efforts. We ourselves will certainly continue to play as constructive a part as we can.

There are still far too many unknowns and uncertainties in this war for my liking. Iranian intentions are not clear. We hope that there will soon be a complete end to hostilities and that the recent announcement by President Saddam Hussein that he intends to withdraw Iraqi troops from those parts of Iran which they still occupy may prove to be a wise step in the right direction.

These are, then, difficult days for peace in the Middle East. Indeed, I would say that the whole period and sequence of events are difficult and are making the objective for which we are searching more difficult to attain. Some of the consequences of the conflict are already all too apparent, while others will appear only in the course of time. Therefore, I do not find it easy to be optimistic about the prospects for a negotiated and comprehensive settlement to the Arab-Israel conflict, but it would be a disaster if the Arab States were to conclude from the invasion of Lebanon that such a settlement was now beyond reach. We must make it our business to find the way.

With that in mind, I make a plea to the House not to look at this subject in black and white or in stereotypes. It is all too easy to fall into that trap. With some speeches on the Middle East, and with some letters to the press, it is enough to read the first few words to know what the conclusion will be. I suggest that it is both wrong and unprofitable—indeed, it is positively unhelpful—to see events in that region as a contest between good and evil, however those roles may be allotted. It is equally unhelpful to be mesmerised by words and names, whether they be "Venice", "Camp David" or anything else.

Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South-East)

Camp David provided for a period of autonomy before the Palestinians, whom the right hon. Gentleman correctly identified as the central problem there, made up their minds finally. It seemed to me that the right hon. Gentleman might be giving the impression that although he used the term "autonomy", he was placing more weight on self-determination as the immediate issue. That will clearly not be attained by the Palestinians, except at the price of bloody war long continued. Will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that he is not ruling out the prospect of a period of autonomy, if it could be successfully negotiated, during which Israelis and Palestinians could learn from each other how to secure their own security with each other prior to self-determination?

Mr. Pym

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his information. I was not ruling out autonomy, but earlier in my remarks I referred to the support that we gave to the Camp David process and also to some of the disadvantages and problems arising from the autonomy proposed. I thought that that was the thing to do. The events of the past few weeks have made it more difficult than before, but I certainly do not rule it out.

It is easy to be mesmerised by words or names. What matters is the peace of the Middle East and the security and well-being of the people who live there. This is an objective to which all can subscribe and all can contribute. It certainly includes Britain, with her long historical links and her deep experience. We have a positive contribution to make in the search for peace in that region.

Next week my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and I will be in Brussels, attending the European Council. The Middle East is on the agenda and, just as at the Foreign Affairs Council last weekend this subject occupied as much time as any other, so I believe it will occupy a great deal of time at the Council next week. I look forward to hearing the views of the House in this debate and I hope that it will give me a constructive message to carry to that meeting.

7.50 pm
Mr. Denis Healey (Leeds, East)

The immediate occasion of this debate is the war in the Lebanon, but the Foreign Secretary rightly drew attention to the larger implications of what is now happening in other parts of the Middle East. He made a forceful and impressive speech.

I only wish that he had persuaded the Prime Minister to act on some of the principles that he has just enunciated when dealing with the Falklands dispute over the past few months.

The war in the Lebanon is one of the great human tragedies of our time. In two weeks 14,000 people have been killed, up to 20,000 wounded and 500,000 rendered homeless. The vast majority of those are civilians—men, women and children—who had nothing to do with, and no responsibility for, the issues at stake.

The Foreign Secretary described the recent damage as grotesquely disproportionate to the cause. He repeated that view this afternoon. The Israeli Government's action has been condemned by the United Nations, the European Community and members of the United States Government such as Mr. Weinberger.

The Israeli action has also been condemned by a growing number of Israelis. The war in the Lebanon is the first time since the foundation of the State of Israel that that nation has been divided by a war. Three members of the Israeli Cabinet protested at being bamboozled by Prime Minister Begin and Defence Minister Sharon. The Labour alignment, which is a grouping of the main opposition parties, issued a statement last week in which it called on the Government not to go beyond its declared objective of establishing a security zone 40 kilometres from the frontier. The Israeli troops are now fighting 110 kilometres from the frontier. It asked the Government not to occupy Beirut, but fighting is now going on in west and east Beirut. It asked the Israeli Government not to bomb cities or non-combatant populations, but 2,500 people have been killed in Beirut alone. It asked the Israeli Government not to fight the Syrians, but I understand that heavy fighting is going on between Israeli and Syrian forces east of Beirut today.

Mr. Ernie Ross (Dundee, West)


Mr. Healey

I shall give way in a moment.

Many distinguished Israelis from many walks of life have expressed their concern about what has been happening in the last two weeks. Professor Leibowitz, a distinguished scientist and religious philosopher, said that he warned his people that this fifth Arab-Israeli war could only be the prelude to a sixth. The Jerusalem Post described itself as being shocked by the sheer scale of ferocity and carnage involved. Mr. Gideon Rafael, who is known to many right hon. and hon. Members, including myself, and who was a predecessor of Mr. Evron as the Israeli ambassador in this country, warned his people that he awaits the time when they will measure their own dead and the massive death and destruction on the other side against the meagre political results. That should underline the importance of the Foreign Secretary's warning that we should not treat this issue in stereotypes, with all the good on one side and all the evil on the other.

Mr. Ernie Ross


Mr. Healey

I shall give way in a moment.

I must also say to some of my Israeli friends and their sympathisers in Britain that if some of us in the House or outside echo the criticisms made by distinguished Israelis, particularly those with similar views to those that I quoted, we must not be accused of being anti-Israel, anti-Zionist or, still more, of being anti-Semitic. It is perfectly possible for a friend of Israel, as I count myself, to express the gravest concern and dismay at what the Israeli Government have been doing in the past two weeks.

There is also deep concern inside and outside Israel about the failure of the Israeli Government, until now, to allow private relief agencies to alleviate the appalling suffering of the civilians in the Lebanon, although I welcome today's news of an agreement that, at any rate, agencies other than United Nation agencies may now operate. The scale of the suffering in the Lebanon is such that we now require a massive international rescue operation in order to cope with the problem.

I hope that when the right hon. Gentleman replies he will deal with the treatment of prisoners taken by Israeli forces and claimed to be members of the Palestine Liberation Organisation. Many of us are disturbed that they have not been offered the protection that international law should afford to prisoners of war. Again, there have been complaints in Israel about the treatment of so-called PLO captives.

We must not confine ourselves to expressions of indignation at Mr. Begin's action or to humanitarian concern at its consequences. What has happened in the Lebanon in the past two weeks is part of a general crisis in the Middle East that the Foreign Secretary rightly warned us today, and on television last week, could escalate out of control into a super-power confrontation.

I believe that I am right in saying that the casualties in the war between Iran and Iraq—they received very little publicity in the Western press compared with the events of the past two weeks—are many times greater than have occurred in the Lebanon. Iraq alone has 30,000 dead and 60,000 wounded. Recent reports state that Syrian armed forces massacred 25,000 of their own nationals in the ancient city of Hama last February because they belonged to a different religious sect. Violence is not confined to the coast of Israel and the Lebanon.

The House must recognise that the Middle East is an area where violence is regularly used to pursue political ends, both domestic and international, and where the familiar conflicts of national interest and feeling are enormously aggravated by a growing spread of religious fundamentalism—Jewish and Muslim.

The area is of enormous strategic and economic importance to the great powers. It is an area where one power at least already possesses nuclear weapons and others may do so by the time this decade is out.

We must look beyond the immediate issues behind the Lebanese war—the need for a ceasefire; the withdrawal of Israeli forces; the re-establishment of a United Nations peacekeeping force—to some of the underlying problems. Having had some involvement in these problems in many capacities over the last 37 years, I confess that they are immensely complex and I offer my thoughts on them with some humility but without apology.

I think that Mr. Haig, in that ill-timed speech he made two days before the Israeli forces crossed the Lebanese frontier, rightly said: No region is less forgiving of political passivity. He also said that this was America's moment in the Middle East. He was right to say that, although I doubt whether he then realised the context in which his statement would prove so apposite.

Rightly or wrongly, America is blamed throughout the Arab world for what is now happening in the Middle East. The present Administration have claimed the right to intervene at will in the Middle East wherever they feel their interests threatened and are building a rapid deployment force to acquire the capacity so to intervene. Above all, as the State of Israel wholly depends on economic and military aid from the United States, Washington is inevitably regarded as responsible for whatever the Israeli Government do, even when that Government act in flat defiance of American advice, as they did when the Israelis crossed the Lebanese frontier a fortnight ago.

In comparison with the United States, Britain, even in concert with the whole of the European Community, can play only a minor role directly, but Britain and Europe—particularly Britain and Europe acting together—can still exert a major influence on American policy in the Middle East, especially when Washington is uncertain or divided on what to do, as it certainly is at present. The hon. Member for Chichester (Mr. Nelson) was right to raise that issue when he intervened earlier.

There have been significant differences at least of emphasis in the statements made by various American Secretaries and officials in the last few weeks, but it is not possible for someone in Opposition in Britain to be quite sure who believes what.

Mr. James Callaghan

Or in Government.

Mr. Healey

We always found it difficult when we were in office. For the purposes of this discussion, we can take Dr. Henry Kissinger as representing one strand of thought in the American Administration and Mr. George Ball as representing another. Both have served with distinction at the State Department in recent years.

In the absence of the fuller information that we would like, I should like to discuss Dr. Kissinger's views as expressed in the Washington Post last week. He asked for three things—a stable, independent Lebanon with all foreign forces removed, the fulfilment of attainable Arab aspirations on the West Bank, and the protection by the United States of the existing balance of power and institutions in the Arabian peninsula. Whether or not those objectives are desirable, I just do not believe that they are all capable of realisation simultaneously in the situation created by the invasion of the Lebanon. Let me suggest why that may be so.

Some Americans and Israelis obviously dream of creating a Christian Maronite Lebanon as a stable and permanent factor in the Middle East. However, I believe that history teaches us that that is a hollow reed on which to base a policy. When such a Lebanon existed briefly after the end of the French mandate, it was destroyed by internal tensions that were far weaker than they are now. We need only read the account in The Times today of yesterday's meeting of the National Salvation Council of the Lebanon to see that. In the current situation, it is easy to forget that when the Syrian forces first entered Lebanon, it was to protect the Christians and not the Muslims. There is absolutely no reason to believe that in the absence of foreign forces any policy based on the Maronite Christian communities in the Lebanon would have much chance of survival.

Mr. Tim Sainsbury (Hove)

Does the right hon. Gentleman not agree that the factor that upset the admittedly delicate balance of peace in Lebanon was the presence there of the Palestinians, particularly the PLO, acting as an army entirely outside the authority of the State of Lebanon?

Mr. Healey

No. The balance in the Lebanon collapsed long before the Palestinians were expelled from Jordan into the State of Lebanon. It is perfectly true that since the Jordanian Government expelled the Palestinians into Lebanon, tensions have increased for various reasons. The Israeli Government deliberately exploited them to set up a Phalangist-Christian security zone on their northern frontier. The instability of the Lebanese polity as people wish it to be now was exposed long before those events, in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

To attempt to create a Christian banana republic, kept alive by wealthy European tourists as an Israeli satellite, is doomed to failure. That is basically what Dr. Kissinger was asking for as his first objective.

His second objective was to fulfil the attainable aspirations of the Arabs on the West Bank. The extent of Arab aspirations that are currently attainable on the West Bank falls hopelessly short of what is needed to satisfy either the Palestinian people or the rest of the Arab world. Just the other day, Mr. Sharon, the Israeli Defence Minister, claimed to see new signs as a result of the fighting in Lebanon of a readiness to co-operate between the Arabs on the West Bank and the Israeli authorities. But I remind the House that the only remaining elected mayor on the West Bank, Mr. Elias Freij, the Mayor of Bethlehem, described the Israeli invasion of Lebanon as "catastrophic". The Sunday Telegraph said: Looking forlorn and utterly depressed, Mr. Elias Freij said 'Palestinians everywhere were dumbfounded'. He went on: 'Is Israel so really afraid of us that it expects our people to commit mass suicide? Surely we Palestinians are human beings? Surely we have the right to live? Those are the views of the one remaining elected representative of the Palestinian people on the West Bank, and in giving that interview the mayor of Bethlehem announced his intention of resigning in the next two or three weeks.

On the contrary, I fear that there is growing evidence that at least Mr. Sharon wants to integrate the West Bank completely into Israel, and that would rule out self-determination for the Palestinian people for ever. At present, we must accept—I hope that we can change the situation—that the Camp David process is dead, and with it we see the death of what remains of American policy in the area. President Mubarak of Egypt has made that crystal clear by his statements in the last week or two.

I turn to Dr. Kissinger's third objective—that America should guarantee the security of the Arabian peninsula and its existing institutions. The United States is no longer in a position to protect or sustain the balance of power in the Arabian peninsula. Its failure to restrain Israel just after its decision to send another 75 F16s to Israel has pushed the traditional monarchies surrounding the Gulf already towards the Soviet Union. There is mounting evidence that, in the absence of the sort of support on which they thought they could count from the United States, they are now looking elsewhere for help. These regimes are now threatened not only by popular opposition fanned by the Palestinians, who play a key role in all their administrations, but also by Muslim fundamentalism in their Shi'ite communities. As the House knows, the Shi'ites are in the majority in Iraq and Bahrain and are an important minority in many of the other countries in the Arabian peninsula. I think probably that one of the biggest mistakes that the Western world has made in approaching these problems in the last few years has been to underestimate the importance of the new theocratic movement in the Muslim world.

The Muslim world stretches from Morocco and Nigeria in Africa to Indonesia in the Far East. This new type of Muslim fundamentalism is now as powerful on the Indian sub-continent as it is in the Middle East itself. It is a fundamentalism that has sent men riding bicycles into mine fields shouting "God is great". None of us can remember except from history books, the power of this type of Muslim fundamentalism when it last conquered the Middle East, much of India and half of Europe. But that power is a reality today. Dealing with it is one of the most difficult problems that will face all other Governments in the world, Western or Communist.

If Iraq, which has a very large majority of Shi'ites in its population, were to join Iran—that is a possibility almost any day as we speak—they would form a block of 55 million people producing 8 million barrels of oil a day with effective control of the movement of all oil from the Gulf to the outside world. Forty per cent. of the industrial world's oil resources come from the Gulf. They have large, well equipped and battle-hardened armies. The problems created by this possibility dwarf enormously even the terrifying and worrying problems which we have been discussing as arising out of the Arab-Israeli problem and conflict.

Dr. M. S. Miller (East Kilbride)

Does my right hon. Friend not agree, in these circumstances, that it is in the interests of all the people he is talking about to keep the State of Israel in being? The only cementing factor among them is hatred of the State of Israel.

Mr. Healey

If I understand my hon. Friend correctly, he says that we should keep the State of Israel in being because it cements all these other countries. That does not seem to me a very good argument for keeping the State of Israel in being. The plain fact—I say this sincerely to my hon. Friend—is that Mr. Begin has done more in the last fortnight to speed this process, which is the greatest single threat to the survival of Israel, than anything that anyone has done since the Shah was overthrown.

The risk of a Shi'ite bloc in the Middle East is now compounded by the possibility of an alliance between the Shi'ite fundamentalists in the Gulf region and the radical Left-wing regimes of Syria, Algeria, Libya and South Yemen, all of which, in the last week or two, have asserted their interest in establishing good relations with the Ayatollah Khomeini. One of the Ayatollah's extraordinary achievements was to bring the PLO and Israel into alliance to support Iran. General Sharon told us the other day that Israel had been supplying Iran with weapons during the Iran-Iraq war. The PLO has been doing its best in recent months also to support the Iran Government. There are, at this moment, I understand, between 1,000 and 2,000 Iranian troops in Syria, a country that has no desire to follow the Shi'ite road or the Muslim fundamentalist road. But necessity makes strange bedfellows. I would only say again that if Israel's role in the Middle East is to cement that sort of alliance, the less we have of it the better, and the better for Israel.

What worries me is that if this process is allowed to continue America's moment in the Middle East, of which Mr. Haig spoke, will be a moment indeed, ended almost as soon as it begins. The threat to Israel will be infinitely greater than ever before. By accelerating and enlarging this process, Prime Minister Begin has done immense damage to the real interests of his country. How are we to influence this appallingly difficult and dangerous situation? The only way of slowing and, one hopes, reversing this process is for the United States to use all its influence now to undo the damage done in the last few weeks, to ensure that Israel does not carry out a full-scale assault in Beirut, as Mr. Sharon has demanded it should, to persuade Israel to accept the United Nations Security Council resolution and withdraw its forces from the Lebanon and to re-establish a stronger United Nations peacekeeping force, although this is bound to involve, like it or not, the argeement of the Soviet Union. I believe that the European Community must be prepared to use economic measures to achieve these objectives. I understand that it has said that it is prepared to do so. I have no doubt that the timing and modalities of such a decision will be one of the matters for discussion at the summit meeting next week.

I do not believe, however, that, in the present situation, this is enough. There has always been much discussion in this House about the role of the PLO. We know that it is an extremely incoherent body with many groups, some of them wedded to violence and others wishing to achieve a peaceful settlement. We all deeply regret the commitment of the PLO, by its own covenant, to the destruction of the State of Israel. We have all asked it to change this commitment if it is to be accepted as a valid negotiating partner. But the destruction of the PLO as a military force in the Lebanon has not killed and cannot kill the desire of the Palestine people for self-determination. What self-determination means, as the Foreign Secretary said on television last week, is land where they can have a state. It is idle to deceive ourselves that anything else will satisfy the Palestinians as an objective. The only land available is land on the West Bank of the Jordan, as I think the Foreign Secretary also made clear was his opinion. That is where the luckless refugees in the Lebanon must now be allowed to return. They cannot forever be shunted from one foreign country to another in a macabre game of pass the parcel. That has been their fate for the last few years.

Israel must be persuaded to move rapidly to self-determination for the Palestinians on the West Bank through autonomy. I agree with the Foreign Secretary that recent events have inevitably telescoped the time scale in which these events must take place if they are to help to avoid the process that I described earlier. I do not think that anything less will suffice to restore good relations between the West and moderate Arab States, particularly Egypt and Saudi Arabia. I suspect that the Foreign Secretary got some such message when he was in Riyadh the other day, and perhaps that message was partly responsible for the vehemence with which he spoke on television on his return, but I do not seek to inquire into these dreadful secrets.

We are lucky at the moment that there is a new ruler in Saudi Arabia—King Fahd. He has immense experience of these problems and has shown an unusual flexibility in pursuing these objectives. He failed to achieve his objectives at the summit in Fez, but I do not think that we are likely to find a wiser, more farsighted leader in this immensely important country in the Middle East than we have at the moment in King Fahd.

I agree with the Foreign Secretary that if there is to be negotiation for autonomy and self-determination on the West Bank, it must involve authentic representation of the Palestine people. I doubt whether it would be possible even to find "Uncle Toms" after the past fortnight. The words of the mayor of Bethlehem that I quoted a moment ago bear witness to that.

Mr. Ivan Lawrence (Burton)

Why use the term?

Mr. Healey

The term "Uncle Tom" has real meaning among the black people of the world. I use it because it represents the relationship between colonial people, people of colour and white people which I hope that this House detests and will have nothing of. I do not believe that it is possible to build a viable stability in any part of the modern world by relying on people who can be so described. That is why I use the phrase, which is well understood.

Unless this prospect opens rapidly, the PLO is soon likely to revive as a purely terrorist movement. Nobody will understand better than Mr. Begin why this is likely to be so, because he went through precisely this experience in his early lifetime.

Mr. Lawrence

Has the PLO ever stopped being a purely terrorist organisation?

Mr. Healey

Of course it has. The PLO stopped being a purely terrorist organisation many years ago. Any hon. Member with some knowledge of its leaders will recognise that whether or not Yasser Arafat is a terrorist, he is not purely a terrorist. He has made enormous attempts, at risk to his life from the extremists in the PLO, to develop a political alternative to terrorism as a way of achieving Palestine rights.

Mr. Greville Janner (Leicester, West)

Is it not correct that neither the previous Government nor this one have succeeded in getting Mr. Arafat to agree in private or in public to recognise even the right of the State of Israel to exist?

Mr. Healey

That is so, and anybody with knowledge of the way in which resistance movements develop will know how difficult it is for them to make this type of acceptance except in the final stage of negotiation. It is difficult, although not impossible. We have an enormous amount of experience of this problem from our imperial history. It might be argued by an Arab that Mr. Begin's claims to the biblical lands of Samaria and Judea are equally incompatible with progress towards a solution along the lines of the Camp David agreement.

I know how deeply feelings are roused in the House by almost any remark made in any direction on these matters, but we have a duty to say what we think at this dangerous moment.

The PLO is likely to revive as a purely terrorist organisation, and is likely to start using terrorism in Europe and the United States as well as in the Middle East, as other terrorist movements have done in the past. There is some sign that the United States Administration is at last beginning to recognise the dimensions of the problem.

I was fascinated to read in this morning's newspapers the descriptions of the talks between Mr. Begin and President Reagan. Those of us who have some experience of this matter will know that when two countries fail to reach agreement on anything, their talks are described as "full and frank", but the word "friendly" is not added. On this occasion, the talks were described by the Americans as "direct" and even "blunt". By that, I would suggest that there was a flaming row. Up to a point, that is a good sign.

A shift of American policy in this direction should be the main objective of Britain and the European Community and for all who want peace in the Middle East. Otherwise, I fear, the terrible prophecy of William Butler Yeats may come true all too soon, and we shall soon be asking ourselves What rough beast, its hour come round at last, Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

8.25 pm
Mr. Julian Amery (Brighton, Pavilion)

If time had allowed, I should rather have enjoyed ranging, like the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey), far and wide over the field, although on many points I should have found myself in disagreement with him and critical of him. Let me try to bring the debate down to earth.

I listened with great attention to what my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said but, while I fully appreciate the tragedy and the drama of what has taken place in the Lebanon, I thought that my right hon. Friend underestimated a little the immense progress towards peace that has been made in the Middle East in the past 14 or 15 years, largely as a result of military operations.

Before the 1967 war all the Arab countries were united against Israel. After 1967 Jordan adopted a position of what might be called non-belligerence, exemplified by the open bridges policy, under which Jordanians have traded freely not only with the West Bank but with Israel. After 1973 President Sadat moved fairly rapidly towards the Camp David process, which brought peace between Egypt and Israel.

It is true that Syria remained rejectionist, but, having lost the Golan Heights, it was in no position militarily to attack Israel from Syrian ground. Thus, at least three of the territories contiguous with Israel were more or less in a state of either peace or non-belligerency with Israel.

There remained the Lebanon, which had originally been entirely non-belligerent, but whose attitude was changed not by the will of the Lebanese people, but by the creation of a State within a State by the PLO. It had tried to create that kind of State in Jordan. King Hussein cracked down on it to prevent it from doing so, but in the much weaker state of Lebanon it managed to create a political and military organisation that was highly subsidised from outside and armed by the Soviet Union. This enabled it to play a very important part not only in the Middle East but in the Third world and beyond. Moreover, they were backed by Syria. We should not forget that Syria is an ally of the Soviet Union, linked to it by definite agreements.

Clearly, for the Israelis, this was an area of great disturbance. Everyone had known for a long time that the Israelis were likely to crack down on the situation. In every Arab capital that I visited it was regarded as inevitable that the Israelis would crack down, and, in private, the hope was sometimes expressed that they would.

It is too early to assess what will happen in the Lebanon. Will the situation lead to a withdrawal of the Syrians from Lebanon? Will it lead to the disarming of the PLO and the disperal of its ruling group? My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary spoke almost kindly of the PLO, as did the right hon. Member for Leeds, East. Frankly, there was an almost audible sigh of relief in many Arab capitals at the discomfiture of the PLO and the knowledge that it will be some time before it can again threaten the rulers in the moderate countries, extorting money from them.

Of course, it is not the end of the PLO. But what is happening in the battle of Beirut puts in question whether that organisation will be able to act independently in the future. President Mubarak, with his customary statesman-ship, offered it the possiblility of setting up a Government in exile in Cairo. That would be splendid. It would mean that the PLO would have to accept Camp David, at least by inplication. The Jordanians, with their previous experience, are unlikely to offer hospitality, except under strict controls. Were the PLO to go into Syria, it would be under iron control. If the PLO went to Riyadh—which is possible—it would be expected to work for the Fahd plan. It is also possible that it might go to the Soviet Union, although throughout the crisis the Soviet Union has shown itself to be rather a paper bear in its attitude to the Lebanon.

It may be that the eradication of the PLO as an independent force, as a State within a State, will provide an opportunity to set up an independent Lebanon and one which, in spite of the right hon. Gentleman's doubt's might be pro-Western, as it was, by and large, up to 1976. My right hon. Friend was right when he said that the Israelis should withdraw from the Lebanon, but surely we want the Israelis to withdraw, the Syrians to withdraw, and the PLO to be disarmed, ceasing to be a State within a State.

Mr. Adley

Does my right hon. Friend accept that the Syrians were invited into the Lebanon by the Lebanese Government? They are on a six-monthly mandate, which has been renewed regularly. Is that not correct?

Mr. Lawrence

Like Afghanistan.

Mr. Adley

My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) says "Like Afghanistan". It is not like Afghanistan, unless one believes, for instance, that the present Lebanese ambassador in London does not know what he is talking about. Does my hon. Friend accept that the position of the Syrians in Lebanon is not the same as that of the invading Israelis?

Mr. Amery

My hon. Friend is quite right. They were invited, and they are there at the invitation of the Government who invited them, but surely we have no interest in seeing a pro-Soviet Syrian force in Lebanon. For us, it is even worse than seeing the Israelis there. Surely we want both to withdraw. I am pretty certain that we shall not get the Israelis out unless we get the Syrians most of the way out as well.

If the new Lebanese Government, under whatever aegis, wanted us to provide an international force, I hope that we would be ready to serve in it. In my opinion, the United Nations would not be a suitable instrument, partly because of the influence that the Soviet Union must have over it, but also because, having seen the UNIFIL forces in the Lebanon, I frankly believe that they are quite useless, and proved to be so the other day.

If it were possible to have an independent Lebanon again, we should be moving towards the plan that Mr. Haig developed at the beginning of his tenure of office and on which the right hon. Gentleman poured so much scorn. It would mean that the Lebanon, Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the Sudan, Oman and the Gulf States would all virtually work with the West.

Of course, the Palestinian problem would remain. The problem has three aspects: the West Bank and Gaza, Jerusalem, and the problem of the refugees.

As far as the West Bank and Gaza are concerned, I have never been able to understand how the Israelis can believe that they can incorporate 1.5 million Arabs in their State and maintain its Jewish character to which they attach so much importance. In their own interests, they must make some concessions.

The old city of Jerusalem within the walls is so distinct from the rest of the city that I should have thought that one could invent a special regime where the three faiths—Muslim, Jewish and Christian—could exercise authority, perhaps on an analogy with the relationship that the Vatican has to the municipality of Rome.

There is enough money in the Middle East now, whether on the West Bank or elsewhere, to develop facilities to enable the refugees to be resettled. The important question is where the title will go if the PLO ceases to be able to operate independently and, as a result, ceases to be the sole representative of the Palestinian people. My right hon. Friend said that neither the Palestinians nor the Jordanians want it. However, it might revert to the King of Jordan in the absence of an effective PLO. In a few days we may well find that the PLO has either disintegrated or worse.

We should not be too pessimistic. The Rabat and Venice declarations seem to have gone with the wind. We should try to find something new. There would still be an argument about the Palestinian problem—an argument between the Arabs and the Israelis—but it would be between broadly pro-Western Arabs and pro-Western Israelis. There would be no East-West overtones of the kind that obscure and afflict any attempt to have discussions with the PLO.

Let me turn to the immeasurably more important—

Mr. David Crouch (Canterbury)

Is not my right hon. Friend being a little condescending about the Palestinians in saying that they might be able to settle somewhere in the State of Israel? As the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) rightly said, the Palestinians' problem is that they want a State and land. It is not a question of whether the PLO leads their interests. It is a question of dispossessed people, the sort of cause that the House has been fighting for for hundreds of years. I am amazed that my right hon. Friend should be condescending about people who have no State, land or rights.

Mr. Amery

I am sorry that my hon. Friend did not condescend to listen carefully. I said that there were three problems. The people in the West Bank and Gaza, by and large, have land. There is the problem of Jerusalem and the problem of about 600,000 refugees in the Lebanon who must be looked after in one way or another. I said that there is enough money in the Middle East to develop facilities for them either on the West Bank or elsewhere. There is quite a lot of empty land in the West Bank that could be developed—indeed, a good deal of it is. I was not being condescending in the least. I was only saying that, of the three problems, that of the refugees is the smallest. The 600,000 refugees still living in camps in the Lebanon could be catered for.

I turn to the much more serious problem of the Gulf. Although the Soviet Union may have taken a beating in the battle for Beirut—or may be about to take one—a far graver battle is blazing at the head of the Gulf.

Iran has recovered from the shambles into which it fell after the expulsion of the Shah. Under the impact of foreign aggression it has made an amazing, perhaps regrettable, recovery. It has forged a military machine and the rule of the saints—the ayatollahs—is supported by the Communist Tudeh party and by pro-Soviet Syria. They are advancing in a war which the right hon. Member for Leeds, East rightly said recalls the advances of early Islam in Africa and in the Middle East.

A statement from Ayatollah Khomeini was published today saying that he has no intention of calling a halt to the war. He says that he will go on until his other objectives—apart from the withdrawal from Iranian soil—have been achieved. I do not suppose that the ayatollah is keen for his victorious army to return to Tehran. The Prime Minister need not worry about Admiral Woodward and General Moore when they return home. But things are different in the Middle East and there could be trouble. If the army is not to come home it must go on to liberate Najat and Kerbela and to the establishment of an Islamic republic of Basra, with Baghdad going to the Syrians.

With Iran to the north and east of the Gulf and Aden and Ethiopia to the south, the great treasure house of the oil-producing Middle East is already encircled and could be put at immediate risk. This situation could develop within weeks or months. The stage may be set for a major disaster. In 1961 I was at the Air Ministry and we thought that Kuwait was threatened by General Kassim. We moved forces in at the invitation of the ruler and averted a disaster. Could anyone do that today? Perhaps the United States of America could do that with its rapid deployment force. It has the means to do that, but has it got the will to put a cork into the neck of the bottle in time? Have the Arab rulers the wisdom to invite it to do so in time? If our help were needed, I trust that it would be forthcoming. Let us be under no illusion. The knife is at the throat of the whole of the civilised world.

8.41 pm
Mr. David Steel (Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles)

The House has been fortunate in being able to listen to two opening speeches of such quality, objectivity and depth. I join the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) who went out of his way to quote many sources in Israel, from the press, in politics and in the academic world, all of whom oppose the recent Israeli action. I hope that a strong message will go out from the House after the debate; a message of encouragement to those who are opposed to the policies being conducted in their name.

We all have reports on which we rely. I simply wish to draw the attention of the House to the lead story on the front page of The Scotsman on Saturday. It was written by Robert Fisk, in Sidon. He wrote: Medical authorities in the city said that at least four young men had died there after being beaten up by Israeli troops. We spoke to one young man, a Red Cross worker who had been among the prisoners. 'They held us for four days, almost all the time out in the open. They gave us water but no food and ten men died near me. I saw one man—I think he was a Palestinian—and he asked for food. A soldier hit him in the stomach with his rifle and the man collapsed and died. I do not know why the Israelis do this. Many of us hated the Palestinians and are pleased the Israelis have come.'

In his report, Robert Fisk included a description of a basement building that had been destroyed by a bombardment. He said: The bodies lay on top of each other to a depth of perhaps six feet, their arms and legs wrapped around each other, well over 100 of them, congealed in death into a strangely unnatural mass.

Many of us are distressed that a people who have themselves suffered so much in the past should find that they are now represented by a Government who are prepared to act in this way. It is horrifying. We know that the Israelis were looking for a pretext for the invasion. The invasion of the Lebanon was clearly planned and, unfortunately, the pretext for that incursion was given by the dastardly attack on the Israeli ambassador in London, Mr. Shlomo Argov. No words are strong enough to condemn that assassination attempt. He is a distinguished representative of his nation and a personal friend of many of us. We wish him a speedy recovery from his terrible wounds.

That attack gave the Israeli Government an excuse for their so-called retaliation. Even if they were pursuing Mosaic law, it is an eye for an eye, not 10 eyes or 100 eyes for an eye. The retribution has been out of all proportion to the provocation that we all know Israel has suffered for many years from PLO bases in the Lebanon. We should make it as clear as possible that Israeli interests are ill served by the Israeli Government's action. Nothing could have been more calculated to lose friends and influence in the world than their actions in the past few days.

Other speakers have dealt with the problems of the Lebanon itself. Over many years the Lebanon has suffered from what the hon. Member for Christchurch and Lymington (Mr. Adley) described as an invitation to the Syrian forces to occupy it. Whether or not it was originally an invitation, the fact is that Syrian troops have been acting as a governing authority in the Lebanon, along with the PLO. The only prospect for peace in the Lebanon is for those troops to be withdrawn.

If the Lebanon requires assistance to maintain law and order and the integrity of the State, that should be provided by the international community, through a strengthened United Nations force. It is unfair for the right hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) to say sweepingly that UNIFIL has been useless in keeping the peace. He and I have both seen UNIFIL in operation there. Anyone who examines UNIFIL's United Nations mandate will know how inadequate it is. At some time, the civilised world, and, more specifically, the permanent members of the Security Council, must grapple with the problem of how to establish a sufficiently effective mandate for the provision of an international peacekeeping force that is capable of maintaining law and order in the trouble spots of the world. It simply is not fair to blame the military, when the mandate under which they operate is so weak. That is the tragedy of the UNIFIL operation.

We can learn other lessons from the events of recent days. I hope that the Foreign Secretary will tell us that we, as well as the other permanent members of the Security Council, will do whatever we can to create a more effective United Nations mandate. We also need a permanent international peacekeeping force rather than the cobbled together forces that we must have in the Lebanon and elsewhere under the present limited arrangements.

The second lesson is one that many of us learned a long time ago. It is that there can never be security for the State of Israel based on military force and the annexation of neighbouring territories. Lasting security for Israel can be achieved only through a general peace settlement in the Middle East that is guaranteed by the major powers. Without the search for that settlement there can be no long-term security for Israel. That is why I believe that its present policy is so profoundly mistaken.

The third lesson, as has been mentioned, is that the Camp David process is dead. We should pay tribute to what was achieved under that process, especially by President Sadat and Mr. Begin, in reaching a bilateral agreement between Egypt and Israel.

Camp David failed on two counts. The first was that President Sadat believed that he could act as an Arab Head of State on behalf of the Palestinians. He could not. Secondly, he hoped, as did the Americans originally, that the Camp David process was intended to involve not just Egypt, but Jordan, Saudi Arabia and other powers. Again, that proved to be impossible. But we should accept that Camp David has achieved a great deal in bilateral terms between Egypt and Israel, but we should now look for a wider means than Camp David to advance a Middle East settlement.

Towards the end of his life, President Sadat had doubts whether that part of the Camp David process dealing with Palestinian autonomy had much more life in it. Certainly events in recent months suggest to me that the autonomy route to a long-term settlement in the West Bank cannot be made to work. The Israeli authorities have even interfered with the processes of local government there. There can be little confidence among the people of the West Bank that a wider and more authoritative form of autonomy could lead to self-determination.

I agree with the tone of what both the Foreign Secretary and the right hon. Member for Leeds, East said. The key issue is whether we accept the right of the Palestinians to self-determination and to territory on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. We must use our influence with the Americans and the Israelis to persuade them that self-determination must come.

Then there is the vexed question whether it means that we must deal with the PLO. We must be blunt about this. Parts of the PLO make up a terrorist organisation. When I met Yasser Arafat at the end of 1980 I suffered much opprobrium for talking to a terrorist leader, but the time will come when Foreign Secretaries, British or others, must talk face to face with the PLO, not because I believe that the PLO is representative of the Palestinian people, but because the more that one travels round the Middle East the more one finds that Palestinians believe that the PLO must act as their voice, even if they are not members of it. I found that the PLO was a representative voice of professional people, business men and local government officials, not just on the West Bank but among Palestinians elsewhere.

The Palestinian people are not talking about a gathering together of all the Palestinians spread throughout the Middle East and the rest of the world to return to a Palestinian State. They wish to have the integrity and the dignity of a State to call their own, so that, wherever they are in the world, where many of them may wish to remain, they can have a passport that entitles them to a homeland.

Mr. Adley

The word "terrorist", as with so many words in such debates, means different things to different people. If we consider people such as Kenyatta, Makarios and Mugabe, what one person calls a "terrorist" is often a "freedom fighter" in another person's mind.

Mr. Steel

That is true, and one could add Mr. Begin to that list. Is not one of the lessons of world politics that, where common justice is denied to a people, some elements will resort to violence to pursue their ends where politicians have failed? Unhappily, that has been the case with the PLO. We do not condone or excuse it, but we must face the reality.

In return, we are entitled to demand that the PLO recognises the right of the State of Israel to exist. We must look with hope at the declaration from Saudi Arabia, because it was a signal that an Arab country other than Egypt, recognised the right of all States—Israel was rot named individually—to exist. That was a step forward. We should grasp and build on the Saudi Arabian plan, together with the Venice declaration. If Israel is to have real security, its integrity must not only be recognised by the Palestinians but must be guaranteed by international protection.

What should Britain do now? First, we must talk equally bluntly to our American allies. They, more than anyone, can influence what is happening in the Middle East. We must try to persuade them that the endless flow of arms and cash to Israel, without strings attached, is a mistaken policy that will continue to cause trouble in that area. We must also face the fact that Syria and other countries are in the Soviet camp. The Soviet Union cannot be left out of discussions leading to a guaranteed peace settlment.

We must try to turn the European declaration of Venice—that was all it was—into a European initiative. We in the European countries are in a unique position, because of our ties with the Middle East, to exert great influence on both the Americans and the Soviet Union. If we are to turn the declaration into an initiative, we must do more than simply have the chairman-in-office touring the Middle East, as happened with Gaston Thorn, Lord Carrington and Mr. Tindemans.

We must recognise the limitations of the EEC mechanism and the six months Presidency. We must also try to find a permanent European emissary who is acceptable to the European powers and who can carry on the search for a Middle East settlement. That would be a significant contribution to make. Particularly with the development of nuclear power, we should recognise that if we regard the world as a powder keg, the place where the fuse could be lit is the Middle East. We should therefore devote our earnest efforts to finding a long-term settlement to the problems there.

8.56 pm
Mr. Dennis Walters (Westbury)

On 4 June that sinister terrorist Mr. Begin unleashed a merciless and unprovoked invasion of the Lebanon which he and Mr. Sharon had been preparing for more than a year. Eighteen days later, more than 10,000 Lebanese civilian dead, hundreds of thousands homeless, 16,000 dying or maimed and thousands of Palestinians killed stand testimony to the ruthless brutality of the Israeli armed forces. The perpretrators of this massive crime against humanity have been over the past few days hampering the dispatch of medical aid and harassing its suppliers.

It has been suggested that one should be moderate about the issues in the Middle East but surely this is a time to speak out firmly because the Israelis and their supporters for too long have cashed in on excessive moderation. In the early days of 1967 and 1970 any criticism of Israel was labelled anti-Semitic. That was a conventional form of blackmail to which we were subjected. A long time has passed, and as the civilised world looks on, shocked and aghast at events in Lebanon, but apparently incapable of doing anything, it is time that the Israelis and their supporters in this country began to feel some sense of shame about what is happening. Although people have spoken out in Israel, and Israeli supporters have spoken out in France, the reaction by the Zionist lobby in Britain is still very muted.

Britain and the EEC have spoken out clearly but lack of leverage has weakened our position. Now that Israel has apparently rebuffed the request for certain assurances asked for by the EEC, economic sanctions should be applied. As the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) said, the United States has spoken with many voices. Certainly, Mr. Haig has fitted the epithet "duplicitous" effectively. Western influence in the Arab world has been dealt a blow, the full effects of which will not be felt for a considerable time. In the long run, the Soviet Union will profit.

There had been no provocation, as my right hon. Friend the Minister of State said a few days ago and the Foreign Secretary confirmed this afternoon. The ceasefire in the border had not been violated for 10 months.

The principal lesson to be learnt, and lessons should be learnt, from the latest horror and carnage in the Lebanon is that there are some problems—the Middle East is a supreme example—that get worse, not better, if neglected and left to resolve themselves with the passage of time. All along that has been the mistake in the Middle East. We have only to cast back our minds to the missed opportunities after the fighting of 1948, 1967 and 1973.

As for the high hopes mistakenly engendered four years ago at Camp David, they have now finally been snuffed out. True, a peace treaty has been signed between Israel and Egypt, and Israel has at last withdrawn from Egyptian territory. However, with regard to the central issue, which is the resolution of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians and the conclusion of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East, those four years have not been merely squandered. They have actually set back the search for peace.

The state of affairs today is far worse than it was in September 1978. The annexation of Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, the frenzied proliferation of illegal Israeli settlements, the bare-faced robbery on a vast scale of land and water belonging to the Palestinians, the air attack on Baghdad and the bloody air attacks on Lebanon, which preceded the invasion, have eroded enormously the grounds of a real negotiated peace. On past form, the situation will become worse, not better, if more time is lost without coming to grips with the core of the problem. This is not, as some would have us believe, Israel's security. Certainly, in any truly lasting peace settlement, the security of both Israel and its Arab neighbours must be effectively safeguarded. However, that is not what has prevented and frustrated the realisation of peace for all these years. Effective security safeguards could have been negotiated. Arab hostility and Israeli insecurity are the symptoms and consequences, not the roots, of the problem. The real roots are Israel's appetite for other people's land and contempt for other people's rights.

Mr. Lawrence

Did my hon. Friend speak out thus firmly when the Syrians invaded Lebanon and with the PLO destroyed over 25,000 lives?

Mr. Walters

As has been stated on about three occasions, the Syrians did not invade Lebanon. They were called in.

Mr. Ian Mikardo (Bethnal Green and Bow)

Like the Russians being called into Afghanistan.

Mr. Walters

The hon. Gentleman is a great Zionist shouter. He has got it wrong. It would be desirable if the Syrians left. I am in favour of all military forces leaving Lebanon, the Israelis first of all.

The main reason why peace has eluded the international community for over 30 years is that it has funked the task of compelling Israel to respect and discharge the obligations of a peace-loving State, which it accepted when it was admitted to the United Nations in 1949. Every time it has been allowed to get away with defying international censure, its arrogance has increased and its defiance has multiplied.

This is the context in which we should look at Israel's latest adventure in invading and terrorising its Arab neighbours. Mr. Begin has said that his Government have no designs on even one inch of Lebanese territory. That, of course, is a lie. The intention may be that Israeli usurpation of Lebanese territory should be flimsily disguised by turning over nominal control of its conquests to Lebanese puppets supported by and acting in Israel's interest.

That was the device that Mr. Begin cooked up four years ago when he set up Major Haddad as a mini-Quisling of Israel in South Lebanon. The other day Mr. Begin told that rather unattractive puppet: "Beaufort is yours". That was after the castle was captured. So much for the sincerity of his assurances about respecting the territorial integrity of Lebanon.

The idea of turning the Lebanon into a dependency of Israel and governing it by proxy through a puppet regime is nothing new in the history of Israel's territorial ambitions. As long ago as May 1948 David Ben Gurion spelt it out clearly in his diaries. He said: The Achilles heel of the Arab coalition is the Lebanon. Muslim supremacy in this country is artificial and can easily be overthrown. A Christian State ought to be set up there, with its southern frontier on the river Litani. We would sign a treaty of alliance with this state. Thus when we have broken the strength of the Arab Legion and bombed Amman, we could wipe out Trans-Jordan: after that Syria would fall. And if Egypt still dared to make war on us, we would bomb Port Said, Alexandria and Cairo. We should thus end the war and would have put paid to Egypt, Assyria and Chaldea on behalf of our ancestors".

That horrifying and fanatical nonsense—as it seemed at the time—in an attempt to identify Israel's Arab neighbours of today with the enemies of the ancient Israelites 2,000 years ago was not a passing aberration of one fanatic; it reflects a continuing theme in the political planning of Israel's leaders. In this country we have long since seen through the myth of Israel as a little David bravely standing up to the Goliath of the Arab world.

Mr. Michael Latham (Melton)

My hon. Friend has been listened to with courtesy as is right and proper. Should there be a State of Israel and, if so, what should its borders be?

Mr. Walters

I am grateful that my hon. Friend has listened to me with courtesy. I always listen to him with courtesy. There should be a State of Israel behind guaranteed and recognised borders. Those borders should be the 1967 borders. We could perfectly well organise demilitarised zones. That has been discussed. I am in favour of the maximum security for Israel and for its neighbours. With such security Israel could live in peace for much longer than it will if it continues to believe that it can only survive by fighting and destroying its neighbours.

Mr. Mikardo

The hon. Gentleman is a Zionist.

Mr. Walters

But different, I hope, from the hon. Gentleman who has just shouted. There has been much Israeli-inspired speculation about the possibility of using the position created by the invasion of Lebanon as an opportunity to restructure the Lebanese State on more durable lines. Even if that were to be the outcome it is certainly no ground for condoning the bloodbath that Israel's action has just been creating in the Lebanon.

A genuine solution of Lebanese problems needs to be worked out by the Lebanese and cannot be negotiated under the shadow of Israeli occupation. The essential prerequisite is a complete, prompt and real withdrawal by Israel of its invading forces. There may be a case for that to be accompanied by the arrangement of temporary international protection for the Lebanon while negotiations are proceeding, but any such protection must be genuinely independent and impartial. Above all, the pursuit of this idea must not be allowed to serve as a pretext for Israel to delay withdrawing its forces.

After the Suez war President Eisenhower insisted on the Israeli withdrawal from the Sinai. He asked: Should a nation which attacks and occupies foreign territory in the face of United Nations disapproval be allowed to impose the conditions of its withdrawal? If we agree, then I fear we will have turned back the clock of international order. That was true and apt then, and it is now. We did not let the Argentines get away with their aggression on the Falkland Islands and for the sake of international morality we should not let the Israelis get away with their infinitely bloodier aggression in the Lebanon.

In the end, discussion of the present tragedy turns inescapably to the core of the whole problem in the Middle East to which the right hon. Member for Leeds, East, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and the Leader of the Liberal Party have referred—namely, what to do about the Palestinians. Whatever may be contrived for restoring Lebanon's integrity and independence, there will be no real stable peace there or anywhere else in the region so long as the festering sore of Israel's cruelty and injustice to the Palestinians continues to poison relations between Israel and the Arab world. Whatever happens to the Lebanon, the Palestinian problem will not go away. The Palestinians and their leaders, who basically are the PLO, will not disappear from the scene in the Middle East.

Where are the Palestinians to go? The only safe place for them and for others is in a State of their own on Palestinian soil. The key to peace is to let the Palestinians establish their own State on the West Bank and Gaza. That is the best hope of securing their future and that of others as well, including Israel.

The proper answer to the horror and tragedy of what has happened in the Lebanon is not to shut our eyes to the underlying causes and not to pretend that the Lebanese crisis can be solved or isolated from the general problem of peace in the Middle East. The answer should be for the international community, especially the Western powers, to make a fresh start towards a comprehensive settlement and to pursue it with the determination and firmness of purpose which have been so lamentably lacking in the past.

If we are seriously to consider external action to restore peace in the Lebanon, let us also consider the need for such intervention in the Israeli-occupied territories of the West Bank, including Jerusalem, Gaza and the Golan heights. An effective and impartial peacekeeping force is needed there, no less than in the Lebanon, if we are to make serious progress towards peace.

9.8 pm

Mr. Reginald Freeson (Brent, East)

The hon. Member for Westbury (Mr. Walters) began by calling on the friends of Israel outside Israel to echo the dissident voices quoted by my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) in criticising the conduct of the Israeli Government. The hon. Gentleman said that this was important, and I do not deny that I shall return to it but I say to him and to those like him in the House and elsewhere that they do not serve the cause of peace by phrasing their evaluation of the Arab-Israeli dispute and conducting their political campaigns in the wholly anti-Israeli terms that we have experienced from the hon. Gentleman on many occasions in the past and as we have heard once more from him this evening.

As a Zionist, I am not by any means uncritical of Israeli Governments, past or present. I have a great love not only of Israel but of the Middle East, of which I still have fine memories, having spent some time there many years ago. Above all, like all hon. Members, I am concerned primarily with establishing wherever possible in this difficult world more civilised relationships within and between States, whether it be Israel and her neighbours or other States. We have reached such a pass in international and human affairs as not to treat lightly and contemptuously the conduct of ourselves or anyone else who puts at risk human lives, whether it be conduct of an Israeli Government, a British Government, an Arab Government, the PLO or anyone else.

Mr. Walters

The hon. Gentleman complains about the speeches that I have made. If only more attention had been paid to the matter and the Israeli lobby had not been so cocooned by lack of criticism, we would not be facing this situation today.

Mr. Freeson

I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman repeats his error. It is no use pretending, or deluding ourselves, here or anywhere else, that the sole responsibility for what has been going on for the past 30 years in the Middle East between the Arabs and the Israelis lies with one State, Israel. It would be inappropriate, and time would forbid if I were to try, to rehearse the history over many years. There have been faults on all sides. One could take several starting points, be it 1948 or one of the years before that.

For Heaven's sake, without going into the history, let us all adopt a sense of humility in taking up political positions over Middle Eastern affairs or other affairs elsewhere in the world. Unless and until all the political leaders in the Middle East get at least to the stage that the hon. Gentleman did, so far as I recall for the first time, of accepting fundamentally the right of the State of Israel to exist—

Mr. Ernie Ross

My right hon. Friend has said that.

Mr. Freeson

—there cannot be any basis for negotiation.

The constant theme of political extremism, wherever and in whatever form it has been expressed, on the Arab-Israeli dispute is anti-Israel. There has been an unwillingness to accept that Israel has a right, and will continue, to exist. There must be an acceptance that it will continue to exist, whatever else is done in the political or military scene of the Middle East.

Mr. Ernie Ross

Why does my right hon. Friend not sit down?

Mr. Freeson

Coming to the present situation, I wish to express a dissenting voice, if I may put it that way, from within the Zionist and Jewish position. I am a Jew, a British Socialist and a Zionist. The remnants of my family are on record in Yad Vashem in Jerusalem as having been destroyed by the Nazis. I do not need to be told by any Zionist in the lobby or outside that to criticise the recent conduct of the Israeli Government in the Lebanon is anti-Israeli and weakens the position of Israel, because I do not accept that. Dissenting voices must be raised and dissenting views must be clearly expressed.

It is an understatement to say that there has been tremendous provocation—[Interruption.] If my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Ross) would listen to what I say instead of to the noises in his head, he might eventually be able to discuss this intelligently instead of merely speaking and thinking in rhetorical slogans. There has been tremendous provocation over a very long period from the military positions held by the PLO on the northern borders of Israel. There is no doubt about that, but it does not justify the various act ions that have been taken.

Mr. Ernie Ross


Mr. Freeson

My hon. Friend will no doubt be able to make his own speech if he is called. Perhaps in the meantime he will allow me to get on with mine.

There has been tremendous military provocation. I have seen it. I am not inventing it. I have seen the bombardments and the destruction that they have caused on a number of occasions in recent years. I did not have to go to Israel to be persuaded that this was taking place, but it so happened that I was there and saw it. The provocation exists. I know of families who have suffered as a result of it. I know children who have been wounded in the bombardments. Let it therefore be stated as fact that the provocation exists.

It may be argued that action must be taken to stop the constant military harassment, killing and wounding of innocent people south of the border, but in my view that does not justify the vile and horrific invasion of the Lebanon. What is more, I believe that conduct of that kind by the Government of Israel puts at risk the very character of the State of Israel and the dreams that some of us have held and shared with others for its future as a progressive democratic State in the Middle East.

I believe in that dream, and I believe that the political initiatives and the social and Socialist innovations that Israel has achieved over many years—not in rhetoric, but on the ground in the creation of communities, industrial ventures and political institutions—have been achieved largely through the evolution of one of the most dynamic democratic Socialist movements in the world. I also believe, however, that that kind of society is put at risk by conduct such as that recently undertaken, and I fear for the future of the State of Israel if politics of this kind continue there. That is essentially what I wished to say today.

On the more specific political position, I repeat what has been said by others. Whatever has happened in the Lebanon, which is far in excess of a response to the evil provocation of the PLO on the northern borders, it does not provide a solution to what is broadly described as the Palestinian problem of the West Bank. Sooner or later, and I say sooner—now—there must be a genuine move by Israel as well as by others to get genuine autonomy talks going, as part of a dynamic, evolutionary political situation and not because the achievement of a particular form of autonomy means the end of change in the Middle East.

I believe, though it is scorned by many, that sooner or later—probably later—if there is to be peace in the Middle East between the Arabs and the Israelis there will have to be a form of federalism between the Jordanian State and the Israeli State. The genuine development of autonomy on the West Bank for the Palestinian people living there, and the refugees whom my right hon. Friend said could rightly be encouraged with economic aid to come from the Lebanon to settle on the West Bank could be a major step in that direction. It would give people an entitlement to an identity and to land, and establish a broader link between Jordan and Israel.

I do not believe that there is an indefinite possibility of a viable West Bank State as we understand political States. I believe that there is the possibility of a relationship building up between Jordan and Israel by way of a genuine move towards national autonomy on the West Bank in the months and years ahead that will eventually point in that direction. It is up to this country to contribute to that end.

I do not believe that all the Israeli leaders are committed to that approach, never mind the details, and that is my grave fear. They are divided and have their different emphases. They have a coalition Government, with different generations, as do all other political movements. There is an element—I put it no stronger—within the Likud Alliance that is obsessed with territory and with maintaining Israeli responsibility for Judea and Samaria, irrespective of the democratic fact of life that these are essentially Arab territories, with Arabs living in them. Some of them believe that they can create and hold on to what they would describe as a Bantustan.

Do not let the criticism of any such belief be treated as though that belief represents the views of Israel as a whole, or even of the Israeli Government as a whole. It is an aspect to be brought out openly and criticised, as Israelis criticise it. It should not be criticised in a spirit of anti-Israeli politics, sometimes with veiled anti-Semitism—I say this bluntly—in this place as elsewhere. It should not be treated as another weapon with which to beat the Israelis, as a State or as a society. It should be treated as a valid criticsm of certain views that are advocated or believed by people in Government in Israel and outside Israel.

My sincere hope is that as a starting point, in the House and in the country, a genuine debate and argument will emerge that will point in the direction of genuine comradeship—I use that term in the non-party sense—between peoples and in the direction of support for peace and friendship, but not in the direction of continued division and warfare.

We have a role here. We know that this country and the House are focal points for pressure groups—Arab, Israeli and others. We are seen as an important political focal point. If for no other reason than that, we have a responsibility to take this broader approach, in a genuine spirit of seeking friendship and peace in the Middle East because we wish to see an end to the carnage that has been experienced in Lebanon recently, was experienced in Syria not long ago, was experienced a few years ago in Jordan, and is being experienced in so many places in the Middle East.

Hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost. What we have seen recently with the Israeli invasion of the Lebanon, in which thousands of people, most of them innocent, have been unjustifiably killed, is just the latest event in a series of horrors that have occurred in that part of the world.

Our role, even if it is only to a small extent, is to try to contribute to the ending of that situation. We must seek genuine peace and friendship, not constant political and military warring, between the Israeli and Arab peoples.

9.30 pm
Sir Hugh Fraser (Stafford and Stone)

I congratulate the right hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Freeson) on the warmth and depth of his feelings on these immensely complicated matters. I should also like to respond to the two Front Bench speeches which, as the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) pointed out, did not show a full appreciation of the fact that the process of reconciliation inside the State of Israel must be measured. To jump straight from a non-automonous process to the establishment of a Palestinian State could be extremely dangerous and would contribute nothing to peace in the Middle East. I was surprised to hear both the Foreign Secretary and the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) touch on that subject. I am sorry that the right hon. Member for Leeds, East is no longer present.

I can best describe the situation regarding the State of Israel and the invasion of the Lebanon by quoting Dr. Kissinger, who said: No sovereign State can tolerate indefinitely the build up along its borders of a military force dedicated to its destruction". That is what has happened in the Middle East, and that is why the fate of the Lebanon is central to what we are discussing.

It is worth recalling why this situation has arisen over the past 30 years. The first accusation must be made against the West as a whole. Benign and, as it proved, malignant neglect was shown by the Western powers of a situation that started to deteriorate in the 1960s. The Western powers simply said that so long as the Lebanon had secure external boundaries it was a situation with which we should not concern ourselves. Yet at the same time, as hon. Members have pointed out, the Lebanon was ceasing to exist as a sovereign or effective State. That is what we have seen.

The Melkart declaration of 1975 gave the PLO areas in which it could operate as a State within a State. The Syrians intervened and there was civil war. Now the situation is run by about 130 or 140 militant militias that try to control the State outside the area controlled by the Syrians or the PLO, or the Haddad forces in the south or the Phalangists in the north.

The next thing that must be remarked upon is the folly of the EEC to regard, against all American advice, the PLO as a suitable instrument for the carrying out of peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis. This gave the PLO a far greater importance than it ever deserved or should be credited with. As the PLO is being attacked today by the Israelis in its fortresses, not one Arab voice and not one Arab arm is pushed to the help of Mr. Arafat. His most bitter complaint is "Where are my friends?" There has been no stir in his favour.

Next, one should note the folly of the PLO in allowing itself to carry out the gamble of building up an immense quantity of weapons during the ceasefire period. Thousands of tons of weapons from Libya, Syria and the Soviet Union were used to build up a military force that was bound to be regarded as a threat by the State of Israel. It was a gamble that not a single Arab State has supported. This is the background against which this extremely serious and dangerous situation must be viewed.

There is now a chance to fill the vacuum of the unviable, unsovereign State of Lebanon. I do not rate that chance very high, but it is a far more important chance than the Venice initiative or any initiative so far taken by the EEC. If there could be achieved a free Lebanon for the Lebanese, this would be a real and great achievement out of the bloodshed and horror that has been seen. Some say that this is wishful thinking. I believe, however, that an effective constitution could, with luck, be rebuilt there.

My hon. Friend the Member for Westbury (Mr. Walters), who does not like listening to my speeches and has left the Chamber, suggests that the EEC approach should be to force the unilateral withdrawal of Israel. That would be a major disaster and would merely hand over the whole of the Lebanon to Syria which would be entirely against our interests. On the contrary there are legitimate objects. Those objects, which should be pursued by the Government, are the withdrawal of Israel, because Israel is making no territorial claims, after the disarming of the PLO, the withdrawal of Syria except for strategic points and the re-establishment of a viable and sovereign Lebanese State.

This is undoubtedly the wish of the great bulk of the Lebanese people, whether they are Jews, Christian or Muslim, or even those of the much abused area called Hadabland. It has been seen that people of all religions can work effectively together. This could be made to work. Even in the days of the Ottoman Empire between 1861 and 1914 there was a State, Mount Lebanon, an enclave that was independent of the Ottoman Empire and that was run by a Christian, admittedly from outside, appointed by the Sultan and imposed on the Sultan of Turkey by the Western powers of the day.

Those who knew Lebanon between 1943 and 1960 saw how well it could function as a State. As hon. Members have said, there may have to be support, in the sense of a peacekeeping force. That is something that we should seriously consider, especially if the United States was prepared to provide such a force. If it was asked to do so by a free Lebanese Government, we should seriously consider sending a contingent. The Prime Minister was asked about the matter this afternoon, and she said that she was not considering it at the moment. However, the time could come when that was necessary and worth while, provided that a Government could be set up in the Lebanon who were truly independent of Israel, Syria and the PLO. That is not an impossible dream. I believe that it could happen.

I turn now to the effect on the negotiations—what is called the Camp David initiative. As the right hon. Member for Leeds, East said, the peace process has been exhausted. It could be set up in the same way one could set up a State which, to use his phrase, is not a banana Christian State in the Lebanon. In my view, a proper State could be set up there. I disagree with the right hon. Gentleman on that matter.

I also disagree with the right hon. Gentleman about the negotiations which could be restarted on the autonomy process. There is no doubt that the destruction of the PLO, with its considerable military machine and its terrorist organisation used by many countries, not only Arab but European, will lead to the emergence of a new leadership among the Palestinians. That is a real possibility. As a result of the change of power in the Middle East which Israel has effected, there will be a greater chance of Jordan becoming involved. The first principle of the Camp David declaration is that there should be negotiation on the broad issues between the Governments of Israel, Egypt and Jordan, and an involvement of the Palestinian people to that end. I believe that that is still a possibility. It is a possibility which one sincerely hopes will evolve from the present horrors which face the Middle East.

Of course there are difficulties, and a lot of negotiation is necessary, but just to indulge in mindless attacks on the people and State of Israel, and just to suggest that what is needed is a new initiative such as took place in Venice, with all its danger, is not a contribution to peace, but a contribution to continuing discord and destruction in the Middle East.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. I remind the House that a large number of hon. Members wish to speak, and that the number who are called will depend on the length of speeches.

9.43 pm
Mr. Frank Hooley (Sheffield, Heeley)

My right hon. Friend the Member for Brent, East (Mr. Freeson) said that the nature of Israeli society was changing, and he is right. Israel now has a racist, militarist and neo-Fascist Government, and the country itself is rapidly developing into a racist society.

In March 1978 the first major invasion of the Lebanon took place—what the Israelis now call by the code word Litani I. In that process, about 1,000 people were killed, thousands were maimed and injured, and 250,000 were driven out of their homes and became refugees. The PLO fought a successful engagement on that occasion, and disengaged with its organisation more or less intact.

There were two results from the 1978 Lebanese war. First, there was the creation of UNIFIL, the United Nations peacekeeping force, largely on the initiative of President Carter. Subsequently, there was the initiation of the Camp David negotiations, into which President Carter threw the whole of his energy and prestige.

I should like to quote a couple of significant phrases from the Camp David agreement. First, it was said that the parties are determined to reach a just, comprehensive, and durable settlement of the Middle East conflict". It went on to say: Their purpose is to achieve peace and good neighbourly relations. They recognise that, for peace to endure, it must involve all those who have been most deeply affected by the conflict.

That is a sound statement, but it does not seem to have been observed, either in the spirit or the letter, on one side at least. Broadly speaking, Egypt has observed its commitment at Camp David. The Israelis certainly evacuated Sinai, although the Israeli army had to be brought in to drag some fanatics screaming and kicking out of Yamit.

However, on the other parts of the Camp David agreement, far from there being any progress on the Palestinians' position on the West Bank, there has been savage repression, which has attracted international condemnation, involving, on one unfortunate occasion, the shooting of schoolchildren in cities on the West Bank. There has been the expansion of settlements, both on the West Bank and in the Golan area. About 35 per cent. of the land area of the West Bank has been expropriated from Arab ownership and taken, under one pretext or another, into Israeli ownership.

The Knesset has purported to annex the Golan area, which is part of the sovereign territory of Syria and recognised as such by the entire international community. The bombing of Beirut attracted international condemnation, because of the scale of the casualties among the civilian population. Last year there was the ceasefire agreement between Israel and the PLO, which was subsequently broken by the Israelis. Is that Israel's idea, in the words of the Camp David agreement, of peace and good neighbourly relations"?

Now we have the exercise known as Litani II. As has been said by several hon. Members, about 10,000 people, probably more—I expect that we shall never know the true number—have been killed. Thousands more have been wounded and, according to the Lebanese Government, about 600,000 people have been driven out of their homes and turned again into refugees.

What are the objectives of the Israeli Government in this exercise? Do they seriously believe that they will be able to dictate the political map of the Lebanon? Do they intend to carry out a major military thrust at Syria along the line of the Bekaa Valley, which is an important highway for Syrian security? It poses serious military problems for the Syrian Government if Israel continues to pursue, as would appear to be the case from the news today, military objectives in that direction.

Does Israel want to destroy the PLO or massacre the Palestinian population? What precisely does Israel think it is trying to do in this bestial, savage attack that has been launched into the Lebanon, and, notionally at any rate, against the PLO? We should remind ourselves that most of the victims of the war so far have probably been the Lebanese civil population. Many Palestinians have been killed and injured, but a great many more Lebanese, who, as has been pointed out, have no quarrel at all with the Israelis, have also been injured.

What has happened to the PLO since Camp David? It has gained greater and greater international recognition. It has consolidated the concept of a Palestinian State. It is now becoming widely accepted in international circles that that must come about if there is to be a realistic settlement in the Middle East.

It is reasonable to quote the Venice declaration, although it has been much criticised. Section 7 discusses the need for Palestinian self-determination and states: The achievement of these objectives requires the involvement and support of all the parties concerned in the peace settlement which the Nine are endeavouring to promote in keeping with the principles formulated in the declaration referred to above. These principles apply to all the parties concerned, and thus the Palestinian people, and to the PLO, which will have to be associated with the negotiations. Last year Israel was forced, for the first time, to enter into negotiations on a ceasefire with the PLO, although it did so at one remove.

No one can destroy a genuine national liberation movement by war. That was tried by the French in Algeria against the FLN, by the Americans in Vietnam against the Vietcong, by Smith and company against ZANU in Rhodesia, by the Portuguese against Frelimo, by the Portuguese in Angola against the MPLA, it is being tried by the South Africans against SWAPO and it is being tried by the Moroccans in the Sahara against the Polisario. Since the Second World War, every time that massive force has been used—even by a country as rich and powerful as the United States of America—it has failed to destroy the genuine national aspirations of a people who have felt themselves to be subjugated or unjustly treated.

The PLO was written off in 1970 after black September and after the quarrel with the Syrians. It will no doubt be written off again by the Israelis when the present exercise is over. However, no matter how brutal and savage the assault against the Palestinians, they will continue to fight for their national existence. Indeed, some of us wonder what is happening to the Palestinian captives who are now in the hands of Israeli soldiers. It is sometimes assumed that the problem exists outside Palestine's boundaries—in Lebanon, Jordan and so on. However, there are 2 million Palestinians in Palestine. What is their future? They will not tolerate being put into a Bantustan or being treated as second-rate citizens in their own country. Until their national position as a people, with their own State, passports, Government and leaders, is fully internationally recognised there will not be any semblance of peace in the Middle East.

President Carter's achievement in setting up UNIFIL with the co-operation of the Western world and other countries was important and was another stage in the peacekeeping process carried out by the United Nations. It should be of grave concern to the West that it has been treated with absolute contempt by Israel. If Israel is allowed to treat it in this way, the authority of the United Nations will be undermined, together with the whole process of developing peacekeeping efforts and gaining experience in peacekeeping exercises in the dangerous world of nuclear weapons.

Whatever peacekeeping arrangements are organised after Israel has been compelled to evacuate southern Lebanon, they should come under the authority of the United Nations, should be in its name and should be controlled direct by the Security Council. We should not accept the notion of an American cordon sanitaire round Palestine, with an American force in Sinai, another in the Lebanon and perhaps one along the border with Jordan. Whatever its shortcomings, we must restore the prestige and authority of the United Nations, to ensure that it is at the centre of peacekeeping efforts wherever trouble occurs.

Many hon. Members have stressed the necessity for immediate international relief. Humanitarian aid is of overwhelming importance in this tragic disaster that has struck a civilian population of about half a million people. Those relief measures must include access by the International Red Cross to the prisoners in the hands of the Israeli forces.

Secondly, Western Europe must exert all its diplomatic and economic strength to compel Israeli withdrawal. This is not just a matter for the United States. If the countries of Europe act in concert, they have sufficient power and influence to exert strong pressure. We must also ensure that we have an effective United Nations force, and the Western world must demonstrate its determination to support it this time. Lastly, we must recognise the legitimacy of the PLO and press for the self-determination of the Palestinian people, in accordance with the principles enunciated by the Venice declaration.

In 1967 the Israelis were triumphant in their war against the armies of Egypt and Syria. They believed that they could sit on the Golan heights and Sinai and remain secure in their military triumph for a long time. Six years later they were back at war, and their military triumph on that occasion was much more precarious. They are wrong to suppose that from this invasion—whatever the military outcome—they will assure themselves of the security that they seek. The Israelis will achieve security only if they sit down at the same table as the PLO, as the legitimate representatives of the Palestinian people, and negotiate a permanent peace.

9.58 pm
Mr. Cyril D. Townsend (Bexleyheath)

I agreed with the hon. Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Hooley) when he spoke about the Middle East but I disagreed with him when his horizons lifted.

Having sought this overdue debate, I welcome the common approach that has been highlighted on the two Front Benches and the Liberal Bench. I also welcome the House's recognition of the need for urgent and massive international relief to the Lebanon and for the immediate removal of all barriers in the way of that relief.

I ask my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary why on earth must injured children die tonight in the Lebanon while fully trained and equipped medical teams remain in enforced idleness, forbidden to enter the area?

Fears were voiced in many quarters that Israel, under its present extraordinary leadership, would use the crisis in the South Atlantic to cover further military measures against its Arab neighbours. Following the colonisation and repression on the West Bank, the outrageous bombing of the Iraqi reactor—as if one can deny Arab people the peaceful use of nuclear energy—and the virtual annexation of the Golan heights, the world waited to see what the new measures might be. Where next for the world's rogue elephant?

The exiled Palestinians in the Lebanon always seemed to be in danger once Egypt had been neutralised by Camp David, and the peacekeeping force of which we form a part. Now Mr. Begin and Mr. Sharon, who many of us saw on television last night, are working on the supposition that the PLO's political influence in the occupied territories can be eliminated once its military capability is destroyed. The plan that we all now perceive is to move any surviving Palestinians in the Lebanon to Syria or further afield. The Palestinians will once again be designated refugees and will become dispersed, gipsy-like communities for ever on the move, as were the Jews for generations.

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

  1. BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE 15,635 words