HC Deb 15 April 1983 vol 40 cc1104-14 1.39 pm
Mr. Peter Temple-Morris (Leominster)

I beg to move, That this House, whilst it might feel disposed to disagree with and even condemn Israel for her expansionist policies with particular reference to West Bank settlements and for her invasion of, and conduct and continued presence in, the Lebanon, and likewise might question the lack of unity and foresight in the Arab World including the Palestine Liberation Organisation, is far more concerned with achieving peace in the Middle East; in this regard, in recognising both the rights of the State of Israel to exist within its pre-1967 borders and the Palestinians eventually to have an independent sovereign state, calls on all parties involved to make progress based on President Reagan's current Peace Initiative, to which there is no feasible alternative at the present time; urges the United States of America to exercise the necessary pressure on Israel, not least as to its presence in the Lebanon and its settlements policy on the West Bank, in order to give United States proposals a reasonable chance of success; urges everyone concerned to influence moderate Arab opinion and the Palestine Liberation Organisation to act in the best interests of those living on the West Bank as well as Palestinians as a whole; and emphasizes that failure now can only encourage the extremes on both sides with very serious consequences for all. I know that many hon. Members wish to speak and I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office for recognising in the previous debate the need to allow as many hon. Members as possible to take part in this debate. I cannot promise that this will be the finest speech that I have ever made. I intend to put my head down and try to get through it, and, therefore, I appeal to hon. Members not to encourage me to take part in detailed argument, even though they may be tempted to interrupt me, because I, as a generous hon. Member, may be tempted to give way.

As is implicit in the motion, hope that we shall try to rise above the normal, and in present circumstances perhaps unavoidable, sectarian exchanges that tend to creep into our proceedings, whether in debates or at Question Time.

My motion tries to reflect matters fairly and I hope that my speech will appeal to moderate Israeli opinion as much as to Arab opinion. As an example of my bona fides in introducing the debate, I declare my personal interest in the issues involved. Most hon. Members know that my view has always been pro-Arab, but it has never been blindly one-sided and I have always tried to put a reasonably balanced case. As proof of that, I cite the facts that, with hon. Members from both sides of the House, I had the pleasure of meeting Chairman Arafat and the pleasure of lunching alone with Ambassador Shlomo Argov a month or two before the disgraceful attack on him in Park Lane.

So that hon. Members know what I shall be dealing with, let me list the subjects of my speech in the order in which I shall deal with them. I shall make some comments about Israel, which may not necessarily be to Israel's pleasure, but will, I hope, be fair; I shall speak about the Arabs and the PLO; most importantly, I shall talk about the role of the United States and, if I have time, I shall end with a few words about Europe and about Britain's role.

I understand that Israel is ruled by those who lived through the holocaust. Therefore, we are dealing with a leadership, a nation and a people to whom the security and survival—I use the word advisedly—of the state are of the utmost importance. The motion does not dispute, and nor will my speech, the fact Israel should exist within its pre-1967 borders. The difference arises over the Israeli Government's concept of the security of the state and my concept of that.

I think that some Israelis would agree with me that their Government is a Right-wing and extremely hard regime. That makes it more difficult than ever to reach peace. I am convinced that the Israeli regime, while reacting to the options of the moment, has every intention of eventually annexing the West Bank.

I wish to deal with settlements and with the Israelis' occupation of, or presence in, Lebanon. I appreciate that there are a number of arguments about the settlements policy of Israel and that the establishment of settlements is a traditional Israeli and Zionist way of proceeding. It has a long history and predates the existence of the state of Israel, but it is disgraceful and illegal. There are a frightening number of settlements. According to figures that I saw this week, there are 108 settlements in existence and only last Sunday we heard the deliberately defiant announcement that 57 more settlements are to be established, against the efforts of the United States, inadequate as they are, to bring about peace. They come as part of a 30-year plan, if matters ever proceed for that long and if one can have such a plan to produce parity of population at 1.3 million. Therefore, the issue of annexation will become part of history.

The atmosphere on the West bank of Jordan — as anybody who has been there will agree, or will at least sympathise with the feelings that I have been describing —is one of an occupied territory. It is horrifying that virtually every habitation—this is true also of major Arab towns — is surrounded by white apartment buildings, usually on the top of a hill. Sometimes these are inhabited as second homes by Israeli citizens and emigrant Jews. This is the deliberate, psychological use by those who, of all people, should know better of a method that establishes among the Arab population nothing more nor less than the ghetto mentality.

The economy of Greater Jordan, including the West Bank as a whole, and the "public utilities" are increasingly becoming linked with, and part of, Israel. In the light of that, when one examines what Israeli Ministers say one realises that progress towards annexation must be stopped sooner rather than later. Only recently Professor Yuvan Ne'eman, the Israeli Minister in charge of settlement policy, said in a television programme: My party is the party that is for straightforward, immediate annexation of Judaea and Samaria and Gaza. As such, we need two things for this to become fact: On the one hand, the legal side—simply the establishing of Israeli law everywhere; the other thing is creating facts so that it (ie the territory occupied sunce 1967) can't be detached any more. The occupation of the Lebanon was an unnecessary and overdone invasion. Many Israelis agree with that view, and it is significant that many of the military are returning the decorations that Mr. Begin has seen fit to give them. The invasion has led—this is a classic example of the way of violence not being the proper way for the future —to the scattering of the PLO. No doubt the Israeli Right rubbed its hands in glee and thinks that the threat has left, but that scattering has, unfortunately, led to a weakening of the position of Chairman Arafat and a strengthening of the extremes in that organisation. It has also strengthened the role played in the PLO by countries such as Syria, and has made the finding of a solution even more difficult.

I do not wish to be emotional in any way about Israeli conduct during the invasion of the Lebanon, but I wish to put on record in my speech, rushed though it is, that Sabra and Chatilla, judged as they have been by the Kahane commission, were excesses for which Israel will never be forgiven. General Eitan's recent comment, which I am delighted to say has been condemned by many members of the Israeli Labour party, was disgraceful. He spoke about establishing settlements between Jerusalem and Mabluz so that all that the Arabs would be able to do was to scurry around like cockroaches in a bottle. I know that General Eitan has been properly judged by Kahane, and that his career is virtually over, but it is that attitude that is making Israel a less popular country than it might otherwise be.

There is, unfortunately, evidence that the Israelis intend to stay in the Lebanon—not only in south Lebanon, but right up into central Lebanon. A report by Robert Fisk in The Times only this week illustrates the fact that, at the very moment when the Israelis are supposed to be negotiating a withdrawal of foreign troops from the Lebanon, they are building bases and installations across southern and central Lebanon.

The PLO must be involved in the settlement of this difficult matter, and therefore must be treated accordingly. Hon. Members on both sides of the House know only too well that the PLO must play its part in that process. Indeed, that has been the purpose of President Reagan's initiative and other efforts.

In dealing with the PLO and assessing what it says, we must appreciate its difficulties as an exiled organisation. We must bear in mind that, without the discipline of national power, it is far more difficult to control an organisation. This tends to happen not only with the PLO, but with other organisations, and I have personal experience of some of them. There is a danger that the PLO, which in its way is trying to remain as moderate as it can, will foster in its schools, its children and its generations born in exile the revolutionary idea and cult that leads to ready candidates for extremism, who can, if nothing is done, do immense harm to an area far beyond that in which they are immediately interested.

Not unnaturally, the PLO is concerned with preserving its unity. Is that best for the Palestinians as a whole? The PLO should address its mind to that question. It should take action—perhaps Chairman Arafat, who is at the moment negotiating with King Hussein, might bear this in mind—for Palestinians as a whole and for those who live on the West Bank, who perhaps should come first in this matter. There is a real danger that unless the PLO compromises now—I address my remarks to the PLO because it is no more perfect than anyone else involved in this matter—it could become an extremist organisation in the hands of certain of the more radical states which might not have Western interests so dear to their hearts as other states. Such a development could play into the hands of extremist Israelis. Throughout this matter one has had a rather "laid back" attitude to Israel based on the inability of the Arab world sufficiently to create a united front to be able to play its full part in bringing this matter to an end.

Israel gives not an inch in trying to understand this matter, and perhaps should give a lead by an initiative, a compromise, or some giving, which would make a solution at least feasible. All the Arab states are, for one reason or another, vulnerable. The Gulf has money but is weak and fears that it will go down like a pack of cards. It fears just about everything in sight and has neither the strength nor the courage to dictate events. If the Gulf states had such strength and courage, and if moderate Arab states combined for peace and included Egypt, which would end her isolation, which was brought about by the Camp David process, we might be in business, with a sufficiently powerful chunk of the Arab world united together to act. That is not the case at the moment.

Jordan obviously needs a settlement, for its own stability. It has obvious fears for the future that if there should not be a Palestinian state where it should be, Jordan might find itself becoming more and more a Palestinian state. I say no more about that, but obviously there are understandable fears there.

Iraq is otherwise engaged at present, but it is a very important nation to the west. Syria will radicalise the PLO if it has the slightest chance.

I remain something of an agnostic towards Egypt and Camp David. In many respects, isolating Egypt—in a sense buying it off—with the American money that goes to Israel every year, may have made a settlement more difficult by enabling Israel to take a more rigid attitude than it would otherwise if Egypt were still with the rest of the Arab world.

The Arabs must get their act together sufficiently, otherwise there is a danger of losing the game. In this there is too much machismo and too little of the art of the possible. It is the duty of the West to advise and to exert pressure on the Arab world almost as much as it is to exert pressure on the Israelis to get a settlement.

My most important comment is about the United States of America. It is absolutely pivotal in this matter. It could control Israel. The only power that can control or influence Israel is the United States of America. But every time this matter comes up, the United States fails to deliver. It tries, but it fails to exercise sufficient pressure. The Israeli lobby is extremely strong in the United States of America, but here again on almost every issue in the world we see a period of marking time pending some sort of election in the United States. I shudder to think about it, but it seems that this is happening again now.

We are talking in terms of controlling or influencing Israel, with the United States giving enormous sums of money to Israel, quite apart from private contributions. The United States of America also arms Israel. We are talking about no less than two thirds of the United States foreign aid budget. Despite all that, the United States has failed to deliver on settlements and it has failed to deliver on the presence of Israeli troops in the Lebanon. Only a couple of weeks ago President Reagan, in an interview with Henry Brandon of the Sunday Times, said clearly that he did not see the settlement policy as illegal. He insisted that there was nothing illegal about it. That is an extraordinary comment from an American President who is meant to bring pressure to bear on one of the countries involved.

The United States is failing to exercise its power. It is failing to appreciate that it is not automatic that Israel, a western democratic country, is necessarily a stabilising factor in the middle east. Very rapidly it is becoming a destabilising factor.

For Europe and the United Kingdom, Israel is a creature of power in the form of its present Government. The Israeli Government take little or no notice of us, and we have to realise that. But if we were acting in conjunction with Europe, which increasingly we are, we would have an influence, not least with the United States of America, but also directly in 'a European context upon Israel. However, we are dealing with realistic and practical people, which is why I put the emphasis on the United States of America.

With the Arabs, Europe has a far more important role in preserving some of their faith in Western democracy and the Western way of life and possibly playing some sort of bridging role while the United States of America continues with its present unsuccessful policy.

If the West and the United States of America act now, we can get peace. It means telling a lot of people where to get off and it involves being a good deal tougher than we have been so far. The alternative is a constantly challenged Right-wing and increasingly bigoted Greater Israel. That is the longer term alternative or even the medium-term one. We shall see the Arab world and the PLO becoming more and more radical and an area which increasingly becomes one for the Soviets to influence. If only we had the power to act, it might be a little better. We do not have that power as an individual nation, but we can contribute. I must confess to a little pessimism, but I live in hope.

1.59 pm
Mr. Ian Mikardo (Bethnal Green and Bow)

The House must be indebted to the hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Temple-Morris) for tabling the motion, thereby providing an opportunity for a debate. Unfortunately, for reasons which hon. Members appreciate the debate will be rather truncated. I warmly appreciate the terms of the hon. Member's motion, although I have one or two reservations about it and some of his remarks. I cannot envisage that any hon. Member would oppose a motion whose central thrust supports those on both sides of the argument who hold moderate views and oppose those who hold extreme views — or, even worse, take extreme action. I did not think that the speech of the hon. Member for Leominster was as moderate as his motion. Resting on the words on the Order Paper, I strongly support the motion. I trust that the House will carry it.

I have a reservation about the 1967 borders. Many delicate negotiations will take place but I am more optimistic than the hon. Gentleman. I envisage that within a measurable time considerable progress will be made on the negotiations. The definition of what are secure and recognised borders both for Israel and for whatever Palestinian state comes into existence must be one of the subjects on the table during the negotiations. So, too—this is a reservation that I have about the Reagan initiative —must be the relationship between the people on the West Bank when they have escaped from military occupation, as I hope they soon will, and Israel and Jordan. The relations with Jordan of those on the West Bank should be decided only by the people on the West Bank. There should be no precondition set upon those relations before negotiations have taken place.

The hon. Gentleman said at the beginning of his speech that the world will not get anywhere with the problem until it is removed from the hands of extremists. Five days ago —last Sunday—I unhappily had first-hand experience of extremism. I was attending a meeting at the Hotel Montechoro in Albufeira, in southern Portugal, a few yards away from the hotel lobby in which, while that meeting was going on, Issam Sartawi was shot. He was recognised by friends and opponents as being a fine man, a pursuer of peace and a stalwart defender of moderation between people with different interests. An hour later, at the meeting of the Congress of the Socialist International, the general secretary read out a letter to the president that the poor victim had written only the previous day. The experience was eerie and almost spooky. The general secretary read out in measured precise terms the words of the man whose body, covered with a black sheet, was lying at that moment 20 yards away on the floor of the hotel lobby. It was as if it was not the man himself but his soul that was speaking to us through that letter. None of the couple of hundred people who lived through that experience will ever forget it.

The hon. Member for Leominster referred to Shlomo Argov. It was the same gun which slew Dr. Sartawi which almost mortally wounded Shlomo Argov. One man was a representative of the Government of Israel and the other an important and valuable member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation. We must get away from the extremism which, as the hon. Gentleman has said, clearly exists on both sides.

With respect to the hon. Member for Leominster, I am not sure that he really understands the problems of getting some fresh thought directed to these issues in Israel. I correct him on an error of fact. He said that Israel is run by those who lived through the period of the holocaust. The trouble is that the Begin Government—I do not approve of them for a single moment, as they are too much like our own Government—derive their majority from the people and the children of people who were kicked out of Arab countries with no more than the clothes in which they stood up. The Begin Government do not derive their majority from those who came from Europe.

We are all rightly conscious of and sensitive about the problem of the Palestinian refugees. Theirs is a problem of a great human tragedy that demands the world's attention. It is often forgotten that in Israel there is a majority of Jews who are refugees from Arab countries who escaped from the most vicious oppression, and who still in their memories bear the scars of their experience. It will take a generation before those scars are healed. It will be the children of the present generation who will need to learn to get away from their parents' hostility to Arabs and Arabism in general, which was created by the rough treatment that they received at the hands of Arabs.

I disapprove as much as the hon. Member for Leominster of the Israel Government's settlement policy. It is gratuitous. It is an obstacle to the creation of a peaceful outcome. There is nothing to be said for it, even on the ground of Israel's interests. It is more than a decade ago that I said to the then Prime Minister of Israel that if I were in his chair I would order at three months' notice a unilateral evacuation by Israel of the West Bank. He was a bit startled about that. I explained that the whole of human history shows — certainly the history of the second world war—that powerful Governments can be brought to their knees by the effort and waste of resources incurred in holding down hostile populations.

I have a passionate attachment to Israel. Half my family is there and they have been there a long time. However, I do not believe for one moment that it is in Israel's interests to absorb, against its will, a population of over 1 million non-Jews. We must remember that the United Nations resolution of 1947 — everyone talks about United Nations resolutions while forgetting the initial one, the one that led to all those that followed—set up two states. It called not for the setting up of Israel but for the establishment of a Jewish state and an Arab state. The extremists on both sides are in violation of that resolution. Members of the more extreme wing of the PLO who talk about rubbing out Israel and creating a secular state are in violation of the resolution. People in Israel who deny the setting up of an Arab state are equally in violation of the same resolution.

It would be very much against the interests of the people of Israel to absorb a hostile, different population into their midst. I disapprove of the settlement policy as much as the hon. Gentleman does, but he is far too pessimistic about the danger that it represents to the peace process. Driving to the House today, I heard on the radio a distinguished Arab whom I have met. He dislikes the settlement policy as much as we do, but he says that we should not over-react to it. There are well over 1 million Arabs on the West Bank and only 22,000 Jews. That is just 2 per cent. Even if all the houses now being built were occupied, the proportion would rise to only 3 per cent. That is not unmanageable. In Yamit—an area far less sensitive than the West Bank — even the Begin Government threw out 8,000 Israelis from long-established settlements as a contribution to the peace process, so we should not worry too much about that aspect.

I shall not argue about the legality of the matter. The hon. Gentleman was shocked that President Reagan should suggest that the settlements were not illegal, but I have heard distinguished international constitutional lawyers say the same. I am not a lawyer, so I do not know. The question seems not to be decided.

The hon. Gentleman said that the PLO must be brought into the peace process. That seems inevitable, but we must consider the implications. First, we must ascertain whether it wishes to be brought in. We talk of the PLO as though it were a single, homogeneous organisation. In fact, it is a coalition of eight bodies with a wide spectrum of views.

The hon. Gentleman says that if we get together with Europe we can influence the situation. That is exactly what Lord Carrington did when he organised the summit conference and emerged triumphant with the Venice declaration. As the declaration was pro-Arab and pro-PLO he expected that the Israelis would reject it but that the Arabs would welcome it and the PLO would jump for joy. Predictably, the Israelis rejected it, but two hours later the PLO rejected it in even stronger terms, saying that it did not wish to take part in the negotiations because it believed that its problems could be solved only by the rifle.

One cannot bring into negotiations people or bodies who explicitly state their belief that their problems cannot be solved by negotiations. That is the real difficulty. The PLO will have to sort out its own internal problems. Every time someone like Sartawi puts out a moderate statement, as in the letter sent to us, another wing of the PLO issues a counter-statement the following day saying exactly the opposite. I am sure that Mr. Arafat has been trying hard to achieve unity of view, but he has not succeeded so far. Until that is achieved, the lack of a single direction will present a great problem.

I could say a great deal more, but I am conscious that others wish to speak and that time is short. I therefore rest my case. I do not support all that the hon. Gentleman has said, but I warmly support his motion.

2.14 pm
Mr. Dennis Walters (Westbury)

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Leominster (Mr. Temple-Morris) on his motion. The speech of the hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Mr. Mikardo) was much more moderate than usual and I should like to associate myself with what he said about my old friend Issam Sartawi, who was a courageous and peace-loving man.

There have been many debates on the middle east since 1967. I have consistently emphasised one feature —to achieve a durable peace, the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people must be recognised and their claim to self-determination upheld. Britain recently demonstrated its strong feelings about self-determination by defeating the Argentine aggression in the Falklands. As the former mandatory power in Palestine we, of all people, have a moral responsibility to the Palestinian people which remains lamentably unfulfilled.

Of course, Israel has a right to security but no one will seriously suggest that the most powerful military state in the middle east is now really worried about its security or that its expansionist policies are defensive. The real issue today continues to be how to progress towards Palestinian self-determination and to contain Israeli territorial ambitions.

Although aggression and expansion have not brought Israel any nearer to a lasting peace—a fact that is fully recognised by the Israeli peace movement—the present Israeli leadership, which is both racialist and recklessly expansionist, is convinced that aggression pays. It is not seriously interested in negotiations which involve a withdrawal from occupied territories. It is concerned with how to consolidate its gains and where and when to plan further advances. Such circumstances cannot be allowed to continue because they are unjust and endanger peace not only in the middle east but in the world.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Leominster said, only the United States can bring about a peace settlement because, as Israel's arms supplier and financial backer, it alone can apply the necessary pressure on Israel. However, the United States cannot do that alone. Britain and Europe have an important part to play. Our credibility and influence in the Arab world is much greater than that of the United States. Moreover, the Soviet Union cannot be permanently excluded from the process of finding a peaceful settlement. Such attempts at exclusion will not, in the long term, help the West, as it will make the prospects of a lasting and stable peace much more difficult.

Although I believe that safeguarding the middle east from Soviet encroachment should remain a major objective of Western foreign policy, I do not believe that, in the long term, that aim is best served by trying to exclude the Soviet Union from the peace-making process. No settlement can be reached, let alone stick, if it does not command at least the acquiescence of the Soviet Union. At the moment, for example, the Soviet Union is exploiting Syria's understandable fears of Israel's military preponderance, especially in the air, and her resentment that the Syrian territory of the Golan, which is now under Israeli occupation, was not specifically included in the Reagan proposals.

Those Syrian anxieties must be allayed if progress is to be made. Moreover, King Hussein, who is a wise and courageous ruler, cannot be left to carry the entire burden of peace making. If the West wants the PLO under Mr. Arafat to be more explicit and to continue to be moderate, it must encourage rather than rebuff it.

The Reagan proposals remain, in present circumstances —circumstances that should never have been allowed to occur—the only realistic, although inadequate, means of making a start towards peace and reversing the trend towards disaster. But if they are to be revived with any hope of success, the United States must give clear and tangible evidence that it intends to pursue peace with real determination and some firmness of purpose.

2.20 pm
Mr. Clinton Davis (Hackney, Central)

I congratulate the hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Temple-Morris) on introducing this debate, although it has been rather truncated. With my hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Mr. Mikardo), I commend the motion but less so the hon. Gentleman's speech in support of it. The hon. Member for Westbury (Mr. Walters) has not always shown us, nor has he today, that he has the best interests of Israel at heart, and I am sure that the advice that he tenders will not be followed closely by any Israeli Government. The most perceptive comment of the debate was that of my hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Bow, who said that we must get the problem out of the hands of extremists. How to do that is the daunting problem that faces the international community.

However, there is some hope, which was reflected by something that we saw on television recently and to which my hon. Friend adverted, following the tragic death of Issam Sartawi, when Shimon Peres, the leader of the Israeli Labour party, at the recent Socialist International conference, paid a generous and significant tribute to him. The hope for the future lies in the recognition on both sides of the argument that there is no monopoly of wisdom.

The Reagan plan has been mentioned, and it was a great tragedy that the Begin Government, of which I scarcely approve, immediately rejected it as a basis for discussion. That is not the view of the Israeli Labour party. It is also a matter for hope that definitive ideas have been put forward by the Israeli Labour party and by the peace movement in Israel to start a realistic dialogue in which the Reagan plan plays a central role. But there must be a beginning to the dialogue. One anxiety that the Labour party has always had — it is shared by a security-conscious Israel and, I am sure, by the Minister of State —is that the Palestine Liberation Organisation, which is made up of multifarious interests, still refuses to renounce its covenant of death in relation to Israel. On the other side of the argument, the Begin Government insist upon what I believe to be not just art insensitive but an insensate policy of developing settlements on the West Bank, which cannot in the long term be in the interests of the security of Israel.

I hope that it will be possible to ensure the withdrawal of all foreign forces—Syrian as well as Israeli— from the Lebanon. Another foreign force is the strong contingent of the PLO, which is sustained by the Syrians. I hope that double standards will not be applied in this matter, because my understanding from Israel is that it believes that it is always singled out for condemnation about this matter, while the other side escapes criticism altogether.

Great hope must also be drawn from the tragedy of the Lebanon episode by the fact that 400,000 Jews in Tel Aviv could assemble in the streets to protest about it. I wonder where else in the Middle East such a protest could have taken place. We also had the remarkable Kahane report —which, incidentally, contrasted very favourably with the Franks report in terms of the openness with which its examination was carried out.

The Israeli Government, like many others in the Middle East, has a lot to answer for at the present time. I have merely tried to portray some areas of real hope. It is, after all, the duty of the Government and of the Opposition here to do whatever they can to ensure that we play a worthy and a constructive role in building on those areas of hope.

2.25 pm
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Douglas Hurd)

The House has had a short but very thoughtful debate, and I think that anyone reading it will be struck by the degree of consensus that has prevailed. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Leominster (Mr. Temple-Morris) on the care with which he drafted the motion, which is well worth careful study, and for the way in which he introduced it. It is a timely debate because this is a difficult and sad time in the history of the middle east.

Over the last seven months we have seen an intitiative —the latest in a long series—by the American President to try to bring peace to the area. The initiative was rejected initially by the Government of Israel, and latterly the PLO has not countenanced it. We had hoped that the PLO would feel able to reach agreement with the King of Jordan so that he could come forward, alongside the PLO or on its behalf, and take his place at the negotiating table.

Now there is a danger of stalemate. Stalemate is attractive to some at first sight in both camps. Those attractions are illusory. It is not good news for the Palestinians. I am thinking, not of the leaders in exile or those who are making their visits to different countries, but of the people in the occupied territories, whose lot grows harder and harder as each opportunity is missed.

Stalemate is not good news for the Lebanon, which I visited a fortnight ago, where the Government are trying to get the country together again and to get reconciliation off the ground. They are faced with the presence of foreign troops and not just Israeli troops, as has been pointed out.

Stalemate is not good news for Israel. Israel cannot achieve real peace on the basis of her present policy. The hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Mr. Mikardo) used phrases with which I entirely agree. Real security cannot depend on the occupation of other people's land. Acts of resistance by those who are occupied are followed by acts of repression by those who are doing the occupying. There is uncertainty and suffering for both. It is a far cry from the kind of peaceable and humanitarian Israel which some, at least, of the founding fathers of Zionism had in mind.

Stalemate is not good news for the West or for the world as a whole. Stalemate, if prolonged, puts us on the slide to further conflict, the scope and outcome of which cannot be predicted. Stalemate, we feel, is full of dangers, and those who apparently rejoice in it at the present time are shortsighted. Faced with that stalemate, we and our European partners do not believe in crowding in initiatives for the sake of initiatives. An initiative that takes a day's headlines and goes no further is not really worth serious consideration.

Our job is to admonish where that seems necessary, but above all to encourage those who are taking risks in the cause of peace. That is what we have tried to do in particular in the case of the King of Jordan, who has shown such courage and wisdom. We shall continue to do that. Obviously, it is a time for looking at existing ideas, reinforcing them where they seem to have a future, and not being afraid of new ideas as they come forward. We are trying to think hard in that direction.

Above all, we should encourage those who are against extremism. The hon. Gentleman was eloquent about that, and I entirely agree with him. We should encourage those who are risking their future and their lives in the cause of the peace process. The United States has a pivotal role. My hon. Friend the Member for Westbury (Mr. Walters) is right about that. It must be encouraged to persevere. If we have fresh ideas, we shall not hesitate to put them—

It being half past Two o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.