HC Deb 04 May 1988 vol 132 cc874-6
9. Mr. McTaggart

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he has given consideration to applying economic sanctions against Israel; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Mellor

Economic sanctions would not help to bring about a solution of the problems of the region.

Mr. McTaggart

Given the increasingly dangerous position for civilians in that troubled part of the world, does the Minister agree that Britain, as a member of the European Economic Community, should follow the EEC example and consider introducing economic sanctions against Israel in order to put pressure on Prime Minister Shamir to attend an international conference to try to find a peaceful solution of the problems of that area?

Mr. Mellor

There is no disagreement between the Government and the hon. Gentleman on what we want to see coming out of this, but we certainly disagree with the method that he proposes. We believe that we should try to influence events in the area by working in partnership with fellow members of the European Community. That is why repeated statements have been made by the Foreign Ministers of the European Community condemning the quite indefensible methods that the Israeli defence forces are using in the occupied territories and calling for a political solution based on a recognition of the right of the Palestinians to self-determination as well as a recognition of the right of Israel to exist behind secure boundaries. Statements have also been made to try to promote and enhance the economic well-being of the people in the occupied territories by allowing their produce access to the European Community on favoured terms, which, I am sad to say, the Israeli Government, in breach of undertakings given to the Community in December, continue to block.

Mr. Lawrence

Apart from the manifest absurdity of taking economic sanctions against a friendly democratic nation, is not the economic sanction of the Arab boycott a substantial obstacle to the settlement of the Arab-Israeli problem?

Mr. Mellor

That is a further manifestation of the regrettable situation and one that we would like to see changed. That can be changed only if there is a sensible recognition on the part of all states in the region that, sooner or later, they will have to coexist as good neighbours.

Ms. Short

Does the Minister agree that we all have a duty to use our influence to stop the immoral and terrorist behaviour of the Israeli Government in the occupied territories, which distresses hon. Members on both sides of the House? The European market is of great importance to the Israeli state. Israel is currently breaching Europe's request that produce from the occupied territories should have access to the European market. Should we not therefore tighten the screw and use our economic pressure to force the Israeli Government to behave more reasonably?

Mr. Mellor

The hon. Lady was quite right in one thing that she said. I do not know of any hon. Members, no matter what they disagree about on other issues, who have visited the occupied territories and not returned with precisely the same point of view as the hon. Lady. That says something about the lamentable situation.

I have already set out the action that we think it proper to take with regard to the European Community. We do not agree that economic sanctions would be appropriate. However, we take very seriously the fact that the Israeli Government are apparently flouting the undertakings that were given to allow produce from the occupied territories to enter Europe unhindered. It was agreed by the Council of Ministers that the new protocols favouring Israeli produce should go forward, but the European Parliament continues to block that, presumably because of the Israelis' failure to keep their side of the bargain. I doubt whether that position will be resolved until there is some movement on the introduction of produce from the occupied territories into the European Community on those proper terms.

Sir Ian Gilmour

I appreciate my hon. and learned Friend's attitude towards sanctions, but there is nothing democratic about Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza or about her behaviour there. In view of America's proven uselessness in this matter, how will my hon. and learned Friend ensure that the views of the Government and of the European Community have some influence on events in the occupied territories?

Mr. Mellor

We have no basis on which to command attention. We can only continue to make our views known in the forums open to us, and we do that. I believe that an increasing number of people in Israel are only too well aware of the grave and, I fear, lasting damage that is being done to Israel's international reputation—not least the lasting damage caused to the prospects for young people in Israel to live a full span in peace—as a result of the shortsighted policies pursued by Mr. Shamir and others.

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