HC Deb 12 April 1989 vol 150 cc899-901
10. Mr. Galloway

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he next expects to meet the Israeli Foreign Minister of State; and what will be discussed.

Mr. Waldegrave

My right hon. and learned Friend hopes to visit Israel later this year, and looks forward to discussing bilateral and regional issues with Professor Arens then.

Mr. Galloway

When the Foreign Minister meets Professor Arens will he raise the question of the arrest yesterday of two prominent leaders of the Palestinian community on the West Bank—the distinguished Jerusalem journalist Sam'an Khouri, and Adnan Shalalda? Today those men were charged before a military court with being leaders of their own people in the territory in which they live and have always lived. Will the Minister point out the irony of the absurd proposal by the Israeli Administration to hold elections to identify such leaders at a time when any leaders who do emerge are either shot down in the street or clamped in irons for months on end?

Mr. Waldegrave

I certainly agree with the hon. Member that it is no way to develop a sensible dialogue with the leaders of the Palestinians to treat people in that way. We have made regular representations, and I should think that we shall have an opportunity to make representations on these cases well before my right hon. and learned Friend goes to Israel.

Mr. Tredinnick

Does my hon. Friend agree that handing back the Taba enclave to Egypt has been very much to Israel's advantage, and will he make that point to the ambassador?

Mr. Waldegrave

What the Taba incident demonstrates to Israel and to others in the region is that it is possible to resolve disputes by means of law and treaty. In a sense, that is the main significance of Taba, and I should have thought that, small though it is, it reminds people that it is possible to solve disputes in a way other than by force.

Mr. Flannery

Does the Minister agree that the most vital component, or at least one of the most vital components, of the struggle for peace in the middle east is the necessity for Israel to have discussions with the PLO? The PLO is recognised throughout the middle east—by all the Arab nations, as well as by the people of Palestine—as the representative of the Palestinians. Let it be made clear to the Israelis that they took lands away from the Palestinian people by force, and that before there can be a peace settlement in the middle east there must be a conference involving Britain and America, along with the PLO and the Israelis. Will the Minister impress that on the Israelis with all the prestige that Britain commands in this area?

Mr. Waldegrave

It is certainly our view that the Israelis will not find it possible to conduct negotiations with the Palestinian leaders in the occupied territories without talking to people who identify themselves with the PLO, and they will not find such people. It is the British Government's position that there should be an international conference under the aegis of the five permanent members of the Security Council but, in a sense, that matter is secondary. We want to get the process going and believe that such a conference would ultimately be the best way of establishing a framework for the direct talks which must take place between the Israelis and the other parties to the dispute.

Mr. Cyril D. Townsend

Will my hon. Friend make it perfectly clear that the British Government see no need for elections in the occupied territories to find out who represents the Palestinian people because it is well known that the PLO does? Does my hon. Friend agree that the idea of such an election is merely a means of trying to postpone having a proper international conference, which is obviously the right way forward?

Mr. Waldegrave

I am not sure that I would put it in quite that way. I would emphasise that the Palestinians would be chary of taking part in any elections that did not lead to a further process that would result ultimately in negotiations about the final status of the territories. From what I have understood of the PLO position and of its reactions to Mr. Shamir's proposals, if it believes that such elections are part of a continuing process, it would consider them seriously, but it does not wish to be caught in a cul de sac of voting only for municipal elections or for something that establishes Israeli hegemony over the territories.

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