HC Deb 29 November 1989 vol 162 cc704-6
7. Mr. Bill Walker

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the peace process in the Palestinian-Israeli dispute.

Mr. Waldegrave

We fully support current efforts to bring about a dialogue between the Israeli Government and a representative team of Palestinians.

Mr. Walker

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. Does my hon. Friend agree that Israel must have secure borders, that Israel is a democracy which changes its leaders through the ballot box and that attitudes within Israel are influenced by, and still troubled by, the fact that it was the Arab Legion which first occupied the West Bank?

Mr. Waldegrave

I can give an unequivocal yes to the first question; Israel does have a right to secure borders. I can give an unequivocal yes to the second question; Israel is a democracy and has the procedures of a democracy. The third part of the question, however, seems to be contingent on the idea that delving into history is the right approach whereas what is needed now is an act of trust to get talks going face to face.

Mr. Ernie Ross

Does the Minister regret the fact that on Friday no Minister dealt with the Government's attempt to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli question? Will he ensure that the proper concentration now being given by the Foreign Office to the problems of eastern Europe will not divert Ministers' attention from the clear abuse of human rights being perpetrated against the Palestinian people on the West Bank and in Gaza by the Israeli defence forces?

Mr. Waldegrave

I wholly agree with the hon. Gentleman. No one can deny the importance of what is happening in eastern Europe, but that should not mask the fact that in some respects things are going backwards in the occupied territories. The schools are closed again and we are joining our partners to protest about that, and the offices of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency are being harassed again. Those things are not tolerable and are against all the international conventions to which Israel is a party.

Sir Dennis Walters

Bearing in mind that for more than a year the PLO has made all the concessions necessary to make progress towards a peace settlement in the middle east and that the Israeli Prime Minister Mr. Shamir has remained obdurately negative while repression on the West Bank has continued unabated, is it not strange that we continue to talk at top level with Mr. Shamir but not with Mr. Arafat? Should not that situation be changed as soon as possible?

Mr. Waldegrave

What is essential now is to urge both sides to take the brave step of meeting face to face in Cairo, as proposed by Secretary of State Baker. The Israelis, with provisos, have accepted his five points and we are urging the PLO clearly to do the same so that the first, historic meeting between an Israeli Government mission and a Palestinian mission would have a chance to take place.

Mr. Faulds

Will the Minister convey to the Foreign Secretary my warm welcome on his return to his old stamping ground at the Foreign Office, where he will perform with much greater distinction than he did as a somewhat illiberal Home Secretary? Would it not be advisable for him in his new office, which he well merits, to make the strongest continuing representations to the Israeli Government about the appalling conduct of their forces towards the Palestinians in the occupied territories and towards the Lebanese in the continuing illegal Israeli occupation of the south of that country?

Mr. Waldegrave

It is never difficult to hear the hon. Gentleman and I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State heard him on this occasion. I join him in reminding the House that the Israeli occupation of parts of south Lebanon contributes to the problems of that country from which all foreign forces should withdraw.

Mr. Dykes

Will my hon. Friend confirm that there is a growing majority in Israel in favour of peace talks between the Israeli authorities and the legitimate representatives of the Palestinians, and we all know who they are? Will he confirm that, despite delays, the possibility of such talks is better than ever, and that if the Americans do not lose interest in the peace protest they can best persuade the Israeli Government and Mr. Shamir to show the necessary courage to reach out for peace and peace talks?

Mr. Waldegrave

I agree entirely with my hon. Friend. Yesterday I met the Israeli Minister, Mr. Mordecai Gur and had a very good talk with him. He reminds one that it is naive to think that there are no powerful voices raised in Israel on what he and I would regard as the right side of the argument. With the diplomacy now being exercised by the Americans and by the Egyptians, there is an opportunity to start a dialogue.