HC Deb 16 January 1991 vol 183 cc842-3
8. Mr. Arbuthnot

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the state of relations between the United Kingdom and Israel.

Mr. Douglas Hogg

Relations are correct and friendly, although important differences remain on the peace process and on Israeli policies in the occupied territories. My right hon. Friend had useful discussions in October when he visited Israel, as did my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister when the Israeli Prime Minister called on him on 17 December.

Mr. Arbuthnot

Last week on a visit to Israel, I found that the Israeli Government were well aware of the dangers of becoming militarily involved in the Gulf crisis. Although Israel has, of course, every right to defend herself, will my right hon. and learned Friend urge the Government of Israel to continue to show the considerable restraint which she has so far shown? Will he confirm that, were Saddam Hussein to attack Israel, the consequences for him would be serious?

Mr. Hogg

We have taken every opportunity to impress on the Government of Israel the need to exercise self-restraint. They have done so and deserve the gratitude of the House.

Mrs. Dunwoody

When talking with the Israel Government, will the Minister make it clear that he has noticed the remarks by the Palestine Liberation Organisation leadership that it regarded the whole of the land of Israel as the Palestinians' birthright and that he will not be misled, confused or in any way diverted by those who try to excuse Saddam Hussein's inexcusable invasion by dragging in the issue of the Israeli settlements?

Mr. Hogg

I can promise the hon. Lady that I shall not be confused or misled in any of the respects that she mentioned or, I hope, in any other.

Mr. Adley

Is my hon. and learned Friend aware that, as the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) said, because most of the world, particularly the Arab world, perceives double standards being employed by many countries towards illegal occupation of neighbouring territories, there is an increasing danger of public opinion in countries such as Egypt, Syria and Lebanon introducing an element of aggravation which is not apparent in the attitude of those Governments to the current conflict in the Gulf? Does my hon. and learned Friend agree that, if we are not careful, some of our allies in the present situation will be totally separated from public opinion in their countries?

Will my hon. and learned Friend make the Government's position clear and say that if either Iraq or Israel invades or uses Jordanian territory, our attitude towards any such incursion will be the same as our attitude towards Iraq's incursion into Kuwait?

Mr. Hogg

Our attitude towards Israeli policy in the occupied territories is wholly plain. I have taken the opportunity to stress our policy both to the Israeli ambassador and Deputy Foreign Minister and they know well that we regard the Israelis' occupation of the territories as unlawful and believe that they should withdraw.

Mr. Ron Brown

As members of the Iraqi national assembly wish to come here to brief this House about their country's intentions towards Israel and other parts of the middle east, should not formalities be waived, especially in view of the late hour and the serious possibility of war breaking out? Details of this matter have been known to the Prime Minister's office for some time and he has remained silent. Is not that an absolute disgrace? I hope that the Minister will reply today on the possibility of a peace mission from Baghdad coming to speak to hon. Members on both sides of the House. That is most important.

Mr. Hogg

If members of the Iraqi assembly have any influence at all, I suggest that they impress upon Saddam Hussein the need to leave Kuwait immediately.

Mr. Rhodes James

Is the Minister aware that, although the Friends of Israel has disagreements with the Israeli Government's policies, as far as we are concerned, the independence and freedom of the people and state of Israel are non-negotiable? Will he make that very clear not only to the Israelis but to our Arab friends?

Mr. Hogg

My hon. Friend makes a vital point. Israel is entitled to a secure existence and the world community must seek to achieve that.

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