HC Deb 30 March 1994 vol 240 cc920-1
10. Mr. David Young

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what action Her Majesty's Government are taking to press Israel to dismantle Israeli settlements in Palestinian areas and to hand back the Golan heights to Syria.

Mr. Douglas Hogg

We regularly make representations to the Israelis urging them to cease the construction of settlements which we regard as illegal. The Golan heights are occupied territory. Under Security Council resolution 242, Israel should withdraw from territories occupied in 1967.

Mr. Young

In view of Prince Philip's impending visit to Israel, where he is to receive a posthumous award on behalf of his mother—[Laughter.]—his mother's posthumous award for rescuing Jewish families, is it not now time to remind the Israelis that peace will be more stable in the middle east if they return to Syria territory that they hold and which is legitimately Syrian, if they dismantle the settlements where Palestinians are harassed in their own lands, and if they further control their army units, which wish to behave to the Palestinians as the Germans did to the Jews?

Mr. Hogg

I feel that Prince Philip will be a bit depressed by the hon. Gentleman's opening remarks. But leaving that aside, he made two goodish points: first, the settlements are an obstacle to the peace process; and, secondly, if there is to be peace between Israel and Syria, Israel must be ready to withdraw from the Golan heights.

Mr. Hicks

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that the positive involvement of Syria is central to the middle east process and, clearly, the illegal occupation of the Golan heights by Israel is a major obstacle to achieving that objective?

Mr. Hogg

My hon. Friend is right—full participation by Syria in the peace process is essential. To make an effective peace settlement between Israel and Syria, it is important that Israel makes it plain that she will withdraw from the Golan heights. It is important that Syria makes it plain that there will be a full treaty of friendship between Syria and Israel.

Mrs. Jane Kennedy

Given that the Labour Government in Israel have made clear their willingness to discuss the return of the Golan heights and the future of the Israeli settlements in the occupied territories, does the Minister welcome the many initiatives that the Labour Government have taken, including the initiative mentioned earlier by the hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Gallie)—the impending visit of Yossi Beilin to Oman?

Mr. Hogg

Yes. The Labour Government under Mr. Rabin have indeed made important steps towards achieving an agreed settlement between themselves and the Arab states and between themselves and the Palestinians. However, we must recognise that there remain a number of important obstacles—for example, how best to secure the safety both of Palestinians and, indeed, of settlers who are in the present difficulties. That question must be considered positively by Prime Minister Rabin and the Israeli Government.

Mr. Batiste

Is not it clear that the closer any of the negotiations in the middle east gets to success, the more likely it is that extremists on both sides will do their best to disrupt them by further atrocities, such as those at Hebron? Is not the best role for this Government to get the parties to the negotiating table and keep them there, despite the severe provocations they may face, because lasting peace can be achieved only through bilateral agreements?

Mr. Hogg

My hon. Friend is right. As the parties to the negotiations get closer to a final agreement, there is a real risk that extremists on both sides will use violence in a way that this House understands. It is, therefore, important that the parties to the negotiations commit themselves to an early agreement, because it will reduce the risk of a permanent disruption in the process.