HL Deb 26 February 1970 vol 308 cc179-216

3.55 p.m.

LORD NAPIER AND ETTRICK rose to ask Her Majesty's Government whether, in view of the deteriorating situation between the belligerents in the Middle East, they will explore the possibility of taking some action additional to that inaugurated by the four Great Powers, either by way of a guarantee of a frontier or demilitarised zone to be given by this country and some other European Power or Powers, or by some other course of action. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper; and I may say that in doing so I shall be as brief as possible.

I need not impress upon your Lord-ships the gravity of the situation which faces us to-day in the Middle East, although I cannot help wondering how aware public opinion is of its potential dangers. Also, as 1 am sure we all realise, in spite of the undoubted importance of such factors as refugees, Jerusalem, arms sales, and the recent escalation in the fighting, the key to solving this problem must lie in that central part of the Security Council resolution which insists upon Israeli withdrawal in exchange for Arab promises of peace. And as Mr. George Brown said earlier this week— and here I agree with him—time is fast running out.

I fully realise that there is an inherent incompatibility gap in this exchange of a withdrawal for a peace promise unless there is trust between the contestants of some reliable external guarantee. For it is nothing short of a strategic fact that, unless one of these two elements can be provided, Israel, understandably, will not —indeed cannot—indicate her willingness to withdraw sufficiently either to comply with the principles of the resolution or to make it possible for King Hussein or President Nasser to start talks. And since there obviously cannot be trust for some time after a settlement has been achieved, only some prospect of reliable external guarantees can make it possible to break the present deadlock and enable talks to start with any hope of success.

To date, the external guarantees envisaged seem to be United Nations forces in demilitarised zones, backed by the Security Council two-Power or four- Power guarantees. Clearly, in the light of the Veto in the Security Council, Israel's past experience and her distrust of Russian intentions, she will not be satisfied with these alone. Instead, she will continue to insist on relying upon unilateral defence, which of course means retaining territory incompatible with the resolution. At the same time, Her Majesty's Government desire to make the maximum use of the United Nations. The only possible solution, surely, is to add some external guarantee which can be relied upon to operate in time should those United Nations and Great Power arrangements fail. Articles 51 and 52 of the United Nations Charter allow for just this; that is to say, the rights of collective and regional defence until the Security Council can act, which rights, those Articles specifically say: Nothing in this Charter shall impair or preclude ".

My Lords, it seems to me that only Europe, including the United Kingdom, has the power and the geographical position to provide the backbone of such an additional external guarantee, ready to act in time, between the levels of the super-Powers and the United Nations forces in demilitarised zones. Britain and Europe, moreover, bear the heaviest responsibility historically for the situation as it is to-day, and have much to gain from its solution now.

Exactly how this should be done requires detailed investigation, but one method suggested has been for Britain and Europe, with any other acceptable unaligned countries, to provide existing fighter-bombers ready, at whatever notice is appropriate, to operate from airfields in Cyprus, Turkey, and indeed from aircraft carriers. And this contribution would be the effective but strictly limited one of guaranteeing to both sides, Israel and the Arabs, that if either of them were to initiate a major air. land or sea attack upon the other they would lose the air superiority which is so vital for victory in the open deserts and seas of the Middle East. Obviously, many problems have to be studied before such a guarantee will be acceptable to all concerned. But many of us believe, I hope not unfairly, that Her Majesty's Government should now take a bold initiative in this matter. So far, the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary has shown little enthusiasm for doing anything other than working through the Four-Power talks and Dr. Jarring, which, so far as I can see, has achieved very little. For it is only when this quite fundamental incompatibility gap in the resolution begins to be closed that there will be any hope of starting talks likely to lead to the peace and stability of the Middle East which is so vital for Britain and Europe.

Therefore, my Lords, I ask that a detailed investigation of an additional "stand-by" guarantee, underwriting any already given by the United Nations or super-Powers, should be initiated forth-with by Her Majesty's Government with her European Allies. There seems initially much to be gained and nothing to be lost by at least trying this, without commitment. Even the start of this investigation might begin to arrest the present steadily increasing gains of "hawks" over "doves" on both sides. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, when he comes to reply, will have something encouraging to tell the House. But I would respectfully suggest to him, as Minister responsible for disarmament, that this suggestion should have his unqualified support.

4.2 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Napier and Ettrick, for raising this Question to-day, and to say that I hope to follow him, not in an inquest or denunciation of one side or the other, but by trying to make proposals which I hope will be constructive for the ending of this tragic situation. May I at the outset say a few words with reference to the appalling aeroplane outrages which are now occurring? One of the frightening things of life to-day is that a few individuals, with cheap and almost untraceable bombs, can endanger the lives of so many people. One hopes that the proposals which are being made at Heathrow by B.O.A.C. and B.E.A. and in international discussions may lead to security measures which will stop these appalling outrages.

To-day there is one hope. Yesterday the Arab Governments and Al Fatah, the leading guerrilla organisation, took steps to urge that all guerrilla groups should restrict their operations to the immediate area of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Egypt yesterday called the Arab Airlines Federation to meet at Beirut, with a view to taking necessary measures. One hopes that these activities on both sides may restrict these appalling disasters.

One of the difficulties of this situation is that anyone who knows Israel and the Arab countries must be torn in two directions. One has sympathies for both sides. I have been to Israel on a number of occasions, and have enjoyed the friendship of Mrs. Meier, the Prime Minister. I have led an All-Party Parliamentary delegation to Jordan. One cannot help but be deeply moved, not only by the creative devotion of the people of Israel to the State, but by the seemingly amazing miracle of the way that they have converted deserts into towns and farmlands. As a democratic Socialist, I returned home feeling that Israel had advanced more towards democratic socialism than any country I know, particularly by reason of the constructive work done by her trade union organisation, Histradurth. Therefore, no one can begin to approach this problem without having every sympathy with Israel.

On the other hand, I do not think that anyone can doubt that the Arab revolution represents historical progress. It is not merely a demand for the national independence of their countries. The deeper revolution is one which seeks to use its natural resources, and particularly its oil, to lift the whole standard of life of its people, and to end the amazing gulf between the great riches of the few (probably the most incredibly rich persons on the whole of the earth) and the wretched misery of most of the population. All of us who want to see that situation changed in the Middle East must sympathise with those in the Arab countries who are endeavouring to bring it about.

As the noble Lord, Lord Napier and Ettrick, said, Great Britain has a deep responsibility for what is happening in the Middle East. During the First World War, when we desired the support of the Arab peoples against the Ottoman Empire, and when we desired the support of the Jewish people throughout the world. we made contradictory promises. We promised Palestine as a national home for the Jews, and we promised the Arabs that when the Ottoman Empire was over-thrown they would possess those territories.

But I agree with my noble friend that there is little object to-day in holding an inquest on the past. What we now have to do is to consider what can be done to end the present tragedy. I think we must begin with the United Nations resolution. I am proud of the fact that our Government proposed it. Among many others there were three main features: first, the withdrawal of Israeli troops from the occupied territories; secondly, that the Arab nations should recognise the State of Israel; and thirdly, that the Suez Canal and the Gulf of Akaba should be regarded as international waters for the free use of all.

Not only has there been the United Nations resolution, but there have since been discussions between the Four Powers, disappointingly delayed and apparently still far from reaching agreement. There has been the dedicated service of Dr. Jarring, as the United Nations' negotiator passing from one side to another, but unhappily with little effect. So to-day, despite the increasing danger of this undeclared war—a danger not only to the peoples of the Middle East, but to the peace of the whole world— little progress has apparently been made.

I can understand the opposition which is felt both in Israel and in the Arab countries to a settlement which would be imposed by outside Powers. Quite clearly there cannot be peace and harmony in the Middle East unless both Israel and the Arab nations accept the basis of that settlement, and resentment to anything thrust upon them is inevitable. Nevertheless, I want to urge that what is happening in the Middle East cannot be regarded as only an Israeli-Arab conflict. The Great Powers are involved. They are involved not only in their interests in oil and the opening of the Suez Canal; Russia's concern is because the Middle East is a neighbouring territory and is a gateway to the Far East. The Great Powers are also involved because of the real danger that if this conflict escalates, it may lead to the world war which we all fear. Therefore, I strongly urge that the Great Powers and the United Nations have the right to take some initiative in these matters.

What I suppose we all want in the first place is a cease-fire and negotiations. The difficulty is that the Arab Governments refuse either a cease-fire or negotiations while their territory remains occupied, and we seem to be at a deadlock in any advance towards peace. I imagine all of us who are concerned have been giving anxious moments of thought as to what can be done. I want to make four suggestions, three which are immediate, the fourth requiring longer-term preparation.

The first deals with the proposal that has been made for an embargo on arms to both sides. It ought to be a matter of deep concern to all of us that the Israeli-Arab conflict, just as in recent years the Nigeria-Biafra conflict, is being fought with the arms of the industrial West and Soviet Russia, and that out of these tragedies, the loss of thousands of lives, armament firms are getting their orders. The difficulty about an embargo on arms in the Middle East is that there is now an imbalance of arms not only in quantity but in character, and therefore a general embargo would be regarded as unfair to one side or the other. My proposal is that the suggestion should be made to the Security Council of the United Nations that there should be an embargo on arms to all in the Middle East who decline to accept the resolution which the United Nations Security Council itself has adopted. That proposal seems to me to be logical, to have principle behind it, and to be a way not only to bring about an embargo but also to bring about a genuine acceptance of the United Nations resolution.

My second proposal follows what the noble Lord has said regarding the absolute necessity of giving these nations, particularly Israel, a sense of the security of their frontiers. The noble Lord suggested that Europe should give this guarantee. I am not opposed to that—in a sense I think the more guarantees the better—but one must remember that the Powers most deeply involved are the United States of America and Soviet Russia. There have already been guarantees—there is the Tripartite Treaty—but I want to support what the noble Lord has said: that at this moment it is tremendously important that paper guarantees of the past should be made present assertions and that there should be urgent sincerity behind them.

Again I should like to suggest that our Government should raise in the Security Council the proposal that a new binding guarantee of frontiers should be given by the Security Council of the United Nations, and should accompany that by the proposal for a United Nations peace-keeping force in neutralised regions on the frontiers to keep the two sides apart. Anyone who has been to Israel can understand the fear of its people about present frontiers. There is the Golan Heights; I have been in a kibbutz just below those Heights where the children have to sleep every night underground for fear of shelling. Is not the alternative a peace-keeping force, to be there on the Golan Heights and separating Israel from the Arab forces?


My Lords, may I just amplify what the noble Lord is saying? Is it not also a fact that it was possible to lob a hand grenade down from the Golan Heights into the Israeli kibbutz or village? Indeed, that has been going on for twenty years and they have known no safety during that time. Are those not the facts?


My Lords, I thank the noble Earl. He has supported what I am urging, because I am aware of that as well. I have been there, and I have seen it. There is a second issue here. One of the great problems is Jerusalem, which the Israelis have occupied and which they show every sign of continuing to occupy. Old Jerusalem is the spiritual capital of three historic religions. Strangely, they are all inheritors of the common father, Abraham. It might be possible to find a solution if a United Nations presence were to stay in the Old Jerusalem City in order to maintain its catholic—I use the term in its broad sense—character.

My third proposal—and I will be brief about it—concerns the terrible problem of the refugees. One has been in those refugee camps. To think that they have been there—is it for 18 or 20 years?— with the United Nations pouring out its funds for their maintenance! It is utterly and absolutely useless. I suggest that in this situation there should be a United Nations plan for the settlement of the refugees. Many of them are in the territories occupied by Israel, and if the withdrawal of the Israeli forces were carried out their re-settlement would be comparatively easy. Others date much further back. My own experience is that the younger refugees are increasingly leaving those camps and going to work in Kuwait and Iraq; that largely it is the older people who remain. But if you asked the older people whether they would prefer compensation and ending their lives in the more congenial atmosphere of Arab countries, I believe that the majority of them would today accept. I am urging that there should be a United Nations plan for this.

Lastly, my Lords—and this is the bigger, longer-term and rather more fundamental proposal which I want to make —I suggest that the United Nations should summon a Geneva Conference, similar to the Geneva Conference which was held in 1954 on Indo-China. Those of us who are a little older can remember that Geneva Conference and the hope for peace it created. I think one can say today that if America at that Conference had accepted its agreements, as it does now, the Vietnam war need never have occurred. I should like to see the United Nations calling to Geneva representatives of all the Governments—and there are many—who are involved, all the Powers. It might be under the joint chairmanship—and this would be a wonderful gesture—of America and the Soviet Union, just as the 1954 Conference was under the joint chairmanship of a British representative and a Russian representative. The Israeli and Arab Governments should be invited. Perhaps they would begin by refusing to meet; if so, we might adopt the Rhodes method— the method which is so familiar in trade union and employer discussions—where they would meet separately at first in two rooms, with negotiators taking messages from one to another, and perhaps finally being prepared to meet together to reach a solution of their problems.

I have tried to speak in a positive and constructive way. I believe that great initiatives are required if this undeclared war is not to escalate into a disaster, not merely to the Middle East but to the peace of the whole world. I hope the suggestions that I have made with that constructive purpose may be seriously considered by Her Majesty's Government.

4.23 p.m.


My Lords, my noble friend Lord Napier and Ettrick is younger than most of us, and I think his mind is not affected, as the minds of some older people are, by the sub-conscious assumption that Britain is somehow or other responsible for the behaviour or misbehaviour of the peoples of Africa and Asia and the Middle East. British Imperialism, which is now a rather nasty term of abuse, has given to many of these peoples half a century or more of peace and progress and education in the arts of civilised government, which some of them have already forgotten. But they are now their own masters.

Fifty years ago the League of Nations entrusted Britain with the task of governing Palestine and making a home there for the Jews. About fifteen years later, Malcolm Macdonald, who was then Colonial Secretary and who still continues to give devoted service to the peoples of our former Colonies, took the very courageous step of substantially increasing the annual quota of Jews who were admitted to Palestine, because of the cruel persecution which had been begun in Germany by Hitler. This greatly annoyed the Arabs, who then started their first campaign of violence and murder inside, but not outside, Palestine, and a strong British force had to be sent there for two or three years to keep order.

But our policy always was to admit as many Jews as could be absorbed by the economic capacity of the country, and this policy was successful, because by their hard work and their skill the Jews tremendously increased the productive capacity of Palestine. It was a wonderful sight to fly over Palestine, as I did in 1943, and to look down from a height of 20,000 feet at all those Jewish settlements looking like green islands of fertility in a brown sea of barren desert.

By the end of the war I think we had settled something less than half a million Jews in this very small country. But then, alas it was the turn of the Jews to begin a campaign of violence and murder. The crimes of the Stern gang were just as hideously atrocious as the crimes of the Arab terrorists which have horrified us so much during the last week. The brutal murder of the late Lord Moyne in Cairo—a man who had never been anti-Jewish in any way— simply because he happened to be the British Resident Minister there; the sending through the British Post Office of small parcels which exploded and killed their recipients when they were opened; and the continual kidnapping and cruel murder of British soldiers in Palestine were all perpetrated because we were trying to be fair both to the Jewish immigrants and to the indigenous Arab natives of Palestine. In return we got nothing but abuse from every side, including the United Nations and the United States.

Some of your Lordships may remember the exasperated, almost despairing, cry of Ernest Bevin, who said that he could not solve the Palestine problem if the Americans insisted on making it a political issue in what he called their local elections. The Labour Government, with the acquiescence of the Opposition, decided that we just could not go on having our soldiers murdered in the performance of an international duty in which nobody would support us and everybody condemned us. Mr. Gromyko, who was at that time the Russian representative at the United Nations in New York, was one of the strongest advocates on behalf of his Government of admitting a much greater number of Jews and establishing the State of Israel. I hope that is a point which the Foreign Office will always remember, because it is useful now to remind the Russians of it on every suitable occasion.

So we then surrendered our Mandate to the United Nations—and, my God, what a mess they made of it! Within a few months or weeks half a million Arabs voluntarily quitted the country. They were not forced refugees: they were voluntary emigrants who sat on the frontier confidently expecting that when the Jews were extinguished they would then all be able to go back and possess themselves of the Jewish property. At the same time, Israel was invaded by vastly superior numbers of Arabs, who were, however, severely "clobbered" by the tiny Jewish armed forces, except in Jordan, where the Arab Legion, which had been trained originally by British officers, successfully occupied half the City of Jerusalem and the whole of the Province which is now called the West Bank. These things the United Nations could do nothing, or did nothing, to prevent; and when they sent a fine Swedish public servant, Count Bernadotte, on a mission of peace to Palestine, he was assassinated by the Stern Gang, who openly exulted in their deed.

In a few years it became evident to everybody, I think, except possibly the United Nations Secretariat, that Russia, in spite of her former advocacy of the State of Israel, was now determined to establish her own domination of the Middle East by supplying the militant Arab nationalists with enough powerful modem military equipment to exterminate this little Jewish community, which they could not do without Russian help. When Nasser seized the Canal in 1956 he did not do it for any economic reason; he did it as a preliminary to his invasion of Palestine. But he had timed that invasion to take place at the beginning of 1957, and the Jews anticipated him by two or three months.

I happened at that moment to be on a two-months speaking tour in Canada and the United States, and as soon as the fighting began they did not want to hear any other subject except that, and I suppose that I made 40 or 50 speeches and broadcasts on the Suez crisis while it was going on. It was a revelation to find that no one of the ordinary public in Canada or in the United States had the faintest idea about the massive Russian military help which had been supplied, and which had indeed made possible this attempt by Egypt to destroy Israel. They knew nothing about it at all. My own view, which was not of very great importance, was that Britain and France were right in taking the course they did, if only they had finished it. I think that if they had had the guts to carry on American public opinion, which always admires success, would have come round; and we should then, I think, have been in a position to do what my noble friend Lord Napier has just suggested that we should do: give an effective guarantee of future peace by European Powers.

But, my Lords, we decided to yield to American pressure; and the Israelis were persuaded to withdraw by the promise—which of course was broken— that their ships would be allowed to use the Canal, and that a United Nations force would be stationed with the purpose of preventing an act of aggression from either side. This force, my Lords, sat at ease for nearly ten years, while Arab nationalism grew in intensity, while the moderate régime of Iraq was overthrown and while Russia patiently and methodically rebuilt the armed strength of Egypt and Syria with even more modern, more powerful and more sophisticated weapons than had been supplied before. Then, in 1967, when Egypt and Syria mobilised their forces and advanced towards the frontiers of Israel, this United Nations force vanished into thin air and has never been heard of since.

My Lords, I agree with my noble friend and with the noble Lord opposite —we all agree—that this armed confrontation is a very grave danger to the peace of the world. I wish it would come to an end. But it is very difficult when your wishes are in conflict with your intelligence. I am bound to say, if one is to be frank, that I do not believe this dangerous confrontation will end quickly or soon. I think it may last a long time, because I cannot see the necessary conditions for its ending being fulfilled. So far as I can see, there is no sign that Russia has changed her former policy (it is rather an "old hat" policy now; it has been going at least since 1953) of trying to gain control over the Middle East by whipping up Arab nationalists and getting their enthusiastic support and admiration because the Russians have helped them to get rid of the Jews, whom the Arabs hate. That is still, to all appearances, Russian policy.

As for the Americans, I think that the United States would be willing to compromise on almost anything except the existence of Israel, which I think the United States must try to protect; and since the destruction of Israel, the removal of Israel, is still the cardinal aim, I am afraid, of Russian policy and of the Arab nationalists, it is very difficult to see how a compromise can be arrived at.

As for the Israelis, my Lords, whether we sympathise with them or whether we do not, whether we like them or whether we do not, let us try to put ourselves in their place and imagine what is bound to happen. They are not fighting for some economic gain or some territorial gain: they are fighting simply for their lives. It is a matter of life or death; and when a community is threatened with death it is bound to fight, because if it does fight it has nothing more to lose than if it does not. From the point of view of the Israelis, what does it matter to them whether they are destroyed by the Russians or by the Arabs? They have got to fight, anyhow: they have got to defy both if they are going to live.

It is not at all difficult to see that if Israel can be defended with the military frontiers of Suez and the River Jordan the cost is far less, the effort is far less and the chances of success are far greater than if Israel had to defend the indefensible frontiers of the present State of Israel. Whatever we should like to happen, it is not realistic to expect that Israel will agree to withdraw unless she can be given guarantees which are really reliable, and of a totally different character from those which she has ever had before. To ask Israel to withdraw without giving such guarantees, however much good will you have and however much good will they have, is just not realistic. It is like expecting to be given ice-cream in hell. It is just "not on".


My Lords, I hope the noble Earl will forgive my interrupting at this stage. Does he really think that the kind of speech he is delivering is making a contribution towards peace in the Middle East? Both the noble Lord who asked the Question and myself refrained from merely supporting one side or the other because we are concerned about peace. What contribution has the noble Earl to make towards peace?


My Lords, I am not supporting one side or the other. I was just as antagonistic towards the Jews at the time of the assassinations which they committed as I am now antagonistic towards the Arab terrorists. I am trying to be realistic and to see how we can really get peace instead of just indulging in wishful thinking which is not based on the facts of the situation. Since the noble Lord has interrupted me, if I may respectfully say so, although I am very fond of the noble Lord, this fault, wishful thinking, is one to which he is specially prone.

My noble friend Lord Napier and Ettrick suggested a guarantee which he felt to be more reliable than those which Israel has previously enjoyed, a guarantee by the European Powers under Section 52 of the United Nations Charter. I think that this is an idea which must be considered favourably and followed up; but I am sure that my noble friend is not really expecting the noble Lord who is to reply for the Government to say now that he will do what he was asked to do and will take an active initiative in trying to do this—because this is a very hot subject and one in which the Foreign Office is probably very much afraid of burning its fingers. It would not help the situation if the noble Lord who is to reply for the Government were to say that he would like to do a whole lot of things which might be totally unacceptable not only to Nasser and to Mrs. Meier, but also perhaps to President Nixon and to Mr. Kosygin—and also to M. Pompidou. It would not really produce any fruitful results. All that I would expect the noble Lord to say in reply to this Question—and I may of course be wrong—is that the Government are going to pursue Four-Power talks under the November resolution of the United Nations. I would not expect him to go any further than that.

As for the question of whether this is done by separate powers under Section 52 or not, I have said, I think rightly, that up till now the United Nations has not been very successful in this matter. In fact, it may be argued that it has been worse than useless; because the United Nations is meant to be effectual in keeping peace but if it has not the ability to do so then, when it tries and fails, it disappoints and disillusions people. But the United Nations is what the sum total of its members is, and it does not follow that because the United Nations has not yet had the power to succed in this kind of problem that it will never have the power to do so in the future.

The position at the United Nations is that you have one great free Power which is stronger than all the other free Powers put together and one great Communist Power. If you ever had not only one free Power, the United States, but also a great Western European group of Powers economically united, whose economic power was equal to or even greater than that of the United States, then the character of the United Nations in my belief would be completely altered. It might be able to do all kinds of things which it has not the power to do now. The realisation of this European community—and I am not going to talk about it now, for it is not the right occasion—we hope has not been destroyed by General de Gaulle; but it has certainly been delayed by his not altogether un-successful effort to turn the Community into a kind of inward-looking, exclusive, highly protectionist, rich man's club. That is the kind of institution which is of no value whatsoever to the peace of the world.

I shall be corrected if I am wrong, but I think that I am right in saying that France has never paid any subscription to UNRWA. The only subscribers are the United States who pay a lot and ourselves who pay less. But if the European Economic Community could become something different, something which we all want it to be, it would then be possible not only to give stronger guarantees of peace in the sense of promises to resist aggression (which is the negative side of it) but also to give economic help on a much vaster scale, which in my submission is a very much more effective way of keeping peace. The prospect of fruitful economic co-operation is often much more effective from the point of view of peace than the mere negative threat of counter-military action.

It has I think been established that it is economically possible to irrigate great areas of the desert in the Sinai and in other parts of the Middle East which would provide homes and wealth not only for the few hundred thousand Arab refugees but for vast numbers of new entrants as well. This is a project which would have to be undertaken through the International Bank. The huge capital would have to be raised through the International Bank and through the United Nations. America could not afford to do it all herself. It could be economically possible if it were financed through the International Bank both by the United States and by an economically powerful Western European Community.

My Lords, the right reverend Prelate who is about to follow me will remember that Esau and Jacob were for a long time bitter enemies—and with very good reason, because Jacob had taken from Esau, by methods not altogether creditable, a number of things which Esau valued. He had to flee for more than twenty years to the country where he married, and when he came back he was in great terror that Esau who was advancing with a force of 400 armed men was going to destroy him and his followers. But when Esau saw his brother he alighted and ran to embrace his brother, and kissed him, and gave back the large gifts of livestock which Jacob had presented to him in order to appease him, and the two brothers went home and lived in peace and friendship together. I am sure that we all hope that one day the descendants of both Jacob and Esau will follow the example of their progenitors.

4.50 p.m.


My Lords, we are treading on well-worn ground in our debate this afternoon and from these Benches I wish only briefly, before the Minister replies, to underline two or three of the points which have been raised or touched upon. Of course I wish to support the noble Lord, Lord Napier and Ettrick, in his Question; I am very glad that he raised it. With him and others present, I share the sense at times almost of despair at seeing the contestants forced by their own actions into more and more impossible positions, with the nations outside standing by helpless to intervene or, when they do intervene, only aggravating the situation.

The noble Lord, Lord Brockway, has said that there are particular concerns beyond the political and the diplomatic issues that are raised and which., speaking for the Churches, I must express. As he has reminded us, Jerusalem is the centre of three great religions stemming in part from the same source. It is the meeting point of at least three cultures, too; and the working out of some co-existence between them to-day, whether religiously or socially, is a long-term process in which many people must take part. The Anglican Archbishop in Jerusalem is in the almost unique position of having a free entry into almost all the countries of the Middle East and therefore has many opportunities to speak with the leading people of those countries. When he was in this country recently he gave an address in Westminster Abbey during which he picked on certain aspects of hope in the situation. He referred to indications that thoughtful and prominent people in Israel and in the Arab countries were asking themselves seriously the question of how ultimately they would come to live together; how they would relate their cultures and religions and ways of life, recognising that this was an essential ingredient in the peace of the Middle East. Some people are thinking about this now amid the clash of arms, but in a sense it is only the clash of arms that we see.

If I may carry the Old Testament story a little further than did the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, Noah in his beleaguered Ark (whoever you prefer Noah to be in this instance) despatched not only the raven—or shall we call it the hawk?— but also the dove into the landscape round about. It may be very difficult for those officially in power to despatch doves rather than ravens or hawks; nevertheless, I hope that the Minister will tell us whether there are any signs from which encouragement can be given to those who are responsible—signs that people are beginning to speak together; or that there are groups that may be stimulated in this far bigger issue of trying to blend different cultures and ways in this one part of Europe. I have no doubt that there are many ways in which he could remind us in the Churches and elsewhere that we should be busy on this matter too.

I would ask whether, when we speak of their coming to terms together in peace, and drawing up a treaty, we are not at the moment almost asking for what is psychologically impossible. It is not only the past history which has been referred to, the dangers under which members of both Arab and Israeli communities have lived and will remember; it is also the more recent history. It is the tragedy of acts of reprisal that although each one is intended to level the score, in fact it inevitably provokes another act. The recurrence and the extension of these can breed nothing but resentment, anger and distrust, and also build up, or conjure up, violent spirits which cannot very easily be controlled.

In this kind of situation are we expecting too much in thinking that the sides can, as it were, confront one another round the peace table, here and now? Are there not prior questions? It may well be, as the noble Earl has reminded us, that one of the things that must be done is to make peace seem desirable by the economic possibilities that might ensue; but it is still more important to make peace seem possible. Sometimes we speak as if we take this for granted. I was struck by an address given by the Minister of State, Mr. William Rodgers, last December on the question of the Middle East. He spoke of the three principles on which talks were taking place with the Soviet Union; three principles which will be familiar to us. He enunciated them as, first, that there should be a binding commitment by Israel and the United Arab Republic to peace with one another; secondly, that the detailed provision of peace relating to security et cetera should be worked out between the parties, and thirdly, that in that context there should be a withdrawal of forces.

It is quite true that any terms of peace or security must, in a sense, be worked out and commend themselves to the parties concerned rather than be foisted upon them by well-meaning Governments outside; and yet, my Lords, does that come first? The noble Lord who pro-pounded this Question stressed, as others have done since, this basic thing: that inevitably there will be, not a peace treaty to which all can conform at once, but at the best a long period of growing together, of peaceful co-existence; and the vital thing in this is the element of security. Can we expect them to work out, as Mr. Rodgers indicated, a form of security congenial to themselves?

No doubt as the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, said, and as others have said, security here, or in any part of the world, might be achieved for the time being by the concurrence of the United States and Soviet Russia. They could arrange between them to secure any kind of cessation of hostilities, if they wanted to. But we recognise that in this particular case each of them is in some way too much identified with one side or the other; and equally, perhaps their own relationships with one another are so unstable as not to encourage others to think that they could provide any kind of permanent guarantee by themselves. Surely, my Lords, something is needed in these peace-keeping problems between this kind of guarantee by two major super-Powers and the very doubtful kind of assurance which may be given at present through the United Nations. It must be, not an assurance but a firm and visible guarantee.

Obviously, my Lords, it is not for me to speak from these Benches of the political or the strategic possibilities of a European guarantee; but some way in which middle Powers can co-operate in peace-keeping seems to be more desirable from here than from anywhere else in the world. If one of our contentions with Europe has been that if we were to go into Europe—to use the common phrase—it would be in the hope that Europe might be encouraged not to look inwardly to itself but outwardly upon the world, here would be a very particular way in which we should have a right to say to our neighbours in Europe, "Here on your doorstep is a responsibility which the nations of Europe must share". And if that guarantee could be shared but by some of the countries in Eastern Europe also, so much the better.

Finally, my Lords, may I endorse what is perhaps taken for granted in this issue? —that is, this question of the refugees that the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, has raised. It is obvious in one way that the problem of the refugees will be solved, if it is solved at all, only after the cessation of hostilities; after some settlement has been made. Indeed, what happens to the refugees would play a part in that settlement. Yet the problem cannot be left on one side until that point, partly, of course, because many of the refugees are not new refugees. There is still the unresolved question of the refugees in the Gaza Strip and in the Jordan Valley, to whom, after two wars, we ought to have given much more thought than we have done. They will be there, whatever happens regarding restoration to those whom the recent fighting has dispossessed. The refugees constitute both a stimulus and a source of recruitment to the guerrillas, and so long as their problem remains untackled in any serious way, then it will remain as an aggravating feature of the present situation and will postpone the possibilities of a settlement. Therefore there is much to be said for an approach to the international community and for getting it to recognise that this is our problem, that we must begin to study it and find some answer to it before a settlement is reached, rather than afterwards. I hope that the Minister can give us some assurance that this is happening.

5.0 p.m.


My Lords, I do not intend to speak for more than a few moments but I feel that I must take part in the debate on the Question put down by my noble friend Lord Napier and Ettrick, because within the last month I was in Israel and visited Jerusalem, Haifa and other places. I cannot add much to what has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, and by my noble friend Lord Dundee, but I may say that I came back with the very clear impression that everybody in Israel wants peace, and that anything they can do to get peace they would be prepared to do. They abhor these guerrilla war tactics, as we all do.

As my noble friend Lord Dundee has said, simply and straightforwardly, being one small nation surrounded by stronger nations Israel naturally realises that they have to survive by their own strong arm or they will not survive at all. There is no compromise for them. They have to preserve the Slate of Israel or the avowed policy of Nasser and the Arab States to eliminate Israel will take effect. That is the situation in which they find themselves. On the other hand, from the highest in the land, from the Prime Minister downwards, the Israelis have said that they are prepared to talk peace and to negotiate with the Arabs. They have offered to meet the Arabs on any location where the Jordanians, King Hussein or Nasser are prepared to meet them. So far that offer has received only a straight negative: they are not prepared to meet and negotiate. So the Security Council and the Great Powers have been trying to bring about some sort of arrangement by which they could intervene in this dispute, to see whether they could produce a policy which they could persuade both sides to follow. I am afraid that this is a fruitless task. I do not think that Israel, or the Arabs either, will accept negotiations which are being carried on, so to speak, over their heads, in which they themselves are not taking part. If they were to be invited to take part, I am clear that they would be prepared to negotiate frontiers and other things.

I never was very enthusiastic about the famous resolution which the Government supported in the United Nations. I agree that the parts of the resolution which require recognition of Israel as a State and the freeing of the Suez Canal are excellent and we would support these, but one can see that withdrawal of Israel from all occupied territories before any negotiations begin is a perfectly impossible proposal. This will not happen. I am speaking only from my impression. There are many parts of the territories now part of Israel on which they are prepared to negotiate. I do not think that they will go back to the exact frontiers which existed before the 1967 war. I think that they were never more than the armistice lines which happen to be there when the fighting stopped and were not negotiated frontiers at all. I think that it would be most unwise to suggest that the 1967 frontiers should again be established, because it would lead to the same impossible situations which existed in many parts between 1948 and 1967, of villages cut in half and so on. Anybody who knows the geography of the area knows how unsatisfactory those frontiers were.

On the other hand, it is perfectly fair to say that the present frontiers are also not satisfactory. They are too large. But I think that it would be possible to negotiate the frontiers in a straight confrontation between Israel and the Arab States, whereas I do not think that Israel will withdraw from them before any negotiations take place. As my noble friend Lord Dundee said, let us be practical in this and not indulge in wishful thinking. If Israel could feel that there was some security for a generous gesture —and after all they are the most generous people in the world—I feel that something might come of this.

It is extraordinary how conditions vary in this small country. I am particularly interested in agriculture and in this field, as the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, has said, there has been a miracle. Less than a month ago I was taken round some of the agricultural settlements, not on the West Bank where I have been many times, but in the North. It is an area entirely inhabited by Arabs and I saw what the Arab fanners were doing in developing this astonishing production of early fruits, strawberries and the like, which has become so popular and so lucrative. I had lunch with two Arab fanners and two Israeli experts from the Ministry of Agriculture on the formers' own verandah on a lovely hot day. They could not have been more friendly to-wards everybody. The Arab farmers are making a great deal of money, having learned these high skills which they did not have before. I give this illustration to show that where there are interests in common there can be great friendship.

I saw on the same day, for instance, an Israeli doctor working in an Arab health centre, with nobody but Arab nurses to help him. It was an ordinary health clinic for children, nursing mothers and so on. It was the same type of clinic that we have in any of our towns, and this doctor had been there for eight years. All his patients were Arabs, and the health centre appeared to be working marvellously. Yet it was an Israeli doctor who was the key to that clinic. This introduction of common interests between the Arabs and the Jews brings them together. This is encouraging. If only those common interests could triumph over the political difficulties— but perhaps this is wishful thinking; and I say this although I have said that we must not have wishful thinking—then there is something there which could lead to a more satisfactory state of affairs if the common interests of the people were encouraged whether in industry, agriculture, health and welfare or in anything else. Those are the matters which bring about co-operation between the two races. So I strongly urge Her Majesty's Government to take a realistic view of this situation; to pursue, as I am sure they are prepared to pursue, every possible method of bringing these two very difficult peoples together, and to realise that it is no good calling on the United Nations negotiators unless they are prepared to go direct to the people concerned.

I was interested in what the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, said about the negotiations which might be carried on by the Israelis and the Arabs all in one place, with the Israelis in one part of the building and the Arabs in another. Negotiators would get together, and that would be a beginning. I am sure that negotiations must take place on the ground between the two countries, and not by the super-Powers talking over their heads, because nothing will come of that at all, and it is really just beating the air. Nevertheless, I beg Her Majesty's Government to continue, because the situation is so acute and difficult that anything they can do to try to get a détente everybody would support most heartily.

5.12 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to add a very few words just on the one aspect of how we progress towards a settlement. I do not propose to enter into a detailed discussion on the constituent parts of a possible settlement, since I do not think we can get very far in your Lordships' House with a debate in this way. It is quite clear that the various proposals which have been made by the noble Lord, Lord Napier, and other noble Lords, will have to be considered in due course by Her Majesty's Government, and the other Governments concerned.

However difficult it may be to reach a settlement, I believe that it is not wholly impossible to reach one within the frame-work of the United Nations resolution of November 22, 1967. Whatever various people may think of that resolution, we shall not get another one, and we had better hang on to it. What we must hope is that it will not be merely a paper resolution, like all the other United Nations resolutions on Palestine. The settlement must clearly be under the auspices of the United Nations, with the support of the Four Powers. It becomes more difficult every day to reach a settlement, and delay clearly increases the dangers of the situation.

The Four-Power discussions appear to the outsider to be making no progress, and it seems that Dr. Jarring has now gone back to Moscow because he has not been able to get in New York a brief on which he thinks he could operate in the Middle East. It is clear that any negotiations that are going to produce any practical result must be with the participation in some way of the parties concerned. I strongly agree with the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, that great initiatives are now necessary, whether in the form that he suggested or in another suitable form. I believe that a settlement is possible because I believe that a settlement is in the real interests of both Arabs and Israelis.

I should therefore like to ask Her Majesty's Government, first, what proposals they have to convert the present Four-Power discussions into real nego- tiations with the participation of the parties concerned. Secondly, it is noticeable that plans have been produced by the United States, the Soviet Union and France, but not by Her Majesty's Government. I should like to know whether Her Majesty's Government intend to propose a plan of their own, or whether they see their role as one of conciliation between the other parties.

5.16 p.m.


My Lords, I am personally very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Napier, for introducing this Question this afternoon, because I feel that in all the matters with which we are concerned, either in your Lordships' House or in the country as a whole, there is nothing at this moment more important than peace in the Middle East. I go all the way with my noble friend Lord Brock-way in what he has said, and also—if I may call her my noble friend—my noble friend Lady Elliot, who I think made a most realistic speech this afternoon. If the noble Baroness will allow me to say so, she has made a very good appraisal of the situation.

I, too, have been in Israel, both before the Six-Day War and after it. I have seen what has actually taken place in that country within a very short time of the end of the Six-Day War. I would say to Her Majesty's Government that we cannot afford to sit on the fence and not put our leg down on one side or the other, because there comes a time when we have to identify ourselves with what we believe to be right. I have had an opportunity of discussing the situation at some length on more than one occasion with a number of Israeli Ministers. I cannot say what they are prepared to do, but I know that the problem is not nearly so difficult as many of us believe. I think the noble Baroness was quite right when she implied, even if she did not say so, that if only the Arabs would have the good sense to sit down with the Israelis they could get virtually all they want. Perhaps I have gone a wee bit too far, for they will not get the Golan Heights. It may well be that there will have to be some arrangement with regard to security in Jordan, and perhaps on the Suez side.

I, too, have been in kibbutzi in Israel. I have been in the kibbutz where, I think one noble Lord said, a grenade could be thrown from the Golan Heights into the kibbutz where the occupants, including the children, as a normal part of their existence had to sleep in what we call air raid shelters. I would remind Her Majesty's Government that the State of Israel is the only democratic State that I know of that exists in the Middle East at the present time; the only State that approximates to our way of life; the only State that has the same kind of responsibility for the welfare of people as we pride ourselves on having in this country.

My noble friend Lord Brockway referred to the imbalance of arms, which at the present moment is running very much in favour of the Arabs. We have to face the fact that the military balance in the Middle East is being upset. To what extent we have contributed to that situation I do not know, but I know that French arms sent to Libya are not helping the situation. We have also to face the fact that Libya is becoming rather more active than passive in her support of those who are against Israel. I would say to Her Majesty's Government that we have to think very seriously as to where our friends are to be found; that when it comes to selling Chieftain tanks and aeroplanes we must take into account this balance of power because —I think my noble friend Lord Chalfont will agree—it has been the policy of this Government to preserve the balance of power in the Middle East, which at the present moment is threatened.

It is in pursuance of this policy that this Government some time ago considered the sale of Chieftain tanks to Israel. When it comes to the sale of arms, I would beg the Government to think very carefully in the future where those arms are going and how ultimately they are going to be used. I am the first to recognise that the supply of arms cannot be an alternative to peace. But I would remind your Lordships that the State of Israel is in much the same position to-day as this country was in in 1940. We really cannot blame her for taking the action that she is taking at the present moment. Perhaps there is no need for me to remind your Lordships that it was Cairo that broke the cease-fire.

Of course, anybody who has been to the State of Israel comes away with a tremendous admiration for what has been done there. The noble Baroness has seen this more recently than I have—wheat growing out of sand; a society which they have created in about two decades. It is a kind of society of which each one of us would be proud.

We must face the fact—I want to repeat what the noble Baroness has said— that in the last analysis the Israeli Government will not tolerate a peace imposed from outside. They want recognition by the Arabs not only that they have the right to exist but that they have the right to live, and that the State of Israel is in fact in being. Until the Arabs agree to meet the Israelis around the table—and, as the noble Baroness said, the Israeli Ministers are prepared to go anywhere at any time to such a conference—we are living in a fool's paradise if we think that peace can be imposed upon the Israelis by the Four Powers. I do not think they can hope to achieve anything at all. I subscribe to what the noble Lord, Lord Trevelyan, said a moment or two ago. I should like to see the United Nations take this matter out of the hands of the Four Powers, in the sense that it should assume the responsibility of trying to get the Arabs and the Israelis seated together at a table. I am convinced in my own mind, as a result of the conversations I have had, that if this could be done peace would be very easily effected.

5.25 p.m.


My Lords, I apologise for prolonging this debate, but having had some connection with the Middle East I should like to say a few words in support of my noble friend Lord Trevelyan. It is important that something should now be done to try to get a settlement of some kind in this dispute. It is possible to arrange a settlement of a war like this only when neither one side nor the other is on top, because if one side thinks that it is winning it naturally will not make peace. This is the kind of stalemate at present in which I should have thought the wheels of diplomacy might reasonably operate.

One or two considerations have caused me great concern. As I understand it, there is a demand that, before they begin to negotiate, the Jews should evacuate the territories which they have occupied. I warmly agree with what has been said in this debate: it is quite absurd to expect the Jews to agree to that, because it is precisely the evacuation of those territories that is one of the prices, and the main price, which they are going to pay to get peace. Therefore to press that demand means that any diplomatic initiatives which are taken in this sense are bound to be futile; they simply cannot succeed.

There is another very good reason why it is not a very sensible thing to do. The subversive forces upon which the Arabs rely for carrying on the war naturally have to be kept at arm's length by the Israelis, and they need a kind of glacis round the inner part of their territory, a kind of outer territory within which they can try to stop these people from getting in and killing their people. It is not very reasonable to ask the Israelis to give up that territory until it is certain that the subversive forces will not continue to cross the territory. Quite frankly, this is not a very easy demand to make, because it is quite clear that the Arab countries do not find it easy to control those forces. And, even if they make peace, those forces may not consider themselves to be bound. So this matter has to be looked at rather carefully.

I believe that the great danger of the present situation is that the Great Powers —or shall I say the very Great Powers? —will sooner or later find themselves obliged to take more and more of a hand. I believe that this is the principal danger. This is a situation which could spark off the world war that we all want to avoid. We cannot any longer continue to let this situation run, in the hope that it can be safely isolated.

One of the matters which give me cause to reflect about this is the continued closure of the Suez Canal. The Canal is really the umbilical cord of Europe. It is our back door. It is a very important line of communication. It may be that oil now comes round the Cape in larger ships than can go through the Canal, but a great deal of other trade needs to come to and fro. This closure is extremely bad for Great Britain, extremely bad for Europe. It is essential that the Canal should be opened, and this means that we do not want the Israelis to be sitting there. On the other hand, that does not mean that we must expect them to go right out of these territories before the negotiations start. There was great force in some remarks and hints which the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, made on the subject of that area.

Therefore, my Lords, I should have thought there was a great deal to be said for the course which the noble Lord, Lord Trevelyan, advocated, which is that we should try by any manner of means to get negotiations started; and obviously it has to be under the aegis of the United Nations. If we do not, then we have to look out for further trouble.

Another reason for thinking that the situation may not continue to be as favourable as it is now is that, for reasons of their own and in their own wisdom, the Government have said that they propose in due course to withdraw British forces from the Persian Gulf. This will create a power vacuum East of the area in question, and it is very liable to react on the power structure in this vital area of the world which is of such great importance to the new Europe.

5.29 p.m.


My Lords, I do not wish to prolong this debate, but I should like to add another example to those given by the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, of the ways in which these two opponents can be brought together within a common interest. In the Swiss air disaster last Saturday one of the victims was Professor Norvinsky, a very successful and distinguished cardiac surgeon from Dasa Hospital in Jerusalem. The week before he left he came and saw me, and he told me, among other things, of the way in which so many Arabs come over from the East to Jerusalem to avail themselves of those improved techniques of surgery which are not available to them in the Arab countries. He said that those who come for treatment include infiltrators, and they are all kindly treated and receive excellent attention. In addition, he said, they include wealthy patients who are quite able to go to Europe or America but who prefer to avail themselves of the excellent facilities that are available in Jerusalem itself. He mentioned eight separate cases of this sort which he had treated. I am sure that this is another fruitful example of the way in which the two opposing races can be brought together in a common utilitarian and humanitarian interest.

5.31 p.m.


My Lords, like other noble Lords I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Napier and Ettrick, for initiating this short but extremely valuable debate. He, like other noble Lords, emphasised the gravity of the situation and the dangers which are inherent in it, and I can only say that Her Majesty's Government are fully alive to those dangers. It is true that this is an area not only in which people are suffering to-day but in which they are likely to suffer more in the future unless we can do something to alleviate their suffering, and it is a situation which, as we have heard, is now bringing suffering to people outside the area.

The short intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, is perhaps one of the most positive and constructive that I have heard him make in any of his speeches in your Lordships' House. He made a number of points which I think are constructive enough to merit a direct and, I hope, constructive answer from Her Majesty's Government. The noble Lord mentioned first of all the question of arms limitation. That is, of course, an extremely difficult area of negotiations. We in the British Government have repeatedly declared our willingness to work for a general agreement on the limitation of arms supplied to the area, even in advance of a political settlement; and that remains our position. I know of my noble friend's great interest in this problem. It is, as he knows, not an easy problem, but, as I have said, we are willing to work for a general limitation of arms supplies.

In the meantime—and this perhaps refers more to some of the remarks made by my noble friend Lord Wells-Pestell than to those made by the noble Lord, Lord Brockway—reference was made to the supplies that were going to certain countries in the Middle East, and I can only say that it is our policy to judge on its merits any application from any country for military equipment. But there are certain considerations which we always take into account, one of which is, I can assure the noble Lord, the military balance in the Middle East. It is not our intention—it never has been and it is not now, I can assure him— to see any country in the Middle East at such a disadvantage that an aggressor might be tempted to act against it.

On the question of Jerusalem, which my noble friend also mentioned, as he is aware, the Security Council resolution of November, 1967, did not in fact mention Jerusalem, but it is generally agreed, both among the four Powers and by the parties to the conflict in the Middle East, that a political settlement would have to establish a permanent regime for Jerusalem. As my noble friend has said, it would have to be a régime that would cater for the rights not only of the two States—in this case Israel and Jordan— but also the three religions of Christianity, Islam and Judaism.

My noble friend referred to the subject of refugees, and so did the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chichester. The United Nations resolution, as they will know, calls for a just settlement of the refugee question, and I do not think anyone would suppose for one moment that there could be a settlement in this area which did not provide for a settlement of this particularly agonising question.

The newest, and perhaps the most interesting, proposal of my noble friend was for a Geneva Conference similar to that called on Indo-China in 1954, to try to deal with this apparently intractable problem. This is an interesting proposal and we shall study it with great care, but I must say that at the moment I can see one possible flaw in it—I stress, "one possible flaw". The noble Lord himself said that it would be necessary for the Israelis and the Arab countries to be present. I am not quite sure whether they would agree to be present, and that might be the major difficulty. It seems to me that to the Israelis, to attend such a conference would imply acquiescence in something that they have always rejected, namely, an imposed solution. Various noble Lords have said to-day that in their view, at any rate, the Israelis will never accept an imposed solution. On the other hand, it seems possible to me that to the Arabs such a conference, if the Israelis were also there, would imply an acceptance of direct negotiations. But this is a terrible problem, and as with all the other constructive suggestions of this sort, we are prepared to look very closely indeed at the useful suggestion which has been made.

The noble Earl, Lord Dundee, gave us an interesting historical analysis of the situation in the Middle East. He was somewhat resentful at the suggestion of my noble friend that he had been biased, but I know he will not mind if I suggest that a careful listener might have detected, if not actual bias, shall we say a certain asymmetry of sympathy? But then that is not unique, even in your Lordships' House. Perhaps I may take him more seriously to task on the fact that he was, I think, uncommonly disobliging about the United Nations. This is an attitude which has always seemed to me to be unrewarding, if not positively damaging to the chances of a solution in the Middle East. This problem will not be an easy one to solve, and it seems to me that the four Powers, who are, after all, the four permanent Security Council Powers in the United Nations, and the United Nations itself, might well be the forum in which a solution is found.

Before leaving the intervention of the noble Earl, perhaps I could answer one of the points which he made rather more directly. He suggested and, I think, asked for confirmation, that France had not contributed to UNRWA. It is almost true to say that, but not quite. France is a very small contributor, but perhaps it gives me the opportunity to point out something that is often forgotten, which is that this country is in fact the second largest contributor in the world—second only to the United States of America.

May I deal for a moment with the point on refugees which was put forward by the right reverend Prelate? He asked specifically, although referring to points that had been made by my noble friend Lord Brockway, what we were doing about this problem and whether I could give him an assurance that we were doing anything at all. I am afraid that the satisfaction I shall give him will be limited, but I can say that we are working all the time for a comprehensive political settlement which must, as I indicated earlier, include an effective settlement of the refugee problem, and we are contributing, as I have just said, at a level of nearly £2 million a year, second only to the 20 million dollars per year of the United States of America, to the UNRWA organisation. Our Minister in New York, Lord Caradon, has on several occasions urged the Israelis to readmit to the West Bank refugees and others who were displaced by the June war. I can assure the right reverend Prelate that we shall do all we can to solve this problem, but I doubt very much whether its final solution will be found in anything but a comprehensive political settlement.

I was grateful for the vivid personal impressions of the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood. I must say that I envy her her days of wine and roses among the agricultural experts: I could only wish that common interests led always to such harmony. The noble Lord, Lord Brock, referred to other instances in which a community of interest can lead to harmony. It often does, but not, unfortunately, always; and, as the noble Baroness rightly pointed out, the realities of life, especially in the Middle East, are not always as we should like them to be.

Before passing on to the substance of the speech of the noble Lord who opened the debate, perhaps I might take up one point made by my noble friend Lord Wells-Pestell, because I think it may be important in looking at future attempts to solve this problem. The suggestion he made was that this problem should be taken out of the hands of the Four Powers and placed in the hands of the United Nations. I want to make the point that the Four-Power talks are in fact taking place within the context of the United Nations: they are taking place in New York, and our representative at those talks is our Minister resident at the United Nations. And, of course, the Four Powers concerned are the four Security Council Powers of the United Nations. So I think the noble Lord can be assured that all our efforts, whether in the Four Power talks or anywhere else, will take full account of this most prestigious and valuable organisation.

Perhaps I may now come to the specific proposals of the noble Lord, Lord Napier and Ettrick. As I have said, I agree entirely with the way in which he has characterised this situation. It has deteriorated, it is deteriorating; and in my view it will continue to deteriorate if present trends go on. This is a prospect which no one can possibly view with any kind of equanimity. The region we are discussing is a region where millions of people are suffering; and it is a region, as other noble Lords have pointed out, where the outbreak of another war, a real war, as opposed to the kind of uneasy armed truce going on now, could easily spread; it could easily suck in the Great Powers of the world, and it could easily represent a threat to the peace and security of us all. It is good, therefore, that we should look at any idea that might be put forward that would lead to a solution of this problem.

The noble Lord has asked, in effect, whether we will explore the possibility of taking some action additional to that inaugurated by the Four Powers, either, I think I am right in saying, by way of guarantee or by some other course of action. This question of guarantees is a very complicated one, and in order to give perspective to what I have to say about it I think it would be useful first to say something about the attitudes of the two parties to the conflict as we interpret them, and about the genesis and development of the attempt to bring about an international settlement.

My Lords, I think that the attitudes of the two parties are best reflected in the interpretations which they have placed on the Security Council resolution of 1967, which was sponsored by my noble friend Lord Caradon. My noble friend Lord Brockway has outlined the terms of this resolution, so there is no need for me to go through them again. I would simply say that to the Arabs this resolution is a blueprint for action, but to the Israelis it is an agenda for negotiation. This, I think, sums up the attitudes of the two sides.

These attitudes have not changed during the past two years. The Arabs doubt whether Israel has any intention of withdrawing from the occupied territories, and they suspect that Israel's insistence on the achievement of a settlement through the negotiation of peace treaties is no more than a device to justify continued occupation of these territories. The Israeli view, on the other hand, is that they doubt whether the Arabs want to make peace with Israel and to accept her as a member of the Middle Eastern community of nations. They regard the refusal of the Arabs to engage in negotiation as evidence that the Arabs simply want to recover the occupied territories without being obliged to make peace with Israel. Here is a classic case of total breakdown of trust and communication, total deadlock.

The international effort to bring about some kind of break in this deadlock had its origin in the adoption of the Security Council resolution of November, 1967. For 16 months—for almost a year and a half following the adoption of that resolution the United Nations representative, Dr. Jarring (and I was grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, for using the much overworked word "dedicated" in respect of this representative of the Secretary-General: he is indeed a dedicated man) has worked hard to fulfil his mandate. The mandate, in the terms of the resolution, was to establish and maintain contacts with the States concerned, in order to promote agreement and assist efforts to achieve a peaceful and accepted settlement. That was what Dr. Jarring was asked to do. By the beginning of 1969 it had become clear that he could not hope to succeed in his task alone; he must have assistance from others. So there was a proposal that the Permanent Representatives in New York of the four Security Council Powers should discuss means by which their Governments might contribute to the establishment of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East". This was how the Four-Power talks came about, and this is why we agreed to take part in them.

Those Permanent Representatives first met in early April, 1969. Since then they have had over twenty meetings. They are agreed that the Security Council resolution of 1967 provides the only framework for a settlement, and that the terms of a settlement should be embodied in a package, not dealt with piecemeal; and they agreed that their own task was to provide guidance for Dr. Jarring. I still hope that they will succeed in this aim. I make no predictions, but I certainly do not accept the view of noble Lords, as forcefully expressed in this House this afternoon, that they have no chance of success. There are important differences which remain to be resolved, but at the same time all the four participating Powers—and these include the super-Powers to which much reference has been made today—realise full well how important it is that they should make progress in their task. I would beg noble Lords not to fall into the trap of despair simply because the Four Powers are making slow progress in what is one of the most intractable problems of international power with which we have ever been faced.

Having sketched in the background, may I now turn, my Lords, to the actual proposal about guarantees? This is a proposal of quite astonishing complexity. To begin with, I think there has probably been some confusion between the kinds of guarantees that would be necessary. We should probably need to have guarantees of two kinds: first, guarantees which would be intrinsic to the political settlement itself—that is to say, part of it, written into it; and then we should probably need to have the kind of guarantees that I think most noble Lords have been talking about this afternoon—external guarantees. So far as the intrinsic guarantees are concerned—the kind of thing that we shall have to build into a political settlement— they might be of several kinds. You could have the establishment of demilitarised zones, which is provided for, as noble Lords will recollect, in the Security Council resolution itself. You could have the establishment (or, to be more strictly accurate, the re-establishment) as the noble Earl pointed out, of a United Nations peace-keeping force in the region. You could possibly have the establishment of machinery for the resolution of disputes among the parties. There are various ways of building some kind of guarantee into the political settlement.

But external guarantees, too, could be of various kinds. For example, you could have an external guarantee given by the Four Powers, or by the Security Council as a whole, or by a larger number of Members of the United Nations. I think one noble Lord suggested this afternoon that you might have a super-Power guarantee given by the United States and the Soviet Union. An external guarantee could take another form. It could take the form of an undertaking to consult if one of the parties complained of a breach of the settlement. That is a familiar kind of guarantee in international treaties. It could take the form of an undertaking to go even beyond consultation if a breach of the settlement were proved, and to take action in defence of the status quo. This is perfectly legitimate under the terms of the United Nations Charter.

This, I think, is enough to show that even in trying to analyse what a guarantee is we are faced with a subject of quite remarkable complexity. We have been considering all these possibilities. None of them has escaped our notice. We have also been considering their draw-backs, and indeed their advantages, particularly in the kind of external guarantee to which the noble Lord, Lord Napier and Ettrick, specifically referred. We have been doing this, first of all—and let me make a point here, and not labour it—against the background of our defence policy. I do not think there is any point in people thinking of guarantees which go outside the context of our defence policy, the general principles of which have been set out as recently as this month. But we have also been considering it in the light of what we know about the attitudes of the parties. I have already described these attitudes in general terms.

Given these attitudes, if we can reflect for a moment on the almost total absence of trust that exists between the parties to this dispute, let us look at the kind of questions we have to ask ourselves. Remember that, generally speaking, there are two parties to this dispute. That is a crude over-simplification, but it will do for the purpose of this argument. Would an external guarantee of the kind which the noble Lord has in mind be credible, believable to the two parties concerned? If it is not credible or believable, then it is not acceptable. By that I mean this. Would each side believe that in certain specific circumstances the guarantors would inevitably take action against it? Equally, would each side believe that in certain specific circumstances the guarantors would inevitably take action against the other side? These would have to be the two elements in a credible guarantee; and, as I have said, you have already two sides to the conflict.

There are, in fact, four questions to be answered, and in my view all we can say is that a guarantee of the kind the noble Lord has contemplated would be credible if the answer to all four of those questions was a clear unequivocal, "Yes". All the evidence that is available to us—and I have summed it up in what I have tried to say earlier about the attitudes of the parties— is that it would be impossible to answer all those four questions in the affirmative. I can, however, assure the noble Lord that we shall continue to study the merits of an external guarantee of the kind that he has in mind, and I am most grateful to him for putting it forward in his speech to-day.

To help us in this study, which we shall add to the others in which we are engaged, we should welcome any evidence which the noble Lord, or indeed any other noble Lord, may be able to give us about the likely attitudes of the parties to the offer of a guarantee by a group of Powers in Western Europe. I personally am not wedded to the idea of solving these problems through purely European machinery. But if this would be effective, then by all means let us examine it; and if any noble Lord can give us any evidence that either of the sides involved in this conflict would be prepared to look sympathetically at such an idea, it will be extremely useful to us in examining its possible effectiveness. I need hardly say that we ourselves, of course, shall continue to seek evidence of that kind. I do not wish to be dismissive or obscurantist about this in any way, but I must say that the evidence which is now available to us does not give any hope at all, or any indication of any kind, that the answer to the four questions that I posed earlier would be, "Yes".

Finally, may I say that we constantly ask ourselves, as noble Lords have asked me this afternoon, whether we are doing enough to help to bring about a settlement; whether there is any action of any other kind that we might usefully take in addition to action that we are already taking. We shall continue to do this. I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Trevelyan, that we shall not display any want of resource. In his speech, which was, as always, as constructive as it was brief, he said that some kind of initiative was needed. These initiatives are, I think, not always productive. But if one would be productive now, I think that the place where we should take it is in the Four Power talks in New York. This is not to say that it is necessary for us to put forward any proposal of our own. I know that the noble Lord, with his background, will recognise at once the difference between action and activity. The one thing that we want to avoid is activity of a kind that would not lead to constructive action.

For the moment, therefore, in spite of the extremely interesting and constructive suggestions that have been put forward in your Lordships' House this afternoon, we believe that we can continue to make our best and most effective contribution towards solving this problem by going on with our participation in the Four Power talks in New York. This we shall do.


My Lords, before my noble friend sits down will he permit me to ask him a question? I did not want to interrupt him in the course of his reply. I am most grateful to him for reaffirming Her Majesty's Government's policy of preserving a balance of power in the way of arms in the Middle East. But how is this determined? Does it mean that each country is assessed according to what may be considered its needs, so that if there were three or four countries banding together showing aggressive tendencies towards one country, they would have four times the amount of arms that the other country had?


My Lords, I do not think that the noble Lord should assume that the Government are quite so simple as his arithmetic. The point here is that when we are deciding upon applications for arms we take into account a number of factors. The military balance is one; our own interest is another. I think we should not too easily forget those matters. They include also our interest in helping to bring about a settlement in the Middle East. I think I see the drift of my noble friend's question, and I think I know what he is getting at. I can only repeat what I said previously, that it is not our intention to see any country in the Middle East placed at such a disadvantage that some aggressor might be tempted to act against it. I hope that my noble friend will be satisfied with that answer.


My Lords, I am much obliged.