§ 3.46 p.m.
§ LORD BYERS rose to ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will make a further Statement on what steps they have taken, or propose to take, towards the achievement of a durable peace in the Middle East. The noble Lord said: My Lords, by leave of the House in the absence of the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, I should like to ask the Government the Unstarred Question on the Order Paper. At the outset I should like to make it clear that I believe in Israel's right to a peaceful existence. I do not think the Israeli Government or its High Command are without fault, but I do believe passionately in the right of Israel as a State to exist, and it is because of this belief that I do not understand the attitude and actions of Her Majesty's Government in the last few days. First there has been no recognition that this recent attack was totally unprovoked and carefully planned. This was a unilateral act of aggression carried out deliberately on a member of the United Nations on Israel's most vulnerable and sacred day. Secondly, there are enough indications to underline the Russian influence in launching this campaign.
§ I am told that two weeks before the attack there was a curious exercise carried out simultaneously in Beirut, Damascus and to a lesser extent in Baghdad, undoubtedly inspired by the Russians, which in identical terms in each capital leaked to Jerusalem the Arab desire for a peace formula on points which were quite specific and which met with a positive response from Israel for action after the Election. This, of course, was a blind to lull Israel into a sense of false security, and it worked. A further indicator that Russia is behind this latest move against 391 Israel is, I think, the absence of Colonel Ghadaffi from the fight. This is significant because he is well known to be a fanatical opponent of Communism, and I think also the very natural reluctance of King Hussein to get too involved in the conflict is another indicator on the same lines.
§ What we are witnessing, in my view, is not merely an attempt to destroy Israel but a further stage in the determination of Russia to dominate the industrial development of the whole of the Middle East. The Russians will pay for Middle East oil not with roubles or dollars but with steel plants and industrial hardware, until they are totally entrenched in the whole area. I say this with deep disappointment, but until the Foreign and Commonwealth Office recognise this fact and come off their pro-Arab perch they cannot hope to be effective in attempting to bring about a Middle East solution.
§ From that point I turn to the completely incomprehensible policy outlined in Tuesday's Statement by the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary, which said in effect that Britain had decided not to honour its contracts with Israel or the Arab countries, so that it might be in a better position to mediate. I pointed out on Tuesday that this was totally illogical, and I think that within the last 48 hours I have been proved right. I asked the question: between whom does Britain propose to mediate? If they are thinking of mediating between Israel and the Arabs then it is vitally important to have Israel's confidence in the first place, because it is Israel's life which is at stake; it is Israel which has her back to the sea, and not the Arab States. And Israel has only one view of the arms embargo. They are not worried about other belligerents; they worry only about the embargo on arms and supplies for Israel, without which their tanks become pillboxes and death traps. I ask this question: what confidence can anyone have in a country that signs a contract, takes the money and then turns round and says, "Well, if we had thought you were going to use these tanks to defend yourselves we would never have sold them to you in the first place."In this House an aside was made in a most unladylike fashion to the effect that, "Anyhow, you can always get Centurion 392 spares from the White House." That is not, I think, the sort of brief which ought to be given to the noble Baroness who repeated the Statement, for whom we have the greatest respect.
§ It is humiliating to have a British Government acting with such an apparent lack of principle. And this is the image which we are putting out to the world. What is more, judging by the announcement made by the Arab States that they are going to cut our oil supplies, it seems that we have merely antagonised both sides without getting any advantage for ourselves or approaching nearer to a solution. Two days ago I called this action "commercially dishonest". I still think it is. It might have been more accurate to describe it as taking money under false pretences. It can do nothing to enhance our position as possible mediators. Tt merely advertises us as a nation without Principle, and I hope, for that reason alone, that the Government will speedily reconsider this decition and reverse it.
§ In his Statement on Tuesday, the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary said that he hoped the solution to the Middle East problem could be found on the basis of the United Nations Resolution 242 and in line with the proposals which he outlined in his Harrogate speech in 1970. I am quite sure there is a genuine desire for a permanent and a peaceful solution on the part of the Israeli Government and I am equally convinced that such a desire was present before the recent aggression by the Arabs, because it has been openly confirmed during the past 24 hours. Mr. Eban's statement in New York, which was reported this morning, was in very conciliatory terms. This is the sort of terms to which a response should be made. But the crux of Resolution 242, in my view, is that it has its priorities wrong and its ambiguity could lead to further mis-understanding. It says in effect that Israel should withdraw from territories occupied by her in 1967 and that every State, including Israel, shall have the right to live in peace within secure and recognised boundaries.
§ My Lords, I know something of the Israeli front. I spent five months of the Second World War at the Haifa Staff College. We conducted tactical exercises from one end of Palestine to the other, 393 throughout its length and breadth, until we knew practically every nook and cranny. Also, in the last six years I have travelled extensively every year in Israel. If I were an Israeli Minister, and I am not—thank goodness! I do not have that responsibility and I speak only for myself—I would reverse the order contained in Resolution 242. I would not give up one inch of the territory which Israel has occupied to protect her existence until I had an unequivocal assurance that Israel's final frontiers were genuinely secure. The real trouble is that so many people who pronounce on this matter have no knowledge of the actual areas concerned—and with frontiers it is the area which really matters. No one can stand on the Golan Heights, where the Syrians were in 1967, and look down on Israeli villages and the Sea of Gallilee within shooting distance, and then proclaim that this is a secure frontier. It is total nonsense, and it is known to be total nonsense by anyone who has stood on those Heights. Then there is the Sharm el Sheikh. If this is surrendered by Israel, what sort of security would this represent for Israel? Perhaps some leasing arrangement might be agreed over some very long term, but to surrender it cannot constitute, on Israel's part, a secure frontier at all.
§ I am quite sure that Israel will bring to the negotiating table compassion, humanity and understanding of all the tragic problems involved, and especially those concerning the Palestinian refugees, the state of Jerusalem, and similar matters, but I do not believe she can be expected to do so until there is complete agreement on frontiers which really guarantees her right to exist in peace in perpetuity. In my view, these frontiers will not be the frontiers of 1967, if they are to give Israel the security she deserves as a member of the United Nations, because these frontiers and permanent security are quite incompatible. I hope the British Government will hear this in mind when they seek to influence the final decisions which are taken in the Middle East. What we need now is a final, permanent solution for everybody in the Middle East, so that they can live in real harmony and prosperity. My Lords, with the leave of the House, I opened this debate. I took the place of the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, and I hope that your Lordships will now agree 394 that the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, should follow me, if that would be for the convenience of the House.
§ 3.58 p.m.
§ LORD KENNET
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Byers, for having smoothed over an awkward moment, as he did so gracefully at the end of his speech. I apologise most profoundly to your Lordships for not being in my place earlier. I was taken unawares by the short length of time, as compared with the estimated length, that it took to deal with the preceding business, and I was still calmy talking to friends and considering what might be said in this debate.
We can face the beginning and the continuation of the fourth Israeli/Arab war only with a sense of profound horror and grief for the civilians who have been killed, as my noble friend Lord Shepherd expressed it the other day, including the two British subjects, the second of whom was Nicholas Tomalin, a journalist whose words we have all learnt to respect in daily consumption over recent years. One must also grieve not only for the civilians but also for the soldiers, all conscripts, the young people destined by fate to have been born in these countries and not in other countries.
I should like to repeat first of all what my noble friend Lord Shepherd said on Tuesday in support of the Government's aims, as they were outlined on that day—that is, the Government's aims for bringing to an end the war which is now raging in Syria and Egypt. The elements the Government then suggested were action to be taken by the United Nations Secretary General and getting a United Nations force on to the ground. To those, I would add myself (and many of my noble friends would agree) that there should be a demilitarised zone containing the U.N. force—because we must not forget what went wrong in 1967. The proximate cause of that war was the withdrawal of the United Nations force, and it was withdrawn because it was on the soil of one country only; which was free to ask it to leave whenever it wished. That mistake must not be repeated.
Let us consider the state of the world over as long a time-scale as we can bring ourselves to do. We have there an intrinsic and very long-standing instability 395 with all the classical ingredients of such a situation. We have unsettled territories, we have unsettled boundaries, we have whole populations existing without legal recognition by their neighbours, and we have many thousands of square miles the sovereignty over which is in dispute. If we add to this the spectacularly high armament levels—much the highest defence budgets in the whole world prevail on both sides in the Middle East—we can see it is an absolutely unbeatable recipe for repeated conflagrations.
What have we in the rich nations of the world, the industrial North, been doing about it? It is not a pretty picture if we look back. The United States have been arming one side, the Soviet Union have been arming the other side, and we have been arming both. It is an infallible recipe for conflagration and we have now had three conflagrations.
There has been progress: in 1956 we joined Israel in attacking Egypt. In 1967 we stood aside from the war and we imposed a short-lived arms embargo which lasted from between 24 and 36 hours. But there was disarray in Western Europe. France, in particular, did not come along with that embargo and we lifted it almost immediately.
In 1973 the Government have imposed another arms embargo regarding our shipments of arms to both sides, to what they call the "battlefield countries", to Israel and to those Arab countries actually engaged in the war, but net embargoing arms which are sent to Arab countries further away—that is, to the countries of North Africa, from Tunisia to the West, and to the Gulf countries and Saudi Arabia. This time we have for the first time a multiple arms embargo which, as I understand it—and perhaps the noble Baroness can fill in some details—is imposed not only by us, but by all the arms-exporting countries of Western Europe who are members of the European Economic Community, and by Sweden, which has for years followed a policy of not exporting arms to any countries they think are going to use them. It is a different situation from the situation in 1967 when it was clear almost from the very beginning that the embargo was not going to work in any meaningful sense. The Government may say that such a thing is not 396 lightly to be thrown away. All of us, whatever our views, must agree that the Government face a very difficult question on the embargo. One can only be glad that Sir Alec told the House of Commons yesterday, or the day before, that he was keeping an open mind about this. I expect that he is examining it hour by hour; and we have to consider what ought to be done now about that embargo.
The friends of Israel on both sides of our Parliament argue that the ban is unjust and that it operates to the detriment of Israel, but not to the detriment of the Arab States who are in the battle. The question then arises: if this is so, should one restore justice by lifting the embargo and supplying arms to both sides, or—and I only ask it—is there a case for examining the possibility of imposing a wider embargo on the Arab States so as to embargo the exports of arms not only to the battlefield countries, also to all Arab countries? If the embargo is to be abandoned there is the question of the timing to be considered. Should it be abandoned now, or would it be more justifiable to abandon it only if and when the War reaches the soil of Israel itself?
Parliament would have a much better opportunity of forming a view on these questions if the Government could tell us more about the operation of the embargo. We think we know what it means to Israel. The Press and Parliamentary speeches have been full of reports of their accounts of the damage they are suffering by the embargo on ammunition and spare parts for Centurion tanks. I think it is fair to say that neither House has had a clear idea of what the embargo means to Egypt and Syria—the other side of the war.
The Government say that it is evenhanded. My question is: is it? If it is not, it will be hard to justify. It is up to the Government to justify that statement that it is even-handed. Whatever we do about our embargo, whatever Western Europe does about our embargo, we are faced with the fact that the United States and the Soviet Union are pouring the arms in. We have been told that the Soviet arms lift has lasted for nine days now, and the American arms life five days, and each country is putting in something like 700 or 800 tons of arms per day.
397 We sometimes forget that the Soviet Union has been bracketed with the United States by China as a supplier to Israel. I repeat, "to Israel". Not, of course, of arms, but the Chinese have seized on this fact—and fact it is so far as we can make out—that over the past two years 70,000 Russian Jews have emigrated to Israel, and 800 of these are technicians and engineers who would be of direct military use to a nation at war. Moreover, it is expected that 40,000 more Russian Jews will go to Israel within the next few months. If this is so, and we have to accept that it is because we know it has been going on, one must see that the Soviet Union, if it wishes to keep level with China in the world propaganda war between Communists, is hooked on doing all it can for the Arabs with the other hand. It has been forced by the United States to permit the export of persons to Israel by the Jackson Amendment, and so long as this goes on it is going to be forced by world opinion, and its interpretation of it, to keep giving arms to the Arabs. This is one of the intensely dangerous factors of the situation which we have to understand. They are going to find it difficult to go back on that.
I do not need to outline the corresponding reason which hooks the Americans on continuing arms supply to Israel—it is built into their political structure that that should be so. There is a gloomy prospect before mankind if we do not get a cease-fire very shortly. If the Americans were forced by an impending defeat, or what they interpreted as an impending defeat, of Israel to land troops, the war could be very much prolonged by the fact that they were protecting a small client State from the impact of world opinion and the reality around it, exactly as we saw in Vietnam. We must face the real risk of another Vietnam arising out of this unless the conflagration is stopped very quickly indeed.
I believe that the Balfour Declaration must be mentioned once again. It is still the governing document of the whole existence of the State of Israel and can be supported by most countries concerned. It is important in this matter that everybody round the world, including ourselves, should distinguish between the Israeli cause and the Zionist cause, 398 or distinguish the distinctions made by others, if you like. Many people see the United States as supporting not solely the Israeli cause, but also the Zionist cause, which they distinguish and which they dislike, even though they admit the existence of the State of Israel. This is not for us to judge, but it is a reality.
There are three elements in the Balfour Declaration of which I should like to remind the House. The first is the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people. That is the one we remember. But then there are two provisos:It being clearly understood that nothing shall he done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in PalestineThis one is not so often remembered, but is there as large as life in the Balfour Declaration. And lastly that nothing shall be done to prejudice the political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country. This means of course because of the existence of Israel. That third proviso is I think we may say, happily, broadly observed throughout the world now.
This war is very bad news for the United States as well, for our greatest and, in practice, our oldest friend in the world. The United States have been training their army for desert warfare and indeed one must hope this does not presage any intention to make another Vietnam of it. At this time in the war the two main antagonists almost certainly both have missiles armed with exceptionally unpleasant warheads—I will go no further—and this must remind both super-Powers that the risks to the whole world of their own failure to persuade their clients to restraint are far greater than was the case even in Vietnam. Many more countries could be drawn into the war, Algeria, Morocco, the Gulf States, Saudi Arabia. When we come to oil production we should not forget that there are many members of the Oil Exporting Countries Organisation which, although they are not Arabs, are Muslims, and that religious sympathy plays a part in this conflict.
I come now to yesterday's oil cuts announced at the Kuwait meeting. I should like to say a word if I may and see whether the noble Baroness agrees when she comes to answer, to try and 399 get this matter into proportion after what I think have been some rather hysterical comments in the media. First, we must ask ourselves the question: have the Arab countries a right to do what they did yesterday? Is it their oil or is it the world's oil? A good way to answer this question—has somebody a right to do something we do not like?—is to consider what we would do ourselves in a similar case. Imagine that we ourselves were engaged in a war to recover part of our own country which is occupied by a foreign army—say, Scotland or part of Scotland. Would we cut oil exports from the North Sea, particularly to those countries which were arming the occupation army in Scotland? We on our side of this House must remember we are committed to the nationalisation of all mineral rights in this country and under our Continental Shelf, and I think that is right. Why have we undertaken this commitment? It is far better to use those mineral rights in our own national interest and for our own national purposes. Would we cut the supply of oil in the circumstances I have imaginatively outlined? I do not think so. I think we should ban it at once, beginning at midnight.
Let us look at the scale of the cut announced by the Arab countries. It is to be a 5 per cent. reduction every month from now on for so long as the war lasts. What does that mean to us? We get two-thirds of our oil from those countries and oil is half our raw material for energy. So we are talking of 5 per cent. of one-third; that is a reduction of about 1½ per cent. this month in the raw material for our energy supplies. Moreover, the 5 per cent. cut is not a simple continuing one. It is—I do not know what you would call it—a compound reduction; it is smaller every time, because next month the cut will not be 5 per cent. of what is then being exported but 5 per cent. of what is being exported now, so it will only be 5 per cent. of 95 per cent.; and the month after it will be 5 per cent. of 95 per cent. of 95 per cent., and so on. So the impact of the cuts will decrease every month as it continues and will never reach zero. It is an asymptotic curve—I hope I have got the word right.
400 Within that cut there is still plenty of room for manoeuvre, I think, by the oil-importing countries. The Arab Ministers made it perfectly clear yesterday that they saw two classes of countries concerned: those who were going overtly to help them in their cause, presumably by sending them arms, and those who were not; and they said that the former category of importing States need suffer no ill-effects. Obviously, that is not going to concern us because whatever else we do I do not believe we are going to send a large quantity of arms to the Arab countries. But presumably they would be open to the suggestion that a distinction should be made between countries which are solely and largely aiding their enemy, Israel, and countries which are either aiding nobody or aiding everybody in what the Government calls an even-handed way. I think we could put that to them. I do not believe we need shed tears if the United States have to accept most of this cut. We all know the figures: they have 6 per cent. of the world's population and already consume 40 per cent. of the world's energy. Their per capita consumption of energy is more than twice ours. I believe we should be morally justified in doing what we can within the new and not unwelcome cut proposed to ensure that that cut falls upon the country most able to bear it, because it has the highest standards and imports the least oil from the Middle East in any case.
Let us look further ahead. Are there elements of hope? There are indeed. We must put aside, and I hope we shall put aside, in this debate all the natural horror and outrage we may feel at the actions of this side or the other. I have particularly in mind the horror we must feel at the fact of the surprise attack by Egypt and Syria on Yom Kippur, of all days. But peace is what we need, it will not do to dwell on the horrors of war. In any war we must always hope for positiveness and imagination from the winning side. I am not quite sure which we should regard as the winning side at the moment; certainly to begin with it appeared to be Egypt if not Syria; and the winning side must always know how not to impose a crushing defeat. In fact I personally find some elements of hope in President Sadat's 401 speech of the day before yesterday, in which he offered to come to the negotiating table for a cease-fire immediately, and even before that to start opening the Suez Canal.
How are we to break through the quickening cycle of these disastrous wars? It was eight years from the first to the second, 11 years from the second to the third, and it has been only six years from the third to the fourth. What can we do now to make sure that the fifth does not come on us even sooner than that and make sure indeed that it never comes at all? I think we must all agree that Resolution 242 holds a quite special place in the existing phenomena of the situation. It is easy to say, it is tempting to say, that there are two sorts of United Nations resolutions—those in regard to which everybody knows what they mean and nobody agrees with, and those which everybody agrees with an nobody knows what they mean, and to say that Resolution 242 is one of the latter has some truth in it. But it did serve a purpose; it did secure a cease-fire in 1967. Something like it I hope will secure a ceasefire now. This will mean direct contact between Israelis and the Arabs—this should be happening at any moment; it will mean direct contact between the Americans and Russia—that is happening; direct contact between Americans and Arabs—that is happening. I should like to see direct contact between Israelis and Russians: so far as I know that is not happening.
If I may take one minute—I have already been much too long on an Unstarred Question—in looking ahead to the future I believe that what we need above all, after the cease-fire, and beginning at the same time as the negotiations for a peace treaty and for due recognition of the State of Israel at long last, is a general arms embargo. We cannot expect the Egyptians and the Israelis wisely to say, "Don't send us any more arms". It must come from Russia and America themselves. If we are to avoid the next round those two super Powers must learn themselves to kick the habit of pushing the drug, arms. You cannot expect the junkies to kick it; they need help. It is the pushers who have got to learn to discipline themselves. I believe that even to-morrow will be too late to start laying the plans for this. 402 This has got to be the thing which must go into effect immediately, no more rearmament by anybody of any of those countries; and if a powerful block of countries, remaining clean-handed, is able to urge no re-supply after a cease-fire, that I think will be something new and quite important. But to justify it I hope that the Government will be able to tell us what they mean by this present evenhanded embargo at the height of the war, because I remain unconvinced about that.
My Lords, this is not a Motion; we shall have no vote in this House, and I think we are fortunate that our procedure makes it so easy to have a fundamental debate about a matter which divides both Parties without having a vote on it. But the purpose of our discussion this afternoon, I should like to think, will be to make sure that the Government are able to hear all ideas about useful things which might be done to restore peace, and to keep it.
§ 4.20 p.m.
§ LORD SHINWELL
My Lords, although in the list of speakers my name appears as following the noble Lord, Lord Byers, the Leader of the Liberal Party (may I say in parenthesis I agree with every word he said), I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Kennet for having preceded me. It enables me to say at once, without any intense feeling of passion, that I regard the Unstarred Question for which he is responsible as irrelevant and immaterial in existing circumstances, and therefore quite innocuous. The content of the Unstarred Question contains an implication. It is that our country, our Government—for which I have the utmost respect and affection, and devotion to their interests—are capable of exerting a substantial and effective influence in the deliberations of the Security Council or the General Assembly. I wish it were so. The evidence supporting such an implication or assertion (it depends how one views it) is of a very slender character.
Many years ago, at a conference convened under the auspices of the British-American Group, I visited Bermuda, along with prominent political celebrities —Reggie Maudling, and many others—and in the course of our discussions there I ventured the observation that if ever we were to promote peace (I do not use the 403 term "lasting peace"; we have hopes and aspirations but seldom are they realised), if ever we were to approach a period of peace, an end to conflict, it would be largely in consequence of the will, decision and action of the two super-Powers. The influence is vested in them and not in the United Nations. It is regrettable; I deplore it, but I merely state a fact that must be evident to every Member of your Lordships' House.
All of us, without exception, whatever views we hold about the rights and wrongs of the conflict now raging in the Middle East, must deplore the tragic loss of life on both sides. I derive no pleasure from reading about the casualties from which the Arab States have suffered—none whatever. There is no sense of enmity —more often of compassion, of sorrow rather than anger. I am sure that every Member of your Lordships' House, despite the respective views and differences of opinion about this conflict and what led to it, deplores the casualties on both sides and would like to put an end to it all. We are sick and tired of war, of conflicts among States. That we can all agree upon.
Let us spend a little time analysing the situation. First of all, there can be no doubt at all in the minds of reasonable men and women that for quite a long period of time the Israeli Government have declared their readiness to engage in confrontation at the conference table or in some building, even in separate rooms, with representatives of the Arab States. Nobody can question that; it is unchallengeable. As regards Resolution 242, I have doubts. I have been very sceptical about the possibility of its implementation. But the Israeli Government have said, "Yes, we are prepared to sit down and examine that. We may have to tear bits off. We may have to alter it moderately. But we are ready to discuss it". That also cannot be challenged.
If my noble friend Lord Kennet had proposed a Motion deploring the active aggression on the part of Egypt, I could have understood it. Not that I am very anxious about it, but i would understand it because then we should be dealing with facts, not fiction. But it did not happen. So let us consider, because this is the real issue, what is the position of Her 404 Majesty's Government. To begin with, several statements have been made and several assertions have been made manifest about their attitude. I happened to deal with one assertion, almost a condemnation of the State of Israel, the other day when I was offered the opportunity to say a few words on this subject. It was this: "It is often said that no nation has the right to acquire territory as a result of war". That is a condemnation of Israel—no right to hold any piece of territory which was formerly in the possession of another nation, as a result of conflict. My Lords, we should be the last people to use that argument. I know something, as we all do, about the history of our country. We have much to be proud of, glorious traditions, but there were some blemishes.
Take the case of our differences with Spain, not political differences so much as the matter of who is entitled to possess Gibraltar? It was not a gift: we took it. I say that just in passing. It is no use arguing about it; it happens to be a fact of history. Then, what about Hong Kong? I recall when I was quite young reading about the Boxer Rebellion and incidents of that kind. Again, we just took it. China did not like it, but were not able to prevent it. They could do it now, but it suits them to leave it where it is. There was another example. Take the case of the United States of America and the War of Independence. If they had not defeated the English, America would still be one of our colonies and part of our Commonwealth. Take even the case of the Soviet Union. Who are they to talk? What about East Germany and their efforts all along to prevent unification on the German issue. Why? Because East Germany is a satellite, a "stooge"—no more than that. This is the result of conflict. So let us not use that argument against the Israeli Government.
I recognise that it would be an abuse of the privileges accorded to us in this House if I were to speak at an inordinate length because of the length of the list of speakers; therefore, I will address myself at once to what has led to our debate. It was the refusal of Her Majesty's Government to endorse her contractual obligation to provide spare parts and some weapons which had been purchased by the State of Israel some time ago. That is what it is all about, 405 apart from our views about what should happen at the end of this conflict; and the sooner it ends, the better, of course. I have always had a very high regard for Sir Alec Douglas-Home. Indeed, I once described him as probably the best Foreign Secretary we have had in this century. Of course there have been some very poor Foreign Secretaries. I am not going to indulge in comparisons and I do not even take youth into account. Sir Alec is an honest man; there is no question about that. I do not doubt his intentions for a moment, but I shall really have to change my mind about him. He disclaimed one title but I will give him another—Sir Alec Douglas-Home Pasha. He is so enamoured of the Arabs, and of course it is not unusual for the Foreign Office to be so enamoured. Ever since I can recall there has been an Arab Desk in the Foreign Office, rigidly exclusive. I do not know whether the noble Baroness is aware of that fact. The Arabs are in the "top drawer" in the Foreign Office and they have influenced Foreign Secretaries all along the line. They even influenced Anthony Eden—now the noble Earl, Lord Avon—until he was frustrated by Nasser who, to Eden's sorrow, nationalised the Suez Canal. That led to a difference between them and I am quite certain that Anthony Eden has changed his mind—in fact I know he has.
But what does it matter? Here we are, faced with a situation. What is to be done about it? The other day I ventured to ask the noble Baroness a question which she might have thought was a bit impish, but it was not. Most of my colleagues on these Benches and on the other Benches—to their great credit, if I may be permitted to say so—asked questions as to why the Government should have decided to refuse to conform to their obligations. I put the question in another form, and I should like to repeat it now because the noble Baroness failed to answer it. It is this: when this business is over (and the sooner it ends the better) do the Government intend to provide the spare parts for the Centurion tanks? Let us bear in mind one of the purposes of Sir Alec Douglas-Home, and the Government, presumably—although when I refer to "the Government" I suspect that there are differences in the Cabinet. The noble Baroness might stand up now and say, 406 "That is a lot of nonsense", but I say that there are differences in the Cabinet—no names, no pack drill. What do the Government intend to do? They say, "Let us first seek peace; let us use our influence (such as it is) with the United Nations; let us address ourselves to Mr. Brezhnev on the one hand, on the left, and Mr. Nixon on the right. Of course we have remarkable influence. We just have to speak to them in our usual diplomatic fashion and they will agree, and so the conflict will shortly come to an end." It is the purpose of the Government to bring the conflict to an end, so they tell us. They will have some difficulty, but they say that is their purpose. But what happens at the end? Do we then say to the Israelis, with the proper etiquette, "We apologise; we should have sent these things while you were in trouble, but now that you have no trouble you may have them"? This is a fantastic situation for which there is no justification whatever. But there is always a reason for something; there is always cause and effect. So let us examine the causation here. We want to be on good terms with the Arabs—we need oil; we need trade.
Let us deal with oil for a moment. Presumably the Government thought that if we were to act kindly by not giving the Israelis what they want, and show how even-handed we are—what a term to use!; I should like that term to be properly defined by the Government or perhaps by some intellectual in our assembly, of whom I do not happen to be one, not knowing sufficient of semantics—the Arabs would show us some consideration. Let us see what happens. We say we are not giving the Israelis what they want because it will be detrimental to the interests of the Arabs and against our traditions and principles. And then suddenly the Arabs come along and say, "We are going to cut down our oil exports and so we shall have to pay 2p a gallon more or perhaps 3p a gallon more, and before long it may be 6p a gallon more. So what have we got out of it? Nothing.
That reminds me of something. We once had a Foreign Secretary, Ernie Bevin, and he has been described as one of the greatest of our Foreign Secretaries. I have always had some difficulty in recalling any substantial achievements of 407 his, but I remember one thing he said which arose out of trouble in the Middle East. He infuriated the Israelis, he made angry—and that is a mild term—the Arabs and he annoyed the Russians. He did the lot. That is exactly what the present Foreign Secretary is doing: emulating Ernie Bevin. It is a poor lookout for us.
I have just one final word. What are we going to do about it? Of course I should be the last to object to Sir Alec Douglas-Home pleading with President Nixon and all concerned— even Sadat and even Golda Meir. I should not object to all that if I thought the conflict would be brought to an end. But in my judgment one cannot bring conflict in the Middle East to an end until Israel is assured of complete security. Perhaps I ought not to use the term "complete security"; it is too definitive. I will say "moderate security". I forget who mentioned it—it may have been Sir Alec Douglas-Home; I think it was originally in the Press (those organs of unimpeachable veracity who know exactly what ought to be done about it). What did they say? They said, "What we want is a guarantee. If we can get the super Powers to guarantee …"—one would imagine that had never been done before. Do your Lordships recall the tripartite agreement which existed for many years with Russia and with France—that was remarkable—and America? They were responsible for the tripartite agreement which guaranteed to protect Israel and the Arab State sovereignty—sovereignty for Israel, sovereignty for the Arab States. And look where we are. It is not worth the paper it is written on.
So what should we do? I regret saying this because, as I ventured to say before in a passing reference, I hate all these casualties, this conflict, this massacre, this holocaust; but it must be clearly understood that whether this ends as a result of some cease-fire or whether, later on, as a result of negotiations, confrontation or an attempt to impose the will of Russia and the United States of America and other countries on Israel and the Arab States, we ought not to depend so much on guarantees when there is something of a much more highly moral character and quality, namely, the goodwill of the people. We do not often get that in 408 Governments, but we might get it from the public, not only here, but elsewhere. What is required is not so much a decision of the United Nations, but a moral outlook on the part of the people of the world so that Israel can be secure and the Arab countries can be assured of no further conflict. But Sir Alec Douglas-Home cannot get away with what he has done, and neither can the noble Baroness, although we all admire and even love her. She cannot get away with it. It will not do. It may do irreparable harm in the future to this country and to Israel, who has few friends in the Arab States, and we do not want alleged friends from the Soviet Union because one cannot rely on them at all.
§ 4.41 p.m.
§ LORD GRIDLEY
My Lords, it may well be that before the end of this debate I shall have to leave. I have to attend a funeral early to-morrow; I have suffered a family bereavement and that is the reason why I am speaking in this order to-day.
I listened with the greatest interest to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Kennet. I thought he covered a very wide canvas of the difficulties, and some of the hopes that he suggested we might achieve in considering this very grave problem. I also listened with interest to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Byers. It appeared to me that he concentrated most of what he said on the difficulties facing the Israelis, for which I have considerable sympathy, although I think there are also certain difficulties on the Arab side. It is my opinion that if ever we are to be of assistance in resolving this frightful war, we have to take into consideration the sufferings and problems of both the antagonists who face each other in this present battle. We meet in that situation, and it is a situation of some gravity. The great purpose in these circumstances is to sustain the Government. I believe it is immeasurably more difficult to govern in Britain to-day than at any other time over the last thirty to forty years—far more difficult than it was in the time of those who preceded us. Some of us are sons of fathers who served Britain in that capacity in the past.
Having said that, may I say something to my noble friend the Minister of State 409 for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs about the Centurion tanks. On the question of the supply of ammunition and spare parts for these tanks, the Government have said that if they refused to send spares and ammunition it is their considered opinion that their influence would be much greater in securing a cease-fire or an agreed peace. With respect, I am totally unable to understand this reasoning. Here we have a situation, for example, of an Israeli boy in the desert with first-class equipment supplied by us, borne up by the fact that he is fighting for his homeland, a representative of a small nation of 3 million people, a nation we created, and now in his extremity he is to be denied the tools with which to defend himself. What sort of influence do the Government really think they will have after that in bringing the Israelis to the conference table? In my view, their influence will probably be absolutely nil. I find the reasoning of the Government hard to understand in this. There are noble Lords who have been in battles such as I have; there are noble Lords who have been short of equipment such as we were in 1941 in the Far East. Men die because they cannot defend themselves and those that live in such circumstances curse any Government, whether Conservative, Labour or of any other complexion, for leaving them naked of the arms with which to defend themselves. I must say that I believe the Israelis would feel this way about us, and the whole of their nation would feel the same way. Therefore I would ask my noble friend the Minister of State whether she can refute the arguments which I have now propounded. If she cannot, may I ask her respectfully to use her influence to see that these supplies are resumed? I hope that she will do this.
My Lords, I come next to the subject of oil. If the Press reports are correct, the Arab producing countries are to cut their supplies to us and other nations by at least 5 per cent. if, in their opinion, we are unfriendly towards them. As the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, has explained, this goes on from month to month. I should have been happier this morning if instead of a leading article in The Times to-day, which suggested that for peace we should do some sort of deal with the Arabs, that paper had pro 410 claimed that our country should stand firm against naked Arab blackmail. For are we not fighting inflation? Have we not problems in this country? Do we not have a prices and incomes policy? Has it not been calculated that by this act of the oil-producing countries something in the region of £400 million is likely to be added to the deficit in our balance of payments? Sometimes I feel that people, and even oneself, hardly know what is going on at the moment. One hears it stated that politics and politicians are debased. If this threat to our oil supplies threatens our industrial momentum and the nation, then let the politicians and the Press say so quite openly rather than surrender to blackmail. Let us in our private houses, in our offices with central heating go cold this winter. I sometimes feel that we have become over-soft. If one looks back 20 to 25 years, our fathers and mothers managed to keep themselves warm with one fire lit in one room. Lot the private motorist be rationed for his petrol if this is necessary. If meat prices are to soar because we are threatened by this oil cut, let the nation do with one meal less a day. Most of us are too fat. Let us eat less.
Above all, let us hear the truth. Instead of bleating about pensions, salaries and wages, let the Press and our political commentators and our politicians say plainly that we have become too soft. Nobody owes us a living. People are disillusioned because they suspect they do not hear the whole truth. They want the whole truth and they will not be satisfied with anything less, if truth is stated in plain language and hammered home, I believe the response from the people will be overwhelming. It is my belief that the Prime Minister has the courage and the leadership to evoke that response. Let him do so; let us get behind him. I believe that in this way and only in this way shall we surmount the dangers thrown up by the Middle East war.
§ BARONESS GAITSKELL
My Lords, am grateful to my noble friend, Lord Kennet, for tabling this Question, though I do not go all the way with him on it, and I am very happy to follow the noble Lord, Lord Gridley, with whose speech I agreed almost entirely. I will try to limit my comments to the Question and 411 not clutter up my intervention with recriminations against either countries or persons. First, the immediate steps the Government have taken so far have only given me an insight into the unacceptable face of neutrality. The Prime Minister has really given this country a wonderful all-purpose adjective and we should be grateful to him for it.
I will only go back to Resolution 242, which by reiteration should now become Resolution 2042. Presented as a panacea for peace, it stopped short of stating that the Arabs and Israelis must get round the conference table for negotiations. All honour to the men in the Labour Government for introducing it at the time, because it achieved the cease-fire. But during the years from 1967 Resolution 242 has become an inhibiting factor to peace negotiations. It has not only veiled the hard reality between the Arabs and the Israelis but it has given time for the Russians to re-arm the Arabs to the hilt.
Nowhere in the world has peace been achieved in any conflict unless we have had confrontation between the adversaries round the conference table. We have only to look back to the Vietnam war. Even though Nixon bombed his way to peace, he bombed his way to the conference table. Even to-day, when the Prime Minister or the Foreign Secretary have mentioned Resolution 242 they have not added anything about getting round the conference table. Whereas the Arab countries have continued to accept the Resolution they have interpreted it in their own way and against the Israelis. The Israelis have not won the propaganda war. This war is not only a war on the battle front; it is also a propaganda war. The Israelis have failed in one important respect to state their position about peace negotiations. In fact, they have not until recently stated that everything was negotiable and that they were ready for compromises. To-day I welcome what Mr. Abba Eban has said in his speech, that everything is negotiable and the Israelis are prepared for compromise. Over a year ago he came and spoke to a number of Labour peers, and I asked him why he did not repeat this statement, which he had made before, as many times 412 as everyone had repeated Resolution 242.
Egypt is a country with a great potential, and peace with Israel could be of great benefit to her people; peace between them would be of great benefit to both countries. Resolution 242 has done nothing to reduce the exaggerated fears of Israeli expansion. It always seems to be a very extraordinary thing that there are many people who fear the Jews. History over the last 2,000 years shows that Jews have had far greater reasons to fear Christians. What has happened is, in fact, that the Russians, by allowing Jews to emigrate to Israel, have not, as many Jews believe, yielded to the pressure of world liberal opinion. It has not been anything of that kind; they are not sensitive in that respect. They have done it deliberately as a lever to inflame and frighten Arabs about colonialism. The manœuvres of the Soviet Union, both in armaments and propaganda, have been very mischievous, and I do not believe somehow that the Government have put enough stress on this. Once again, as during the Cuba missile crisis, it has brought us to the brink of a world war. I believe Government intelligence has been extraordinarily poor on all this—poor, inadequate and unco-ordinated with intelligence in other countries, from all the analyses about the war that I have read. Many people are bewitched by the word détente and it leads them into pure wishful thinking, if not actually into danger.
The Government's bid to join other European countries by banning arms to both adversaries and their equivocal stance on neutrality I believe hold little hope of success After all, from the European countries there is a deafening silence on the fighting in the Middle East. All they can do is to capitulate to hijackers. It would seem that it must be left to Russia and America to bring about a peace settlement. And when people say we have a great part to play, well, I must say I do not believe it. We have been singularly ineffectual in breaking up the Afro-Asian Soviet bloc in the General Assembly of the United Nations. Here I believe we could have done much more. During the four successive years in which I was in the Human Rights Committee I found an extraordinary 413 silence about this subject. We did not do very much about it. What has happened is that the problems of the Palestinian refugees have been allowed to fester for years and become an obsession in the whole of this war. So far as I can see, we have done nothing to tell the truth and spread the facts that every move Israel has made to get anywhere near a solution has been repulsed by the heads of the Arab States. After the Hitler war there were thousands, millions of refugees who had lost their homes and livelihoods. Most of them have been rehabilitated. Does anyone really think that the problems of the Palestinian refugees could not have been resolved in a realistic way between the Israelis and the Arabs, in a humanitarian way with the help of other countries in the world? Instead of which one Government after the other has allowed the hatred of the Palestinians to continue to grow.
Finally, we helped to create the State of Israel at the United Nations, but unhappily, though the U.S.S.R. was a party to this, I do not believe now that the Soviet Union wants peace in the Middle East. In the years from 1947 until to-day one Government after another has missed many opportunities, out of their own self-interest, to play a strong, resolute and even quite honest part—and here we must remember Suez —towards achieving peace in the Middle East. What we should try now is to be fair rather than neutral.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ LORD BALLANTRAE
My Lords, to my sorrow I have had to live with this problem of Jews and Arabs intermittently, and at close quarters, for more than thirty-six years, well over half my life, beginning in 1937, again during the war for a short period, and again after the war when I was seconded from the Army to the Palestine Police during the last few years of the Mandate. It has always been a glory and a source of pride, looking back, how the soldiers, the police, and the officials never allowed themselves to take sides suffering many casualties, some in fair fight but many in cold-blooded murder, while holding the ring in a quarrel which was none of theirs. There were no reprisals. We just did not take sides. If I can illustrate this, one morning it fell to me to place 414 Jews on to Arab-held lands, which they had held for centuries, and to be stoned by Arabs, and in the afternoon to board a Jewish illegal immigrant ship and have my head cut open with a blow from behind with a plate. If anything could demonstrate impartiality more than that, then I rather wonder what it could be.
Those were sad days, all of them, from start to finish. I can understand those Members of your Lordships' House who feel committed, for obvious reasons, to one side or the other, such as the noble Lord, Lord Janner, and the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, whom I had hoped to greet on his eighty-ninth birthday, but he has left the Chamber. I can understand other noble Lords, and people elsewhere, who have had long connection, for one reason or another, with one side or the other, but what I want to commend to your Lordships is a more balanced approach from those who have not got this deep commitment. The noble Lord, Lord Boothby, referred two days ago to the State of Israel as one which we had helped to establish, and the noble Lord, Lord Gridley, said something much the same a few minutes ago. I would submit that if ever there was a State which established itself, it was the State of Israel.
The tragedy about the clash between the Jews and the Arabs is that they are both right. They have both suffered gross injustices over centuries. Both have been deprived of things which we have been fortunate enough to succeed to as our rightful heritage. If they have nothing else in common, they have this kind of history. Over the years, if people have put to me the Jewish case I have argued the Arab case; if they have put to me the Arab case, I have argued the Jewish case. I can assure noble Lords that I excel at both, having done it for so long. Again, I have had the advantage of listening to noble Lords, both today and the day before yesterday, and I have heard, and seen in the Press, the words "aggression" and "aggressor" being tossed from side to side. Who has been the aggressor over the years? Both. If I were an Arab I would regard the very foundation of the State of Israel as an aggression in itself. It is no good saying who is the aggressor this time, who was the aggressor in 1967, who was the 415 aggressor in 1948, or who was the aggressor over the years. This is the past. We are concerned, unhappily, with the present, and concerned even more with the future.
Six years ago, which was my last visit to Israel, I was entertained by Israeli friends. At a luncheon party my six hosts were people whose names would be household names here, and it was only four months after the Six-Day War. They said, "You know this country, you are an old friend of it. What would you do?" I was shy about saying what I would do, but when pressed I said, thinking aloud, "I would hang on to those areas from which you have been shelled in the past." The noble Lord, Lord Byers, is not here, but he talked about the Golan Heights. In 1941 I was with the Free French Forces which captured Kuneitra and Damascus, and I know that terrain, which has been in the news lately. I said, "I would retain those areas from which you have been shelled, as for instance Tel Aviv has been shelled from Qualquilya and Tulkarm; but I would surrender those areas which you do not need for defence purposes, such as much of Sinai and much of the West Bank from which Jerusalem could not be threatened." I did not think that this would go down very well, and it did not go down very well, but I thought that it would be a gesture that would "show willing". I cannot help feeling, with hindsight, that there must have been something in that.
It is very easy for us in this House, with no responsibility, to say what could or should be done. Frankly, I have no patience with what I have heard so often over the years, over the last few days, and in this Chamber this afternoon, that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has a built-in prejudice in favour of the Arabs. I should think that I have criticised the Foreign and Commonwealth Office under both its titles, and in all its incarnations, as much as anybody in this Chamber, but from my own knowledge over the years I would say that that is a canard of the first order, and it derives either from prejudice or from ignorance. I cannot think of any other source.
On this specific point of arms for resupplying Centurian tanks with spare 416 parts and specific weapons, here, alas! without the specialised knowledge of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, or the Secretary of State, I part company with what appears to be the policy. I share to the full the instinct that we should not inflame what is going on by taking sides by supplying arms, but it is my "simple soldier's" view that the decision to support with arms was one which was taken when we agreed to supply those arms, and it was a logical follow-up to that to supply what was necessary when the original purchase was negotiated. I agree, though with some regret, with those Members of this House who have taken that line. I am not thinking of our future commercial reputation, but I think as a matter of honour, that a decision was taken, whenever the decision was taken to sell these things, and it was the logical thing to follow through with the spares. I think that the whole arms trade is indecent, and I do not understand how, as other noble Lords have said, it is logical to supply people with arms and, if I may use an unparliamentary expression, "bellyache" when they use them. The old phrase on which I was brought up by my parents was this: "the right thing to do is always the best thing to do". The problem so often is to know what is the right thing to do. In applying that maxim I think we mean this, that considerations of our commercial prosperity and future supplies of oil—that sort of material consideration—should take second place to the moral ones.
I would sum up by saying that we have long-standing and age-old obligations to both sides, and that we should not shout from the touchline for one side or the other during this tragic situation in which we find ourselves. This is not our quarrel. Most speeches on this sort of subject end up with the pious words, "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem." That is not enough: we must do something positive. I believe that, however much we may disagree with some features of Her Majesty's Government's present policy, by and large this determination not to take sides, in the tradition which I described at the beginning of my remarks, is the right one, and the only one which will enable us to play our part in those negotiations for peace which we all hope will open very soon.
§ 5.10 p.m.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Ballantrae, was quite right. I speak as one who for very many years not only has been interested in the subject that we are discussing to-day but has been as active as possible, I hope, to see to it that the Balfour Declaration, which was handed to a predecessor of mine, as President of the Zionist Federation, should be properly fulfilled. I think noble Lords will understand that when I say this about the speech which we have just heard about being fair—I do not want to use the phrase "evenhanded", because I am afraid that has become rather a dirty phrase at present, after the action of the Government in respect of arms for the Centurions. But I should like to point out to the House that on November 29, 1947, the United Nations voted in favour of the partition of Palestine, and that the State of Israel was formally proclaimed when the British Mandate was terminated on the day before the target date of May 14, 1948. One day later the United Nations Secretary General issued this statement:The Egyptian Government has declared in a cablegram to the President of the Security Council that Egyptian armed forces have entered Palestine and that it has engaged in armed intervention in that country. I consider it my duty to emphasise to you that this is the first time since the adoption of the Charter that member States have openly declared that they have engaged in armed intervention outside their own territory.I do not want to keep the House for an undue length of time, but what followed after that was that the Arabs attacked Israel a number of times—little Israel, because it is only a small country. I believe it is a wonderful country, because I think that during the whole time, while there has been pressure on all sides from her enemies, Israel has shown herself to be an example to the world. Anyone who has been there or who knows anything at all about its achievements must agree with that. She did not want war. She wanted to be left alone in peace to build universities and to take into her fold the 700,000 Jews who had to flee from Arab countries—we must never forget that—and the immigrants from Russia and other countries where their fellow Jews were being persecuted. She accepted them as brothers; she accepted them as her own flesh and blood. I wish to goodness that the Arab nations, when we talk of the question of refugees, 418 had not taken the diabolical step of teaching their youngsters in the schools to hate; asking them for example (and this was discovered as soon as the 1967 war was over) not whether two and two made four but if they killed two Israelis and then two further Israelis were killed, how many Israelis would have been killed? That is not human; that is uncivilised; and it is one of the things that has caused this war and has created hatred, even amongst infants, against Israel. Let us face the facts: that that is the situation.
Israel is a country devoted to culture; a country devoted to, let me say, everything that we in this country hold dear; and a country which was very much devoted to this country until, unhappily —and I appeal to the noble Baroness—the Government took the step which they did the other day. There is bitterness in a country which loved the British people and which got on well with us in spite of all the incidents during the Mandate period and everything else. Those difficulties had all been forgotten. Thus, the quality and integrity of our Judiciary and their Judiciary are the same. They have followed our example as a democratic State and in practically everything, even to the creation of similar youth clubs. They are similar men. They have loved the contacts with our country. They have welcomed anybody who came from this country even more than they have welcomed other peoples. Anyone who has been there knows that. For heaven's sake!, why have we suddenly taken an action which has caused bitterness and which has made them feel that, once again, they are alone except for the U.S.A. and the Jewish communities of the world —and I am proud of the Jewish people because they are doing this. There has been not even a single peep of a voice condemning what was obviously an act of aggression by Egypt and Syria on the holiest day of the Jewish calendar.
We are not unaccustomed to the kind of attitude the Arab aggressors take towards religion. We know very well what happened when the Jordanians (quite wrongly, according to the United Nations) invaded Jerusalem and, out of the 35 synagogues with hundreds of years' standing, destroyed all but one and even used some of them for lavatories. They took tomb stones from the graveyards which were sacred to the Jewish people 419 and put them inside lavatories as floors. What is the matter with us? Are we civilised, or not? Do we not realise that what we are in fact doing if we do not support the cause of Israel is actually letting down the very State we created, or helped to create, and which has never let us down from the day the Declaration of Independence was made, when Ben Gurion declared to the world that he hoped the Arab world and every one of the surrounding nations would come together so that they could work with each other in order to do what Israel has since shown she has been able to do and what the Jewish settlements in Palestine had previously shown could be done. I-low can we possibly compare the situation in so far as land is concerned. I ask the noble Lord who spoke before me. When the First World War had finished millions of square miles were handed over by the Allies to the Arab nations—millions of square miles! They had every opportunity of cultivating them. And after the Second World War, after the holocaust which took place in Germany, after the horrific manner in which the Jews had been slaughtered in Germany, this little bit of land allotted to the Jews gave the remnants shelter. Who was hurt by that? Forgive my speaking plainly, but I think the time has come to speak plainly about Arabs who lived in Palestine before the State of Israel. What did the Arab landlords do? It is well known. They lived in Damascus and in Cairo and they ground down the peasants in Palestine. They made them pay both rent and a huge part of the results of the peasants' hard work. They made many of the peasants themselves who were working the land practically bankrupt. When Jews came and bought some land the benefits of their irrigating the soil and everything else they did also helped their Arab neighbours.
Does anyone honestly think that the Jewish people, either in Israel or in any other part of the world, are not grieving at the loss of life both of their kinsmen and of the Arabs. Of course they are. In Israel itself the death of a single individual, Arab or Jew, is mourned. The Arabs in Israel to-day are certainly not refusing to help. They are helping the Israeli people in their struggle against the aggressors. Why cannot we go to 420 the Arab world and say, "Why do you not do as Israel is doing? Why did you not do it with the refugees?" But let us forget that. Let them to-day come together with Israel to settle down and work out a plan whereby everybody living in the Middle East can live there in comfort and can live in peace. It is possible.
I turn again to the noble Baroness. I am sorry to have to do this. I wish that the Minister himself was sitting there, for I would then use harder words than I am using now. I know where the noble Baroness stands; I know that she has a good heart and a good head—if I may say so with respect—as had her very respected father-in-law who, when I was in the House of Commons and until he left for Canada, was at various times the Chairman of the Committee of the AngloIsrael Parliamentary Group. And let us remember what Churchill said at a time when he was planting a tree—and that is what the Arabs should be doing: planting trees, pushing back the desert; not indulging in wars against people who do not want to fight, and who never have wanted to fight their fellow men—in the garden of the site for the future Hebrew University, the provision of which was one of the first things the Jewish people did after the Balfour Declaration. Sir Winston said—and I remember his words; I noted them then:I believe that the building of a Jewish national home in Palestine will be a blessing to the whole world, a blessing to the Jewish race scattered all over the world, a blessing to Great Britain.My Lords, I believe that that is what it is and should continue to be. What I am hoping is that the noble Baroness will go back to the Minister and tell him that it has not been a one-sided decision and ask him to save a small nation like Israel from being annihilated; for that is what the Arab leaders—I do not say the Arab people—wish to do. Does nobody on the Government side, or on any side of the House remember what has happened in the past? I fought my own Party on this issue many years ago. This is not a Party issue. Does nobody remember when the Grand Mufti and his associates were in Germany with Hitler declaring the same kind of policy as her against the Jews at that time? How on earth can we tolerate the kind of thing said by Nasser and by Sadat and all the 421 rest? If we take proper action the Arab people themselves will realise that civilisation is on their side and not on the side of their misleading leaders. What a terrible thing it was! Does not the noble Baroness agree?
My Lords, let us take the question of the Centurions. Israel has about 1,500 tanks. I do not know the exact figure but it is something like that. Over 600 of them are Centurions. The other day I asked: "How dare we break a contract which we entered into with those who relied on us and trusted us to supply the ammunition and spare parts of these tanks? We are giving a damaging blow to Israel's defence so far as tanks are concerned if we do not supply them with the accessories. A legal contract was entered into with them. Can the noble Baroness or the Government tell us what is the law with regard to contracts? Have the Government a right to break the contract without having put terms to that effect in the contract by which the Centurions were supplied? Of course we have not. In this connection, I should like to ask the noble Baroness another question. Is it true that the Centurions, having been handed over to the Israelis, were actually on a ship ready to go out and is it true that on a question of timing —perhaps she will remember why—the ship was stopped on the pretext that the Centurions should be carried on one ship instead of on two—thus enabling this terrible and vicious decision not to supply them to be come to? Where is the fairness of it? Where is the commercial integrity?
Other Members of your Lordships' House I am sure will be wanting to speak. I do not want to take up too much time of the House but I must ask the forgiveness of noble Lords if I do so; because this is something which has been in my life for the past 60 years. It has given me a tremendous amount of pride to see that what I have been striving for in a humble way was achieved and successfully worked out in the moral and civilised sense. I would say this to the noble Baroness. Do not imagine that it is a one-sided decision for that small State. A vast amount of armaments are being poured into the Arab States by Russia with her tremendous strength which no doubt has been planning much of the position for some considerable 422 time. Will we let Israel down on a matter of armaments?
It is obvious what is happening now. Britain has a marvellous reputation for fair play in the matter of contracts. I am not talking only about the contract for the Centurion tanks but also the contract which established the Jewish National Home in the State of Israel to which we pledged ourselves. Do not let that State down. Because if you do you are letting down the integrity of the British people that you seem to uphold; you are letting down Britain; you are letting down all civilised people in the world—and they will never forgive us. I pray to the noble Baroness, see that the Arabs and the Jews come together at a round table. Do not start saying the kind of thing that the Foreign Secretary said in his speech at Harrogate. How on earth can you possibly expect the Arabs not to be encouraged if our Foreign Secretary advises Israel, "Go back to the previous borders with minor alterations"? What would have happened if Israel had accepted that advice? She could have been annihilated within three or four minutes, when citizens were praying to God, the God of us all, on the day which they regard as the most important in their lives.
I appeal to the noble Baroness and to the Government, do not let us be blackmailed. I call it "black-moil", and I think that is right. You will never be able to succeed if you give in to a blackmailer. Appeasement is hopeless. We in the legal profession know this. Stand up to them. Tell them that the world will not stand for it, and I believe by that method we shall have the world behind us, and will come to a satisfactory solution.
§ 5.32 p.m.
§ LORD HARVEY OF PRESTBURY
My Lords, if I am unable to stay for the whole of this debate it is not out of disrespect to your Lordships but because I have a long-standing outside engagement later in the evening. I should like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, on celebrating his birthday. He is an old political adversary of mine. We are all delighted to see him looking so well and so hearty.
My Lords, I am neither pro-Jew nor pro-Arab, though I must say that over the years and in another place I have 423 spoken on this matter and have frequently followed the noble Lord, Lord Janner. I must say clearly that my sympathies are with the Israelis and I shall try to explain why. At the outset I shall be frank and say that I have little confidence in the United Nations, having watched them at work over the years. When they do not want to do a thing they do not do it. No doubt when the settlement is brought about they will play a role by policing and bringing the forces to stay on a neutral line. But they will not bring about a complete settlement. That will be left to others. It seems to me, my Lords, that the United States has been very patient over this whole affair. They did not start to pour in arms on a massive scale until a few days ago, so far as we know. We read about Phantoms being flown from the Azores. That was the first intimation to the world of American reinforcements. But the Russians had been doing this for days and weeks and years on a scale which is unbelievable. One noble Lord, I forget which one, said this afternoon that we should bring about a complete embargo. If a complete embargo were brought about now, who has the stockpile to use to beat the other side? The Arabs, and that just would not do.
§ LORD KENNET
My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Lord, Lord Harvey of Prestbury, will permit me to interrupt him? What he is saying is most interesting. Can he give us any figures? Does he know the relative military strength of the two sides? What is the size of the Arab stockpile which he thinks is superior to the Israeli stockpile?
§ LORD HARVEY OF PRESTBURY
My Lords, it is quite impossible for me to answer the noble Lord accurately. He probably knows much more about it than I do. I know only what I read in the newspapers and they are rather inaccurate. But it is generally accepted that the Arab countries have far more arms than the Israelis, probably three or four times more—at least four times—
§ LORD HARVEY OF PRESTBURY
Let me finish my sentence. And the Egyptian air force has hardly been used to date. Now I will give way.
§ LORD KENNET
My Lords, I know that continually to interrupt is very bad and I will not do it again. But the noble Lord says on the one hand that "nobody knows", and on the other hand that it is "generally accepted". I always find those two statements so hard to reconcile.
§ LORD HARVEY OF PRESTBURY
I did not say that nobody knows, my Lords. Obviously some people do. No doubt the British Government know. But I do not know. I am quoting only what I read in the papers and I accept the general assumption.
My Lords, will The noble Lord allow me to interrupt him for one moment? Would the noble Lord point out to his noble friend that the SAMS, which are the most effective weapon to-day, were, as is known by us and the world, provided by Russia? What steps did we take to give Israel a defensive weapon against them?
LORD HARVEY or PRESTBURY
My Lords, I quite agree with the noble Lord, Lord Janner. But he has spoken for some 20 minutes, and while I sympathise with him, I think that he must battle it out with his noble friend. Nobody who believes in democracy, as we in this country and in this House believe in it, could stand aside and watch Israel devastated; because that is what would happen if the Americans and ourselves stood aside. The Israelis would be devastated. And when they speak about going back to the 1967 boundaries, that is unthinkable from the Israeli point of view. But I would suggest to your Lordships that if they had really got together it might have been possible for them to have gone back for some distance. After all, Israel does not want the whole of the Sinai desert, though I think they need part of it. Certainly they need the Golan Heights. President Sadat says that there are weapons that can be fired to any part of Israel. Imagine what would happen if the Israelis had not got the Sinai desert between themselves and the Egyptians. So I think that we have got to come off that one.
My Lords, in my view Israel has had a very raw deal from the French and that is a matter which has hardly been discussed at all in recent days. In 1967 425 the French cut off the arms deliveries, including Mirage fighters. I recall that the Jews outsmarted the French at Cherbourg when they got six torpedo boats out of the harbour in the middle of the night. No doubt those vessels have proved very useful since. But, to make matters worse, the French have sold large numbers of Mirages to Libya. In fact, my Lords, the French sell arms wherever they can, and get money wherever they can, regardless of the consequences. They were given guarantees by Libya that these planes would not be used against Israel but I think that there is fairly definite proof now that they have been used; or at least some of them have been used against Israel. The Prime Minister of Israel says that she has evidence in the form of one Mirage that was shot down. We shall know more about that. But how does Britain stand with France in these matters if we are trying to do so much in mediation? We are in the E.E.C. with the French. Ought not there to be a unified policy with Britain and France and the European countries, not only with a view to bringing about a settlement, but also in order to face up to the fuel problem which will be upon us very shortly?
I should like to hear from my noble friend what is the position with the French and with the Western countries of Europe as a whole. To what extent are we working together to bring about a settlement and a unified policy among ourselves? An arms embargo would be a wonderful thing if all the nations agreed about it, but they do not. What is the point of Britain having an embargo in this respect and where do we really stand? The Israeli army is equipped mainly with Centurion tanks, and the Centurion is probably one of the best tanks in the world. I remember that the Israelis had two on loan when that tank was being developed years ago. In battle the Centurion tanks have proved their worth. They have out-gunned the Russian tanks. A great many of these British tanks have been put out of action and we are refusing to provide spare parts. I believe that at one time Mr. Harold Wilson even agreed to supply were sold to South Africa. Surely, if spares for the twin-engine aircraft that we sell a weapon to a nation we are under an obligation to honour that deal 426 by providing spare parts, otherwise it is not playing straight or fair with that nation. We should never have gone into the contract if the intention was not to supply spare parts. Our country will not be respected throughout the world, and least of all in the United States. Here we might have some influence to get President Nixon to do all he can to get together with the Russians. Had the relationship between the United States and the Soviet Union three years ago been what it is to-day, the war may not have happened. I believe that peace must come from the efforts of these two great nations. There may be a minor role for Britain. Do not let us overstate our case as to what we can do in this matter, but at least let us behave honourably and do what we believe to be the right thing.
My Lords, we applied an arms embargo in 1967 to the whole of the Middle East. Now it is applied to the battlefield countries. Does it apply to Saudi Arabia, who is supplying equipment and men and to whom we have commitments? And I am not too happy —it is a small contract—about the twelve helicopters which the Egyptians have ordered from Westlands down in the West Country, where the pilots even today, as I understand it, are being trained to fly. It is the impression that we are siding with the Arab countries that is all wrong. The effect of the embargo, in my view, has made Britain appear to be discriminating against Israel. We shall never live it down with the Israelis or with the millions of Jews in the United States.
I doubt whether either side will be able to claim an early victory. This war will go on far longer than most people realise, and before Israel runs out of equipment she will probably run out of trained technicians—air pilots and so on. That is the danger. Israel can afford her losses far less than Egypt. Egypt can put in another 50,000 troops and not notice it. I think the Secretary of State's policy a few days ago of trying to mediate was the right one, but I question whether it is the right policy to-day. I noticed in his Statement in the other place on Tuesday the Secretary of State said that he might be prepared to review it. I personally hope that he will. I have a great respect for the Secretary of 427 State and for his noble friend who is to answer the debate to-day, and I ask him to reconsider this whole matter, because otherwise it is something that we shall regret in the years to come.
I very much doubt whether Israel and the Arab countries are even capable of finding their own peace. I want to say again that Britain should bring all the pressure she can on the United States and Soviet Russia to get together. There may be a role for us here; I do not know: I should like to think that there could be. But what if in the meanwhile Israel is desperate. What secret weapons has Israel? They may have a small atomic weapon; we do not know. But she might have, because there are clever men there and technicians who have been working in the country for many years. We have to stop the war by every means we can.
Finally, my Lords, so far as North Sea oil is concerned, I think the Daily Express hit the nail on the head to-day in its leading article, which said that this ought to be treated as a wartime operation. Congress in America have been arguing the toss for two years as to whether the pipilinc from Alaska should or should not be laid down. They could have had oil to-day frond Alaska if they had got busy. I am sure that this country can accelerate the oil from the North Sea if we go about it in the right way and treat it as a war-time operation. Fuel is the lifeline for our trade and our people. I should like to have an assurance on this. I wish the Government well in their endeavours—it is not easy for them—but I ask them to bring all the pressure they can on the United States and Soviet Russia.
§ 5.44 p.m.
§ LORD SEGAL
My Lords, I shall endeavour, so far as possible, to keep within the words of the Motion. First of all, I want to apologise to the House and to the noble Baroness, Lady Tweedsmuir, if I am prevented from staying to the end of the debate due to a commitment which, unfortunately, I am unable to waive at this stage. I should like to endorse completely all the words that we have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Harvey of Prestbury, and would perhaps go even further. In my view, this is a stupid and totally unnecessary 428 war. If the fighting is allowed to go on, whichever side wins it can end only in utter disaster for both.
Egypt did not enter this war mainly to regain her lost territory. She has no need of the Sinai Desert. She already has enough desert of her own. She has no need of the Sinai oilfields. She has plenty of oil in the Western Desert, and if she had only had the wisdom and statesmanship to make a peace with Israel long ago, American capital could have flowed into these oilfields and made her people far more prosperous than ever they could hope to become with a regained Sinai Desert. No: she has gone into this war because she was smarting, naturally enough, under her defeat in 1967, and she had to restore her national pride and regain her self-respect and the respect of the world. This I think she has already achieved. She now holds both banks of the Suez Canal, and has, moreover, demonstrated her fighting qualities. So now her honour should be satisfied. If she seeks the destruction of Israel she is very likely to fail, and at a terrible cost to herself. So why need the war go on? Does Egypt want more of the Sinai Desert back? If so she can then have it today—any day—if only she can be persuaded to go to the negotiating table. Or else what? The war will go on, more precious blood will be spilt and more innocent Egyptian and Israeli lives will have to be sacrificed.
My Lords, why is Britain so impotent amid all this carnage? Do we have to remain just lookers-on, watching two fine nations destroy themselves? Where has all our moral leadership gone today? Are we just to wait, as the noble Baroness. Lady Tweedsmuir, suggested in this House last Monday, until we can ask our Allies, or anyone else who will listen to us, to come together? And if we ask and no-one listens to us, what then? Are we just to go on waiting in the hope that someone may one day come and listen to us? What a pitiful role for Britain to assume in the 'seventies. Do we just continue to sit on on a barbed wire fence in the hope that something may happen? Something certainly will happen. We shall be increasingly uncomfortable as time goes on. We cannot maintain our humiliating posture for very long. Already we are feeling the pinch of Arab blackmail over 429 oil. How much longer do we propose to submit to further blackmail? For sitting on the fence cannot help us.
What I am desperately anxious about, my Lords, is to see Britain regain her moral leadership even at this late hour. How can this best be done? I shall try to tell the noble Baroness. First, I should like Britain to-day to tell all the combatants that this round must be the final round, and that Britain intends to use all her power and all her moral authority to insist that this will be the final round; that we shall brook no more war in the Middle East. Whatever the outcome of this fighting this war must be the last round that Britain will allow. The time to say this is now, when a virtual stalemate has developed, and before one side has been able to crush the other.
I would ask the noble Baroness why she has not done this already. It will go further than anything else she can do—certainly much further than her unjust arms embargo—to assert Britain's moral leadership in the world. That is our first step. The second step is to insist that the cease-fire, when it comes, must be followed by a real peace, not merely an armed truce. We must insist on the breakdown of enmities and the establishment of free, civilised. cultural and commercial relationships between both sides. We must insist on an open door, not an impenetrable barrier of peace-keeping States to push Israel and her neighbours still further apart. The Arab peoples, not their leaders, are basically friendly and peace-loving. We must seek to draw all the peoples of the Middle East together, not to keep them further apart. That is the second way in which we can exert our moral leadership.
Thirdly, let us use all our influence on both sides to come together and talk together now. Israel, I imagine, is willing to do this. She has already lost the East bank of the Suez Canal to her strongest adversary, and the gain of a little Golan territory is no compensation for this. Since both sides have already proclaimed their faith in Resolution 242, for heaven's sake let us not insist on Israel's withdrawal as a pre-condition for negotiation. I was glad to see that this point was strongly brought out by the noble Lord, Lord Byers, in his excellent speech. It would be utterly unreasonable for us to 430 insist on this prior to a package deal and would needlessly prolong the war.
Israel is naturally only too suspicious of a confidence trick when there is so much at stake—even her very survival as a nation. So let us get her to guarantee her withdrawal out of Sinai and out of the newly-occupied Golan, not as a preliminary step but rather as the later step of a package deal, once the two sides have begun talking together, not as victor and vanquished but as honourable equals around a negotiating table. I feel sure that Israel could be pressed to accept this, and in my opinion it would afford a honourable cease-fire to both sides. And we must use all our moral authority as a true friend of Egypt to persuade her to accept these conditions now that her honour has been vindicated. The time to act is now, before Egypt attempts any further to weaken Israel and runs the certain risk of only still further weakening herself, even if she emerges as the victor, which may still be a matter of doubt. If we still have any capacity for moral leadership left I can only emphasise that the time to exert it is now, this very day, in this very debate.
There is one final point on which we must speak out clearly this evening. Just because this war is being financed largely out of Arab oil revenues to which Britain has made a significant contribution, so we must make it quite clear that our Treasury will place no obstacles in the way of voluntary funds being sent out to Israel for the succour of their wounded and their bereaved families in this cruel, senseless, preventable war. I would ask the noble Baroness to assert this quite clearly and beyond any doubt when she comes to reply this evening. Otherwise Britain will stand pilloried before world opinion and lose all the prestige of that moral leadership on which we have always prided ourselves in the past and which we can still assert to-day if we are strong enough to make our influence felt.
So I conclude, as I began, by saying that we can still, at this late hour, exercise our moral leadership in this terrible war by taking four clear steps: First, to insist beyond any doubt that this must be the last round of any war in the Middle East; secondly, to ensure that when a cease-fire comes it shall lead not to an armed truce but to a real peace in every sense of the word; thirdly, to take our 431 stand—as we have already done, I think, but not emphatically enough and not clearly enough—by Resolution 242, but with the proviso that withdrawal by Israel must not be a pre-condition of negotiations but the later stage of a package deal to ensure that Israel shall not fall victim to a confidence trick which might be perpetrated by the Arabs; and fourthly, to allow Israel to receive any funds contributed to her aid to succour the bereaved and the wounded, just as the oil revenues obtained from Britain by the Arab States have contributed to their war effort.
The noble Baroness has toiled incessantly for peace all her public life, certainly in Iceland and even in Scotland. There is a wonderful opportunity this evening to bring peace nearer to the Middle East. I can only pray that she will not let this opportunity slip. It is one that may never recur before humanity makes yet another hideous leap backwards into the Dark Ages.
§ 5.57 p.m.
§ LORD GORE-BOOTH
My Lords, I should like to begin my speech with an apology to those who opened the debate that, as I explained to one of the noble Lords concerned, I was involved this afternoon in an appointment made three months ago which there was no possible avoiding. I would also, if I may, like to preface my remarks with a very sincere compliment to the noble Baroness who will be winding-up this debate for the skilful and conciliatory way in which she is handling an occasion which, whatever Government was in power and whatever the policy, would still be difficult.
I intervene in this debate for two reasons: the first is a purely personal one in that in my wanderings round the world I have made so many good friends from both Arab States and from Israel that it goes very much to my heart when these terrible things happen. I remember so well when I gave a lecture on foreign policy at one time in Delhi, the very intelligent Indian chairman at the end said, "You have spoken a great deal about a conciliatory policy towards all countries, but what do you do when your friends fall out with each other?" This is what we see now. Perhaps my more down-to-earth reason for trespassing on 432 your Lordships' time is that I was very close to events under the Foreign Secretaryship of the noble Lord, Lord George-Brown, in 1967 when the last conflict occurred, and perhaps if I allude to one OT two aspects of that war it may help to dissipate certain illusions which go round and round in the air and on paper at the moment, and that may be of some service.
We have to remember that in May, 1967, in diplomatic terms, the State of Israel was "framed"; that is to say, that the action taken then by the then President of Egypt to insist on the withdrawal of the United Nations Emergency Force left Israel, in the atmosphere of those days, apparently without the proper ability to defend itself. Of course, things did not work out in that way; but I can assure your Lordships that when that particular event happened there was an immense apprehension as to what its consequences would be, and also an immense disappointment that the United Nations felt unable to do anything about it. On this point the noble Lord, Lord George-Brown, has written very strongly, and while I do not necessarily share every word he uses I must share his criticism of that event.
When the Israelis had surprised the world by the result of the 1967 war, the sequel is important to remember. The immediate sequel was that the Soviet Government hurried to the United Nations General Assembly and sought to push through a totally pro-Arab and anti-Israel Motion. This in fact failed, but I mention it because there has been a great deal of protestation that the Powers did not get together at that moment and begin to put things in order. There has been also protestation that we all just sat around and did nothing for several months. I want to emphasise the nonsense of this kind of thing, because there is an inclination by people, from the very best of motives and with the most peaceful of intentions, to imagine that when you have a disaster like this you can come up at once with a solution and with conciliation, and they ask: "What are we all hanging around for?" But international life is not like that, and when you have the bitterness and the harm such as that caused by the Soviet Motion, you find that for some time you cannot do anything at all. This is not through 433 want of good will on our part or want of skill, and not through partisanship—and here perhaps, since my former Department has been mentioned in this connection, I might assure your Lordships that when I had the authority in this matter I regarded it as my duty not to get into a position of bias, and I am sure that my successor holds the same view.
The result of the situation was that for some months there was no possibility of progress, but in September in New York the noble Lord, Lord Caradon, in contact with the noble Lord, Lord George-Brown, saw a glimmer of light on the possibility of reaching some kind of agreed Motion in the Security Council on which we could proceed further. But even then, when there is this background of bitterness and controversy and when you are trying to get the representatives of fifteen States to be unanimous in accepting a basis for a solution, you are not going to do that in a reasonable discussion lasting one afternoon. The fact that we achieved it between us in slightly less than two months, I can assure your Lordships, was really something of a miracle. But it was done, and it was done by hard work and good instinct. Perhaps I might add that it will be a source of some gratification to members of your Lordships' House to recall that the noble Lord, Lord George-Brown, and the noble Lord, Lord Caradon, both played such a large part in this one constructive thing which has been done since 1967.
I will not labour the subsequent history, but there is one feature of the next period which I am bound, somewhat reluctantly, to emphasise. Of course it was the hope that after Resolution 242 had been adopted there could be some form of reconciling the Israeli and Arab points of view, but there was a certain fatality about this situation in which our Israeli friends insisted that there must be a particular kind of negotiation—direct negotiation—which at that stage, in their humiliation and fury, the Arab States were not prepared to entertain. It seems strange that things should have been halted on what is basically a point of procedure, though of course it was symbolic of the feelings on both sides. But this attitude had the very negative effect that the concessions which Israel might 434 have obtained by a quick and generous sequel to their outstanding victory were not obtained then, and will, I fear, be more difficult to obtain now. That is why the next round, and the finding of the solution we all hope for will be very difficult indeed.
I think there is one other point to be underlined about that—because again I have been astounded to hear, in the somewhat emotional atmosphere in the media, somebody who is reckoned to be an expert on the Middle East talking about "Israel's withdrawal from the territories occupied in 1967." I think it is not out of place to remind your Lordships that the Resolution itself says only "from territories". That was put in specially in that form to allow at least some concession to Israel—a small one, if important—in respect of what had been occupied at that time. It is as well to remember that Resolution 242 does have that amount of leeway, though it is not very great; and Resolution 242 will have to be, I am sure, the basis of a future solution.
Now may I turn away from the past and concentrate on the present and the future. On the subject of energy I have been, frankly, depressed by the kind of despondent rut into which the media of all kinds have got about the effect on our energy position of the present crisis. I think it was Field Marshall Wavell who once wrote to the effect that: "If you feel in a battle that you are in a very difficult position, just think for a moment what a terrible time the fellow on the other side is having". If you think for a moment from the point of view of the producers of the oil, it then occurs to you that oil is not much good unless you get money for it, and if you choose not to sell it you do not get money for it. There will be those among the producers who will quite soon realise that any excessive use of the apparent weapon of oil is, in the long run, not going to suit them particularly well. This is particularly true, I would submit vis-à-vis this country. We have other resources of energy. The noble Lord, Lord Harvey of Prestbury, referred to North Sea oil. One should also refer to coal and to nuclear energy. Of course I realise you cannot drive your automobile on nuclear energy or coal, and if we make considerable recourse to other forms of energy in order to carry on, we 435 shall have to change our style of life somewhat, and there is no reason why we should be frightened of that. But think that a recovery of morale on this subject does depend a little on the line that the Government are prepared to take, but I know that many people are worried that there has not been the possibility so far of a detailed and encouraging statement on future nuclear poky. I do hope that the noble Baroness will be able to give us a little encouragement on this—not so much on immediate precautions, because the British are very good at that sort of thing, but in regard to a more forward look at energy, just in case these things should go wrong.
Finally, if I may, I should like to turn to possible action in the immediate future, both as to stopping the war and as to what should be done afterwards—particularly the latter. I think, again, as the noble Lord, Lord Harvey of Prestbury, pointed out, that we must not exaggerate our own influence in these matters. We were able to be remarkably effective in 1967 because we happened to be the permanent member of the Security Council in the middle of the argument, and we may still have the advantage of that position. But I think we must never overrate our effect, particularly on the policies of the United States, and also those of the Soviet Union, though I have no doubt that the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary will be doing his best even at this stage. I think there are many ways in which, if we could get a cease-fire, we could then handle the matter. I believe that Sir Alec has suggested a conference as one way, and the conference might, again, go over to mediation.
I should like to make one suggestion on that matter. The United Nations have tried one kind of mediation and Dr. Gunnar Jarring did as much as anybody could in that particular style, which was to move around trying to see where there might be a little give in the attitude of one side or the other. This meant that the mediation kept on while ceasing to mediate. I hope that the Government might consider an alternative way of doing this, which might be for the United Nations to appoint somebody disinterested, and request that person to examine past history, to talk to anybody and everybody, including all the countries 436 concerned, and then to put forward a possible solution and retire from the job. The effect might well be that everybody would say that the solution was wrong; but it would be a document totally disinterested because its author would have detached himself from the operation in front of the world. The Secretary General of the United Nations would at least be bound to table it and to recommend nations to discuss it. I do not suggest that the Secretary General should undertake this task because he is at least under the influence of votes in the United Nations and these, as we all know in this matter and others, are singularly one-sided.
Now, the result of all this—what might happen in the peace settlement? I found it encouraging in the Statement which the noble Baroness repeated for us on Tuesday to note a reference to the setting up of an international force to police the cease fire and to guarantee what came after. I would ask the noble Baroness to take that a little further on two matters: would I be right in interpreting the Government as meaning that there would be an international force there under conditions in International Law which would enable it and indeed compel it to stay there? The great weakness of the previous position was that one Government could tell it to go away. Another weakness was that it was not on the Israeli side. In the future it would have to be on both sides of the line and it would have to be mighty difficult to get it ordered away.
The other point which may be more difficult to expand on is whether the word "guarantees" includes national guarantees for whatever is settled. You can interpret the statement either way on this point. I think this would be necessary, though one is aware again that guarantees have the difficulty that the guarantor is somewhat at the mercy of the people on whose behalf the guarantee has been given. None the less, it probably will be necessary in the future to have the settlement guaranteed by the international community of all political complexions.
My Lords, I apologise for having detained your Lordships so long with material of some detail but I think it is also of some relevance. I would make one general observation to conclude: When I hear my Arab and Israeli friends 437 talking I remain deeply worried by the blank in understanding. There is a great difficulty for the Arabs in understanding the unique, basic, deep-rooted meaning of Jerusalem to the Jewish race as a whole. It is something difficult to comprehend. Also, our friends from Israel sometimes find it difficult to understand a passionate devotion to land, even if it is land which produces nothing which the people of the Arab race have as part of their inner soul. That is the degree of the obstinacy of this problem, and one can only express the hope, as so many of your Lordships have expressed it, that with the efforts of our own Government and many others, at last we can arrive at a situation in which the Holy Land is no longer an Armageddon.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ LORD RITCHIE-CALDER
My Lords, I am very glad that I am following the noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth, who has given us a very useful statement on the background of what we are discussing and has saved a lot of trouble for those of us who were going to have difficulty regarding Resolution 242. I am grateful to him for explaining—and this should have been made clear long ago—that in the negotiation of Resolution 242 the terms were not a question of "the territories", but of "territories". I was unofficially at the United Nations at the time when the discussion was going on, and it was obvious that no agreement would have been secured if it had meant that the Israelis would have had to surrender areas which they regard and which I myself emphatically regard as essential for their own protection: the Golan Heights and Northern Sinai. As has been pointed out already, if they had not had these at this time Israel would probably have been overrun.
The questions we are discussing are terribly difficult—nobody has to repeat that in this House. As the noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth, has explained, the whole of the international relations are complex and are far deeper than anything—except, if I may say so, our own problems in Northern Ireland. It is so complicated because of the nature of the misunderstandings: I profoundly regard them as misunderstandings. It is a depth of conviction arising from misunderstandings, because if the people in the Middle East had looked at their own 438 historical past, their own religious past and everything else, they might have seen how in contemporary society Israel could provide them with the answer to their age-old problems. If I confess that I am very much pro-Israeli, it is because since the foundation of the State of Israel I have, as I have on the other side of the border as well, been heavily involved in the question of technical development. And nowhere else in the world can you see in a more dramatic form what people can do when they have the will and knowledge to do it, and when they are not trying to exploit somebody else. They have developed whatever they had in their territory.
I repeat what somebody else said this afternoon: that in fact the Arabs might have done this in their territories if they had taken advantage of the example that Israel has set. That has been my case ever since I went to Israel for the United Nations in the early days. I discovered in Israel, if I may say so without recrimination, something which has now become a tenet with me: I believe in people who plant trees as against people who cut them down. The history of the desert in the Middle East is that it is very largely man made: people cut the trees down. In Israel they are replanting trees. To me this is important.
I cannot be truly impersonal or a true professor of international relations in this particular matter because at this moment my own intimate friends are in battle. Only a few months ago I was in the University of the Negev, which is a very remarkable institution created in the desert, in a city of now 80,000 people. When I first went there I went in a jeep across the desert trail to a camel market town. This has been created by the efforts of the people who in every sense have been making their own existence. I was at Rehovot when they were opening a new institute at the Weismann Institute, a very impressive building, and somebody had the impertinence to ask what everybody felt like asking of one of the professors: "How far is the nearest bomber base from here?" The answer was, "Ten minutes; but the nearest institute of this kind is 2,000 miles away." At the same time somebody said, "You are building for the future", and the answer was, "This is our future. There is nothing beyond this. If we lose the State of Israel we have lost everything." 439 Now that is what we are facing to-day in circumstances which I find quite intolerable. I must say, as a pacifist, a person who would never want to be engaged with the merchants of death or the sale of arms by Governments (I disapproved violently when we got into the racket ourselves) that to-day I feel that the uttermost betrayal is the betrayal of my friends in the desert, the professors, the students who are now exposed to enemy attack with no means of returning fire. Only to-day I had a telegram from a professor who is now in the battle line saying, "For goodness sake! make it clear to the British Government that what you are doing to us is something which is inhuman". Therefore I ask the noble Baroness and the Government to think very hard—I believe everyone has said it and I hope this lesson has been driven home—about an embargo which is certainly not even-handed but in fact means that we have betrayed. I do not want to get out of even the commercial relationship: if you give people arms and do not give them to ammunition, you have made them more vulnerable than they were originally, and made them dependent on something which is useless.
As to where we go from here, the answer is, as the noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth, said, on a long haul. The one thing we must get now is a peace, and, I would suggest, a peace with a great deal of urgency. I have got a sense that people are standing back and saying, "Let them bash it out and they will find their own answer". The answer is not like that at all. It is not only the involvement of the Sam missiles, not only the growing build-up of the big super-Powers, the possibility of intervention; not only the possibility, as has been stressed, that the cities of Israel will be directly attacked. We are also perilously on the brink of a nuclear war—perilously, I have no inside information, I have no spies, but on my calculation Israel has at least a capacity for two atomic bombs, and I do not believe that they would be lacking in the means of delivery. If this state of affairs deteriorates, as a drawn-out war will do, we shall find, as we did in the Second World War, people getting to extremities of inhumanity which will involve the whole world in a nuclear war.
§ 6.23 p.m.
§ BARONESS ELLIOT OF HARWOOD
My Lords, we have had a most remarkable debate. I listened to all the speeches and there is no assembly that I can think of which can have had so many people talking about a subject with such wide experience, such great knowledge and such deep feelings as we have had this afternoon. I thought the speech of Lord Shinwell was one of the most moving that I have ever heard him make—in fact, one of the most moving that I ever have heard. I thought the speech of Lord Gore-Booth was one of the most interesting we could have in a debate of this kind, since he was absolutely at the centre of the last flare-up of the war between the Arabs and the Jews.
This is indeed a most terrible moment, and I share with everyone the anxiety and the agony that we feel about all these young people, brilliant people, who are being killed to-day in this year 1973, when most of us here have lived through two wars, perhaps three wars. Surely it would have been possible not to start another war in 1973. However it is there and it has started; and what can we do to help and to prevent its going any further? There is a point I find very difficult to understand in the Government policy, and that is this matter of the embargo on sending out the spares and the equipment to make it possible for the Israeli forces to use the tanks which they have bought from us. It is obvious that in this war tanks are one of the most important weapons which are being used by both sides. There are two ways you can knock out or destroy tanks: you can either shoot them down or bomb them down, in which case they are immobilised and of no use, or you can stop them from getting the spare parts that are going to make them mobile and useful. We are obviously not prepared to indulge in anything in the nature of shooting or bombing, but the effect of our policy in preventing the Israelis from having the spare parts, which were promised to them and sold to them before the war began, is doing exactly the same thing. It is immobilising the tanks in exactly the same partisan, if I may use the word—or one-sided, if you like—way as if we were shooting at them.
Now if we want to remain neutral—and there is everything to be said for not 441 being completely involved in this affair, although I myself find it very difficult to think of neutrality when so much in the civilised world is at stake—surely the action we have taken, which so obviously completely helps the Arab side (since their tanks are not being immobilised; their tanks and their equipment are all pouring in from Russia; there is nothing immobilised about that) while that action has been taken, I dare say, in good faith —I am not suggesting for a moment that we all do not admire the Foreign Secretary and also Lady Tweedsmuir; nobody has my greater admiration—is embarking on a policy which is partisan to the extreme, since the effect is identical. If, by something you can do yourself, even though it is not firing a gun or using a bomb, you stop the weapons from being used you are doing exactly the same thing as if you were shooting them down. I hope that the words of the Foreign Secretary do mean something and that this is a matter that can be reconsidered and will be reconsidered as fast as possible, because in my opinion, it is a most terrible thing.
The other matter that has been spoken about by Lord Harvey of Prestbury and Lord Gridley, and I think by Lord Ballantrae—they all said the same thing —is this idea that we can be blackmailed by the Arabs in connection with oil. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth, that Arab countries want to sell their oil; they want to buy materials; they want to buy manufactured goods. Their standard of living depends on their being able to exchange what they have and what the world wants for what they have not got and do want. Therefore there is no reason on earth why they should be blackmailed by the oil-producing Arab States. I think that is wrong; I think that is something we should not do, and I agree with Lord Grindley, who said he would rather go without the comforts of a great deal of heating, et cetera, rather than yield to that kind of blackmail. I think that would be a disaster, and I hope that in no circumstances shall we indicate to the Arabs that we are prepared to do this.
I think somebody asked how it was that we all feel so strongly about the part that Russia has played in this matter. I have been a fortunate visitor to Israel 442 many times. I have a great many friends there. I have also been to the Arab countries; I have friends there. Whenever there was any opportunity, whenever there was any chance, of Arabs and Israelis working together—as they do in Israel, because I have seen it—one saw what could be done. I have seen men and women working together in a completely non-military sense—in local government, social services, child welfare, "what-have-you". I have seen all that going on.
I have seen the way the Israelis have helped the Arabs in Israel. We all know what they have done for the thousands of refugees who are still being persecuted in other countries. They can work together. But whenever they try to work together, along comes someone stirring up some kind of trouble. A bomb is thrown; something is blown up. What happens? The mass media immediately are on to it. The media do not tell us about the quiet, good, excellent things that are being done in Israel, with Arabs and Israelis working together. Not a bit of it. One has to go and see it. One has to go and see how the Arabs have been taught the agricultural methods of the Israelis. I have seen it myself. On one occasion I even had a meal in an Arab farm. I was taken there by an Israeli agriculturist to see how they taught them—I think this farm was growing fruit. I was there and was given a meal in an Arab house, with the Israeli advisers there. They were working together. But was that put out on the mass media? Did anybody see that? Was anybody told about that? Not a bit of it. But the next day, or the day after, somebody dropped a bomb. Headlines everywhere. I remember our Ambassador, Sir Michael Haddow, telling me that always he could get publicity on anything bad; he could never get publicity on anything good. That is one of the tragedies.
As I walked into your Lordships' House this afternoon I received a telegram from someone who is a great friend of Britain, whose husband was the Israeli Ambassador in Washington and was in the United Nations when I was there—I was there for three years. I knew them very well. The wife, Zena Harman, became a member of the Knesset. No two people did more for Britain in the 443 three years that I was a delegate to the United Nations than did that Israeli delegation. In the telegram I received as I walked into this Chamber this afternoon she says:Massive non-stop Soviet supplies to enemy aiming to destroy us. Friends here angered, saddened, confused. unable to comprehend policy of embargo including even refusal permission refuel planes bringing vital equipment. Knowing we are fighting for our very lives, feel we have right to expect fair evaluation, balanced forces and equitable treatment. Appeal understanding and help those able to influence reversal of decision.We in this House may not be very influential in another place, but we are influential in Parliament. We have in this House, as we have heard this afternoon, people who are enormously knowledgeable about this subject, who have studied it all their lives, and who are our friends. Over there in Jerusalem and in Israel we have people who are our great friends for whom this, as they see it, let-down is tragic. I know they will feel that this is something they cannot bear to contemplate since they banked, and I think banked fairly, on our helping them through many troubles, as they have done for us. I pray and hope, my Lords, that the Government will seriously consider this matter. The situation is quite different from what it was a fortnight or even a week ago. It is something on which we are being misjudged. In my opinion, we are doing something which is not fair. And I pray that after the Government have heard the views of so many of us, whose only desire is that the war should end and that there should be peace, they will reconsider their policy.
§ 6.35 p.m.
§ LORD BERNSTEIN
My Lords, I am the 13th speaker to-day and I think the carpet has been pulled from under my feet by most of the Members of your Lordships' House who have spoken so far. The noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, made a very moving speech. She has made some points I was going to make and she has made them better than I could have done. I am biased, of course. I was in Israel about five weeks ago and I saw a group of young people working together in a small orchestra in a small hall, and they included some Arab children. Their ages were 17 to 21 and they were conducted by Casals, age 444 96—a very moving occasion. Arabs and Israelis are working together. I do not know enough Arabs in Israel to know whether they feel fully secure in working with the Israelis, but they appear happy together in the universities and museums and elsewhere.
I have only two points to make because it seems everything else has been said. We have had a remarkable and emotional speech from my noble friend Lord Janner and I agree with practically everything he said. As to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth, I am not sure. I am sure he was speaking honestly about everything that happened. But, unfortunately for anybody in the Foreign Office, there appear constant biographies, autobiographies and diaries and sometimes when I refer to Hansards about the appeasement days it would seem that somebody was not giving us quite the facts. One day, what is happening in the Foreign Office to-day will be published by somebody or by a number of people and then we shall know what is really being said.
The noble Baroness who unfortunately has to answer for Her Majesty's Government to-day, said on Tuesday, October 16, that the United States were licensed to make ammunition for Israel for Centurion tanks. Is the noble Baroness suggesting, under the "even-handed" policy, that she does not mind the Americans making ammunition for tanks we have sold them? A question of principle? A question of ethics comes in. They are Centurion tanks for which we accepted payment. If the shells were not going to be available, what was the point of selling the tanks—unless one was trying to take money by false pretences? Does the noble Baroness consider that one order of shells which was ready for despatch by ship from an English port (I know the port) two weeks before the Egyptian and Syrian attack should be held up under the "even-handed" scheme? Incidentally, the reason why they were held up was that delivery of another order was expected, and for economy they thought they could get the two shipments on one ship. Unfortunately, the second shipment arrived too late and the Government stopped the first from going to Israel. They must know at the Foreign Office that this is further 445 evidence that the Israelis did not expect the aggression taken by Egypt on October 6.
When the noble Baroness says that ammunition could be made under licence by the United States, has she inquired whether the United States' manufacturers are tooled up to make these 105 mm shells, or whether they are being used in the United States for any of their armaments? Does the noble Baroness realise that even if the shells were now available in the United States, it takes longer to get them from a U.S.A. port to Israel than it does from Liverpool or Tilbury to Israel? The noble Baroness may not have a great nautical knowledge, but she has enough now, with her experience in Iceland, to know that it must take longer, and that one cannot transport the weight of these shells in any other way than by ship. From whichever way we look at this, it cannot be considered to be evenhanded.
The noble Lord, Lord Byers—and I am sorry he is not here now—raised the question of what is "even-handed". Two hands held out equally? If somebody has been "mugged" do you offer a hand to the aggressor and also a hand to the victim? What is "even-handed"? It rather reminds me of a story told to me by the great cartoonist, Vicki, who, by gosh ! is needed now to report in caricature this political situation. Vicki said he was stopped in Budapest by a man who said, "Can you find me a one-armed lawyer?" Vicki said, "A one-armed lawyer? I can find you a commercial lawyer, a divorce lawyer, a company lawyer, etc., but why a one-armed lawyer?" He was told, "I have been involved in litigation for a long time and every lawyer says, On the one hand … and on the other hand'." I think it is the same with "evenhanded": one cannot be even-handed even in this matter.
The noble Lord, Lord Barnby, felt that to withhold supplies ordered before the aggression started is commercially dishonest, and is not in accordance with normal practice in this country. Some countries are threatening to cut off our oil supplies, which seems to be a new kind of moral hijacking. Can we trace the present threats to the early days of hijacking and the fact that we did little, if anything, about it?
446 When the noble Lord, Lord Janner, mentioned Sir Winston Churchill my thoughts went back to what he would have done to-day. He was kept out of the Conservative Party for more years than the Conservative Party now wish to remember, but he stood up publicly for the State of Israel as he spoke for this country when the appeasers were in power, and in the same way I think he would have spoken to-day for Israel and against the ban on arms.
The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs in his Statement said he had taken a "posture". I really do not know what he means, and again I think only Vicki or Low could really draw this political position for us. Surely he knows that Russia is really fighting Israel? For years Russia has been carefully training and, acting as a vendor, supplying the armaments for those two countries. On the Independent Television News on Tuesday, these were the words spoken with a piece of film they showed: Newscaster Mr. Nicholson was reading them:Just a few miles this side of Saaffaa, Israeli soldiers arrived at a deserted hut just off the main road After a brief inspection, they shot open the doors expecting to End, no doubt, Syrian soldiers but they found instead the headquarters of the Russian advisers who had been directing the war operation for the Syrian Army in this area.There were posters of Lenin, Moscow newspapers; there were propaganda leaflets and posters. There was also a long and very carefully drawn up list of the week's activities.They showed a film of that scene. The area referred to war in the old Syrian part of the Golan Heights.
When the Egyptians and Syrians started the aggression of October 6 I thought of the evening when we learned of the German aggression against Russia. Questions were asked to-day about the size of the Israeli Army and the Egyptian and Syrian, Iraqi and Jordanian forces. I do not know whether I have got the figures right but I obtained them from a source which I consider to be a reliable source. The noble Baroness should know the facts, although not necessarily this fact, that I think it will be found that the number of tanks used by the Germans against Russia was less than the number of tanks used by the Egyptians and Syrians against Israel. That is the type of war that is being fought. What are 447 the figures? The total figure I have for Egyptian, Syrian, Iraq and Jordan but as your Lordships will know, Iraq and Jordan have very few tanks—is 5,500; Israel, somewhere between 1,500 and 1,600, of which 1,000 are Centurion tanks which we have sold to them but for which we are now refusing to give them spares or armaments. They were sold to them without any restriction on their use. It was not said that if they were attacked we would not supply them with shells or spare parts. I think it was only said that they should not be used for aggressive purposes. Now the Russians are still fighting Israel. We have heard to-day of the Sams—missiles—the 3, the 4 and the 6. We know that most Israeli planes which have fallen have been as a result of those missiles, and not through action by other aircraft piloted by Syrians or the Egyptians. What we do not know and what has not been mentioned in this country, to my great surprise, is that the T.62 tank, more powerful than the Centurion and never seen outside the Soviet Union, is now in Syria. When it will come into play I do not know, but perhaps the noble Baroness can find out.
I know that a debate is being held in another place. I hope that there, where they have the power (which we have not got) they will try to persuade the Government that they have a certain moral and contractual obligation to behave decently.
§ 6.47 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF ONSLOW
My Lords, we should be debating this war with a certain amount of diffidence, if not shame, for our forefathers sowed its seeds in the years 1915 to 1918. British policy in those times was a muddle, either cynical or well-meaning according to taste. The Sykes Picot Agreement, the Foreign Office pledges to Emir Feisal, the India Office support for Ibn Saud and the ill-drafted Balfour Declaration which, as your Lordships are fully aware, was only opposed by one man in the Cabinet, the Jewish Secretary of State for India. Once these pledges were given the conflict between Jew and Arab began, for the first time for 1,300 years. When Jewish immigration became a flood because of the Hitlerian barbarism the section of the Balfour Declaration which, as the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, said, was 448 supposed to guarantee the rights of the existing inhabitants, went out of the window.
It could be argued that the State of Israel was the child of the guilty conscience of Europe and America and the cynical opportunism of the Soviet Union, one of the first States to recognise Israel. This guilt may not be admitted but it is justified. The Roman Church only lifted the charge of deicide from the Jews in 1967. Newly Christianised Spain persecuted the Jews after they had lived in peace for 700 years under Moslem rule. Edward I of England first of all extracted their money and then pulled out their teeth and then banished them. The Russian and Polish pogroms of the 19th century were second only to the Olympian obscenity of Hitlerian Germany.
The Arabs, on the other hand, never persecuted them, never pogrommed them. They were never anti-Semitic—how could they be? On the contrary they allowed the request of the Jewish leaders for special areas in which to live and special privileges so that they could practise their religious laws in peace and private. Therefore, when the Jewish immigrants to Palestine started to evict Arab peasants from their lands a newer and more burning sense of injustice was added to the existing Jewish memories of persecution over the last 2,000 years. It is perhaps unpleasant to remind ourselves of our own guilt, but I think it is essential if we are to understand the background and if we can, even in a small way, contribute to a permanent lasting and willing peace in the Levant and the Middle East. This is what we should be trying to do: not arguing about some ammunition and spare parts for 40 per cent. of Israel's tanks and, as nobody yet has pointed out, of 100 per cent. of Jordan's tanks.
After all, nine-tenths of the cause of the bloodshed in this area at present is the fact that the two combatants are vastly over-armed. The Russians, who were, incidentally, much less liked in Egypt than we were, have behaved with callous indifference to the suffering by topping-up and even increasing armaments in Egypt and Syria. The United States, after Watergate, has not been able to give the proper lead it should have and is behaving nearly as badly. Luckily, it 449 appears from this morning's Press that the two super-Powers are trying to get together, but after 12 days of blowing the embers of war. Europe, as yet not united, has to watch impotently as the two great fleets manoeuvre in her dew-pond, the Mediterranean, while the client States from other Continents risk dragging us all towards Armageddon. At least Her Majesty's Government have said no more arms, no more spares, and no more ammunition. It may not be a pretty sight, and may be a breach of contract, but it is at least an example which others could well follow. It is even-handed. As the noble Baroness said, we sell more arms to the Arab countries than we do to the Israelis.
My Lords, the achievements of Israel, as the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder, has rightly said, physically and militarily in the last 25 years have been a wonder for the world to see, achievements of which any nation should be justly proud. Israel's political actions since the Six Day War are actions of which any nation should be ashamed. She had in 1967, as the noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth, has just said, an opportunity to make a really generous peace. She did not even attempt it except on terms which she knew perfectly well that even the defeated Egyptians could not stomach. She has bombed refugee camps; she has intercepted civil air liners; she has raided Beirut airport; she has shot down a civilian airliner. She has pushed settlements on to the East bank of Jordan into Gaza and into Sinai. A few months ago a small occurrence took place. She wanted to make room for some of the 70,000 privileged Russians—and I use the word "privileged" advisedly. My Lords, I compare the Russian Jews, some of whom were allowed to emigrate, to some of the Crimean Tartars who were not even allowed back to their own homes in the Crimea. Some Arabs were evicted. Many appealed to the Supreme Court of Israel who found in their favour. The army, with that phrase beloved of all armies, even that of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, said they were a security risk and the court was over-ruled. A few weeks later those same Arabs were found working as landless labourers on their own land.
My Lords, I am not saying that Arab behaviour in the last six years has been perfect. Far from it. But there has been 450 no State terrorism. Syria has tried to control her Palestine population, as has Lebanon, under immense difficulties. The Sudanese are trying the Khartoum murderers and King Hussein has stamped with vigour on the Palestinian guerrilla organisations in his country. Egypt has begged the Americans only recently for help to make peace with Israel on reasonable terms and to try and improve its relationship with the United States, but to no avail. She even booted out most of the Soviet advisers. We must make sure that the Arabs have Western friends. I think I am right in saying that I am the only person so far in your Lordships' House who has tried to put an Arab gloss on these things. I admit, as do the noble Lords, Lord Ballantrae, Lord Shinwell and Lord Janner, that I am a committed person. But we must have friends for the Arabs in this country and see they are advised not only by the cynical Mujiks, which are what those Russian advisers are for the Middle East. We must impress on Israel that a negotiated tolerant peace, however arrived at, is the only alternative to another Masseda and another Diaspora which will be inevitable if the present hate and mistrustful stubbornness continue.
Money is available in the world for Jewry and in Arabia for the resettlement of the Palestine refugees. There is space in that part of the world for most people who should want to go there. Could not Israel amend the law of the return so it applied only to persecuted Jews? After all, most countries have an immigration policy. The noble Baroness, Lady Gaitskell, was even suggesting something along those lines herself. Is it not odd that the Arabs should not be worried by the prospect of the immigration into that part of the world of another 13 million people—that is, three million Russian Jews, seven million European Jews, and seven million American Jews?—my mathematics is wrong. Admittedly they will not all go there but this must be something that weighs on the heads of the Arab peoples. Perhaps Israel could even consider confederation with some of her neighbours to form a non-theocratic State to be a home for non-State Jews and Palestinians. Her Majesty's Government have put themselves into a good position, in showing favour to neither side in spite of what the people committed to the Israeli cause have said, 451 to be able to offer help in achieving a peace. And achieved it must be.
Perhaps we can now hope, as a result of this new holocaust and a regained Arab pride, that the two sides could become sickened by blood and follow the example of the great Caliph Omar the Tolerant who allowed the Christians, Jews and Muslims all to use Islam's third holiest mosque, the Dome of the Rock, for their own religious purposes. President Sadat has by implication on Tuesday recognised the State of Israel and said lie will sit down with them at the United Nations. These are both major Arab concessions. Abba Eban was being much more conciliatory this morning. Perhaps if he had been like that in 1967, this would not have happened.
My Lords, there was a letter written to The Times on Wednesday from the prospective Labour candidate for Eastleigh —a Jew who showed, if I may say so, so much Christian moderation and compassion that it gave real hope for the future. These are a few small signs of hope amid an otherwise black sea of despair. Let us pray that the attitudes of Omar the Tolerant and Mr. Elkan Pressman, The Times letter writer will prevail and not those of George Habann and Menachim. Bugin, otherwise, in the words of the Psalmist, "His eyelids will try the children of men." Those are the eyelids of the God of Christiandom, Islam and Judaism and if the children of men fail, I myself presume to have no doubt what His judgment will be.
§ 6.58 p.m.
§ LORD WILLIS
My Lords, I am most interested to follow the noble Earl Lord Onslow and will make comment later on one or two of the points he made. I would apologise to my noble friend Lord Kennet because I missed the opening sentences of his speech—not his speech, but the opening sentences. I was not sure whether in fact he indicated he was speaking for himself and not for the Party. Frankly, I think it is unfortunate that he put the Question down and spoke on it from the Front Bench because the views he expressed, some of the comments and some questions put to the noble Baroness, are not the views of this Party, and it should be made clear they were his individual views and should have been 452 expressed as such. I hope that that was the case.
I am afraid I speak in this debate as a layman. I cannot speak either with the diplomatic authority of the noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth, or with the plain evenhandedness of my noble friend Lord Kennet, but every man to his own style. The reality and the truth behind this Question and the situation we face to-day seem to me a good deal sharper than has appeared so far from some of the speeches in this House. My reaction when I read the actual text of the Question was a hollow laugh because I could not understand how anyone could put down a Question of this sort to the British Government at this time. My view is that it would be far better if the British Governent kept out and held its tongue in this situation, for up to now they have taken up a position which has earned the respect of neither side.
I agree completely with what the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, said in this respect. We have developed a kind of bland blotting paper neutrality which seems to me to be based on no other principle except expediency. It is exemplified by the embargo. In sheer terms of salesmanship this is a descent to the level of the secondhand car market. It is worse. At least when you buy a secondhand car you get what you pay for, but the Israelis have bought and paid for spares which they have not received. Look at the morality. In terms of morality it is completely indefensible; it stinks. We sell them tanks for war, we sell them weapons for war. We know what tanks are going to be used for, and then we wag a finger and say, "But if you use them you are not going to get the ammunition and the supplies to keep them going". It is like giving somebody a bicycle and saying, "You can have the bicycle but do not ride it". We have sold to both sides in peace time; we have taken their money, and now we dare to sit back and talk in pious terms about what influence we can have on peace negotiations. I agree with the noble Lord who spoke before me; I think we should think in terms of shame in this situation and creep away.
I had the great compliment paid to me as I came to this debate this afternoon of being described as a Jew. I regret at this moment very deeply that I am not; that I am a gentile. But 453 I have many friends and comrades fighting and dying out there, some on both sides, and I should like in passing to pay a tribute to a man who was not a close friend of mine but an acquaintance, Nicholas Tomalin, the marvellous journalist who died yesterday, and it is with a special bitterness that I record his death, which seemed to me totally unnecessary. I am pro-Israel. I accept the fact that the Israelis are not angels, but I think we have to face the fact, which we tend to forget, that they are fighting to exist. The Arabs are now saying: "We will accept the 1967 borders. Withdraw from the lines of the cease-fire and go back to the lines that existed before the cease-fire in 1967". But those borders were not acceptable to them in 1967. How do we know that they are going to be acceptable to them now, if we agree to peace and allow them. When I say "we" I mean the Israelis, the United Nations, the Soviet Union, because I do not think we have anything to say in the matter.
Al Fatah was not born after the 1967 war; it was born a long time before that. Terrorist attacks and threats went on against Israel for many years. For twenty years in fact the Arabs and the terrorists have turned their backs on any attempt at peace with Israel. Egypt's aims were stated very clearly by Mr. Heikal, the editor of the influential paper El Ahram He has stated that even the 1947 borders are not acceptable. He has said that the Negev should be ceded to the Arab countries in any settlement. He is a man who is extremely influential in Egyptian circles. He said that there must be a land bridge uniting Arab countries and that land bridge is the Negev desert. He is keeping very quiet now, but it is a matter of Egyptian policy that Israel is a wedge between the Arab lands that must be removed. Who can doubt that if Israel was forced back to its pre-1967 frontiers that demand would not be raised again.
I would quote something which has a bearing on something the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, said earlier. It is this:If one is attacked and defends oneself and wins, one has the right to establish a definitive political solution which will guarantee the elimination of the source of the aggression, and one has the right to maintain the situation as long as there is a danger of 454 aggression. When one has obtained by great sacrifice a degree of security one will never accept a return to former frontiers. One is under no obligation at all to restore territory one has gained as long as there exists the danger of aggression.That is not some remote doctrine of nineteenth century politics. It is a quotation from Pravda in the year 1964.
Peace must come, but it must come with secure frontiers and it can come only with secure frontiers. To me the two most moving things of this war are, first, the sight of poor blinded Egyptian soldiers staggering around in the desert, and the other the story I read yesterday of the Israeli major who picked up a stone on the Golan Heights and said, "Under this stone there is rich black earth and this could be marvellous agricultural country". To me those two things sum up the tragedy that is going on there now.
I said that I am pro-Israeli. That does not mean that I am anti-Arab. But I believe Israel has a right to exist and that any peace must give her the right to exist. I feel that we are talking of much more than an ordinary situation. I would close with a quotation which sums up my personal feelings about it:Israel is not just a nation like any other. It stands for the adventure of man par excellence. What the Israelis show the whole world by their social organisation and industrial development is the triumph of man over nature, and this is precisely the problem of this century. How does one set about creating a modern industry without raw materials of any kind? Israel has done it. How does one set about saving the countries of Africa and the Middle East or the countries of the Sumian Desert from under-development and squalor? Israel has done it. How does one set about becoming as far as possible a society of solidarity between man and man where not only does wealth confer no power but where men of strength and intelligence sacrifice themselves partly for the sake of those who have neither, those who are weak, sick, uneducated and maladjusted? Israel has not yet done it but she is on the way. One should not simply conclude from this that Israel is a model society—far from it; simply this, everything that puts Israel in peril menaces not only a nation, not only a courageous people but a part of man's hope".
§ 7.8 p.m.
§ LORD BROCKWAY
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, should have spoken at this moment, but I understand that he is ill and cannot be here. I regret that, because I am sure the House would have desired to hear what he had 455 to say, and that we all wish him recovery at the earliest moment.
If one were to judge this conflict by right and wrong on the two sides, I should be pulled in two directions. I went to Israel several years ago and I regarded it as the most progressive social nation that I have ever visited. I was particularly impressed by the quite extraordinary constructive contribution made by the trade union movement in Histadruth. No one could go there without responding to what my noble friend Lord Richie-Calder has said about their amazing conquest of the desert. I had hoped on that visit that Israel might become an influence all over the Middle East in its social construction, a construction so much in contrast with the Arab nations, where, owing to oil revenue, a few rulers became the richest men in the world, while the masses of the people were left in poverty. That situation has been somewhat changed since, and I am afraid that Israel itself has, to some extent, gone back from the social democratic image which it previously had. Nevertheless, all that pulls me in the direction of Israel.
On the other hand, I saw in Palestine the destroyed villages of the Arab population. I went to Jordan and to the refugee camps and saw the sordid conditions of those who had fled from Palestine when they had been driven out. One cannot to-day deal with this situation without recognition that for six years now Israel has occupied large areas of Arab territory. Therefore it is extraordinarily difficult, if one is judging the two sides from the point of view of war, to come down on one side or to come down on the other. The only thing that we can seek to do is to try to contribute to a peace and a settlement.
The hope of that lay at first in Resolution 242 adopted by the United Nations. Neither Israel nor the Arab nations have carried out the implications of that Resolution, though they have both endorsed it in general principle. It asked for a withdrawal from the territories—not, as the noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth, has said, the entire terrorities occupied in the war of 1967, but the territories as a whole. Israel has not done that. On the other hand, the Resolution said that the Arab nations should recognise the State 456 of Israel. They have not done that. If they had they would not have refrained over these past years from entering into direct negotiation with the Israeli Government. One cannot say that one recognises a State, as that Resolution said, without agreeing to meet the representatives of that State in any negotiations.
My chief complaint to-night with Her Majesty's Government is that during these six years such little has been done to implement the United Nations Resolution. I was deeply interested in what the noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth, said. I recognise the contribution which the noble Lord. Lord George-Brown, and also the noble Lord, Lord Caradon, made at the United Nations in drafting and securing the adoption of that Resolution, but the noble Lord, Lord Caradon, and many of us, have urged ever since that that Resolution should be implemented by an international conference of all the nations involved, including Israel and the Arab nations. It may be said that they were unprepared to meet over a table: it is impossible to believe that, if a conference of that character had been called under United Nations auspices, both sides would not have been ready to appear.
A large part of our discussion has taken place about the arms embargo. I am opposed to the sale of armaments to any country whatsoever. One of the great tragedies of recent years has been, first in Vietnam, with American and Russian arms poured in to continue the war, and now in the Middle East Russian and American arms poured in to continue the war, Governments fighting it at the expense of other people's lives. When I spoke briefly on Tuesday, I criticised the sending of arms to another Arab nation in the Middle East and to the training of Egyptian pilots. On the question of the spare parts for the Centurions, I want to say quite frankly that I cannot see any difference—indeed, my noble friend Lord Willis emphasised this—in supplying arms in peace time for war preparations, and supplying them during the circumstances of war also. There is no difference of principle there. What I think is wrong is that the Western industrialised nations and the Soviet Union should be supplying arms to other areas of the earth for massive slaughter and for the profits of their own armaments industry, which many years ago I exposed in a book.
457 We have paid too much attention during this debate to the issue of the arms embargo. We ought to be concentrating our attention on how we are to secure peace. In that respect, unlike other speakers, I support entirely the attitude of Her Majesty's Government in seeking to end arms to either side, and in seeking a position which will enable Her Majesty's Government to act in an impartial and neutral way. The danger of the present situation is not merely the appalling tragedy and loss of life in the Middle East, already terrible—and, unless the war is ended, inevitably becoming more terrible; missiles will be used against civil populations and towns, bombs will be dropped on towns and their civil populations, and indeed we may see in the Middle East devastation and massacre of whole peoples—but the further tragedy that the war in the Middle East is affecting the hopeful tendencies which there have been in recent months towards peace in the world and towards the détente between the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R. In Geneva at this moment meetings of the European Conference on Security and Co-operation, the strategic arms talks between the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R. and the NATO and the Warsaw Force reduction talks have been suspended because of the war in the Middle East. The tragedy of this war is not merely what is happening in the Middle East but the disastrous effect which it may have on the tendencies to peace in the world.
My Lords, I think it possible, and likely, that both the United States of America and the Soviet Union place the hope of some movement towards world peace even before their support of Israel or the Arab countries. I shall not be surprised if within a very few hours there is a proposal by both the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R. for common action to bring about a cease-fire; and, indeed, a proposal that they should establish an international peace-keeping force between the armies on the two sides. I hope we would support anything that would make for a cease-fire, yet in the background of one's mind one has the fear of these two great Powers, the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R., becoming dominant in the Middle East. Therefore, I hope very much that even if the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R. now take steps towards bring- 458 ing about a cease-fire and towards contributing to an international peace-keeping force, such a move will not be limited to them but that the United Nations itself may become involved. I appreciate the indication by our Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs that Her Majesty's Government would be prepared to contribute towards such an international peacekeeping force. It should serve not merely to keep the armies separate at the present moment: it should serve as a contribution to a long-term solution of this problem.
I agree entirely with those who have said that security for Israel must be established. I have been in a kibbutz situated immediately under the Golan Heights. From the Heights bombs could be dropped almost perpendicularly upon that kibbutz. Even several years ago the children were sleeping in underground shelters. Now that kibbutz has been bombed. In that situation Israel can never have a sense of security if the Heights are in other, and possibly antagonistic, hands. I would therefore say that the object of any international peace-keeping force should not merely be to keep the armies apart now: it should be to establish continuing neutralised regions on the edges of Israel in order that there may be security for Israel.
Lastly, my Lords, I want to say a word on behalf of the Palestinians. They have really been the victims of this conflict between Israel and the Arab nations, and I hope that in any settlement towards which we ultimately move the right of the Palestinian people to their own nation, whether separately or associated with Jordan, may be recognised. I have been a little disappointed that in this debate it has been suggested that Her Majesty's Government can do nothing. I find myself a patriot in this respect. I believe that Great Britain can make a large contribution to peace in the Middle East, and not only by the attitude which it has adopted now, of declining to become responsible for arms on either side in this massive massacre. I believe Britain could establish moral leadership if it would propose a settlement which would be fair both to Israel, in its security, and to the Arab peoples, in the occupation of their lands. If the British Government did that, I am quite confident that in the 459 United Nations it would have overwhelming support, despite the attitude of any dominant great Powers. Britain to-day, having changed its Empire into a Commonwealth, can still provide the leadership of great moral principles leading to justice and peace in the world.
§ 7.27 p.m.
§ LORD VERNON
My Lords, I wanted to intervene in this debate, not because I have any special knowledge—because I have not—but because in listening to what might be termed the mini-debate which took place following the Statement of my noble friend Lady Tweedsmuir earlier in the week I got the impression that there was some confusion of thought about the motives of Her Majesty's Government's policy at the present time. The impression was also created that the Government lacked support from this side of the House, and I do not believe that that is true.
The Foreign Office have been attacked, unfairly in my view, on account of being pro-Arab. I do not think they are pro-Arab. I do not think they are pro-Israeli, either. What they are—and it is quite right that they should be—is pro the United Kingdom. In their opinion the long-term interests of this country, as indeed of most other countries, are best served by achieving not just another cease-fire but a long-term peace settlement. Of course, in such a settlement Israel's independence must be fully safeguarded, and that has been recognised. But at the same time I am convinced that there can be no genuine long-term solution until the question of the Palestinian refugees is tackled and unless, in accordance with Resolution 242, the Israelis surrender the major part (not all, but most) of the territory which they conquered by force of arms in 1967 —incidentally, by a surprise attack on that occasion.
One point has been touched on in this debate which I do not think can be too much emphasised. It is the appalling humiliation suffered by the Arabs in the Six-Day war. They are a very proud people with a very proud history. We have heard a certain amount about civilisation, and the Israeli civilisation, this afternoon. I know this to be true, but we must also remember that the Arabs were highly civilised many hun- 460 dreds of years ago, when we were rather more barbaric than we are to-day. I think it is tremendously important that the Arabs should recover their self-respect; because until they do recover it it is unlikely that a settlement will be achieved. For that reason I very much hope that if the Israelis are victorious in the present fighting—and it is by no means certain that they will be—they will adopt the well-known maxim, "In victory, magnanimity." The Arab nations undoubtedly have legitimate grievances. The Israelis have grievances too, but I think that it would be crass stupidity for any British Foreign Secretary to ignore these grievances of the Arab world—stretching as it does from the shores of the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean and controlling vast material resources. I think one should also remember that on the only recent occasion when Foreign Office advice was decisively rejected by the Government —in 1957—this country suffered one of the greatest humiliations in its history.
My Lords, a lot of emotion has been aroused over the question of the arms embargo. I confess that I find this problem an extraordinarily difficult one. There seems a certain amount to be said on both sides. It was, I thought, significant that the Minister in her Statement on Tuesday—and it has already been emphasised by the noble Earl, Lord Onslow—made it clear that the Egyptians were in receipt of more war material than were the Israelis; and we all know that the Jordanians are almost exclusively supplied from this country. Therefore, if we lift the embargo on Centurion tank parts for the Israelis we are bound in honour to lift it also on spare parts for the Jordanians and the Egyptians. Then the whole thing will escalate. It seems to me that the issues at stake at the present time are so great—world war itself could result from present hostilities—that if the Foreign Secretary believes that by remaining strictly neutral, even if it involves the suspension of contracts, he will be in a better position to promote the long-term settlement that we all regard as so absolutely vital—
§ LORD SOMERS
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord at that point? I agree entirely that what he says would be the most desirable thing to achieve, 461 if we could persuade Russia to do likewise. But would he not agree that the Arabs, being so heavily supported by the Russians, is a rather parallel case to that of unilateral disarmament?
§ LORD VERNON
My Lords, I do not agree with the noble Lord on that because it seems to me that the Arabs are supported by the Russians and the Israelis by the Americans. We are in a position to act as brokers and perhaps get the negotiations going; and they are not.
My Lords, I was just ending my speech before that interruption and I was going to say that if the Foreign Secretary believes that by remaining strictly neutral at the present time we will be in a better position to promote a settlement, then I believe that we all have a duty to support him.
§ 7.35 p.m.
§ LORD DONALDSON OF KINGS-BRIDGE
My Lords, this debate has taken place really at two levels: the frightfully serious level which has been going on for centuries, or at least all this generation, and which has its origin in the time of Solomon— that is, the general question; and the particular question of the Centurion tanks and arms for Israel. Both have been thoroughly covered. I shall spend a minute or two on each and not more on either. I think that on the big question the noble Lord, Lord Byers, set us off in a very forthright way by making no bones about the behaviour of the Russians. I do not think that we need be mealy-mouthed about this. As the noble Lord, Lord Somers, said, a minute ago to the noble Lord, Lord Vernon, as long as the Russians are supporting one side, let us hope that somebody supports the other side. "Thank God for the U.S.A.!", is what I say at this stage. I am proud to be their ally. Had we behaved during the civil war in Spain in the way they are behaving now, that period might not have been one of the most shameful of my own particular generation and life. People who were on the other side, which is perfectly fair, did not mind it as much as I. I do not think that the breach of non-intervention by the Fascist powers of Hitler and Mussolini as against the maintenance of non-intervention by this country can have been a great pleasure to anybody.
462 The speech of the noble Lord, Lord Ballantrae, interested me, first, because as a soldier his neutrality is particularly valuable, but secondly because as a soldier he "tipped off" the Israelis—over a glass of arak, I suppose—and told them that whatever they do they must not give up the Golan Heights. Not being a soldier and having looked around there, it is what I should have said. It means from a military point of view that you must not, when the peace-making conies, ask the Israelis to do the impossible. I think they are never going to sit and be lobbed at by Syrian mortars so long as there is an Israeli living. One may as well face that. I appreciated very much —and I have been looking a little for trouble this afternoon—Lord Harvey's attack on France, which was overdue in my opinion. I enjoyed that. I thought that the noble Lord, Lord Segal, expected rather a lot of the noble Baroness, to make this evening an opportunity for bringing peace to the area. I think that this House has some influence and that nobody in it has more than the Minister; but I do not see her managing that as a result of this debate—at any rate, not this evening. I shall not ask that of her.
I was glad that the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, spoke up for the Arabs. He did it very fairly. It wants saying. We are a bit one-sided. I am pro-Jew for this reason and for this reason only: I agree with my right honourable friend, Dick Crossman, in The Times a week or two ago when he said that ever since he became mixed up with this matter in Ernie Bevin's time he has felt that the survival of Israel is the only thing that matters in this issue. I believe this; and at the moment I believe that Israel's survival is at risk. If you asked the Prime Minister Sadat, I think he would say that it was not, but I do not think that there is a single Israeli who believes him. I do not know who is right, but you have to deal with people in a reasonable way; and if many people time and time again say that they are going to drive you into the sea then someone is going to believe them.
My Lords, it seems to me that the Israelis cannot be expected to make concessions until they have some reason to hope that their present position is accepted. Mr. Crossman said, and I think that 463 the noble Lord, Lord Vernon—or someone else—said it also, that the humiliation was intolerable in the 1967 war. This has not only been lived down but also has been lived down magnificently. The Syrians and the Egyptians have fought magnificently, so that is over, and now perhaps we may be in a position where the Israelis who have, in my opinion, always been prepared to give quite a lot away in return for recognition and to secure some kind of security of boundary, may really get somewhere.
If I may turn to the more trivial part of this debate, the question of the Centurion tanks, when I was Chairman of the Consumer Council we had our knife very much into those firms which sold, often for large sums, washing machines and cookers, and things like that, to innocent housewives and then went bust or got taken over; and a year or so later it was found that they had made no provision for the supply of spare parts for the machines they had sold. And wretched women who had spent £120 on a washing machine found that it was completely useless. I am sorry, my Lords, but this seems to me to be what the British Government have done. I agree with my noble friend Lord Willis, who said that if you did not think they were going to use the tanks you ought not to have sold them, and this is fair. The arguments will not do. In the immortal words of Dorothy Parker, they make me feel like the gentle reader who wants to "throw up". It is not acceptable to sell things to people and not allow them to maintain what they have bought. There is no difficulty over this, although the noble Lord, Lord Vernon, suggested that there was. It is perfectly easy to continue to sell spare parts and ammunition but to have a complete ban on the sale of weapons, which is what I think we ought to do. I hope that before very long, as was said earlier by, I think, the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, the Americans and the Russians, the two nations who are doing the job above everybody else, will get together and will negotiate a cease-fire. I hope, also, with the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, that it will not stop there.
I would say to the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, that I agree with him that if 464 only people did not make armaments and sell them the world would be a much better place. But that applies also to a number of other things—if only the Arabs did not dislike the Jews, and so on. But that is not going to happen, and my view is that if we had never sold any armaments to anybody we should be a poorer but, I think, a more respectable country. But that is not the position and it is no good looking for it. On this limited issue of the Centurion tanks, I do not believe the Government have a lea to stand on, if you are going to stretch a point and allow Egyptian pilots to continue being trained here. Respecting the noble Baroness as I do, I cannot accept the argument that if they are already trained, to go on training them is not the same as training them. These are pilots trained in one thing who are over here being trained for something else, and learning something which it is thought will be good for the Egyptian Army. If we lean over backwards over that rather trivial point and over selling tanks to—is it Dubai or the Trucial States?—some Arab State which is not concerned with the war then with the greatest respect only someone in the Foreign Office would think for a moment that it was impossible that they would be shanghaied into joining in. If you are prepared to lean over backwards over both these things and then renege on your contract, it seems to me that you are putting yourself in the worst possible position from which to act as the sort of mediator we all want you to be. You have done something to please one side and you have very deeply embittered the other, and I hope it is not too late to put this right. I doubt very much whether the Israelis will trust us again in any form whatever for the next three or four years. To someone like me who, on the whole, is on their side, that is very sad. But it is what the Government have done and the nation has stood for it. I wish I had some hope that there could be a change, but I have very little.
§ 7.45 p.m.
§ LORD MACLEOD OF FUINARY
My Lords, I do not want delay in referring, first, to the grave responsibility that lies with us and I do so by a quotation, for the sake of brevity, from as long ago as 465 1922 from Ramsay Macdonald regarding our responsibility for what I believe is happening now in the area about which we are speaking. Ramsay Macdonald said:We encouraged a revolt by the Arabs in Turkey to create an Arab kingdom for the Arab provinces of the Ottoman Empire, including Palestine, and at the same time we were encouraging the Jews to help us by promising them that Palestine would be placed at their disposal for settlement and for government. Also at the same time we were making with the French the Sykes-Picot Agreement partitioning the territories which we had instructed our Governor-General in Egypt to promise to the Arabs.Mr. Ramsay Macdonald concluded:The story is one of crude duplicity. We cannot expect to escape the reprobation which is bound to follow as a sequel.My Lords,The mills of God grind slowly, but they grind exceeding small.And here we are, at least by derivation, dealing with the ultimate consequences of that situation. It is our responsibility.
I would not have taken part in this debate but for one word in Lord Kennet's Question. He is seeking, and we are all seeking, a durable peace. I want to extend his plea in my first point for an embargo on the sale of armaments everywhere, which was so well supported by the noble Lord, Lord Brockway. Everyone knows that the trouble is not going to be patched up by dealing with Centurion tanks on the one side and Egyptian airmen on the other, or even with ground missiles. Everyone knows that it will not be patched up at that level. But how is it to be patched up? It is not even going to be patched up by finding the supplies which go to Russia and which ought to go to America, and I am concerned with something deeper than that which has been only hinted at in the debate. Do we realise with our being the extent of the crisis that is upon us, of which this incident we are discussing to-day is but a derivative? U Thant, before he left the United Nations about three years ago, said that unless something was done about the arms race there was nothing but disaster facing us. How many of us are aware at the moment that we are spending £80 million helping the developing countries, and we are spending £3,000 million preparing for the next war which everyone agrees that no 466 one can win? In the last two years our estimates have gone up £800 million and I doubt not in the present situation that in the next two years, unless a stop is put to it, it will go up again by another £800 million—well beyond the £3,000 million which is an underestimation.
If for a moment we compare the situation with 1913 we realise the gravity. In 1913, Lord Grey of Falloden, who was at one time Foreign Secretary, said on a public occasion that one of the reasons for the inevitability of the First World War was the extent to which in 1913 there was an arms race. How many people realise that at constant prices we are at present spending ten times what we were spending preparing for the war in 1913? That is to say that if the pound now were equal to the pound then we are spending ten times as much. Recently the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, said that only negotiations through strength were likely to procure an equitable agreement. He said it with complete sincerity, but a less euphemistic way of putting it is to say that the only way to have negotiations from strength must be by an arms race. Inevitably, if you are going to negotiate from strength, NATO will go one up and the Warsaw Pact will go another one up in order that they may negotiate from strength. So what we are really committed to in this solution is an arms race. Already again, are people aware that Britain is exporting £200 million a year of armaments to various nations of the world? Are we aware that that is only 15 per cent. of what is annually being spent on preparation for the next war? That means that something like £1,500 million of armaments is being sold out into the country. Is this really being done seriously, responsibly backing this country against that country and keeping a balance of power? No. I am suggesting to your Lordships that this is being done by love of money. Is it really being done to defend Christian civilisation against the skulduggery that is Communism? No. It is money.
We are apt to forget, to take a parallel again for brevity, that the Vietnam war, for all the high-sounding words about defending Christian civilisation, was about money. My quotation is from General Eisenhower when he was President—no idiot fringeman, he—at a conference of State Governors on August 5, 1953, 467 when the State Governors were not happy to take over what the French had been doing in Indo-China. Here is the President of the United States giving the reason for going into Vietnam—and I quote:Now let us assume that we lost Indo-China. If Indo-China goes, the tin and tungsten we so greatly value would cease coming. We are after the cheapest way to prevent something terrible—the loss of our ability to get what we. want from the riches of the Indo- Chinese territory and from South-East Asia.It is odd that the mass media did not find that worthy of a quotation. Odd, too, that when it came to dealing with the situation in Vietnam. and, regretfully, there were peasants murdered, there was compensation organised by the Americans for the dependants of any civilian who was murdered as a result of the war, and 34 dollars was allotted for each person who was a fatal casualty. But when it came to rubber trees, the expenditure for each rubber tree was 87 dollars: that is 53 dollars more for a rubber tree than for a peasant. Presumably, peasants were expendable. But how could Michelin produce tyres for French motor cars if the trees were all knocked off? This is the real situation of what goes on under the name of Christian civilisation over against the skulduggery that is Communism.
I am suggesting to your Lordships that the real reason is love of money, and this is what must be dealt with. In 1970, the Cabora Basa time, when the Portuguese were taking something like 100,000 Africans off their ancestral lands in order to put in a dam and make the place blossom as the rose for Portuguese immigrants, your Lordships may remember that some students went to protest at the annual meeting of a British bank which was putting up some millions of pounds to help the Cabora Basa Dam, and the vice-chairman of that bank, who was also chairman of their foreign section, called the students together afterwards in a side room (they did not create a row; they all bought one share in the bank in order to make their protest) and he said to them: "It is time people realised that the trade of this world is so inter-twined that if you were to cut yourself off on matters of principle there would be no international trade." There we are. Where profit is concerned, to hell with 468 principle! This is the way in which we are run.
My Lords, we must realise that Parliament must somehow take over again the organisation of our finances; for the organisation of our finances is not in the hands of the Parliaments of any country at the present time. In May, 1969, the Secretary of the U.S. Treasury, when there was a dollar crisis was asked: "Do you approve of the latest credit tightening moves?" And he replied: It is not my job to approve;"—that is the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury—" it is the action of the Federal Reserve Bank"— whose accounts are not available to Congress or to the Senate of America. Or Reginald McKenna, Chairman of the Midland Bank and also a politician, who said:Those who create and issue the money and credit direct the politics and hold in their hands the destiny of the people.That is the situation with which we are dealing, and it is only by Parliament's taking that control that all our words about stopping creating an embargo on arms are going to bear fruit.
Or, if this is being cynical, if in fact the matter is really ideological, if it really is a situation of Christian civilisation against Communist skulduggery, how is it that the West increasingly trade with the Soviet bloc in hardware which may well be used in a possible war? This year, for instance, we in the E.E.C., in April, sent over 200,000 tons of butter so that it was being sold at a quarter of the price that it was in this country. Is this a way of showing what skulduggery we are up against? Again, in April, the Occidental Petroleum Company in America went into a 20 years' contract for chemical fertiliser, a barter valued at 8 billion dollars. That dealt with chemicals. Could they not possibly be used? Or, in June of this year, International Telephones and Telegraphs in America interchanged scientific information about electronic components. Or, in July, in Italy the Montecatinin Edison Group agreed to construct seven chemical plants in exchange for ammonia. In summary, the United States sales to the Soviet bloc in the first half of this year amount to one million dollars, three times what they were last year: and the Soviet bloc have borrowed 1,000 million dollars this year from American banks. Trade is so inter- 469 twined that if we were to cut ourselves off for matters of principle there would be no international trade. If we are going to have a Christian civilisation against Communist skulduggery, how comes it that this vast trade is going on?
This is the situation that we have to deal with if all our easy words about embargoes are to get anywhere at all. The fact is that we are in moral chaos. We must control again our money or stop talking about the idea of controlling the export of arms. Finally, I claim that we must go further. We have come to a climatic point in history. Old means of power are of no avail, and yet we go on spending thousands of millions of pounds on it. Pope John said:It is impossible to conceive of a just war in a nuclear age.Theoretically, that means to say that no Church should be backing the possibility of a just war or backing money to create a just war. But I will not go to parsons for my view here. Darwin said that the survival of the fittest is what matters. So many people think that that means the survival of the beefiest. The survival of the fittest, according to Darwin, does not mean the survival of the beefiest; it means the survival of that form of life which comes level with a new environment. And the new environment is one of co-operation in a united world. Roman Rolland said:This world has become a unity, and for this high destiny mankind is not yet fit.We have to apply it sociologically. It is only if we are co-operative that we shall be the fittest to survive. It is not a question of going under. My last quotation is from no lunatic fringe man and from no airy-fairy parson. What about Sir Basil Liddell Hart, the great war correspondent of The Times? Your Lordships remember what he said about nonviolent resistance—and I quote:Nuclear war is not war at all as it defeats its own disciplined object.Anyone who talks of winning a nuclear war is a menace to his country—and we are spending £3,000 million a year to be ready to do so. He goes on:The more Governments realise their incapacity for military defence"—this is by a war correspondent—the more they will begin to take non-violent civilian defence seriously.470 He goes on to say:To make non-violent civilian defence a national affair will be an extremely difficult task. Probably the most important thing is to educate people and convince them it is a workable policy.This is by the war correspondent. No airy-fairy wanderer; no idiot fringe man, he.
It is, of course, the essence of the Christian claim. Unfortunately we cannot rely on the Church's witness to deal with this. It is up to this House; it is up to this Parliament to begin to study the implications of it. It is up to this nation, which has long ago lost its physical pre-eminence, to be the first to deal with the new kind of power and preeminence which is spiritual as the only viable way to peace. The road to peace in a nuclear age cannot possibly be by any kind of judiciousness about old armaments. Someone has said that there is no way to peace; peace is the way. It is no good saying, "As soon as this one is fixed up then we will deal with the next, and then we will deal with the next one", while, up, up go the armaments. Martin Luther King summed it up when he said, "It is either nonviolence or non-existence". At the moment our course is set for non-existence.
§ 8.1 p.m.
§ LORD ARDWICK
My Lords, the tragedy of this war was brought home to us in Fleet Street yesterday afternoon by the news that Nicholas Tomalin had been killed by a Syrian rocket as he pursued his high professional duty of seeking information of great importance, of first importance to the public, even at the risk of his own life. It is very hard for us to believe that a man of such abundant vitality, such life and humour could be destroyed in a fraction of a second. The media are under a great deal of criticism nowadays—a great deal of it justified—but I feel I must remind you that we could not have a realistic debate in these Houses of Parliament if it were not for a thousand people—reporters, photographers, cameramen, television men, radio men—showing exactly the same kind of courage as Nicholas Tomalin showed.
My Lords, there is much propaganda being trumpeted about by those who are neither Jew nor Arab but have become 471 partisans of either side. There are acres of printed propaganda too, delving into the past and proving the innocence of one side and the guilt of the other—and most of it is factually true. But the deeper truth is that both sides have been caught up in tragedy, and I do not find my own profound sympathies for Israel are incompatible with an understanding of the fears and the sufferings and the aspirations of the Arabs. Indeed, such feelings are fully compatible with the policy outlined in Resolution 242, which I think all Parties in this House accept. The argument is not about the policies so expressed; it is about the Government's current reaction to the emergency which even people who are not their opponents have described as specious and devious; and perhaps they have used worse words such as hypocritical. When the Government claims that they are acting impartially hardly anybody fails to dissent, except the members of the pro-Arab factions. Hardly anybody believes what the Government are saying, or at least wholly believes what the Government are saying, in Parliament or in the Press or in the world.
There is a new political word coined by the Foreign Secretary to justify and explain his policy. He claims that in denying further arms to all their customers in the battle field countries the British Government are pursuing an "even-handed" policy. No doubt the Government could prove it—though they have not yet done so—by going back over the years and adding up all the bills presented to the Arab States and comparing the total with the Israeli bills. Of course the test of even-handedness is not an arithmetical one over time. There must be a qualitative test and it must be of the effect of the Government's action at this desperate moment of battle. Israel, perhaps unwisely, has bought many of her tanks from Britain. The noble Lord, Lord Bernstein, I think, estimated the number at two-thirds of their tank strength. These tanks, as we know, have been used defensively and they have been badly mauled, so the Israelis are in dire need of ammunition, of spare parts and of replenishments. Their stocks are not ample, as some people have suggested, otherwise they would not have placed that large order with us before the war 472 actually began, the large order that was never shipped.
So far as one can judge from this side, neither the Egyptians nor the Syrians have any vital need which the Russians cannot supply and are not supplying. Indeed, but for the lavish supplies of Soviet arms rushed to the Middle East after the first battles the war might be nearer its end now than it actually is. Whatever the various Arab States may owe in fire power and armour to Britain, the two Powers bearing the brunt of the fighting, the Egyptians and the Syrians, do not seem to be embarrassed by any drying up of supplies from us. Indeed, they among the Arab Powers seem to have been (though it is always hard to get the facts about these things) among our lesser customers. So any arithmetical calculation is meaningless. Cries at the British embargo do not come from the Arabs but from the Israelis, and the support for the Government's actions comes chiefly from partisans who, perfectly properly, are supporters of the Arab cause.
Of course, the British Government can put forward a humane reason for their action; they can claim that it is an expression of impartiality and they can say that it puts them in a posture which would enable them to use their specific influence on the combatants. In fact, the British Government, without much realism, seemed to be demanding a ceasefire at the very moment the battle began. I do not see this as diplomacy; I see it perhaps as propaganda. I am wondering what influence the Government think they will have as a pacifier with the Israelis. Even before the Foreign Secretary made his statement the emptiness of his words was apparent. The Israelis were incensed by the embargo. They felt as we should have felt at the time of the Battle of Britain if someone had denied us something vital for our defence in the hope that it would persuade us to come more quickly to the peace table.
How the British Government, looking at the weight of armour, looking at the fire power deployed against the Israelis with Soviet help, could have held back supplies they were contracted to send, I do not know. It was not merely a failure in commercial honesty; it was I think a failure of humanity. I do not know how they brought themselves into such a position, but I cannot help having suspicions 473 that, in our own national interest, they sought, perhaps even unconsciously, to appease the Arabs in the hope that they would spare us from their oil sanctions. I suspect that someone then thought that the Israelis would negotiate only if their military pride was humbled, and that the Egyptians could only negotiate if their pride was restored by military success. That well may be a subtle assessment of the proposed realities, but if this is what the Government were after it was far from the high-minded course they described. The even-handedness would have been a dose of humility for one side and an application of pride to the other. I wonder whether it really is realistic. President Sadat has advanced what has been called a peace plan, but is in effect his avowed war aim. "Go back to the 1967 frontiers", he says, "and I will cease fire. If you do not, I will fire my missiles into your cities."
§ THE EARL OF ONSLOW
My Lords, I am very sorry to interrupt the noble Lord, but President Sadat did not say that. He said that if the Israelis bombed civilian targets in the Nile Delta or Damascus he would then use his missiles. He did not say he would use his missiles if they did not move back. I think that if the noble Lord reads exactly what he said, he will find that I am right. I hate to correct people who are older and cleverer than I am.
§ LORD ARDWICK
My Lords, I will accept the correction, but I think there is no doubt that the use of missiles was wrapped up with the peace plan. That was the point I was anxious to make. I wonder whether anyone believes that, if Israel acceded, this would be the end for all time of Arab aspirations. If the Israelis did go back to the 1967 lines, would it not just be preparing the ground for the next round? Could the Arabs really resist going back to the old cry calling for the destruction of the Israeli State?
There has been talk throughout this crisis of the possibility of Western Europe taking some kind of initial step, some kind of joint foreign policy, after hammering out a common policy on the Middle East. The idea is very attractive to me, as a European. Nevertheless, I see very grave dangers in it. It would be splendid if a just and lasting peace 474 could be obtained and Europe was able to make a constructive contribution to the safeguarding of the frontiers of these lands. It would be splendid, but only if the policy were one which the Americans could wholeheartedly accept. The NATO Alliance, as I see it, cannot possibly have two divergent policies on such a vital area as the Middle East. I do not see how you can have a distinctive European policy. Yet there are all the ingredients of such divergence. The United States has been left alone to succour the Israelis and it might find that the European consensus, nominally evenhanded, was in fact embarrassingly pro-Arab. At this moment only the Soviet Union and the United States can influence a settlement in the Middle East. They are the only ones, and they have every incentive to do so, if they value the détente they have so far achieved. Now there is, thank God! a whiff of peace in the air. There seems to be a possibility that they are preparing to use their vital influence in order to get a cease-fire. It is clear that the lines, as drawn both before and after the last Arab/Israeli war, cannot be made into permanent frontiers. For Israel to return to the 1967 frontiers would mean, modern weapons being what they are, a recipe for a potential new Warsaw ghetto.
As for ourselves and other European Powers, we shall suffer more in the short term than the Americans, if the Arabs apply oil sanctions; but I cannot believe that there is any future for us in allowing the Arabs to dictate our foreign policy. This kind of appeasement is one which might pay immediate dividends, but in the end yields only a bitter reward.
§ 8.24 p.m.
§ LORD SOPER
My Lords, it gives me special pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Ardwick, and to congratulate him upon his recovery from his recent illness. I hope that his appearance does not belie his condition and that he will continue to enjoy good health.
I have listened with assiduity and care to almost the entire debate. I have been deeply moved—as who cannot fail to be moved?—by the eloquence and passion with which which the Israeli case has been presented. I share it; and yet, with a queer quirk, I relished more the defence of the Arab position, as it was 475 so eloquently put by the noble Earl, Lord Onslow. I sympathise entirely, if "sympathy" is not too weak a word. As a representative of the Christian Church, I can never repay the debt we owe, or indeed extirpate the crime we have committed in condemning this magnificent race of the Jews for nearly 2,000 years in our official testimonies in the Christian Church for the greatest of all crimes—that of Deocide. Yet, as I have listened to this debate, it has also been with a deep sense of sorrow and foreboding. I remember it was during the days of the Spanish Civil War that the Great Powers used the laboratory of Spain in order to prepare for an oncoming conflict. I pray that this present conflict may not so escalate that it becomes the workshop of an even greater conflagration.
It is for that reason that I am the more disturbed as I remember that it was, once upon a time, on Mount Sinai that the immortal Decalogue was proclaimed. Mischievously, perhaps, one might speculate that had Moses come down from that mountain and turned right instead of left it might be that the oil in the desert would have been differently distributed. It was within earshot of the Golan Heights that the Sermon on the Mount was proclaimed. It was on the road to Damascus that the light shone upon the man who is more responsible than any other human being for the dissemination of Christianity in the Western hemisphere and the building up of what we are pleased to call Western civilisation. It makes me feel very sad when I think what has happened over the years and of the way in which these three great religions have promoted such great discord. For a Jew, I suppose both Christianity and Islam are heresies of the Jewish Faith. So, strictly speaking, they are. Therefore, within this fragmentation there is yet one golden thread of continuing hope—the hope of the Grace of God, the compassion of Allah and the righteousness of Jehovah. I shall return to this, with no apology, a little later. But it strikes me that much of this debate has not endeavoured to plumb the depths of the issue with which humanity is now confronted. Without wishing to seem pompous, it seems to me that unless we can solve this problem, it profiteth us 476 little if we solve all the other problems of our civilisation and then get blown to pieces in a nuclear war. If that is a sombre fact, it is so because much of our debate to-day has been concerned with, if not the minutiæ, at least the "nuts and bolts'' of the present situation.
I support the Government, and if indeed this is a Motion that has a little relevance, I am going to speak to it. I am sure that the Government are right, in these dire circumstances, in pleading for an immediate cease-fire and offering their good offices in any bilateral or multilateral attempt to solve this grievous conflict. I must, as a pacifist, also commend the Government on their belated but, in my judgment, quite justified embargo on arms. As I say that, I realise the underlying problems confronting any Government which is at this moment endeavouring to do this thing. Of course it is absurd, in one sense, to say to people, "Yes, we will supply you with a bicycle but you must not ride it, because if you do we cannot give you a replacement tyre if you get a puncture". Of course it is ridiculous to say that at this point of time we have an evenhanded programme of embargo, when it is manifest that the embargo on spare parts for Centurion tanks is infinitely more precious to the wellbeing of the Israeli forces than perhaps would be the withdrawal of some of our commitments to the other side. Yet I would counsel this House if I may, without impudence, that we are verging on a very dangerous assumption if we think we shall improve our even-mindedness by favouring one side as over the other. This is the dilemma, and it is the dilemma which I beg leave to state demands a much more fundamental analysis.
I entirely agree with my noble friends Lord Brockway and Lord Macleod of Fuinary that the issue is really at the roots of that fundamental iniquity called the sale of arms. If I may draw from a source which is fairly representative the revelation or the exposure of the fact to people who might have known it before but I think did not, in this miserable arms business we are about fourth in the league, and we have been supplying vast amounts of arms to both sides who if not belligerent at the point of gun shooting, were belligerent at least in the concept that war is the continuation of 477 policy. We have much more to lose in the credibility of the community in which we live by a continuation of the supply of arms to both sides in warfare, or in the preparation for it, than we have in the honest, if imperfect, attempt to deal with this problem at the point at which it becomes most dangerous. Even recognising that this is a compromise and has within it many elements which are unjust, I believe that it may at least be the first stage to the entire cessation of this iniquitous business.
To return to what the Government ought to do and could do in excess of what they have already done, I have the strong conviction that a resolution of the spiritual and ecclesiastical problems that confront the three great competing religions can contribute a great deal more than has been advertised in any of the media that I have come across, or has even been mentioned this afternoon. Yesterday His Holiness of Rome made the pregnant observation that the sale of arms to belligerents hastens and makes more dangerous the outbreak of war. That may not be a Papal infallible statement on faith and morals carrying with it the ex cathedra imprimatur of the whole Church, but it has a lesson which seems unavoidable: one who would endeavour to persuade his fellows in the ways of peace must avoid those practices which, in their very nature, promote war. I regret to say that the World Council of Churches is a little less precise—not, I am afraid, an unusual occurrence. Dr. Philip Potter, its general secretary, announces on behalf of the World Council of Churches that on no account should we escalate the supply of arms. Apparently a moderate supply of arms to both sides is acceptable to Christians, but we must not go too far—the golden mean which actually means very little.
If, as in the relationships between Christians and Jews, a new relationship which my noble friend Lord Janner will know, as I do, to be one of the most hopeful signs of increasing opportunities of co-operation and peacemaking, can be extended, as I believe it can, to the Islamic world with its non-racial and multi-racial concept, then we are not necessarily contributing to the immediate cessation of the hostilities at present raging, but are doing something practical 478 to prevent the outbreak of a subsequent war. There is within each of these great religions a continuing promise or threat that those who consistently practise that which is evil progressively lose their capacity to do what is right. This is not part of a sermon for next Sunday, but it has immediate relevance for this debate this afternoon.
The assumption has been running through this debate that we can turn away from things that have been happening, we can turn over a new leaf, if that is what is meant, we can exert our moral pressure which we have upon countries (and that is much more minimal than some of your Lordships imagine), and begin to exercise a new power and turn in a new direction. Unfortunately, I believe in the event of this present conflict we have fallen over the cliff edge and there is no point when we are half way down in saying, "What do we do now?". What we have is the opportunity of learning from the dolorous conditions of the present conflict how it may never happen again. And pray God that in the meantime there will be exercised such mediation and common sense as will persuade the combatants not to look for overwhelming victory or unconditional surrender, but to look hopefully at the emergent signs of yesterday and to-day of the preparedness of the leaders on both sides to consider some kind of compromise so that this slaughter may indeed be ended!
My Lords, one final thought which to me is of profound importance; I testify to it. As a pacifist I have no programme, but I have a witness. We have taken incalculable and terrible risks over the period of the centuries with the most sophisticated weapons now in our hands in the interests of peace by the threat of counter-violence, and we have invested our sense of security in being stronger than the other man. Is it not high time for a Government, even without the foreknowledge and foretaste of what would be the effect, to take upon themselves what I believe will be the calculable risk of initiating a programme of disarmament even when we are unaware of what will be the result in the Kremlin or in New York—even without the foretaste of what its result can be in the amelioration and indeed the stopping of so many of our programmes?
479 I make that plea supporting the Government at the moment in the first stages of what I believe to be a necessary programme, praying that the people of Israel may have a secure place in which to live —a home as the Balfour Declaration makes for them. They will be far better served with a friendly neighbour, even if he is breathing down their neck, than an enemy pushed to the end of the street. The real hope is not for the maintenance of the nation's state; we have no right to ask other people to get rid of their arms, and we have no right to deny them those arms, if we are not prepared to take that lesson to our own heart and to our own community. This is indeed an ideal. I am a bit tired of the realists. I believe that this kind of idealism ought to be declared. I believe that to-day it would make its impact upon a great many more people than ever before. Once a federal system can be established for all the communities, the Palestinians, the Israelis and the Arabs, in what was once a holy land it may cause it once again to blossom as the rose, to be a haven for the afflicted, and a place for the children of God.
§ 8.29 p.m.
§ LORD WELLS-PESTELL
My Lords, this is the second time since I have been a Member of your Lordships' House that I have had to follow my noble friend who has just sat down. He and I have known each other for something like 40 years. Generally, and during some part of that time, we have worked together in a number of different ways. I find it difficult to follow him because so much of what he says is so sound. It represents the thoughts of many of us; yet perhaps it is a measure of my own uncertainty that I am (shall I say?) personally worried by what he has said because I cannot bring myself to go the whole way with him. But of course that does not make my noble friend Lord Soper in any way wrong. It may well be, as so often is the case, that he is right and we are wrong.
May I say to the noble Baroness, the Minister, that. I hope that this debate will really have some significance. As I understand the situation, her right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary has made it clear that he will keep this matter constantly under review; and the implication there is that if he sees that it is necessary to change, or to 480 advise the Government to change their attitude in any way, he will do so. If, however, the Government are completely inflexible then this afternoon and this evening we have wasted our time.
I am only concerned with the matters relating to the embargo. So much has been said about Resolution No. 242, about all the other matters which are of supreme importance in this particular matter, the cease-fire, guaranteed borders, some kind of supervision; these things I believe to be of supreme importance. But I am primarily concerned with the situation with which Israel is faced at the present moment. It would be cowardly of me not to say that I was shocked by the speech and its implications made by the Foreign Secretary last Tuesday and properly repeated in your Lordships' House by the noble Baroness. Having re-read the speech several times it does not in places, I think, do credit either to the Foreign Secretary, the Government, or to the United Kingdom. I say that it does not do credit because, although not a member of the Jewish Community, I am Chairman of the British Committee of Concern for Jews in Arab Countries, and in the years that I have been Chairman I have received a great deal of help from the Foreign Secretary, and I should like to take this opportunity of paying tribute to him for what he has done in that direction. It is not surprising that his Statement failed to find general approval in our newspapers, with one possible exception. I think The Times, if I may be allowed to quote from it, summed up the situation extremely well.The Times wrote:There is always an element of hypocrisy about arms embargoes. The gun-runner who turns pacifist overnight is never an especially convincing or dignified figure and the effect of his attitude is often to give an advantage to one side in the battle, the side which decided to start the fighting and therefore took the precaution of stocking-up with ammunition in advance".That is precisely the position of Egypt and Syria. The Foreign Secretary claimed—and again I quote:Whereas in 1967 an embargo would have discriminated against Israel, it is now evenhanded",and The Times comment on that particular remark was,This claim is almost certainly specious".My noble friend Lord Kennet I think asked Lord Harvey of Prestbury, when he 481 suggested that the Israelis were at a disadvantage from a war point of view, whether Lord Harvey had any information to that effect. I may have misunderstood my noble friend, but I think this is what he said. The Observer for Sunday October 7 last said this, through their Defence Correspondent, Andrew Wilson:Against Egypt and Syria combined Israel is outnumbered three to two in immediately available manpower; three to two in tanks; and two to one in combat aircraft,and then it proceeds to give the breakdown of Israel, Egypt, Syria, Jordan and the Lebanon.
§ LORD KENNET
I thank the noble Lord very much for yielding. My point was not quite that. I think there is general agreement about what the situation was the day the war began. The point I was making to the noble Lord, Lord Harvey, was that we none of us know what the situation is now. We do not know what the losses have been, especially; and this was the point to which I was addressing myself, the losses on the Egyptian and Syrian side.
§ LORD WELLS-PESTELL
Perhaps I can say to my noble friend that some of us do know what the losses are so far as Israel is concerned; but this would not be a time I think to go into the matter. The might and war potential of the Arab countries already involved in terms of men, arms, ammunition, planes and the very sophisticated surface-to-air missiles, and the supplies and backing they will get from Arab countries not involved at present gives, I believe, a new meaning to the words "even-handed". I would go so far as to say that history may well recall that "even-handed" meant that one hand was very full and the other was very empty. I ask the noble Baroness this question: what arms were we supplying to Egypt and Syria in comparison to what we were supplying under contract to Israel? Will she agree that we were supplying no arms to Syria and precious little to Egypt, so that the embargo does not affect Syria or Egypt but only affects Israel?
§ LORD WELLS-PESTELL
It does not affect Jordan, because Jordan was well supplied by us long before the war 482 started. What we are doing now is to deny Israel the right to the equipment that she has been promised and I believe has already paid for. There is, on the one hand, the moral question of withholding the means of self-defence from a victim of an armed attack, and, on the other hand, the immorality of at the same time keeping the aggressors happy and supplied with British equipment.
When I asked the noble Baroness last Tuesday whether the Government would give an assurance that they would not supply any arms or ammunition to any Arab country whatsoever the noble Baroness replied, "No, I cannot give that assurance; and the implication can only be that we are prepared presumably, in certain circumstances, to make arms and ammunition available to some Arab countries. I would ask the noble Baroness whether we are fulfilling the £250 million defence contract that we have with Saudi Arabia which was signed earlier this year. I would ask her whether it is not true that we have about 1,500 British personnel in Saudi Arabia carrying out a wide range of advisory activities; and I would ask her whether it is true that British personnel virtually run King Feisal's air force.
So far as I understand, there has been no word of condemnation by the Government of Arab aggression. In fact, the Foreign Secretary is on record as having said there is no profit in denouncing aggression. You see, the stakes are not even. The most the Arab States can suffer is defeat. Israel faces a long-avowed intention of the Arab countries, namely, annihilation. That was once, and may well still be, the object of Egypt and her allies. This is the fourth time in 26 years that the people of Israel have been engaged in a battle for survival.
All we seem to be doing by imposing an embargo on arms to Israel, thereby appeasing the Arabs—and I say this deliberately—is to trade Israeli blood for Arab oil. What would have been our reaction in 1940 when we, as a nation, stood alone against the might of the German Army and Air Force if America, who at that time was neutral, had not come to our aid and given us the tools to get on with prosecuting the war? Should we have liked it if she had said, "Oh no, we are neutral; we must not send you anything"? How profoundly 483 grateful we were in 1940 to have that kind of help; and there is very little difference in the situation to-day with Israel as with us in 1940. I can well understand Israel's sense of injury and injustice that we should, at this particular time, deprive her of ammunition and components for her Centurion tanks.
There are only two other things I wish to say. Israel is the only democratic State in the Middle East. Israel is the only State in the Middle East that approximates to our way of life, holding dearly the kind of things that we hold dear in this country. A caring people, Israel cares for her people and it is a society that we ought to be prepared to do everything to support. There is no other democratic society out there. What freedom have the vast majority of the Arabs got? What rights have they to determine their own future? By and large their way of life could not be more foreign to us than it is, and I think that the future peace of the world needs Israel to be a free democratic State, as she is at the present moment.
I do not know whether your Lordships know that some days ago there was a national opinion poll in this country, conducted by N.O.P. on precisely the same lines as any other opinion poll, and people interviewed were asked where they stood and whom they supported in this present struggle between Arabs and Jews. Five per cent. of the people said that they supported the Arab countries; 45.5 per cent. said that they supported Israel. The rest—quite a substantial number, I agree—either would not give an opinion or said that they did not have an opinion. But nine times as many people in this country support Israel as against the Arabs; and I would say to the noble Baroness that I do not think that this Government can afford to ignore public opinion any more than it can afford to ignore the views of many people on all sides of this House and also in the House of Commons.
§ 8.45 p.m.
§ LORD STAMP
My Lords, I very much regret that I have not been able to be present for the greater part of this debate. It is always a great disadvantage when one has not heard all that has gone before, and never have I felt this more than now, but a longstanding engagement 484 has prevented me from doing so. I feel I should intervene, though, as I was one of an Inter-Parliamentary Union delegation that visited Egypt at the beginning of this year and was, in fact, the only Member of your Lordships' House on that delegation. Perhaps, therefore, some of the impressions of my visit extracted from my diary may be of interest to your Lordships.
We arrived in Cairo at a critical time—a day before the shooting down of a Libyan plane by the Israelis—and left a short time after the Khartoum incident. From the beginning it was clear that the invitation to the delegation to visit Egypt was part of a diplomatic offensive to obtain support for the Arab cause. On one morning we had meetings with the Speaker of the People's Assembly, followed by one with the Prime Minister and then the Foreign Minister—all in the space of three and a half gruelling hours. In each of them the pattern of questions was the same: did we still believe in Resolution 242 that we had sponsored in the United Nations? Had the Egyptian Government, in our view, done anything contrary to the spirit of that Resolution in the intervening years? Thirdly, in view of the fact that the Israeli occupation of territory, contrary to that Resolution, was being accepted more and more as permanent, what should the Egyptian Government do about it?
The Israelis were prepared for talks, but only on the understanding that certain vital aspects were not negotiable, and, furthermore, that there should be direct talks, to all intents and purposes between victor and vanquished and with no outside interference. This was quite unacceptable to the Egyptian Government, who were prepared for discussions only if there were no strings attached and in the presence of mediators to ensure that the spirit and meaning of Resolution 242 were adhered to. This, in spite of its ambiguity, clearly implied relinquishing the occupied territories, rather than "occupied territories", a phrase which to them was completely meaningless. This did not mean, though, that certain strategic areas might not be put under international control to ensure the security of Israel: that was an essential part of Resolution 242, which they supported. In insisting on the implementation of this 485 Resolution they were, of course, supporting the claims of all Arabs dispossessed in the six-day war and not just those of their own country, though the emphasis naturally was on these.
In reply to these questions it was suggested that with the increasing sympathy which was being shown for the Arab cause throughout the world, particularly at that time following the shooting down of the Libyan plane, they stood to gain far more by a policy of moderation and continued diplomacy, rather than by undertaking a war they had little hope of winning and which in the end could only intensify the problem. To this the reply was, "We have waited long enough. There seems to be no. alternative. You fought in 1940 against apparently insuperable odds for what you believed to be right, and we shall do the same." At the time, it seemed that this might be bluff, to impress even more on the world the seriousness of the situation, but we now know, sadly, that that was not the case. They meant what they said, and President Sadat only a day or so ago has reaffirmed the basic policy outlined to us.
Of course such an attitude is a far cry from that preceding the six-day war, with their blood-curdling threats that they would drive the Israelis into the sea. That did incalculable harm to the Arab cause, and indeed to that of world peace. Nevertheless, the Egyptians were insistent that they would agree to any system of international supervision that would make such a happening impossible, and I firmly believe that the only hope for a lasting peace lies in accepting this assurance and acting on it. A categorical statement by the great Powers, including not only the United States and the Soviet Union but also Britain and France, that they would not tolerate for one moment any encroachment on the pre-1967 Israeli frontiers, and the spelling out in detail of the ways in which such cast-iron external guarantees would ensure this, is essential.
I believe also that, with the recent atmosphere of détente between the United States and the Soviet Union, provided that this is not dissipated by the increasing stresses and strains of the present conflict, such a united guarantee for the first time really would be possible. It has been suggested that the security of Israel 486 should be primarily a matter for the United Nations. In theory, of course, this should be so, but this completely ignores —however much one may deplore it—the reputation that the United Nations has gained for utter ineffectiveness in critical situations. Many have lost faith in it completely and to them the very name is nothing but an irritant. Furthermore, I feel that Israel's security cannot be left to that country alone, however much she may demand this. The implications of such a policy involve very largely the retention of the occupied lards and, should she win the present conflict outright, it might involve the acquisition of even more territory. There is also the prospect of Israel as an island in a sea of perpetual enmity, with enemies within and without. Both of these consequences are alike quite unacceptable and unthinkable.
My Lords, I believe our country is in a position to play an outstanding part, not so much in terms of military support for a peace-keeping force when the time comes (although in this we must participate), but primarily as a mediator. I know it will be said that the Arabs will say what they think you would like to hear, but many do look upon Britain as their best friend, with their intense dislike of the United States, and the disillusionment with the Soviet Union that I believe still exists in spite of the exigencies of the moment. The wheel is turning full circle and, if nothing else, there is a feeling of "Better the devil you know".
At the same time, our relationship with Israel should speak for itself. The Balfour Declaration and our continued support for an independent Jewish State, so far as is consistent with the rights of others, are facts. In this connection, I feel that the embargo on arms to Israel, involving as it has done the breaking of contracts, has been a mistake, even though the motive of wanting to appear impartial is very understandable. There is something even more important, and that is good faith. It may be wishful thinking, but I feel that perhaps some Arabs might understand this, even though the immediate result of a reversal of policy would be contrary to their own interests provided that we show equal good faith with them by continuing to insist by every means in our power that Resolution 242 should be fully implemented.
487 My Lords, in the midst of all this ghastly fighting there may seem little that we can do at the moment. The time will come, perhaps, after both sides have become completely exhausted, when we must make yet another attempt to bring about a permanent peace in the Middle East, which must be based on justice for Arab and Jew alike—the only sure and lasting foundation.
§ LORD WELLS-PESTELL
My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord whether, while he was in Egypt, he was able to ascertain —and I ask this question very sincerely—why Egypt and Syria over the past six years have refused consistently to meet the Israelis round the table and discuss the situation?
§ 8.55 p.m.
§ LORD DAVIES OF LEEK
My Lords, I have sat through 90 per cent. of the debate although I did not put my name down to speak. I have noticed a number of names that have been missed out. Following the noble Lord, Lord Stamp, I must say that whether one agrees or not with what he has said, he has given a marvellous example of brevity with cogency and an example of a speech that was prudent, if I may say so without sounding condescending, and I hope that I shall learn from him. Too many speeches to-day have shot off like a rocket and illuminated nothing.
My Lords, there are two certain factors which have been completely omitted. This country is being called upon to solve most of the world's problems. We cannot settle the Irish problem. We have battalions to protect the Germans from the Russians. We are offering to put troops all over the world, and we could not mount enough troops now to carry on a battle with Switzerland! These are the facts of existence. Where are we going to pick our battle grounds? How do we get over this terrible problem? I wish to point out that, together with every noble Lord in this Chamber, I support the Jewish appeal for a national home and for many years, when they suffered under Hitler, I went to Germany and with the great and noble Lord. Lord Wedgwood, helped to work with the underground movement to give comfort 488 and succour to Jews who, in intolerable circumstances and misery, came to this country. We had to guarantee that they would not be on what in those days we used to call the parish relief, and with whatever small salary we had then, we did it because we believed they had a right. But we must not make the assumption that the Arab civilisation has done nothing for the world. In astronomy, mathematics and architecture the Arab world has made a contribution; even our cathedrals have copied the Moorish style of architecture. I am neither on the side of God nor Allah; I am on the side of mankind learning that they can only solve their own problems; God and Allah help those who help themselves. The assumption to-night has been that the United States and Britain and perhaps Russia, alone can solve this problem. If any of your Lordships listen to the monitoring of the Chinese news as I do, you will know that this Middle East problem is not going to be solved without the Chinese having a say in the matter, and if one now sees the direction in which their philosophy in the Middle East is going, they are entering into world trade and are a great civilisation who, like the Arabs, have never had a pogrom against the Jews.
§ LORD DAVIES OF LEEK
They have never had a progrom against the Jews in the sense of Hitler or the Germans.
That is not true. If my noble friend will allow me to explain, that is not true. I was in Aden myself when a pogrom took place against the Jews, when some hundreds were killed, and their properties destroyed. I went there myself. Before that there are many instances of attacks on Jews of the Yemen and everywhere else. My noble friend does not know his history.
§ LORD DAVIES OF LEEK
I should like my noble friend Lord Janner at least to listen to my case, because I want to support him. The debate is on the Question:To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will make a further statement on what 489 steps they have taken, or propose to take, towards the achievement of a durable peace in the Middle East.When a nation buys a set of tools, that nation, if a contract has been made, is entitled to the spare parts for those tools, and I think that is one of the things that will go down as a blot on our escutcheon. Nevertheless, I do not want it to appear that one side is all white and the other side is all black. If Britain and the Foreign Office had had more courage in the days of Foster Dulles we would have jumped in to support the building of the Aswan Dam. Instead it was through the McCarthy period in America and the lack of courage on the part of the Foreign Office here that seemed to control Foreign Secretaries in the Labour Government in not working out a foreign policy which, with its knowledge of the Arab world, would have made a much more peaceful Arab world than the xenophobia built up against them after the war through cutting them off. We therefore brought in Russia. We were responsible, and the United States for giving Russia a landing place in the Middle East by offering to build, and helping to build, the Aswan Dam. I will give way to the noble Lord who is so knowledgeable on this.
§ LORD GORE-BOOTH
My Lords, I do not wish to enter into a substantial discussion, but I just wish, as a senior official in the Foreign Office, modestly to disclaim any control over the Labour Government which I served.
§ LORD DAVIES OF LEEK
My Lords, let us be frank. The trouble with Foreign Secretaries on both sides of the House, whether redbrick university or Oxbridge, is that they seem to be overawed by the stolid attitude of the Foreign Office and the Treasury. So far as Vietnam is concerned, that was a bad job, and I know something about it. I believe that we have a duty to ask the British Government to see that the Israelis have a chance of not being annihilated. Mankind cannot allow that to happen. Nevertheless, I agree that Resolution 242 should be used as the basis of our next discussions. The moral issue is the one which I agreed with 100 per cent. in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Soper. The crackpot realism that we have heard over these last twenty years has landed us in the mess we are in to-day. I cannot 490 follow up the speech of the noble Lord who spoke about talking from strength, bless his dear old solid tough heart! Ernie Bevin used to tell us, "Give me another twenty million tons of coal, give me more armaments, and we can talk to the Russians through strength". Maybe we ought to talk through honesty and a belief that through these things we can achieve peace.
In this transition period we are facing an Israel in anguish at the present moment. I am saying that under this even-handedness—this horrible term that has grown up like the umbrella in the Czech crisis—the tools and spare parts should go there. The first thing that we should be trying to do is to work for a cease-fire. Then I accept the Foreign Secretary's Statement, now followed up by the profound knowledge of the noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth, who gave us an insight and interpretation which was worth while, if I may say so with humility. I believe the suggestion that was most constructive and which should be listened to was when the noble Lord said that this time we should put in troops on both sides of the line and not let them be moved by the Egyptians or the Israelis in the discussion period. My eight minutes are up, and if I spoke longer now, without going into my pet theory about how China can help in this crisis, with the Soviet Union, I should only reiterate some of the excellent suggestions already made. But the noble Baroness should realise that most of us on this side of the House are dismayed at this attitude with regard to the tools and spare parts.
§ 9.4 p.m.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, my noble friend who has just spoken illustrates clearly why the Opposition put down this Question, and if my noble friend Lord Willis is here, after his criticisms, I should like to say that it is clear from this debate that there are a great variety of views on both sides of the House. I did attempt an analysis of those who have spoken. There were 13 speakers who, in furtherance of their pro-Israeli views, have advocated the lifting of the arms embargo; there were 10 who are either neutral or to some extent pro-Arab; and there were 3 who were against any further export of arms. 491 The reason we put down this Question—and we decided to put it down before the House even met last week—was to ensure that there would be an opportunity for the House of Lords to express their views and do so as freely as I believe has been done in another place, where I may say if there is a Division (and we hope there will not be) my Party will be allowed a free vote. I would say to my noble friend, having spent quite a lot of time in consultation, and knowing the opinions of my senior colleagues at the other end as well as here, that there was general agreement that in all the circumstances the Question which we put down in anticipation several days ago best fitted the needs of the moment. It would allow this House to express views. Above all, as my noble friends Lord Kennet and Lord Brockway and others made clear, it is a durable peace we want, not just victory by one side or the other.
I would propose to attempt a brief account of how I view the situation, but before I discuss the, present position I think I must say a word in defence of the Foreign Office. I remember the Suez invasion, in which the Labour Party was highly critical of the Conservative Government, as indeed were many Conservatives; and those young members of the Foreign Office, 60 of them or more, who tried to resign did not do so on grounds of pro-Arahism but on grounds that they disapproved of aggression. Having spent some time, as my noble friend Lord Beswick has done, in South Arabia, I would not have said that the Foreign Office were at that time particularly sympathetic to the Arab point of view; indeed rather the reverse, though there were a number who did understand, as my noble friend Lord Greenwood would know, the demands for Arab nationalism and freedom represented by socialist views.
I have detected a touch of arrogance in one or two of my colleagues who have said that their way of life is not the same as ours, when in fact it is, because they do aspire, with a long history of scholarship and tolerance, as well as some of the intolerance we have seen, to things we also believe in. One of the things that has developed since 1967 is the old antagonism which was so marked between Egypt and this country. We owe 492 a lot to my noble friend Lord George-Brown that it has greatly diminished. I want to say this not because I wish to pursue a pro-Arab line.
I would say to the noble Earl. Lord Onslow, that he made one of the finest speeches I have heard in this House, and one that was greatly appreciated, as my noble friend Lord Donaldson said, even by those who do not share his point of view. There have been a number of striking speeches. The purpose of the Question that we put down was to focus attention on the need for an enduring peace. That is why we have supported the Government in their efforts in this direction. If I disagree with the Government in an important respect, it is none the less with a consciousness of the extremely critical and difficult nature of the decisions that they have to take.
I think that we are all agreed that there are three main areas that have to be borne in mind: first, to stop the fighting; secondly, to achieve a lasting peace; and thirdly, and this has been the pressing message in this debate, to ensure that Israel is not destroyed in the meanwhile, because we would all be agreed that this would be the greatest disaster of all, as well as a tragedy to a people for whom we all have the greatest admiration for their courage and many other qualities. There are prospects that the parties may be brought to the conference table. I do not propose to go into the particular discussions as to who refused to come to the conference table, or who was responsible (although I think I know to whom I would attach this blame), but none the less this may be an opportunity to bring them to the conference table. If it is to be an enduring peace we cannot, as my noble friend Lord Brockway indicated, rely on the sort of arrangements that have existed in the past. Even in this day there is an opportunity for a U.N. force, and we are glad that the Government are prepared to contribute in a demilitarised zone. It would be fatal, as on a previous occasion, to have them in one country only. Although this is not perhaps the time to discuss this matter in detail, this seems to me to be the best solution.
I want to touch very briefly on the subject of the arms embargo. I would agree with my noble friend Lord Brockway and others that while it may not be the most 493 important of the matters we have discussed, it may be the most urgent of the matters we have discussed. We are anxious to help the Government. They have said that they have sought to be even-handed, but, like George Orwell said with regard to equality, some are more even-handed than others. The pursuit of even-handedness, if it is to achieve justice, depends on the particular circumstances of those who are being treated in this even-handed way. If, as we understand —and the Government have the figures and the information—Israel at this moment is in real need of tank spares and ammunition, then I would urge the Government to raise the embargo. I would urge them to raise it not just to Israel but to all the Arab countries.
It has been emphasised by a number of noble Lords that we ought to honour our contractual obligations. It may well be that this may be more advantageous to Israel in the present circumstances, but I think that the embargo is more disadvantageous in the present version of evenhandedness. That is the view of probably the majority of my colleagues, although not all of them.
I should like to stress that I strongly support the argument that we do not wish to start another arms race. This will need to be controlled; it will need to be limited it probably ought to be limited to particular contracts. In these difficult decisions this would be a view which, listening to the debate to-day, would command the support of the majority of your Lordships. It is perhaps fortunate that we can contrive to have debates without voting, when it is possible to collect the voices of those like the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot, many noble friends, the noble Lord, Lord Byers, and others; and I have no doubt that this would be the general message from the House of Lords. I suspect, too, that though there will be dissentients there will be a similar message in the thoughts, though perhaps not in the case of a majority of the Members, of another place.
In these difficult times, when such horrible and tragic events are taking place, I think we almost incline to avert our eyes from the suffering, the misery, the tragedies and the bereavements, though some of my noble friends with relations and close associations in Israel must feel it very deeply indeed; and the 494 House has been very sympathetic to those who, like my noble friend Lord Janner, have given so much and have been so genuinely and bravely devoted to the cause in which they believe. But, like the Government, we must face the situation and we must make our own minds up, even allowing for the emotions, as to what is best for Israel and what is best for the peace of the world. Therefore, I hope we shall see some sort of further initiative on the part of the United States, and indeed of the Soviet Union, and that we shall certainly be willing to give a lead. I do not overrate that lead, despite the rather brave and optimistic speech about the role of Britain by my noble friend Lord Brockway; but certainly we have got to do the best we can. In the meanwhile, however, I would advise the Government on this particular point that the time has come to raise the embargo on both Israel and the Arabs.
§ 9.16 p.m.
BARONESS TWEEDSMUIR BELHELVIE
My Lords, I should like to join with all those who have congratulated the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, for having put this Question to us, which enables us in this House to express our views absolutely freely and which gives the Government a chance to test the temperature in this House and to understand the very deep feelings, and the reasons for them, which have been expressed from ail quarters of this House. This is how it is possible for any Member, speaking on a debate like this, to influence the Government in what is without doubt a most difficult decision. I should also like to say to the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, that surely it must be a record that on an Unstarred Question he has had no fewer than 26 speakers. I should like to join with him and with the noble Lord, Lord Ardwick, in saying how sorry we are indeed that yet another British subject, Mr. Totnalin, has lost his life in Syria; and, of course, one hardly knows how to express one's feelings about the immense casualties of so many brilliant young people, and older people, too, in this terrible contest.
The Question asks the Governmentwhether they will make a further statement on what steps they have taken, or propose to take, towards the achievement of a durable peace in the Middle East".495 I should like not only to describe the Government's policy towards this most difficult conflict but to explain the reasoning behind it. Firstly, we have refused, as did the previous Administration in 1967, to apportion blame, believing that to do so would only make it far more difficult to bring the two sides together. Secondly, we have made very strenuous diplomatic efforts in the United Nations Security Council, and of course in private contacts with all the Governments concerned, to search for a means to end the fighting and to bring about an urgent and permanent settlement of the whole Arab-Israel conflict. Thirdly, we have placed an embargo on the supply of arms to the battlefield. The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, said that he felt perhaps the arms embargo had received almost too much attention in the context of the enormous question of how we are to achieve a durable peace, but because it has been something which has exercised noble Lords very closely I should like to deal with it in some detail.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, if I may interrupt the noble Baroness, I only want to say that I said I did not think in the long run it was the most important, but I thought it was the most urgent.
§ BARONESS TWEEDSMUIR OF BELHELVIE
Yes, my Lords, the noble Lord is quite right; he did use the words "most urgent". It is urgent, because there are, of course, very deep differences of opinion as to whether this arms embargo is right. The Government have been accused of a lack of judgment and also of a breach of contract; and, of course, as my right honourable friend has said in another place, this is an immensely difficult judgment. I would ask the House to remember that both sides are asking us for arms and ammunition, and our refusal to supply will not, I am afraid, have a major effect in bringing either of the two sides to end the fighting, for each, of course, gets the bulk of its armaments from one or the other of the super-Powers. What we felt was that surely it would have been unprincipled to examine what was available for each side and then to make a selective decision which could only have been to the advantage of one side or the 496 other. That was rather the point put by the noble Lord, Lord Soper. Surely it would also have been impossibly difficult to try to balance what we allowed and did not allow to each side so that each would be capable of doing equal damage to the other with our weapons. If we are determined, above all, to work for peace, it seemed to us that it would put this country in a stronger position if we did not supply weapons of war.
The noble Lord, Lord Byers, who rose to the occasion to ask this Question, and my noble friend Lord Gridley who, alas! has had to leave us because of a family bereavement, both thought that this country would have less influence than if we had ill fact continued to supply the armaments. What I could not quite find out from this debate—and many noble Lords, if they read the OFFICIAL REPORT to-morrow, will see it has not been made clear in what they said—was what was meant when they said, "Lift the arms embargo!" There was no one except the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, who was absolutely clear when saying, "Lift the embargo! "that he meant lift the embargo from both sides.
§ LORD BYERS
My Lords, the noble Baroness will forgive me, but I did make it absolutely clear in my speech that the only thing that Israel was interested in was her own position. She did not mind any belligerent having arms from us. It is her own position which is her concern. I made that very clear indeed.
§ BARONESS TWEEDSMUIR OF BELHELVIE
My Lords, I am sorry if in any way I misinterpreted the noble Lord. I should like to come on to the question about Israel; because there were several noble Lords who said that it is important to lift the embargo from Israel because she is the smaller country. The noble Lord, Lord Janner, with the very deep feeling that he always brings to this question, said that he felt that it was entirely one-sided not to supply the arms to a small nation. I would suggest to him that it is not true that our embargo is anti-Israel. Both sides have British equipment that they have paid for. The embargo applies equally to arms going to the battlefield on both sides. If we had wanted to show favour to the 497 Arab countries we should have cut off the arms to Israel alone. In this context I did not find so many pro-Arab speeches as Lord Shackleton found; and I agree with him in this tribute to my noble friend Lord Onslow.
My Lords, I should like to address myself to the problem which has very much exercised the House to-day, the question of whether the arms embargo is even-banded. There were spares and ammunition for Jordan as well as for Israel, ready for delivery over the next few weeks. They were roughly about the same order of magnitude. As the House knows, we never give detailed descriptions of the various orders; but the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, whom I should like to congratulate on being 89 to-day—he said he had to go—the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder, the noble Lords, Lord Willis, Lord Wells-Pestell, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge and my noble friend Lord Ballantrae felt that, even so, the fact that Israel was a smaller country surely made it more difficult for her than it would be for the Arab countries as a whole.
§ LORD BALLANTRAE
My Lords, may I interrupt my noble friend to say that I was not among the half-dozen that she counted.
§ BARONESS TWEEDSMUIR of BELHELVIE
Well, my Lords, I am very interested and I am glad to hear it, because, if I may say so, it was not quite clear at the time. I took a careful note of what the speakers said. Perhaps it will reassure the House if I tell noble Lords that the overall orders that are outstanding for the Arab countries as a whole far exceed those for Israel. I can also say that none of the ammunition or spares ordered by Israel has in fact been loaded. The noble Lord, Lord Bernstein, asked that question. On October 6 a small part of the ammunition ordered was waiting, it is perfectly true, for delivery in the dock.
The noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, asked me a question, and although he is not present I must answer it because he said he thought it was an impish question—though that had of course not crossed my mind. He asked, was it intended to restore the contracts after all this was over? My brief answer to him is, 498 "Yes". Because what we are doing, and what I tried to explain on Tuesday after the Statement, is to suspend shipments by revoking outstanding valid licences while the fighting lasts. When people say that there has been a breach of contract, I should like to bring this to the attention of the House: there is no question of the British Government giving an unconditional guarantee for the fulfilment of contracts. The Import, Export and Customs Powers (Defence) Act 1939 gives the Government power to regulate exports, and those powers are clearly set out in the Export of Goods Control Order of 1970 and its predecessors. Even when a contract has been signed, the Government have freedom to refuse an export licence. The ammunition and spares contracts of both Jordan and also Israel were covered by licences. Each licence stipulates:This licence may be modified or revoked at any time by the Department of Trade and Industry without mason given.Therefore I suggest to the House that all those who buy British equipment are well aware from their licences that delivery could be suspended. I think that what has worried many noble Lords is that they feel that, particularly so far as the Centurion tanks are concerned, there will not be sufficient ammunition available to supply them. And as I said the other day—
§ LORD DAVIES OF LEEK
My Lords, will the noble Baroness give way? I apologise for interrupting her, but is this phrase she has quoted in all the armament deals of all the advanced countries of the world—this Catch 22"?
§ BARONESS TWEEDSMUIR OF BELHELVIE
It is always there in the case of any goods which are exported and which need a licence, not necessarily armaments. There could be all kinds of domestic things as well. The United States manufactures ammunition suitable for the Centurions, as I think the noble Lord, Lord Bernstein, recognised. I understand that the United States does not manufacture spares for the Centurions although they could certainly do so under licence. However, over the years Israel has made very good use of the contract to accumulate spares, and some of these also she manufactures.
499 Those who wish to raise the embargo must surely accept that it would have to be raised for both sides, as was also said by the noble Lords, Lord Vernon and Lord Shackleton. Spares and ammunition for the Israel Centurion tanks must be matched with spares and ammunition for Jordan, and in due course with other supplies for Egypt. There are some noble Lords, like the noble Lord, Lord MacLeod of Fuinary, who feel that there should be no armaments at all at any time, and I respect their feelings. There are those, too, who asked, it we are applying this embargo, what is happening to our partners in Europe? I cannot speak exactly for other Governments, but I understand that virtually no arms of any importance are being sent by any Western European Government; and, of course, it is well known that France and Germany have a standing embargo.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, if I may interrupt the noble Baroness, may I say that it is this question of arms that is of importance. Those of us who wish the embargo to be lifted are not talking about a new arms race. We are seeking in the present situation to redress what we believe to be an unfair balance in the application of the embargo—
§ LORD SHACKLETON
—and I fully accept that the noble Baroness no doubt anticipated only the speeches and did not make it clear. But I think there is no doubt that a majority of those who are asking that the embargo should be lifted believe that it should apply to both sides. We are not talking about a massive increase or a new arms race; we are talking about topping up and meeting needs which may be desperate at the moment.
§ LORD BERNSTEIN
My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt, but I never suggested that armaments should be sent to any other country. I suggested a contractual obligation, including supplying spares, and indeed shells. If the noble Baroness says that that is not in the licence, I should be obliged if she would say that 500 that has never been deleted from any licence. I have reason for asking the question, and perhaps we shall have the answer in due course. On the question of Jordan getting supplies, Jordan has about half the number of tanks that Israel has, and therefore there would be a difference in the quantity used and the quantity supplied.
§ BARONESS TWEEDSMUIR OF BELHELVIE
My Lords, I have read out in detail what is in the D.T.I. contract, and I do not think I need repeat it. On the difference between Jordan and Israel, it is true that Israel has more tanks, but Jordan is entirely dependent on the Centurions, whereas, as one noble Lord said, Israel is not. This is where the difference comes. It is also true to say that if you take the total amount which was required and was on order in this country, whether it was for Jordan or for Israel, there were relatively more for Jordan. I recognise, my Lords—and I recognise it from the murmurings that are going on throughout the House—that there are serious anxieties, and that is why I have tried to give some time to this point and tried to meet some of the questions that have been raised. But I would say this quite clearly: that neither militarily nor politically do we believe that there is a threat to the existence of the State of Israel. Nevertheless, on behalf of my right honourable friend, I should like to assure your Lordships that if at any stage there were thought to be such a risk, then the Goverhment would review their policy urgently and in time. If I may quote what my right honourable friend has said in another place to-day, it is:I will review the policy from day to day and, as necessary, try to advise the House to the best of my judgment and ability.
§ LORD BYERS
My Lord, perhaps the noble Baroness will allow me one point. Time is of the essence. Does the noble Baroness mean that these arms and supplies will go by ship, or will the Government take into consideration the need to airlift them if Israel is desperate?
§ BARONESS TWEEDSMUIR OF BELHELVIE
My Lords, I am afraid that the noble Lord is anticipating a change of policy which may not take place. I have tried with great care to say—and I repeat it—that we do not 501 believe that either militarily or politically there is a threat at the moment to the existence of the State of Israel. I sought to quote what my right honourable friend has said in another place, and I should like to repeat it because it is most important. He said:I will review the policy from day to day"—and he actually added "from hour to hour"; and then went on to say—
§ BARONESS TWEEDSMUIR OF BELHELVIE
My Lords, I should like the House, if your Lordships do not mind, to listen to this, because it really is the burden of what everybody is worried about. My right honourable friend said further:and I will try to advise the House to the best of my judgment and ability.
My Lords, I am obliged to the noble Baroness, and I am sorry to interrupt, but a question was raised by my right honourable friend with regard to the matter of the balance of arms, which we have always considered to be the principle on which we are working. In view of the very heavy amount of armaments that are going to the other side, does not the noble Baroness consider that the armaments for which we are asking for Israel should be supplied at once?
§ BARONESS TWEEDSMUIR OF BELHELVIE
No, my Lords. I am afraid I cannot accept that for the reasons I have tried to give. It has been an immensely difficult judgment, but my right honourable friend has felt that it had to be altogether or to neither side, and that it was better, if we are to try to use our influence to get a peaceful and, as the right honourable gentleman said, a durable peace, that we must at any rate be seen not to be supplying arms to the main combatants in the area.
The noble Lord, Lord Segal, asked whether charitable remittances to Israel were allowed. My answer to that is, "Yes". The noble Lord, Lord WellsPestell, asked why we had not, if we were having an arms embargo, also decided to revoke arms to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf. We have not revoked our supplies of arms to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf because the security of that area, 502 particularly the security of our oil supplies, is a major British interest. I can, however, inform the House that there are at present no major items due to be shipped to Saudi Arabia for at least a month, and, furthermore, all our sales to Saudi Arabia are related either to training or to the integrated defence schemes of that country.
Several noble Lords referred to the very difficult question of oil and, as the House knows, it was announced in Kuwait last night that the Arab oil Ministers had decided to start immediately reducing oil supplies by 5 per cent. a month, the value of that percentage to be calculated each month in relation to the previous month's production, until Israel has withdrawn to its 1967 borders and the rights of the Palestinians are restored. The announcement went on to say that the reduction is not intended to harm any friendly State and such countries would receive their share as they did before the reduction. I think noble Lords will agree that in many respects this is an obscure position. The exact nature and method of the measures to be taken have not yet been worked out, and the machinery of the international oil industry is so complex that we really shall have to wait until we get the exact details of these decisions and study them with considerable care before we can arrive at any new policy decision. But I would assure the noble Lord, Lord Segal, and the noble Lord, Lord Gridley, and my noble friend Lady Elliot of Harwood, that there is no question of the Government's being diverted by what I think they call blackmail from policies they believe in by threats to our oil supplies. I would agree with my noble friend Lady Elliot that the Arab nations need Western supplies, both technology and development. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth, that we are doing our very best to have a policy of diversifying our energy resources.
My Lords, lastly I should like to deal with the whole question of the prospects of a settlement, because, as has been said in this debate, this is an old and bitter dispute. I suggest to the House that there are two fundamental questions: security for Israel and the recovery of territory for the Arabs. There are, of course, other problems but I think it would be easier to solve them once we 503 got an answer to the two main questions. We understand very well the acute anxieties of Israel. Nevertheless there is no getting away from the fact that Israel has really only two choices: first, to accept that she has to live almost indefinitely in a kind of fortified camp surrounded by enemies, relying on her own strength, with no real assurance that the events of the last ten days will not recur over and over again; or to negotiate a peace settlement on terms which maybe will not be ideal for her but terms which can be backed by international guarantees as firm and as binding as human ingenuity can make them. This, I think, was the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Stamp. It is a very hard choice; we all recognise this.
The second basic issue is the restoration of Arab territory occupied in 1967. This is the quid pro quo which the Arabs are seeking in return for their agreement to recognise Israel and to conclude a permanent settlement with them. As the House knows, President Sadat has said on October 16 that he seeks an Israeli withdrawal to the boundaries of June 5 1967, and not the destruction of the State of Israel. But security for Israel and the recovery of territory for the Arabs are covered in Resolution 242 of the Security Council and that is why we are working for as speedy an end to the fighting as is possible combined with every diplomatic effort which will lead to the carrying out of that resolution in all its parts.
My right honourable friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary has already put forward some suggestions on how that programme might be achieved, and of course there have been many suggestions to-day. The noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth, spoke in particular about how, if we were to have guarantees, we could ensure that it would be explicitly provided that any international force could not be withdrawn except by the Security Council—and of course the House will recall that the United Nations force which was established in 1967 was in fact established by a Resolution of the General Assembly. That meant it had only the force of a recommendation and therefore that the permission of the country concerned was necessary for it to remain there. Therefore the only way 504 in which we could have an international force which could remain in the territory and which could not be removed is by a decision of the Security Council. That would need the concurrence of the permanent members of the Security Council, including the Soviet Union and the United States; and then it would also benecessary for the Council again, in some manner, to come to the conclusion that the force was no longer necessary. I need hardly stress to the House the enormous difficulties involved.
The noble Baroness, Lady Gaitskell, spoke about the Palestinian refugees. I would quite agree with her that that matter must also be part of the settlement; indeed, it was included in the speech at Harrogate of my right honourable friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary. Then there is the whole wider question of détente as a whole. My noble friend Lord Vernon spoke about how this was in grave danger. My right honourable friend asked the Soviet Ambassador to visit him this week and pointed out that it was vital that the Soviet Union should use her influence to bring about peace, because otherwise obviously East-West relations were bound to suffer. The noble Lord, Lord Soper, asked us also to remember what is at the bottom of any possible settlement—the three great religions in the Middle East: Muslim, Jew and Christian—and how moderation and common sense are what will count in the end.
Therefore, my Lords, I would only say that I think there have been some encouraging reports to-day, which may be signs of better things before long. The Israeli Foreign Minister has indicated a willingness to make substantial comnromises, provided that Israel's security is not endangered. It also appears that the United States and the Soviet Union, conscious as they must be of the grave dangers that the situation poses for them and the world at large, are now at last searching for common ground. We would earnestly hope that their efforts are properly founded. I would say to the House that we are in constant touch with all those concerned. Above all, we wish to keep this position from which we can work, and work not only for an end to the fighting but also for a lasting settlement—as this Motion says, for a 505 durable peace. We are determined to work for that peace as hard and as urgently as we can.