HL Deb 31 July 1980 vol 412 cc1043-7

3.20 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether, in view of the reported views of the Palestine Liberation Organisation that the state of Israel must be destroyed, they still support the inclusion of representatives of the Palestine Liberation Organisation as if they were representatives of an existing or established state in current negotiations.


My Lords, in conformity with the statement of the European Council of 13th June, Her Majesty's Government believe that the Palestine Liberation Organisation should be associated with peace negotiations. Her Majesty's Government do not give the Palestine Liberation Organisation any official recognition or exclusive status, but consider that the degree of support which they enjoy among Palestinians is such that they cannot be ignored in the search for peace. One of the principles on which negotiations will need to be based is the right of all states including Israel to exist in security.


My Lords, I should like to ask for your Lordships' indulgence because, in spite of the clarity of enunciation of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, and owing to my partly worn-out hearing and the breakdown of the amplification arrangements, I probably failed to hear in totality the reply which the noble and learned Lord was good enough to give. I was a very humble officer and member of Allenby's British Army which liberated the whole of Palestine from the occupation of the Turks. Is it not possible that the Government's massive influence could be used to ensure that, before participation by the PLO, there should be renunciation of terrorism and its demand for the total elimination of the state of Israel?


My Lords, if I was not fully audible to my noble friend I can only apologise. It must be my fault, although we are all operating under difficulties. I note with admiration my noble friend's association with Allenby's entry into Jerusalem as part of his army. I myself took a humble part in the late operations in the Middle East in the Second World War and came to know Jerusalem fairly well. Whether our influence is as massive as my noble friend supposes, I do not know. I only hope that it is more massive than either of us believes. But certainly, with the Venice declaration, we regard all violence as abominable and believe that it should be renounced as a precondition of peace. I do not think that in that direction I could go beyond the Venice declaration, but my noble friend can be absolutely sure that violence is as abhorrent to me as I know it is to him.


My Lords, does the noble and learned Lord realise that by insisting on the PLO having a place in the Middle East peace negotiations one is enhancing the status of an organisaton which is financed by Gaddafi and armed by the Russians, and that this will create even further tension in a very sensitive area of the Middle East and allow the Russians a spearhead on the frontiers of Israel?


My Lords, I would go along with the noble Lord in admitting that the PLO is not my favourite body of people, but it has a certain amount of support in various international organisations, and, if what we want is a lasting peace, I think that it would be foolish to disregard the feelings of our friends who were assembled at Venice and who were unanimous on the points which I made in my original Answer.


My Lords, on a day when the state of Israel is most flagrantly defying the other equal part of Resolution 242 of the Security Council by annexing East Jerusalem and declaring Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel, may I ask the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor and the Government to be careful that they phrase their replies to questions such as this in the spirit which enabled us to get Resolution 242 unanimously adopted by the Security Council, and keep that as a basis of a policy in the Middle East?


My Lords, I thought that I was being rather careful and I hope that I have not departed from that. Obviously, internal legislation by Israel at the moment cannot alter the international legal position. That would not be possible purely by an internal legislative act. But, personally, I should prefer to say that Jerusalem remains a city which is holy in three world religions, all of which profess to be in favour of peace.


My Lords, will my noble and learned friend agree that many television viewers will have welcomed the statement by my noble friend Lord Carrington on a midday programme on Sunday on two points of United Kingdom policy which recognised both the right of the state of Israel to exist and the reasonable rights of Palestinian refugees? Is not this a policy which is most likely to lead to a peaceful and stable settlement in the interests of the world and also in the interests of Britain?


My Lords, I did not see the particular programme to which my noble friend refers, but I know that what he has just said reflects the view of my noble friend Lord Carrington, to whom he paid a generous but not unjustified tribute. I think that it is also an adequate reflection of what we think about the matter.


My Lords, I should like to put this point to the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor. Is he aware that he is not only audible but credible on this matter? Is he aware that the balance to which my noble friend Lord George-Brown referred in Resolutions 242 and 338 is very well reflected in the original Answer which the noble and learned Lord gave to the Question asked this afternoon in that there is no question of the future integrity and security of Israel being placed in jeopardy by any discussions on an international level which may come about, as we hope, in the next few months, and no individual or organisation should come anywhere near such a conference unless it first totally abrogates the policy of the destruction of Israel?


My Lords, when I find that the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, agrees with something I have said, I am reassured. I hope he is not disquieted if I tell him that I agree with what he has just said.


My Lords, may I ask the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor how on earth can we possibly continue to give encouragement to the PLO, who within the last few weeks assassinated an important ambassador from Iran? They planned an attack on children and carried out the murder of a child and the injuring of a very large number of children in Belgium, and they sent Arafat, or Arafat went himself to Moscow, in order to carry out a decision which was made at the Damascus Conference, that they should join, as far as they possibly can, in strengthening the alliance with the USSR. What is the matter with us? Why are we nurturing an organisation which if a crisis ever does come—God forbid that it should—will be among the enemies of this country, of Europe and of the rest of the civilised world?


My Lords, I should be sorry to think that I was nurturing anything of that kind. We in this House and people in most of the civilised world adhere to religious faiths to which all murder is abhorrent, and there is no murder which is more abhorrent than the murder of children. I would say without qualification that the deliberate murder of children defiles those who commit it, brings dishonour on the nation to which they belong and on the religion which they profess. I do not believe there is a single Member of this House who would not underwrite what I have just said.


My Lords, may I ask the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor whether or not he would agree that nothing is to be gained either by criticising the PLO or by extending support to the PLO? As regards Resolution 242, would he not also agree that it is impossible to implement the content of the principles embodied in Resolution 242 until the Palestine Liberation Organisation and those associated with that organisation withdraw their repeated declaration that their essential purpose is to destroy the state of Israel?


My Lords, the United Nations Organisation, not only by Resolution 242 but by the recognition of the state of Israel, recognises its right to exist, and no lasting peace could possibly be attained in the Middle East which was worth having for the civilised world which did not continue to acknowledge this right, which is indissoluble for any member of the United Nations Organisation. But one may, of course, differ as to means, and the attempt to make all organisations renounce unilateral action and recourse to violence is part, and I should have thought an indispensable part, of the search for peace, particularly for a nation like ourselves, who, as my noble friend reminded us in his original supplementary, has such an intimate and affectionate relationship with the land to which these questions relate.