§ 6.37 p.m.
§ Lord Byers rose to ask Her Majesty's Government whether they are satisfied that the EEC initiatives in the Middle East will add to the progress being made under the Camp David arrangements and not undermine its achievements, strain relationships with the USA, Israel and Egypt, and create serious problems for a new Israeli Government.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, in asking this Unstarred Question I should first offer apologies to the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, for causing him an overlong parliamentary day. I am very sorry for that. I think the whole House will be grateful to him for undertaking the task of replying to this Unstarred Question. Secondly, I should like to make it clear that in asking this Unstarred Question I am speaking on my personal responsibility. I do not want anyone to think that my views are those of the Liberal Party, although many Liberals share them with me. Like all parties, we have people with differing viewpoints on controversial matters such as this. On the other hand, I can claim to have had a good deal of firsthand knowledge of the Middle East and the Israel-Arab problem in particular.
§ I first went to Egypt 41 years ago and I went to Palestine, as it then was, one year later. During part of the 'sixties and early 'seventies I was chairman of the visiting committee of the business school at Tel Aviv University, together with the noble Lord, Lord Sieff. I am chairman of the Anglo-Israel Association, but again I want to make it clear that it is not in any way in that capacity that I am speaking tonight. However, I am president of the Liberal Friends of 739 Israel. I think therefore I have a claim to put forward a particular view on the Arab-Israel dispute. I am reinforced in what I propose to say tonight by discussions which some of us had last week—last Wednesday, in fact—in Luxembourg with Members of the European Parliament.
§ I have put down this Unstarred Question to Her Majesty's Government to find out where exactly Britain and the EEC stand on the Middle East question on the eve of the departure for Washington of the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary, and to express some concern at the effect which the European initiative may have on the prospects of peace in that area. I want to deal with the concern I feel that the EEC initiative will undermine what has been, and is being, achieved under the Camp David arrangements, and secondly, I want to challenge the idea that the terrorist organisation, the PLO, is the right vehicle to use in any solution of the Palestinian problem.
§ First, Camp David. A great deal has already been achieved, but the concept of Camp David was a longterm one and the relations between Israel and Egypt must be treated with the sensitivity which they deserve. As I understand it, Camp David had two main objectives—first, to complete a peace settlement between Israel and Egypt. A treaty has in fact been signed and a settlement is well on the way to being achieved. The second objective, as I understand it, was to create a structure in which the rights of the Palestinians could be safeguarded. Limited autonomy for the Palestinians was to be attained over five years from the election of a self-governing authority for the West Bank and Gaza, and at the end of the first three years negotiations would begin on modifying and developing that autonomy. In the meantime, as part of these arrangements, Israel has handed over the Sinai, handed over its oilfields, is dismantling its military installations and has pulled back many of its troops. My fear, therefore, is that the European initiative will strive to produce an instant solution which will cut across the Camp David long-term concept and, in the process, will undermine both the achievements and the initial confidence which is being built up daily between Israel and Egypt.
§ My second and more specific concern about an EEC initiative, and one on which I have not so far been able to elicit assurances, is the conviction that peace in the Middle East will only be achieved by creating an independent Palestinian state on the borders of Israel, and that this must be achieved by associating the PLO with the negotiations, as was referred to in the Venice declaration. There are, I think, two legitimate fears on this aspect. The first is the nature of the PLO itself and its declared public intentions concerning the destruction of Israel.
§ I hope I am wrong, but I am afraid that the Foreign Secretary, in espousing the PLO as a party to the negotiations, is being affected by what one might call the Lancaster House syndrome. The idea is that if Mugabe and Nkomo can be brought to the conference table, just as Kenyatta was, one should forget that they are terrorists and negotiate with them. But what is overlooked in these cases is that Mr. Mugabe and Mr. Kenyatta were struggling to put an end to foreign colonial rule. They did not seek the destruction of 740 the United Kingdom, but Yasser Arafat seeks the destruction of Israel and its replacement by an independent Palestinian state. In my mind there simply is no parallel between the two cases. Furthermore, I have no time for the sort of naïvety which believes that one should ignore the public declarations by the PLO that Israel must be destroyed, which are well documented, and instead rely on assurances which are offered in private conversations. Neville Chamberlain made that mistake over Mein Kampf and over Munich. Many of us remember the hollow claim of "peace in our time".
§ The second objection to associating the PLO with the new state is that it will inevitably control and dominate it. The new state, controlled by the PLO, supported as it will be (and there is much evidence on this) by Libya and Russia, can never be anything but hostile to Israel and to its existence as an independent democratic entity.
It is now nearly 40 years since I spent five months at the Haifa staff college, at a time, incidentally, when Rommel's drive through the desert had gathered such momentum that we had seriously to look at the defence of Egypt, the Canal and Palestine itself. Anyone who went through that period before Alamein realises the tremendous task it is to provide secure frontiers for a state in Israel's vulnerable geographical situation, even without the setting up of a blatantly hostile state on its borders. I think it is significant that on Tuesday of last week, when President Sadat was addressing the European Parliament in Luxembourg, he did not refer to the Palestinian state; he referred to a Palestinian entity—something quite different. Associating the PLO with the negotiations would, I believe, be a severely retrograde step. The Camp David agreement is quite clear on how the Palestinian issue should be handled. It says:
The Israeli military government and its civil administration will be withdrawn as soon as a self-governing authority has been freely elected by the inhabitants of these areas"—
that is the West Bank and Gaza—
to replace the existing military government".
It was envisaged in the agreement that among the parties to the negotiations to define the powers and responsibilities of the self-governing authority there would be:
Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza or other Palestinians as mutually agreed".
There was no specific reference to the PLO, and certainly mutual agreement on their inclusion would not be possible unless the PLO withdraw, in an effective public way, their intention to destroy the state of Israel. The idea that Israel might rely for its security on a United Nations peace-keeping force after the experience of 1956, when the first force was told to clear off by Nasser, is, to my mind, quite ridiculous. We also have the case of UNIFIL in Southern Lebanon, which admits that it cannot or will not dislodge some hundreds of PLO terrorists deployed in its territory.
§ I believe that the EEC route, with all the goodwill that there is behind it, could end in disaster; at the very least I am sure that it is going to cause considerable confusion. Therefore I welcome this opportunity of being able to express the concerns which many of us have, and I ask the Government to realise that this initiative should be dropped and that our best plan is 741 to work in the closest harmony with the United States Administration to support Camp David and what was agreed there.
§ 6.48 p.m.
§ Lord Goronwy-Roberts
My Lords, we are all grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Byers, for the constructive and balanced speech with which he has opened this debate. The Middle East is indeed a vast area of instability and a constant threat to its own peace and the peace of the world, and in recent years the factors of instability have increased instead of diminishing. In the Islamic revolution we have a new accession of Muslim consciousness and power, much of it understandable but some of it, as in Iran, capable of unleashing new and disturbing forces. The Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan is related to all this and has given an added dimension of instability in the area.
Then there is the cost and the availability of oil seriously affecting the economy of the western world, of Japan and indeed of the Third World, perhaps more vulnerable than any to the abrupt changes in oil prices. Then there are the antagonisms within the Arab world itself, leading, in the case of Iraq and Iran, to actual war, and that, too, is an increased factor in the difficulties and dangers which beset the region. It is against the background of increasing instability and danger to peace that the Arab-Israeli dispute presents an especial urgency.
The noble Lord was quite right in concentrating the attention of the House on the Arab-Israeli scene, which is more than ever the heart and centre of the instability of the whole area, from which has flowed since 1973, the series of acute oil crises which continue to distort our exchanges and the economy of the western world, The new aggressive oil pricing policy, however, was not solely dictated by considerations of finance and conservation, important as those were in the calculations of OPEC, but also in part by a vehement reaction to the continuing plight of the Palestinian and Arab refugees. They see 1½ million Arabs still without roots or rights, a fertile ground for the extremists and the men of violence and a source of deepening despair for the men who counsel moderation, and they include Arabs and Jews.
Conversely, a just and durable solution of the Arab-Israeli dispute would have a far-reaching and beneficial impact on the whole Middle East scene, helping perhaps to stabilise oil policy, taking some of the politics out of that policy, and turning the Arab mind from the obsession with the West Bank and Gaza to wider regional problems and the undoubted role which a free, secure Israel could play in their solution.
There are two main approaches to the solution of this problem; the Camp David procedures and the Venice Statement of the Heads of Governments and States of the European Community. I think it is essential that the two should be regarded as complementary and not conflicting. They have a common objective, a just and lasting settlement based on the resolutions of the United Nations, notably Resolution 242 and Resolution 338, which still stand the test of commonsense and practicality, and which establish the two-fold basis for a settlement; namely, security for the State of Israel and justice for the Palestinians and the refugees. Neither is possible without the other. We 742 can spend the rest of this century and more contemplating in the Middle East murder, destruction and despair, without a solution of this problem, and creating there the possibility of an even wider conflagration than we fear may be possible in the area at the present time.
Israel can never attain real security so long as 1½ million Arabs cherish a deepening bitterness about their lot. Nor can the Palestinians hope to secure a role and a home, however defined, next door to Israel unless they finally, firmly and publicly renounce the destruction of Israel as their fundamental aim. Many of us feel that now is the time to effect a conjunction of the two approaches. My noble friend has quite rightly pointed to the dangers of inserting the Venice Statement into the procedures of the Camp David talks. But it is possible to effect a conjunction of the two approaches, Camp David and Venice, avoiding the dangers which the Question sets out and which my noble friend's speech so clearly defined.
Camp David, as he said, has very considerable achievements to its credit, the actual return—not a blueprint, but the actual return—of occupied territory to Egypt by the Israelis; they handed over the Peninsular of Sinai together with its oil wells. That was an actual act of renunciation and restoration, something we have talked about since 1949. That has been done. It is a practical example of how the two-fold basis of lasting peace can be achieved. It has happened in part of the disputed territoties already, in Sinai. That is a negotiated restoration of Arab land balanced by the recognition of Israel and its security. That has been done in regard to Sinai.
I believe that what proved successful in Sinai can be applied to the West Bank, and this is why I support my noble friend in calling on the Government to be very careful indeed that the techniques which succeeded in Sinai shall not be jeopardised or impaired by the intrusion in an untimely way of other proposals and other techniques, however well-meant and however well endorsed. Nothing could be more highly endorsed than a summit meeting in Venice putting forward a declaration on any subject. I repeat I do not myself see that the Camp David procedures and the Venice objectives are incompatible. But there is a question of timing, as to how far the Camp David procedures and agenda, which includes the points made by my noble friend, should proceed before the Venice techniques are added. This is a point of reservation which my party generally feels. We wish to see the achievements of Camp David built on, and at the appropriate times the perceptions of Venice added to that process. It is a question of timing, Indeed, I understand that the Israeli Labour Party, which is likely to form the next Government of Israel, shares this view.
The Venice Statement does have this advantage—and I am quite sure my noble friend would defer to this: it pays particular attention to the all-important matter of guarantees once a settlement is reached. No one is going to a conference table without the question of guarantees that will stick being ever-present in his mind before he begins to talk about terms. He is going to look to the end before he starts talking about the means.
I believe we are in a position now to move forward decisively towards a solution of the problem of the 743 West Bank and of Gaza. I, too, am familiar with the area and dealt with these matters for years in the Foreign Office. I know that the problems in those parts of the disputed territories are ten times more complex and difficult than they were in Sinai. Nevertheless, the principle is the same and the techniques of solution could be the same, and the sooner we move the better.
I started by reminding the House and myself of the added dimensions of instability in the Middle East in the last few years. Fifteen years ago, 20 years ago, the Arab Israeli dispute stood pretty much on its own. Look what has been added to it, feeding its rancours and in turn deriving a new strength of hatred and antagonism from the continuation of that dispute. So the sooner we move the better. Now the Iran-Iraq war; yesterday Afghanistan; tomorrow, what new disturbance which will further emphasise the urgency of a solution to what I call the heart and centre of this problem?
But whatever form the negotiations take—and I am sure that the Government will have listened with very great care to my noble friend Lord Byers who spoke about the danger of confusing, of muddying, the waters by mixing the two prematurely—there are, I think, a number of preconditions which all who aspire to a place at the table must accept beforehand. There are conferences which are best started without preconditions, but there are conferences—and this is one such situation—where there are bound to be preconditions before we get any kind of meaningful conference.
The first precondition is, of course, that while all who have a genuine interest in the solution should be represented, no individual or organisation can possibly qualify unless it unreservedly, publicly and irreversibly renounces the destruction of the State of Israel as a political aim. The Palestinians should have a voice, but only on that condition. Secondly, all parties must accept that a settlement will mean a readjustment of boundaries. That is a very difficult thing to do, as my noble friend reminded us, in conditions of this sort and in territory of this kind. There must be a readiness to compromise territorially before anybody enters the conference room. At the very least, what the Arabs see as an Israeli encroachment on Arab land should stop, and recent advances—which as a friend of Israel I must say have done very great damage to the Israeli case—should be abandoned. There is a growing feeling in this country, and I believe a growing feeling in Israel too, that these settlements have been pushed too far and too hard and have overcast the Israeli case for security with something else which the more unscrupulous and violent of their critics are not slow to use.
Thirdly, the parties must accept a demilitarised zone. Here I speak entirely for myself, although, like my noble friend, no doubt some people may agree with me. The parties must accept a demilitarised zone because that is the nature of the terrain. They must accept a demilitarised zone internationally policed and guaranteed. I believe that the United Nations is capable of a thorough and adequate action of surveillance and of defence. Its record in various parts of the world is not simply confined to the examples that my noble 744 friend gave. It has been most successful in other parts of the world. But, having created a demilitarised zone between the new Palestinian entity and to the West of the Israeli State, then surely the Israelis should, in addition, have the line on the West of the demilitarised zone placed in such a way that it adds effectively to their possibilities of defence. I believe that the Israelis would respond to a suggestion somewhat on those lines; namely, that there is the buffer of demilitarisation, but, on the West, the actuality of Israeli capacity to defend itself.
In conclusion, I hope that this debate will stimulate the Government to promote a fresh initiative but not in challenge of any sort to the Camp David talks, but in support of them, using the perceptions of the Venice Statement to strengthen what is already proved to be effective in the Camp David procedures. We must grasp the virtues of both approaches to the solution of this problem if we are to conquer the necessity of the immediate future and so, hopefully, move into a stage when the constant instability in the area fed by hatred, murder and destruction, can be converted into stability and co-operation in which both Arab and Jew—who belong to the same family, ultimately—co-operate together to develop the Middle East, as they well can if they co-operate, and restore to it stability and peace, and thereby ensure the peace of the world as well.
§ 7.7 p.m.
§ Lord Sieff of Brimpton
My Lords, I am indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Byers, for the Question he has raised with Her Majesty's Government. I have listened with careful attention to the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts. In the conclusions of the EEC's council meeting at Venice last June the statement referring to the Middle East includes the following:All of the countries in the area are entitled to live in peace within secure, recognised and guaranteed borders … A just solution must finally be found to the Palestinian problem, which is not simply one of refugees".The communiqué continued:The achievement of these objectives requires the involvement and support of all the parties concerned in the peace settlement which the Nine are endeavouring to promote. These principles apply to all the parties concerned, and thus the Palestinian people, and to the PLO which will have to be associated with the negotiations".That is what the Venice Statement said. I appreciate that the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, whenever he refers to the need for a settlement of hostilities in the Middle East says that a pre-condition is that all countries, including Israel, are entitled to live in peace within secure, recognised and guaranteed borders. He is, of course, right. This is what he said in your Lordships' House on 1st December 1976, at column 299:Those of us who know that part of the world or who have been there will realise how militarily indefensible would be the position of Israel if the West Bank were returned to the Palestinians … no settlement of this problem is possible if the Israelis believe that the terms that they are asked to accept are worse than the alternative of sitting it out or fighting it out".I should like to ask the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, what Her Majesty's Government understand now by "secure boundaries" and whether they fully appreciate the nature of PLO terrorism today.
I hope that your Lordships will forgive me for refer 745 ring to some family experiences. My mother lived in Israel six months of each year. In the late 1950s terrorists came in from the West Bank to murder her, mistook the gardener's house for her house, blew it up, murdered the gardener, and were back across the border within 15 minutes. Telmond, where the house was located, is eight miles from the sea and one mile from the West Bank. This incident took place when Israel existed within the pre-1967 boundaries before the Six Day War. What is security for the State of Israel where at a vital point in one of her most populous areas the country is nine miles wide?
In 1973 the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, an arm of the PLO, was nearly successful in murdering Edward Sieff in his home in London because he was Zionist and helped Israel with her social problems. He was grievously wounded but survived because the gun jammed after the first bullet had been fired into his head.
One can, of course, say that these incidents occurred one over 20 years ago and the other seven years ago, and that the PLO is more moderate today; that we should not take seriously what its leaders say publicly, but what we are told they say in private—namely, that they desire a peaceful settlement. Let us briefly examine that. In March 1977 the Thirteenth Palestine National Committee, which formed the PLO, reaffirmed that:The liberation of Palestine, from an Arab viewpoint, is a national duty, and it attempts to repel the Zionist and Imperialist aggression against the Arab homeland, and aims at the elimination of Zionism in Palestine".So less than four years ago the PLO again called for the destruction of the State of Israel, but we are to forget that.
But what has happened since? There has been a continuing stream of assassinations of Arabs and Palestinians, never mind Jews or Israelis, for which the PLO claim credit. Mr. Kadi, the district education officer of Nablus, and Mr. Janhu, perhaps the most prominent businessman of Romallah, were both murdered by the PLO in 1978. In 1979 the Imam of Gaza, Sheikh Khuzendar, after a visit to Cairo to congratulate President Sadat on his peace initiative, was murdered on his return by the PLO. In the last three months 12 Arabs in the Gaza strip have been murdered by the PLO, the most prominent being Mr. Wardah, deputy head of the municipal council of the town of Jabaliah, who supported the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty. The PLO claimed credit for those murders. A PLO spokesman in Beirut threatened a similar fate for other West Bank Arabs who collaborate in any way with the Israelis.
I suggest to your Lordships that the reason many Palestinians on the West Bank agree that the PLO should represent them is not due to any democratic or voluntary form of election, but is due more to fear of assassination if they do not support the PLO. I do not agree with all the policies and activities of the present Israeli Government, but I ask Her Majesty's Government whether, if they were in the Israeli Government's shoes, they would be prepared to negotiate with a group which publicly declares to this day that its objective is the destruction of the State of Israel, its continued method of operation the murder of any 746 prominent Arab who works with the Israeli authorities or who supports the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty.
Like the noble Lord, Lord Byers, I believe that it is essential that whatever action Her Majesty's Government propose or take, or we support as a member of the EEC, we ensure that this does not in any way undermine the progress already made under the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty. And progress is being made, as I learned when I recently visited Egypt and had discussions with President Sadat and his Ministers, and even more recently this morning when I had discussions with the Deputy Prime Minister of Egypt.
We should build on what has been achieved. It is impossible for any Israeli Government to negotiate or to enter into negotiations with the PLO until that organisation and the Palestine National Committee publicly renounce their policy of eliminating Israel and murdering any Palestinian or Arab who cooperates with the Israelis. Only in this way will we in the end achieve peace between Israel and her immediate neighbours, and see a fair and satisfactory solution for the Palestinians.
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ Lord Segal
My Lords, I, too, should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Byers, for initiating this debate. It is the latest but by no means the least of the many valuable contributions that he has already made towards the cause of peace in the Middle East. It was a bold stroke on the part of the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary to persuade President Sadat to attend the meeting of the European Parliament at Luxembourg, and one that paid off handsomely. It added still further to President Sadat's stature as a world statesman and endorsed the European initiative on the Middle East taken at Venice last June.
But, according to The Times report of his address at Luxembourg, there were two notable omissions in the President of Egypt's speech, which nevertheless earned him a standing ovation from all the assembled delegates. One was the omission of all reference to the PLO. There can be little doubt that his attitude to the PLO is at least somewhat lukewarm, as he confirmed by his later remarks in Paris. This fact is indeed hardly surprising. Ever since Camp David the PLO, as has already been said, has been responsible for waging a campaign of murder and terrorism in the occupied territories of Gaza and the West Bank against those Arabs who showed the slightest signs of approving President Sadat's policy of moderation and acceptance of peace with Israel.
The PLO, moreover, is not short of funds. It has been liberally subsidised from the Gulf and it is determined to crush out of existence all opposition to the creation of a Palestinian state. That is why the Arabs of Palestine have been compelled to accept, willy nilly, the PLO as their sole representative; and this, despite the wishes of the vast majority of the Arab moderates in Palestine who, in their heart of hearts, long for peace with Israel and who know that another war can only bring them disaster.
How much wiser would the Declaration of Venice have been if, like President Sadat at Luxembourg, it has omitted all reference to the PLO. Yet we brought the PLO quite unnecessarily into the Venice Declaration, to the surprise and consternation of both President 747 Sadat and our American allies. This was surely somewhat gratuitous, unless it had been demanded of Venice by the Arab powers of the Gulf. For not once, but again and again, Britain has committed herself to guarantee, not only absolute recognition, but also safe and secure boundaries for the state of Israel. Why do we fail so abysmally to convince the Arab states that we mean what we say, and persuade them to accept with good grace the stark reality of Israel's existence, instead of continuing their futile vendetta? Surely President Sadat's formula, so powerfully declared at Luxembourg, to proclaim a mutual and simultaneous recognition between Israelis and Palestinians, is the only logical solution. All the efforts of the EEC should now be concentrated in convincing the moderate Arab states to accept this formula, and emphasise that the continued use of oil as a political weapon will not make us budge from our position.
In passing, may I add a word about the position of Jerusalem. Peace in Jerusalem can never be achieved, whatever well-intentioned theorists may say, by stationing there an international force of hired, timeserving mercenaries. Peace in the Holy City can only be achieved by a force of those who love the city and who are prepared to dedicate their lives to the cause of peace within her walls: not a force of arms, not even arms of self-defence, but a force of men and women of goodwill from all over the globe who are refugees from religious persecution. That is the best way of ensuring peace in the Holy City.
An international force, on the other hand, sponsored by the United Nations as we know it today is foredoomed to failure, as it has already failed to bring peace to the Lebanon. A similar failure in Jerusalem would be a tragedy for the whole civilised world, infinitely worse than the present uneasy peace that now hangs over the city. Yet even amid this uneasy peace there are signs of hope, thanks to the wise, conciliatory approach of the Mayor of Jerusalem, Mr. Teddy Kolleck, and the spirit of justice that pervades the Israeli courts. At least all religious and all denominations now have access to their holy sites, a state of affairs which did not exist during the period of Jordanian occupation.
So I ask the Government now, if the price of oil is raised further and further above its present height, will they ultimately yield to Arab pressure and agree to the annihilation of Israel? If so, they had better declare their intention here and now. That would resolve a lot of doubts in the minds of the Arab rulers in the Gulf, and might possibly achieve some stability in the price of oil which is now impoverishing the whole world.
Why can we not declare openly to the Arab states that however much they raise the price of oil it would still be cheaper for us to pay that price than to be involved in another Middle East war, with all the horrors that it would create for the whole of humanity? A war between Iran and Iraq is bad enough. At least it can be localised. But a war again in the Holy Land is unthinkable. We should all share in the blame if the EEC and Russia and the United States became involved. Here President Sadat has shown the way. He already has some notable achievements to his credit. The first was his complete break with 748 Soviet Russia. If other Middle East states had followed his lead the whole world would know today where the Arabs stand, and the journeys to and from the Kremlin would cease. The minds of the EEC and the United States would be set at rest. But any Arab stand against Russia seems as far off today as ever, despite the bitter lesson of Afghanistan.
The second great achievement of President Sadat is that without openly adopting the Christian ethic of "love thy neighbour" he has demonstrated to the whole world that he believes sincerely in Israel's desire for peace, and by his dramatic act in visiting Jerusalem in November 1977 dispelled at once the atmosphere of suspicion and mistrust that hung over these two neighbouring states. Let us be in no doubt whatever that these two states hold the key to eventual peace in the Middle East. Without them neither oil nor wealth can hope to prevail.
The pity is that the one great leader who understands the true needs of the Arabs still remains an isolated figure. If only one of the moderate Arab states, say Jordan, or Lebanon, or Saudi Arabia were to rally to his side a great step forward towards peace will have been achieved; but, thanks to the activities of the PLO, an atmosphere of terror still hangs over Lebanon, Syria and Jordan, though mercifully it has now been cleared from Egypt. Here we in Britain, in concert with the EEC and our American allies, should reaffirm our attitude again and again to leave the Arabs in no uncertainty as to where we stand.
But let us have no doubts whatever; the liquidation of the state of Israel will never bring peace to the Middle East. On the contrary, it will only exacerbate the warring elements in that region. There would still remain the war between Iran and Iraq; the emnity between Syria and Jordan; the wiles of Colonel Gaddafi, and the horrors in the Horn of Africa. In the end still remains the PLO with its rival factions and all its discordant voices. In the end still remains Russia, waiting in the wings ready to stir up the muddy waters in Afghanistan and its restless surrounding regions. At least with Egypt and Israel we can no longer have any doubts about their attitude towards Russia. We know they will always stand solidly behind the West.
The other notable feature of President Sadat's Luxembourg speech was that according to The Times report he omitted all reference to a Palestinian state, but spoke repeatedly, as we have already heard, of a Palestinian entity. In this he was fully in accord with the agreement reached at Camp David: Absolute autonomy; autonomy to the freeest and fullest extent. But to campaign for the creation of yet another, 22nd, Arab state on top of all the existing ones would be as illogical as campaigning for an independent Italian state in Switzerland—and who would campaign for that?
Surely the cause of peace is deserving of some sacrifice. The great tragedy of the post-war world is that it has become polarised into the peace-loving states and the states that still believe in war as an instrument of national policy. After Afghanistan we can no longer harbour any illusions as to where Russia stands, and until the last Russian soldier is withdrawn from Afghanistan no one can hope to believe in Russia as a peace-loving state. But in the 749 Middle East we have no doubt about Israel as a peace-loving state since peace is essential to her continued progress.
President Sadat's third and perhaps greatest achievement is to have allied Egypt with the ranks of the world's peace-loving states. No one seems to have fully recognised the sacrifices that Egypt has already made for the Palestinian cause, sacrifices far greater than those of any other Arab nation, certainly far greater than those of Saudi Arabia and all the Gulf states put together; at least 80,000 of her sons killed and wounded in five Middle East wars and countless families bereaved of their breadwinners.
Now at last peace reigns over Israel's western frontiers. The great Islamic state of Egypt, with its 40 million inhabitants, with the largest and most powerful of all the Arab armies, has determined to live in peace with its eastern neighbour; and with Israel's western border now neutralised, to the inestimable benefit of both nations, no Arab state or combination of Arab states can hope to defeat Israel by war. Their only remaining hope is by a diplomatic victory with oil as their weapon.
Let Britain once again, through the EEC, declare to the world that, however high the price of oil, we stand committed to the survival of Israel and that, however astronomical the price of oil becomes, it will always be lower than the price of human lives and human suffering that another war would entail. The Middle East, alas! has been the graveyard of many reputations in the past. Our hope now is that this short debate may herald the ultimate closure of this graveyard and give a new lease of life and added strength to those who are striving for peace.
§ 7.32 p.m.
§ Lord McNair
My Lords, in asking his Question, my noble friend and Leader, Lord Byers, said he spoke on his own personal responsibility. So do I, because on a matter of this importance I do not know any other way to speak. I have listened with interest and admiration to all that has been said so far and I agreed with nearly everything the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, said, as has often hitherto been the case. In listening to the other speeches I have at times had the strong feeling that I was listening to a very able exposition of one side of this essentially two-sided question.
I am as totally and immovably committed to the continued existence in peace and prosperity of Israel as any other noble Lord in this House. But having been obliged fortuitously to study the Arab-Israeli complex in some detail this past year, I have been driven to the conviction that it is not a black and white affair, that it is not a matter of right and wrong. What we have is one of those tragic cases of two good causes in conflict. It often saddens me that so many men and women of goodwill in the Liberal Party, in other parties and in no party, and indeed in other countries, are so blinded by their fervent attachment to one side or the other, whichever it be, that they are unable to see the strength and justice of the other side's case.
I find this not only sad but strange because both emotions—admiration for the Israelis and sympathy for the Palestinians—spring from the same source, which is a recognition of the need in every man and woman for somewhere to call home, somewhere where you can live if you want to, go home to if you are away, somewhere where you incontestibly belong. Israel 750 has magnificently provided a home for the survivors of the ghastly events of the 'thirties and 'forties, and for thousands of others of her scattered sons and daughters. The Palestinians have lost their home and they yearn and ache to retrieve it. Does it not require almost some defect of the imagination for an outsider not to be able to accommodate both those emotions? That is my first assertion, that it is a two-sided question and that supporters of either side, if they want peace—and who does not?—must recognise that the other side also has a good case.
My second assertion is simply that the status quo is not an option. It is not tolerable that babies should be born in the camps in which their grandparents took refuge a third of a century ago. It is not tolerable, but it is happening every day. It was an Arab mayor who said to me, "We are paying for our past mistakes, and our first big mistake was in not taking what was offered in 1947". That was a terrible mistake. It was one of those historic mistakes which the leaders of all peoples make from time to time; the leaders make the mistakes and posterity pays the price, and that would almost serve as a pessimistic definition of history. But in this enlightened twentieth century it is surely our aim not to punish people for the mistakes made by their ancestors' leaders but, on the contrary, to relieve them wherever possible of the hardship to which those errors have led.
Just as it would be inhuman to opt for the status quo, it would also be politically impractical and foolish The lid simply will not stay on the kettle much longer. Hence, both the Camp David and EEC initiatives. Both surely sprang from the realisation that something had to be done and that things could not be left as they were. One of the standard clichés in the Middle East is, "No war without Egypt. No peace without the Palestinians". And it is of course the shining achievement of Camp David that at least it seems to have taken care of the first half of that saying, "No war without Egypt".
But what of the second half? I suspect—this is where some noble Lords will disagree with me—that we should perhaps amend the second half to read, "No peace without the Palestinians, including the PLO". I do not particularly like it, but I believe it is a true statement of the facts. Like it or not, I believe the PLO now has an effective power of veto at any rate on any settlement. It was of course the recognition of this fact in the Venice Declaration which displeased the Government of Israel and dismayed many of the friends of Israel in many countries. I believe a lot of that displeasure and dismay amounted to over-reaction, though I find it very easy to understand.
There are all too many people in Western Europe who seem determined on every possible occasion to unroll the red carpet in front of Mr. Arafat, without even asking him to leave his gun in the ante-room, and shower concessions on him without asking anything in return. That is the very antithesis of negotiation and the height of folly, and I suspect that it may have been an unfounded fear that the EEC Foreign Ministers were jumping on that bandwagon which gave rise to the displeasure and dismay to which I have referred.
In support of my contention that those fears were unfounded and did constitute over-reaction I should like to read to your Lordships two quotations. The 751 first is from a speech made by our own Foreign Secretary at a dinner given by the Arab community in London on 21st January. Just before the part of the speech that I propose to quote he had made a number of statements which must have been extremely acceptable to his Arab hosts. The Foreign Secretary ended that part of his speech by saying:I have made myself rather unpopular in some places by spelling all this out".He then went on:At the risk of making myself unpopular here as well, I must spell out some facts on the other side.Israel too exists, not merely on the map but as a member of the family of nations. Her future must be secure. A peaceful solution to the Middle East problem must mean that Israelis and Arabs—Palestinians—find a way of living in peace side by side.I think many, or perhaps most of you, accept this in your hearts. I want to emphasise the importance of facing the facts.Talk of expelling Israel from the UN, or 'liquidating the Zionist entity' does no service to the Arab cause. The only result of saying them is to convince the Israelis that there is no point in trying to negotiate with the Arabs.And negotiations and a just peace settlement without the Israelis are impossible. Each side must accept the rights of the other.It is precisely in this area of reconciling the rights and interests of the two sides that the European Community believe they can play an important role".Remember, my Lords, that that was said to a gathering of no doubt very distinguished Arabs here in London.
I should like to follow it with a much shorter quotation from what Mr. Sadat said to the European Parliament on the 10th of this month. He said:We should like you to participate with us in persuading Palestinians and Israelis to accept mutual and simultaneous recognition. That should be the start of any initiative.I should like to repeat the four key words from that quotation: "mutual and simultaneous recognition".
I have been involved in many discussions and arguments about the PLO and I have often thought that the question of whether X ought or ought not to meet Mr. Arafat is really less important than the question of what X ought to say to Mr. Arafat if, and when, he does meet him. If some spokesman for the EEC—Mr. Van Der Klaauw—or anyone else could really get it through to Mr. Arafat that he will never find himself seated at a conference table with any conceivable Israeli Government until he has sincerely, openly, and irrevocably repudiated the obnoxious clauses of his charter, would we not all feel that that journey had been well worth making?
It is time that I gave my answer to the question posed by my noble friend. It seems to me that the EEC initiative is neither good nor bad in itself. It all depends on how it is conducted. If it were designed to upstage or scupper, or, as my noble friend more elegantly puts it, to undermine the achievements of the Camp David arrangements, then it would be a disaster. But remember, my Lords, the passage that I read from the Foreign Secretary's speech. If it is conducted in that spirit, as I believe it will be, if we work with, and not against, the USA, if it is to complement rather than to frustrate Camp David, then I do not see that it will do any harm, and it just might do a great deal of good. It is a long shot because the problem is terribly difficult, but for the sake of our friends in Israel and in the Arab countries, and for the sake of world peace we must not give up hope.
§ 7.44 p.m.
My Lords, I have listened with very careful attention to the speeches which have been made, and I should like to compliment the noble Lord on having introduced this subject for discussion. I think that it is tremendously important from the point of view of peace, not only for us, but for the very many countries involved. I am very anxious that the matter should be considered in its proper perspective. We are talking about a very small state. If one looks at the map one sees how easy it is for an attack to be made upon Israel in so many different orders. Already the Arab states have a vast number of entities which can, and should, be described as Arab states or as Arab existencies.
Egypt contains half of the world's population of Arabs, and Egypt has taken a step which we would do well not only to follow, but to encourage with all our skill and ability, particularly in conjunction with the United States of America, which has done something which perhaps is incredible in our time. The Camp David arrangement was outstanding in the diplomatic field. Certainly Egypt itself cannot complain about the result of the Camp David negotiations.
I am not going to cover much ground that has already been covered. Your Lordships will understand that naturally I agree with the noble Lord. It would only be repetition if I pursued matters that have already been raised, particularly with regard to the question of security and the question of an undertaking. And let me deal with that. I refer to an undertaking to be given by all the parties concerned that the attack on Israel as a state should stop. Where on earth will the whole situation end up unless—and until—in the course of negotiations that principle is observed? How can one possibly expect any state at all to enter into negotiations with another entity or with another state or set of states unless—and until—that state is assured of the security situation from its point of view and is assured that its existence shall be recognised?
I have listened carefully to the speeches that have been made and with due respect to the noble Lord who has just spoken, I would say that it is not a question of negotiating with people who are expected to recognise a state. The United Nations is supposed to be a body consisting of national existencies, but that is not the question. There has been the Camp David agreement, which has avoided the attempts by violence. After all, it was a diplomatic achievement of a tremendous nature, and I think that—
§ Lord Trefgarne
My Lords, if the noble Lord could face this way we would be able to hear him a little better. His voice is not reaching the microphone.
My Lords, I am terribly sorry, but I have had some difficulty. I have just had an operation, as the House knows, and am just recovering from it. Let me go back to the point that I was endeavouring to make. A meeting is to be held in the United States. My view, and the view of many thousands of people throughout the world, is that that meeting is one which should be based upon the continuation of the Camp David agreement; that every effort should be made to see to it that that is pursued with vigour; and that the undertakings which had to be 753 given before any other entity was brought into the talks should be found by the meeting which is to be held to be of a nature which cannot be broken. It is all very well; we carry on stating that we accept the situation provided an undertaking is given that Israel will be recognised. But how on earth can anyone expect people to go into consultation with those who have not yet accepted that particular point of view and that promise which the other people participating in the negotiations have put forward?
I do not intend to repeat the very strong arguments that have already been used in the course of this debate with regard to the situation, but I want your Lordships, in dealing with the question of the meeting that is to be held in the United States, to realise that the security of a state like Israel, a small state, should not be regarded as being just a detail, but should be right at the heart of any negotiations that take place; and that the action taken at the Camp David negotiations shall continue and shall be fortified by all the action that can possibly be taken by the parties when they meet.
§ 7.55 p.m.
§ Baroness Elliot of Harwood
My Lords, we are much indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Byers, for putting down this Question, which is of passionate interest to all of us. It is now quite a while since we had a debate in your Lordships' House on this subject, and I think the situation has changed dramatically since that time. To begin with, there are quarrels and wars between Arab countries—between, as we know, Iran and Iraq—and they have nothing to do with Israel; Israel is not involved with them. The Arab states are conducting, most unwisely, wars against each other, and Israel is outside it. The production of oil is suffering, which also affects the whole world.
I think these are the problems that the United Nations should deal with, and that the questions of Israel and Mr. Sadat should be left to be dealt with, as they have been dealt with very happily and successfully, I think, under the Camp David agreement. Israel has signed a peace treaty with Egypt; there have been many sacrifices on the part of Israel to carry out what was agreed at Camp David; and she is prepared to continue on this course. The European invitation comes at a time when the Arab wars are causing a crisis in oil and when Israel is living in comparative peace. The mix-up of the oil crisis with the Camp David policy for peace is doing things in the wrong way and at the wrong time. To call on Israel to recognise the PLO as having territorial rights, and the PLO refusing to recognise the state of Israel, is no basis for negotiation.
The noble Lord, Lord Sieff, has told us of things that happened (some years ago, it is true, but not very long ago) which are of a terrifying kind, and it is impossible to ask a nation like Israel, a member of the United Nations and a recognised state, as are all the other United Nations states, to enter into negotiations with a group of avowed and declared enemies, with no status at all—simply known as the PLO—in order to discuss proposals with which they totally disagree and which in my opinion would probably lead to active war, since many other nations of the United Nations would be involved. Such prospects are alarming 754 beyond all imagination, and must not be allowed to take place.
The whole world knows that in recent years UN countries have been selling arms to Arab countries. So far these arms have been used in Arab state wars. That is bad enough, but if inter-state quarrels should turn into war against Israel then the whole world would be involved, and God forbid that that should ever happen! I believe that there is only one hope, and that is to keep the conditions in the Middle East as low-key as possible, and to support the initiative of Camp David, and Mr. Sadat and the Israeli Government. Should there be a change in Israel after the next election, I feel sure the new Government will be as anxious to keep the peace and the negotiations going on under the Camp David agreement as any other Government, and, my Lords, these can be carried on better outside the EEC countries and directly between the two countries. That is my strong view, and I feel that that is the way to deal with it.
§ 7.59 p.m.
§ Lord Weidenfeld
My Lords, for the past three years the Middle East has been subjected to a chain reaction of turbulence. The power vacuum left by the Shah's demise has brought forth reverberations and reopened latent feuds from the Western Sahara to the Eritrean Desert, from Kurdistan to the Gulf, and from the Lebanon to the Sudan. Old power struggles, temporal and religious, have flared up, with probably graver feuds and threats to come. Amid this darkness the solitary shaft of light is the settlement between Israel and Egypt. Imperfect, open-ended, equivocal, it may well be, but it has already been an enormous achievement—constructive and positive. It has been achieved through American mediation and through the courage of the leaders of Egypt and Israel, with only faint applause and very little help from Europe. For underneath its lip-service and diplomatic nicety, Europe's attitude has been ambiguous from the start, and America has been, to be absolutely frank, puzzled by Europe's reaction, crystallized in the Venice Declaration, and apprehensive about its motives, its thrust and its possible consequences.
What are these motives? In the eyes of many observers in Washington and elsewhere, it is perhaps Europe's search for a role in the world, a search which is as old as the European Community, which is born of a desire to play a part which would lift its image above the mundane trading rivalries and financial squabbles of everyday life. Europe has, of course, a vital interest in the Middle East and has a vital role to play. But for reasons which are complex to explain though simple to demonstrate, Europe has allowed herself, through faint-heartedness and discord, to be held to ransom, to turn client rather than partner of that part of the third world which lubricates its industries and daily life with oil. Hence, there are many elements in Europe's initiative which reflect more a desire to appease than to pacify.
A distinguished American, who speaks for quite an influential section of Republican opinion, went so far as to accuse many Europeans of what psychologists nowadays call the Stockholm syndrome, which is the tendency of a kidnapped victim to identify with his abductors and, in consequence, it is argued that such 755 a state of mind is not ideally suited for the task of mediation. Bluntly, many people see in the Venice Declaration an attempt at ingratiation with one side—the Arab States—and a concerted effort to lean on America, to lean in her turn on Israel, in order to extract maximal concessions which I understand, the European "position papers" spell out with great precision and clarity, in exchange for minimal assurances and compensations which are expressed in a nebulous and open-ended way. Enough has leaked from the consultations of the Nine or Ten to know that these precise and concrete plans or options drafted and circulated, allow for substantive suggestions of procedure, time-tables, negotiating goals, peace aims, deviating from the Camp David Accord.
Of course, it is perfectly true that in the Washington of Jimmy Carter there were some voices—in the State Department or the White House—which whispered more or less discreetly to the Europeans that some sort of initiative to help to speed the momentum, to curb the recalcitrance of the negotiators, might not be unwelcome, but those voices did not come from the highest level and they are certainly not likely to come from the new incumbent in the White House and his team. The European initiative, lacks even-handedness and a sense of symmetry—political, military and psychological symmetry; for it contains elements that spell danger to the peace process. These, I submit in all diffidence, might be summarised as follows:
First, anyone who pronounces Camp David as either stagnant or doomed to failure unless it is significantly changing its whole procedures, time frames, negotiating partners and new final objectives, throws dangerous doubt into the minds of many Arabs, Governments and individuals, who might have stood for moderate policies. That doubt is immediately contagious and tends to make the moderate immoderate, and the immoderate intractable. Furthermore, Europe's plea for a decisive role for the PLO legitimises a terrorist organisation which, already condemned by the Carter régime, is anathema to the Reagan administration.
Europe's espousal of the PLO is particularly offensive, because there is nothing which leads one to assume that the European leaders have even begun to dent that organisation's fundamental rejection of Israel and its covenant of total intransigence. The opposite is the case. The latest full reunion of the PLO Executive in Damascus last year reiterated the call for the "extinction of the Zionist entity". Arafat's most recent interview in The Times, while confirming that the PLO would accept any part of Palestine vacated by Israel as a spring-board, reaffirmed that the PLO's ultimate aim remains the secular and democratic state of Palestine, where Jews, Christians and Moslems may live in peace together—which is the well-known euphemistic shorthand symbol for the obliteration of the State of Israel.
Of course, among some of the whispers in the wings, you can also hear some more sophisticated arguments in favour of PLO association. European statesmen, involved in the initiative, are wont to tell their friends that if Arafat were to have his flag, his uniforms and his foreign embassies, with Saudi backing, he would soon make short shrift of his own extremists. Moreover, so runs the argument, the Israelis would greatly 756 benefit. For of each billion dollars of Saudi or Kuwaiti aid, a few hundred millions would be sure to find their way into Israeli coffers, since the two neighbouring economies would be bound to be inextricably linked. But, my Lords, what if the scenario is reversed, and, as is more likely, the radicals gain the upper hand, funded, fuelled and armed by kindred spirits or a mischievous super-power? Who takes the risk? Not the European Community, nor even the Arab League, but the people on the ground, and especially the Israelis.
Among supporters of PLO involvement, especially in Britain, it is now fashionable, as the noble Lord, Lord Byers, so aptly indicated, to compare the PLO and Arafat to Kenyatta and his Mau Mau, or Mugabe and the various freedom movements in the Third World. Apart from the absurdity of the analogy, which was pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord Byers, does the world realise that today at Israel's borders the front-line and second-line Arab states—excluding Egypt—now possess nearly 10,000 tanks, a larger concentration of armour than was massed at any time during World War II and probably larger than the whole armoured arsenal of NATO? We in Britain, for instance, pride ourselves of a tank force numbering hundreds, not thousands; but on Israel's borders the rejectionist Arabs have all the aircraft, rocketry and sophisticated arms that money can buy: to be precise, all that 50 billion dollars could buy between 1974 and the end of 1980.
Europe's implicit endorsement of an independent state on the West Bank and Gaza, wedged between Israel and Jordan, is known to be wholly unacceptable to all shades of Israeli opinion, for it is incompatible with her security. Such a state is economically not viable, it cannot absorb more than a fraction of the Palestinian disapora, it leaves unresolved, for instance, the bulk of the refugee problem in Lebanon and creates a security problem for itself, as well as for Israel, which is desperately serious. In this context, the noble Lord, Lord McNair, drew a very moving picture of the plight of the wretched people of the three generations of refugees in huts, camps and tents—a great dishonour to humanity. But may I point out to the noble Lord, Lord McNair, and to your Lordships that each successive Government of Israel from David Ben-Gurion to Menachem Begin has begged, urged and implored the Arabs on the grounds of the West Bank, the Arab States, the Arab League, to sit down at the conference table without precondition in humility to negotiate every single aspect of this wretched problem, and the reaction, the answer, has been invariably and monotonously negative?
We are talking of the security problem. How do you create security for an independent Arab state? On the one hand, as some have suggested, to demilitarise an entire state is incompatible with its self-respect. On the other hand, to look for a system of demilitarised zones both on the West Bank and across the border in Israel, as some Europeans suggest, would create a totally false sense of symmetry. You see, my Lords, an Arab Palestinian state, however small, will in an emergency always have as its hinterland the huge resources and the vast expanses of its Arab neighbours, whereas Israel stands with her back to the sea. Israel's security in any peace plan must be set against that of its 757 neighbours—in the plural—not its neighbour. Hence many Israeli leaders, and notably the leaders of the Opposition, Shimon Peres and Abba Eban, prefer the involvement of Jordan because a possible Arab commonwealth linking most of the West Bank with Jordan is paradoxically less of a security risk than a small West Bank state. For it is clear that such a larger commonwealth would be able to absorb people and investment and allow the kind of flexible security arrangements and territorial adjustments which could lead to the ultimate pacification of the region.
We are told that there is not such a thing as a such Jordanian "option". Perhaps there is not as yet a Jordanian option in the dictionary meaning of the word; namely, that an option is a choice freely available to the parties. But as a concept it still holds out by far the best prospect for a peaceful solution. Just as Israel's withdrawal from Arab territory is as yet no "option", but a goal achievable only through far-reaching penetrating negotiations without pre-conditions and in good faith.
Now what about Egypt? From the outset she has not been enthusiastic about the Venice Declaration. For, prima facie, it undermines President Sadat's unique role as peace-maker who has recovered lost ground through negotiation, recognition and normalisation. Of course, he is a consummately skilled statesman and if he could turn the sympathies of Europe to good account for Egypt's sake, he would be foolish not to do so. But he has in all his pronouncements, in Luxembourg and Paris, adhered most loyally to the letter and spirit of Camp David, played down the PLO, avoided prejudging the shape and scope of a future Arab entity and upheld the role of the United States.
President Sadat is, let us remember, first and foremost on Egyptian nationalist and a patriot, and there are certain nuances in his attitude which primarily reflect the interest of the Egyptian State, especially in respect of Jordan. Each Arab state has its own views of what the political complexion, future direction and allegiance of an Arab state in Palestine might be. Egypt would, of course, like to see neighbouring Gaza and the West Bank—that strategic highway linking the northern and southern tiers of the Arab world—under her own protection rather than attached to Jordan. Syria has not abandoned the dream of Greater Syria ruled from Damascus. Iraq has her own ambitions of regional hegemony; and Saudi Arabia—while we may have forgotten it—has not herself forgotten that King Hussein's great-grandfather was driven out of Mecca by King Khaled's forebear, Ibn Saud.
Nothing would be more helpful to the cause of peace if the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary were to come back with a consensus of thought and action, an agreement on strategy and goals, which would, in the phrasing of Lord Byers' Question, add to the agreement of Camp David and not strain relations between the Western allies, Egypt and Israel, and bring back a policy utterly untenable or incapable of being accepted by a new Government of Israel.
That Europe has a role to play has recently been acknowledged both by President Sadat and Mr. Shimon Peres. It is not too late for Europe to change its course and balance its tone of voice. A constructive European initiative should strive, first of all, fully to 758 acknowledge the primary role of the United States and allow her to determine the pace and procedure of further talks.
America's faith in "step by step" diplomacy inherent in Camp David has borne fruit. European attempts at an immediate "widening" of the talks, the notion of "comprehensiveness", can only mean that Europeans would willingly or inadvertently bring the Soviets sooner or later to the conference table and into the arena. In fact, let us admit it, there are some European statesmen today who would like to do so. Is this really the moment to even contemplate such a contingency? The moment when Afghanistan is infested, and Poland ringed round with Soviet divisions in full war kit—is this the moment to inflict this prospect on an American Administration which is bent on stemming the tide of fresh Soviet advances into the region?
Europe should use all her persuasive powers with the Saudis, and all those bent on peace, to support a Palestinian Arab representation weighted with Arabs living on the West Bank and Gaza which should be either freely elected or at any rate recognise Resolutions 242 or 338 without new substantive alterations. Europe should use its sincere influence with those Arab régimes to make it clear, now that at the end of a negotiation and as an incentive for a settlement all the Arab states would join in recognition, normalisation and real peace.
If Europe wishes Israel, and especially a new Isreali Government, to respond positively and flexibly to new suggestions for security, she should play down United Nations involvement. Isreal has had traumatic memories throughout her history of the lack of efficacy and impartiality of the United Nations; and as to allusions to a European military force, these are not too reassuring, either. Surely there are tremendous problems of raising, and maintaining a European contingent for service abroad at a time when Europe is beset with so much agonising doubt and argument about her own defences.
There is something which is very important that Europe can do: it can endeavour to create a better climate while the parties negotiate. Europe should come out more strongly than before against the Arab boycott which not only represents a state of economic warfare but humiliates the western world, undermining its moral standards and business ethics.
Europe has a historic responsibility and hence a deep complex commitment to Arab and Jew. Many-faceted, tragic, delicate are the links that tie each and every one of Europe's Ten with the Jewish people and the state which, for Jews, both is centre as well as outpost. Complexity quite often breeds ambivalence. In fact one might, in borrowing and adapting the title of a famous modern classic of English literary criticism, describe Europe's relations with Israel as Ten Types of Ambiguity.
When we look at the Ten, what do we see?—the Germans still self-absorbed with the horrific heritage of Hitler's holocaust; the French partly swayed by recent memories of comradeship of arms, yet propelled by what they perceive to be their national interest; Catholic Belgium, Ireland and Italy, their historic attitudes quite subtly different from those of Protestant Holland or Denmark; and even Greece, in spite of 759 warm popular support, reluctant to offend the Arabs and hesitant about sending an ambassador to Tel Aviv.
Of all the Ten, the British people and Britain's political establishment reflect, in my view, the widest spectrum of feeling as well as articulated opinion about the issue: Arab versus Jew. There is a tradition of deepseated friendship and profound affection and understanding for the Israeli cause, including, still, a certain pride in having helped to sow the seed of modern Israel. Within the square mile bounded by Westminster and Whitehall, Pall Mall and St. James's Square, there is perhaps more expert knowledge as well as prejudice and there is more benevolence as well as bile and bias where Israel is concerned than almost anywhere in the world.
Side by side with profound sympathies for Israel is much dismissive scepticism. There are still those who have not forgotten the years 1945 to 1948 and are immovable in their reserve and implacable in their resentment. There is still that feeling that Israel may be a nine-day wonder, a 99-year leasehold on Arab ground, a latter-day crusader kingdom, as bloodied by war and as transient in history.
It is the historic duty and opportunity of European policy-makers and of the British Government to ensure that a true balance is restored. Let us hope that in Washington and on the return home the British Ministers will try to readjust the scale, restore evenhandedness and speak up for Camp David and for a settlement which would be worthy of Britain, worthy of Europe and worthy of the professed ideals of the free world.
§ 8.21 p.m.
§ Baroness Gaitskell
My Lords, I should first like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Byers, for initiating this debate, and I hope I shall be as brief as he was when he spoke. This is not a debate which is conducive to a detached view, but I shall try to be as detached as I can. Regarding the speech of the noble Lord, Lord McNair, from the Liberal Benches, I should like to repeat something that I have said before in this Chamber. I was the United Kingdom delegate in the Human Rights Committee of the United Nations seven times, and I was there when Arafat made his spectacular debut. I also heard a New York television interview which an American television interviewer had with him. The interviewer asked Arafat: "Are you really intent on the destruction of Israel?" and Arafat replied in ringing tones: "This is the first step". That is just a little homily for the noble Lord, Lord McNair.
I have also, in the Human Rights Committee, had to listen to and endure the battles and debates between the Israeli and Arab delegates and I agree with the noble Lord that there are two rights to be considered. I absolutely agree with him about that. All the same, we have to take into account all the many things that have happened.
I confess, as a Jew, that I cannot hide a certain sympathy for the Israelis but I believe, as I said, that the two rights keep one on a fairly even keel and that in the Middle East the Arabs and Israelis simply have to live together. But I certainly think that the European 760 initiative which appeared in The Times on 13th June 1980 was set out very clearly in an article by Mr. Abba Eban, the former Israeli Foreign Minister, and I would rely heavily on his judgment because I have not been seduced at all by the idea of the European initiative. I believe it has been too much inspired by the European need at this time for Arab money and Arab oil, and we should not dismiss that summarily.
I can quite understand why the Israelis are apprehensive and even suspicious about this European initiative. The Europeans made no noises at all at the time when President Sadat made his wonderful intervention on world affairs. It was an absolute miracle when he put forward his proposal, and no one should ever forget how much he has done to try to get peace between Israel and the Arabs.
I am trying to be as brief as possible, my Lords. The PLO, at its Damascus meeting, swore eternal war against Israel while, as I say, President Sadat was not only praying for peace but acting for peace. He achieved an enormous amount, and I really must repeat again that one can understand that no European influence was suggested at that time. The European did not come in and praise Sadat in a way that one might have expected. Many of us, and I am one of them, are critical of Israeli policies but at the same time have no confidence in Europe's good intentions. They are totally obsessed with Arab oil and Arab money.
§ 8.27 p.m.
§ Lord Trefgarne
My Lords, the Question tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Byers, refers to the impact of the "EEC initiatives" on other peace efforts and relationships. Before addressing his Question directly, it may be helpful if I say something about the background to current European diplomatic efforts, a description which I believe applies more accurately to the current state of play than the word "initiatives".
There is nothing very new about European attempts to formulate a common policy towards resolving the Arab-Israel dispute. They have been going on since at least 1971, when the six original members of the Community accepted a report of the then Political Committee setting out a common position. We have been closely involved ourselves since 1973. Since then the members of the Community have made a succession of statements of principle about the search for peace in the Middle East, clarifying and refining their position. Notable among them for its scope and balance was the Declaration of the European Council issued in London on 29th June, 1977. This set out the view of the Nine that a peace settlement should be based on Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 and on the principles of the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by force, the need for Israel to end the territorial occupation she had maintained since 1967, respect for the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of every state in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognised boundaries, and recognition that account must be taken of the legitimate rights of the Palestinians. The declaration also spoke of the need for a homeland for the Palestinian people and for representatives of the Palestinians to participate in negotiations. It called on Israel to recognise the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people and the Arabs to recognise the right of Israel to live in peace 761 within secure and recognised boundaries. It signalled the then Nine's readiness to contribute to the search for a settlement and to consider participating in guarantees within the framework of the United Nations.
I quote this at such length not only to illustrate the consistent interest which the members of the Community have shown in efforts to promote a peaceful solution but also to demonstrate the consistently evenhanded and careful approach which has characterised European thinking.
Subsequent to the declaration of June 1977, the Nine welcomed President Sadat's historic trip to Jerusalem in November, congratulated President Carter on the historic achievement of Camp David in September of the next year, and in March 1979 expressed their belief that the Egypt-Israel peace treaty, signed shortly before, represented a correct application of the principles of Resolution 242 to Egyptian-Israeli relations. But in all this they constantly reiterated their commitment to a comprehensive settlement and to the principles of the declaration to which I have referred.
The background to the next major step of the Nine, the issue of the Venice Declaration, was the failure of of the tripartite autonomy talks based on the Camp David framework, on the future of the West Bank and Gaza Strip to reach a conclusion by the date which had been set by the parties. That date was 26th May 1980. The Nine, who had hitherto believed that the best contribution they could make was to set out the principles on which, in their view, a settlement should be based, and to offer such support to the efforts of others as individual member countries felt able to give, came to the conclusion that progress towards a settlement was more urgently required than ever, and that a more active collective European role could be helpful to the prospects for peace. The Venice Declaration of the European Council on 13th June, 1980 was the result.
The Nine decided at Venice to engage in consultations with all the parties concerned and, in the light of the results of these consultations, to consider what form an initiative on their part might take. The declaration also spelled out, in clearer and more specific terms than ever before, the balanced principles at the heart of European thinking. If I test your Lordships' patience by repeating them now, it is because so much of the criticism of the Venice Declaration has focused on only one side of what it had to say.
The declaration said,the time has come to promote the recognition and implementation of the two principles universally accepted by the international community: the right to existence and to security of all the states in the region, including Israel, and justice for all the peoples, which implies the recognition of the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people".The declaration went on to make clear what these principles mean: the first means that,all of the countries in the area are entitled to live in peace within secure, recognised and guaranteed borders".The second means that,the Palestinian people … must be placed in a position, by an appropriate process defined within the framework of the comprehensive peace settlement, to exercise fully its right to self-determination".A later paragraph states that,these principles must be respected by all the parties concerned, 762 and thus by the Palestinian people, and by the PLO, which will have to be associated with negotiations".We believe that this is a scrupulously fair and reasonable approach to a settlement, and we reject accusations that we are biased towards one side or the other.
The careful phrase about the PLO has attracted particular attention. It is criticised by the Arabs, because it does not give the PLO the status which they believe the PLO deserves. Some of the claims made for the PLO go so far that they seem to make the very concept of self-determination for the Palestinians redundant. The same phrase is criticised by Israel, because it so much as mentions the PLO in connection with the peace process. But there is a growing awareness that there is no substitute for involving the Palestinians directly in the settlement of the ArabIsrael dispute. And it is increasingly accepted that the PLO, which has widespread support both in the occupied territories and eslewhere among the Palestinian people, cannot be ignored.
Officials have for some years maintained informal contacts with the PLO. We make no apology for this. It is clearly in our interests, and in the interests of peace, that we should seek its views and explain our own, and that we should urge on it the abandonment of the path of violence, on the one hand, and public and explicit acceptance of the principle of a comprehensive settlement freely negotiated with Israel on the other. Such contacts will therefore continue. They will be stepped up, if we believe this to be helpful to the cause of peace. The PLO will have to change; we will not help it to do so by pretending that it does not count, or by leaving to others, whose views may not be so balanced as ours, a monopoly of advice to the PLO.
The issue of the Venice Declaration marked the beginning of an active and practical process on which the members of the Community remain engaged. There should be nothing surprising to anyone about Europe's desire to play a more active diplomatic role in this vital area. It is natural that the members of the Community should seek a concerted foreign policy, particularly in areas of vital concern such as the Middle East. Stability in this region is crucial to world peace and the countries of the area are, of course, of enormous economic importance to us as trading partners. It is right that we should maximise our diplomatic weight, in order to influence developments towards a just and lasting peace. In the interdependent world of today, we cannot afford to stand back from important world problems and leave all the running to others.
The Venice Declaration was followed up by a series of visits to the interested parties by M. Gaston Thorn, the then president of the Council of Ministers, in order to explore reactions to the Venice principles and seek out common ground wherever possible. Reactions were, of course, mixed; but he was received with interest everywhere and established that Europe was, indeed, regarded by the vast majority of those concerned as having an important part to play in Middle East peace efforts.
The results of M. Thorn's contacts were used as a basis for further work in political co-operation on the practical implications of the Venice principles. This work concentrated on the four key areas of Israeli withdrawal from occupied territories, Palestinian self-determination, security guarantees in the context 763 of settlement and Jerusalem. The European Council meeting at Luxembourg last December decided that the presidency, held by the Dutch for the first half of this year, should undertake further contacts with all the parties to discuss these key issues with them, as well as urging mutual recognition of rights as called for at Venice. The Dutch Foreign Minister will be taking a lead in this task. He will begin his visits to the parties very soon.
This is where European efforts now stand. It is clear, I hope, from what I have said, that Europe has not so far put forward any plan for peace: rather we have been engaged in the essential groundwork designed to prepare the way for the necessary practical steps towards a settlement. I cannot predict now what the next stage in our efforts will be; much will depend on the results of the Dutch presidency's efforts. But I can assure your Lordships that we intend to press on with our efforts with vigour and determination, so that we, in our presidency in the second half of this year, will be prepared to take up the reins of this activity with a view to making a concrete contribution. If there are any opportunities for real progress, we shall not hesitate to take them.
This is the background against which I now turn to the specific questions raised by the noble Lord, Lord Byers. We and our partners in the Community have made clear from the beginning that we are not in the business of cutting across or undermining the efforts of others, notably the Camp David process embarked upon by the Americans, Egyptians and Israelis. I do not think we can be fairly accused of having done so. The Camp David process is still in being; the autonomy talks have continued. The fact that progress has been slow, and that many substantial issues remain to be resolved, cannot be attributed to the existence of European determination also to contribute to peace, if at all possible.
The achievements of Camp David are there for all to see; peace between Israel and Egypt, Israeli agreement to withdraw from the whole of occupied Sinai and dismantle the settlements there and the progressive normalisation of relations between the two countries. It was an outstanding feat on the part of the three leaders involved and we pay unreserved tribute to them. It is vital to preserve these achievements; they are an essential element in the comprehensive peace to which we are committed. It is also vital to build upon them.
If the Camp David arrangements could lead to further progress in this direction, we should be the first to applaud. An interim arrangement acceptable to, and workable by, the Palestinians could be a valuable step forward. But we are bound to ask whether the present negotiating framework can lead to such progress. Is there not rather a need to take a fresh look at the problem? At the very least we cannot ignore the fact that the vast majority of the Arab world, including Jordan and the Palestinians, have made clear their rejection of this framework and their inability to join it. We see little if any chance that this opposition can now be reversed. We also believe that attempts to produce fresh progress must take fully into account the Palestinian dimension of the problem.
But our efforts do not in any sense contradict efforts under the Camp David framework. Rather we see 764 them as complementary. Should the fact that the Ten have decided to intensify diplomatic efforts in this area give rise to concern on the part of our American allies? Does it lead, as has been suggested, to damaging rivalry and diversion of effort? I do not believe so. We and the Americans are working towards the same goal: the achievement of a comprehensive peace settlement which will give to all the countries and peoples of the area a secure and dignified future. We and the Americans must undoubtedly work together. But our efforts do not need to be identical. The Americans have a position in the area which gives them a unique ability to exercise influence. We in the Ten can call upon a depth of experience and a network of relationships which enable us, too, to make a distinctive contribution.
Are European efforts likely to upset the Egyptians? Again I do not believe so. President Sadat welcomed the Venice Declaration as balanced and constructive. Moreover, he recently made clear to my noble friend the Foreigh and Commonwealth Secretary that he regards a European role as useful, and even essential. And in his address to the European Parliament on 10th February he called the Luxembourg Declaration by the Nine of 2nd December 1980 which reaffirmed the principles stated at Venice:a turning point which is likely to have a constructive impact on the peace process in the near future.We for our part attach the greatest importance to co-operation with Egypt in the search for peace.
The present Israeli Government have rejected the Venice Declaration as a basis for peace efforts. They have said that they cannot accept references to the Palestinian right to self-determination or to the PLO. They have made clear that they do not regard our efforts as helpful. We regret this and believe that they have paid insufficient attention to the balance of the ideas contained in the Venice Declaration. But they received M. Thorn with interest and have been at all times ready to talk to the Ten about the problems involved in a settlement. We have every intention of continuing to work with Israel. We shall continue to take full account of her interests and concerns, as we have always done, and to defend her right not only to exist but to be a full and accepted member of the international community. There can of course be no question of imposing a settlement on Israel or, for that matter, on any of the parties.
Our task must be to persuade the Israelis of our goodwill and commitment to a secure and independent future for Israel as part of a comprehensive settlement. But we cannot allow Israel or any of the other parties to dictate what form our ideas about a just and reasonable settlement should take. We do not expect our views to be instantly acceptable to either side. We have been much criticised on the Arab side, too.
I cannot properly comment on the prospects for a new Israeli Government, as the Question we are discussing invites me to do. We are of course prepared to work with whatever Government is in power in Israel. But I do not believe that our efforts need cause difficulties for whatever Government emerges from the Israeli elections in June. We are advocating a balanced approach which we believe to be in Israel's interest. We are prepared to support all reasonable efforts aimed at a comprehensive settlement, but these must be based on a realistic assessment of the situation.
765 I turn now to just a very few of the points which have been raised during the debate this evening. First, the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, referred to the problem of the Israeli settlement. I should like to endorse what he said about the damage done to the Israeli position by their continuing policy of establishing and expanding settlements in the occupied territories. We have repeated on many occasions our view that the settlements are not only illegal but an obstacle to peace. We appeal once again for an end to this policy which has, to our great regret, even been stepped up in recent weeks.
The noble Lord, Lord Sieff, referred to the "defensibility" of Israel's borders if she chose to withdraw from the West Bank. Clearly, the pre-1967 boundaries of Israel in this area do not form ideal international boundaries, but it is our belief that there will be no peace in the Middle East unless Israel ends her occupation, subject to such minor territorial adjustments as can be negotiated. We believe that a genuine and lasting peace with her neighbours will be a better assurance for Israel's future than any borders can be.
The noble Lord, Lord Byers, referred during his speech, among other things, to the UNIFIL force in Southern Lebanon and criticised her for her impartiality. We think that the UNIFIL force does a commendable job in the most difficult circumstances. This job would be much easier, I agree, if the force received the co-operation it deserves from all the parties concerned in the area, including some of the Israeli irregular forces which are abroad in that part of the world.
The noble Lord, Lord Weidenfeld, referred to the Jordanian option,and I think at least one other noble Lord referred to it, too. We agree that Jordan has a key role to play in efforts to reach a settlement, but we do not believe that the Palestinians themselves can simply be by-passed. King Hussein has made it very clear that he accepts that the PLO represents the Palestinians and that he will not try to usurp this role. This cannot simply be disregarded.
The noble Lord, Lord Segal, referred to the concept of a Palestinian state. Some of the references to the dangers of such a state have suggested that we, the United Kingdom, or the Ten have offered our support to a Palestinian state. We believe, with President Sadat, that a settlement must involve the establishment of a Palestinian entity. We have not attempted to say what form this entity should take. What we have said is that the Palestinians themselves have the right to make this choice. This view is shared by President Sadat who made it clear to the European Parliament that he, too, supports self-determination for the Palestinians.
In conclusion, can I emphasise again that we aim to make a real contribution to peace efforts. If peace is to be possible, both sides will have to move a long way from their present public positions. Israel will have to accept that there can be no peace unless the legitimate rights of the Palestinians, including the right to determine their future, are met. The Arabs, including the Palestinians and the PLO, must grasp the nettle of recognition of Israel's right to a secure and independent future. Nothing less will suffice. Without these commitments on both sides, there will be no peace.
We are of course aware that if our efforts are to achieve any success, we must work with all the parties 766 concerned, and we fully intend to do so. If difficulties in relations arise, they will not be of our choosing. The importance for us of a close and constructive relationship with the United States needs no emphasis from me. And if I may quote from a speech given to the Arab community recently by my noble friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary—I think that speech has been referred to earlier this evening—he said:We wish to maintain good relations with the Arab world and with Israel. I see no reason whatsoever why our friendship with one side should give rise to suspicions on the other. But it gives added point to our efforts to achieve a settlement acceptable to both".