Middle East

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:20 pm on 15th April 1983.

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Photo of Mr Clinton Davis Mr Clinton Davis , Hackney Central 2:20 pm, 15th April 1983

I congratulate the hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Temple-Morris) on introducing this debate, although it has been rather truncated. With my hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Mr. Mikardo), I commend the motion but less so the hon. Gentleman's speech in support of it. The hon. Member for Westbury (Mr. Walters) has not always shown us, nor has he today, that he has the best interests of Israel at heart, and I am sure that the advice that he tenders will not be followed closely by any Israeli Government. The most perceptive comment of the debate was that of my hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Bow, who said that we must get the problem out of the hands of extremists. How to do that is the daunting problem that faces the international community.

However, there is some hope, which was reflected by something that we saw on television recently and to which my hon. Friend adverted, following the tragic death of Issam Sartawi, when Shimon Peres, the leader of the Israeli Labour party, at the recent Socialist International conference, paid a generous and significant tribute to him. The hope for the future lies in the recognition on both sides of the argument that there is no monopoly of wisdom.

The Reagan plan has been mentioned, and it was a great tragedy that the Begin Government, of which I scarcely approve, immediately rejected it as a basis for discussion. That is not the view of the Israeli Labour party. It is also a matter for hope that definitive ideas have been put forward by the Israeli Labour party and by the peace movement in Israel to start a realistic dialogue in which the Reagan plan plays a central role. But there must be a beginning to the dialogue. One anxiety that the Labour party has always had — it is shared by a security-conscious Israel and, I am sure, by the Minister of State —is that the Palestine Liberation Organisation, which is made up of multifarious interests, still refuses to renounce its covenant of death in relation to Israel. On the other side of the argument, the Begin Government insist upon what I believe to be not just art insensitive but an insensate policy of developing settlements on the West Bank, which cannot in the long term be in the interests of the security of Israel.

I hope that it will be possible to ensure the withdrawal of all foreign forces—Syrian as well as Israeli— from the Lebanon. Another foreign force is the strong contingent of the PLO, which is sustained by the Syrians. I hope that double standards will not be applied in this matter, because my understanding from Israel is that it believes that it is always singled out for condemnation about this matter, while the other side escapes criticism altogether.

Great hope must also be drawn from the tragedy of the Lebanon episode by the fact that 400,000 Jews in Tel Aviv could assemble in the streets to protest about it. I wonder where else in the Middle East such a protest could have taken place. We also had the remarkable Kahane report —which, incidentally, contrasted very favourably with the Franks report in terms of the openness with which its examination was carried out.

The Israeli Government, like many others in the Middle East, has a lot to answer for at the present time. I have merely tried to portray some areas of real hope. It is, after all, the duty of the Government and of the Opposition here to do whatever they can to ensure that we play a worthy and a constructive role in building on those areas of hope.