Middle East

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:25 pm on 15th April 1983.

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Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Oxon Mid 2:25 pm, 15th April 1983

The House has had a short but very thoughtful debate, and I think that anyone reading it will be struck by the degree of consensus that has prevailed. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Leominster (Mr. Temple-Morris) on the care with which he drafted the motion, which is well worth careful study, and for the way in which he introduced it. It is a timely debate because this is a difficult and sad time in the history of the middle east.

Over the last seven months we have seen an intitiative —the latest in a long series—by the American President to try to bring peace to the area. The initiative was rejected initially by the Government of Israel, and latterly the PLO has not countenanced it. We had hoped that the PLO would feel able to reach agreement with the King of Jordan so that he could come forward, alongside the PLO or on its behalf, and take his place at the negotiating table.

Now there is a danger of stalemate. Stalemate is attractive to some at first sight in both camps. Those attractions are illusory. It is not good news for the Palestinians. I am thinking, not of the leaders in exile or those who are making their visits to different countries, but of the people in the occupied territories, whose lot grows harder and harder as each opportunity is missed.

Stalemate is not good news for the Lebanon, which I visited a fortnight ago, where the Government are trying to get the country together again and to get reconciliation off the ground. They are faced with the presence of foreign troops and not just Israeli troops, as has been pointed out.

Stalemate is not good news for Israel. Israel cannot achieve real peace on the basis of her present policy. The hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Mr. Mikardo) used phrases with which I entirely agree. Real security cannot depend on the occupation of other people's land. Acts of resistance by those who are occupied are followed by acts of repression by those who are doing the occupying. There is uncertainty and suffering for both. It is a far cry from the kind of peaceable and humanitarian Israel which some, at least, of the founding fathers of Zionism had in mind.

Stalemate is not good news for the West or for the world as a whole. Stalemate, if prolonged, puts us on the slide to further conflict, the scope and outcome of which cannot be predicted. Stalemate, we feel, is full of dangers, and those who apparently rejoice in it at the present time are shortsighted. Faced with that stalemate, we and our European partners do not believe in crowding in initiatives for the sake of initiatives. An initiative that takes a day's headlines and goes no further is not really worth serious consideration.

Our job is to admonish where that seems necessary, but above all to encourage those who are taking risks in the cause of peace. That is what we have tried to do in particular in the case of the King of Jordan, who has shown such courage and wisdom. We shall continue to do that. Obviously, it is a time for looking at existing ideas, reinforcing them where they seem to have a future, and not being afraid of new ideas as they come forward. We are trying to think hard in that direction.

Above all, we should encourage those who are against extremism. The hon. Gentleman was eloquent about that, and I entirely agree with him. We should encourage those who are risking their future and their lives in the cause of the peace process. The United States has a pivotal role. My hon. Friend the Member for Westbury (Mr. Walters) is right about that. It must be encouraged to persevere. If we have fresh ideas, we shall not hesitate to put them—