We are concerned at the continuing threats to stability in the middle east. As my right hon. and learned Friend and his European Community colleagues made clear in their statement on 27 March, we are ready to support any constructive steps by the parties to the Arab-Israeli dispute and to do what we can to help end the Gulf war and bring stability to Lebanon.
My hon. Friend will no doubt wish to consider the implications of the Israeli election results. Bearing in mind that the United States' foreign policy will continue to be paralysed until after the presidential elections, should Europe not now take a more active role and, in particular, should not the European Community reconsider the favoured treatment that is given to Israel while that country remains in defiance of international law both on the West Bank and in south Lebanon?
I agree with my hon. Friend that it is too early to judge the outcome of the Israeli elections—we watch the elections with interest. In the meantime, he will know that the Foreign Ministers of the European Community issued a strong and clear statement on 27 March about the Arab-Israeli dispute. It made our position absolutely clear, not only about the principles which we regard as of fundamental importance for a settlement, but about the importance of non-acquisition of territory by force—that is resolution No. 242. My hon. Friend will find that statement robust and clear.
The statement of the European Community shows that the PLO should be associated with any discussions that take place. Everybody knows that the PLO is in an uncertain position. We are watching its developments carefully. I believe that a clear statement by it of the right of Israel to exist within secure boundaries and a clear renunciation of terrorism would help the peace process.
No, Sir. We have a clear view of this matter. It is absolutely true and right that Israel has a right to exist within secure boundaries, but we regard the West Bank and Gaza as occupied territories and the United Nations resolution No. 242 supports that view. At the same time, we regard it as of fundamental importance to any prospect for a settlement there that the Palestinians have the right to self determination. That is a cardinal principle.
Has the Minister observed the curious attachment of the hon. Member for Westbury (Mr. Walters) and others to every totalitarian regime, feudal monarchy or other dictatorship in the middle east as opposed to the only democracy there? Will the Minister reaffirm that the Government's policy on the middle east is to create a bridge, where they can, between the United Kingdom and the democracy of Israel, whoever is elected to office in that country?
The hon. and learned Gentleman is doing an injustice to my hon. Friend the Member for Westbury (Mr. Walters), who takes a close and keen interest in that part of the world. He, like the Government takes the view that Israel has a right to exist within secure boundaries. It surely must take more than one party to reach an agreement and it is surely in Britain's interests as well as those of Israel and Arab countries to see stability in that part of the world. That also means a stable Jordan. The Government believe that it is very important that the parties concerned, including the new Israeli Government, take a determined lead in the coming months to try to get a basis on which to have a dialogue.
Is it realistic for the EEC to continue to give favoured treatment to Israel while Israel continues to build settlements on the West Bank in defiance of international opinion, and to occupy the Lebanon, and while it ignores completely the rights of Arabs and Palestinians under its domination?
I do not believe that it is true to suggest that we are giving Israel favoured treatment. Our posture and view about the basis for a settlement are clear. We have made our view clear about the occupied territories, the West Bank and Gaza. We do not believe in the acquisition of territory by force. That must be a cardinal aspect of any prospect of progress towards a peaceful settlement.
Is it not clear that, due to lack of progress, frustrations and danger are increasing in the middle east? Do the Government see a positive role for the Soviet Union in that process, and if so, what are they doing about it?
I must agree with the hon. Gentleman's first remark. There is serious danger of continuing drift. To the extent that that happens, there will be increasing despair. I must state clearly that it must be in the interests of the Israelis, the Palestinians and the Arabs to make progress on this longstanding problem in the coming months. With regard to the Soviet Union, I have made the view known before that if there is to be a comprehensive peace settlement in that part of the world, I believe that it is in everyone' s interests that the Soviet Union should play a constructive role.