Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs – in the House of Commons at 1:45 pm on 12 March 1997.

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Photo of Mr John Marshall Mr John Marshall , Hendon South 1:45, 12 March 1997

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement about relations between Britain and Israel. [18319]

Photo of Malcolm Rifkind Malcolm Rifkind Foreign Secretary

They are excellent, as demonstrated by the recent state visit of President Weizman.

Photo of Mr John Marshall Mr John Marshall , Hendon South

I thank my right hon. and learned Friend for welcoming the recent visit by the Israeli President, during which the President offered a reciprocal invitation to Her Majesty the Queen. Many hope that that invitation will be accepted in the near future.

Photo of Malcolm Rifkind Malcolm Rifkind Foreign Secretary

We are delighted that the President's state visit was so successful. Reciprocal state visits are considered with great care and sensitivity. I note my hon. Friend's remarks.

Photo of Mr Andrew Faulds Mr Andrew Faulds , Warley East

May I preface my question with an apology for turning up so late for foreign affairs questions? As you will recall, Madam Speaker, I have been an assiduous attender for many years. I have the best excuse in the world: I was entertaining to luncheon one of the most distinguished cultural figures in Britain, to whom the nation should be deeply grateful. I do not wish to publicise my name along with his. I am a mite in the cultural world; this chap is a magnifico.

May I now take up the point made in the question? The last thing we need now is good relations between Britain and Israel. The Israeli Government have behaved disgracefully in trying to pay no attention whatever to the Oslo agreements. Is it not time that the British Government made strong representations to President Clinton to the effect that there is no hope whatever of peace in the middle east for as long as the American Zionist lobby runs American foreign policy?

Photo of Malcolm Rifkind Malcolm Rifkind Foreign Secretary

The hon. Gentleman can best be described as a magnificent mite. I think that that covers all the qualities that he has displayed for many years.

Let me deal with the hon. Gentleman's substantive question. Of course we are conscious of the great concern about the current state of the peace process, but I think that the hon. Gentleman was unfair in reaching his conclusion. There have been important and beneficial developments—the Hebron agreement, the release of female Palestinian prisoners and a number of other developments. Nevertheless, we share the fear, especially in the light of the recent Har Homa announcement, that that could involve a serious setback for the process. We hope that the Israelis will consider carefully before implementing the decision that was announced recently.