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My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Steel of Aikwood, for initiating this debate. I admire the great courage of the MPs on
A long time ago, when I was an MP in Harrow, I was brought in as a peacemaker to deal with two main feuding groups on the local council. I hope noble Lords will forgive me if I sound boastful because, to my surprise, we succeeded in that aim. I said at the meeting that there were two vital conditions which had to be met: first, it must last only an hour and a half maximum; and, secondly, no one on either side was allowed to refer to the past. Someone asked, “What is the past?”, and I replied, “Two minutes ago; that is the past”. That is what you have to do when you are making peace with these two factions—one a government and a state, and the other a partial state, which hopes soon to be a state, and its ruling group in the Palestinian Authority.
Before we hear the winding-up speeches, three of my distinguished friends who, like me, are enthusiasts for Israel—the noble Lords, Lord Gold and Lord Turnberg, and the noble Baroness, Lady Deech—will speak. I want them to help me. Since I became involved in politics, I have been a lifelong friend of Israel. I went there in 1970 and helped many Soviet Jews come to Israel from Russia. Some of them went to the United States instead, but most went to Israel. I helped them with Aliyah and all that. I have been a tremendous friend of Israel over many years. However,
I do not like going there anymore. I do not enjoy it, although I used to. When I first went there in the 1970s and 1980s, it was a terrific, pleasant and agreeable country, but it is a country based on unfair politics towards the Palestinians. The Palestinians have so little, the Israelis have so much. There must be geopolitical generosity and realism in these matters.
The other regard in which the Israelis are privileged, and why the balance between the two peoples is unfair, concerns the behaviour of the United States. The United States did not say, “We regard you both as equal entities in this dispute and we want to help you resolve it”. It said, “No, we are automatic preferential friends of the State of Israel and that is our priority, and always will be”. There has been the grotesque invitation to Netanyahu to stir up trouble with Iran. Of all things, we least need that of stirring up trouble with Iran and making provocative noises about it in the US Congress just because the Iranian question is enmeshed in the long-standing dispute between the Democratic and Republican parties. The United States Government did not need to do that and Barack Obama has disappointed us all by resuming the vetoes which allowed Israel to misbehave repeatedly and disobey international law completely. That shows the lack of balance between the two sides. We did not expect that all the way through. I think that there have been 36 vetoes since 1968, most of them under Chapter 7.
Israel completely ignores the UN Security Council resolutions. The recent very moderate Jordanian resolution could easily have been accepted by the United States. Britain abstained as well. What kind of lead is that? The EU quartet has behaved grotesquely and let everybody down. I agree that Israel needed protection at the beginning when it was starting out as a state and after 1967 as well. But once defences were rightly built up to protect Israel, which you have to do realistically, and Israel became an unbeatable military power, the precondition the other way is that Israel then negotiates sensibly with the Palestinians to give them a place in the sun as well, and a state alongside Israel, not this nonsense of waiting yet again. Almost 50 years have passed now.
When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, he was rightly expelled after a year by the international community. Everybody approved of that. Israel’s invasion of the West Bank took place in 1967. “Invasion” was the right word used by the general who was mentioned by a previous speaker. Israel is still there now after nearly 50 years. This is a grotesque injustice. Most of my Israeli friends know that it is wrong and a lot of them are campaigning against it. We welcome what is done through B’Tselem, JJP and American Jews for a Just Peace, and now a new group has been formed. The AIPAC grip must be lessened in the United States as it is disastrous for the Congress. We should beware of the inexorable rise of the military-industrial complex, as has happened in Israel as well.
We want to make Israel again a pleasant and fair country to visit. I hope that my three colleagues who will speak before the winding-up speeches will help me by making some constructive suggestions, thinking about the future and not harping again and again on the past.