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Volume 21: debated on Wednesday 31 March 1982

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asked the Lord Privy Seal whether he will make a statement on the Foreign Secretary's visit to Israel.


asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will make a statement about the Foreign Secretary's visit to Israel


asked the Lord Privy Seal whether, in the visit of the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs to Israel, he has yet discussed the priority attached by the Israeli Government to security as an essential part of the peace process.

My right hon. and noble Friend arrived in Israel only last night. Today he has had talks with, among others, the Israeli Prime Minister, Foreign Minister and Defence Minister.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that Conservative friends of Israel in the House send good wishes to Lord Carrington on his important mission and hope that he will be received with courtesy and warmth in Israel, because we believe him to be a fair-minded man who is genuinely seeking peace?

I am very grateful to my hon. Friend for what he has said. It is in exactly that spirit that my right hon. and noble Friend is in Israel.

During his visit to the Holy Land, will my right hon. and noble Friend take every opportunity to promote trade between this country and Israel, particularly with a view to overcoming the pernicious Arab boycott?

I think that my hon. Friend knows the Government's position on that. We in no way approve of the boycott, but we think that it is a matter best left to the judgment of the firms concerned.

Will the Secretary of State, during his visit to Israel, assure the Israeli Government that no representative of the British Government will meet representatives of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation so long at it remains committed to those clauses of its convention that call for the destruction of Israel?

We have contacts with the PLO at official but not at ministerial level. We use those contacts to urge the PLO to recognise Israel's right to exist and to make it absolutely clear to Israel that the PLO would fully accept the existence of Israel if Israel accepted self-determination for the Palestinians.

Will the Foreign Secretary tell the Israeli authorities that, despite the many injustices that Jewish people have suffered in previous years, the way in which they are establishing settlements on occupied Arab land in Jordan, and their dictatorial policies on the West Bank, only exacerbate tensions in the area and are against the long-term interests of Israel?

Our views on the settlements have been frequently stated. In the past few days we have made a statement deploring the present activities on the West Bank. A statement was made by the European Council yesterday to the same effect.

Will the Secretary of State represent to the Israeli Government that actions such as the dismissal of elected West Bank mayors and councillors by the illegal occupation forces are not only contrary to the Geneva convention but unacceptable to all fair-minded people in the United Kingdom?

Does the Minister agree that my right hon. Friend might suggest to his hosts that if they are serious about improving relations between Britain and Israel they might desist from publishing on postage stamps likenesses of prominent Jews who have murdered British subjects?

I am not sure that that particular point will come up, but I have a good deal of sympathy with what my hon. Friend says.

Is the Minister aware that we support the Foreign Secretary's visit to Israel, because it keeps open lines of communication in a difficult situation, but that most Arabs believe that the Israelis are on the point of annexing the West Bank and the Gaza Strip? Will the Foreign Secretary therefore associate himself completely with the EEC statement on this yesterday and tell any Israelis who are thinking of annexation that we would regard such a move as very dangerous and prejudicial to a peaceful settlement in the Middle East?

Is the Minister also aware that we would associate ourselves with his right hon. Friend's statement about the dismissal of the West Bank mayors and with the views of the Israeli Labour Party in the Knesset on 23 March, which were vigorously critical of the current Israeli Government?

As the right hon. Gentleman has said, any attempt at annexation of the West Bank would certainly be very dangerous, but we have no actual evidence that that is being contemplated.

Contrary to what the right hon. Member for Lewisham, East (Mr. Moyle) has said from the Labour Front Bench, have not the disturbances on the West Bank been instigated and organised by the terrorist PLO precisely because the Israeli Government are beginning to make headway with moderate Palestinian leaders?

I advise my hon. and learned Friend not to accept any such simple explanation. What has happened on the West Bank is the outcome of one incident feeding on another, leading to a cycle of violence and repression. As other countries, including ourselves, have known, this is a consequence of a regime of military occupation. It is for the Israelis to consider, as they are now clearly doing, whether such a system provides the best foundation for the security of Israel.