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Us Embassy In Israel

Volume 569: debated on Tuesday 27 February 1996

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2.46 p.m.

Whether they will promote a démarche by the European Union to the United States Government against the proposed move of the United States Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, in advance of the final status negotiations.

My Lords, the US Administration had made clear that it does not intend to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem until a settlement is reached between Israel and the Palestinians on the Jerusalem issue. Thus, we have no plans to make representations on this issue.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for her helpful reply. Will the Government continue to work for a common position within the European Union on the future of Jerusalem and against any creation of facts on the ground by the parties concerned there in advance of the negotiations?

My Lords, will the noble Baroness explain to the House what business it is of ours to organise a démarche to the United States, which is capable of determining those matters on its own account? If we have a definite view about this matter, which quite clearly the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, does, would it not be better that our general sentiments, in so far as we consider it to be our business, ARE conveyed through the usual channels; namely, through the British Embassy?

My Lords, I think that either I have misunderstood something that has been said or the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington, may just not have heard when I said that we have no plans to make representations on the issue about which the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, asked me. Of course we make our representations through bilateral channels. In dealing with the long-term allies such as the United States, that is the way we work. But there are times with other nations when the weight of 15 members of the European Union is more powerful than simply one country speaking alone. Therefore, with other countries it is right that there should he a European Community démarche.

My Lords, might it not he a more appropriate demarche, in view of recent events, to send the deepest sympathy of this House to the Israeli Government on the recent horrific and violent acts against innocent civilians; and to congratulate the Israeli Government on their continued striving for peace in the Middle East?

My Lords, we deeply regret the tragic events on Sunday in Jerusalem and Ashkelon. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister issued a statement on Monday. We shall always deplore and condemn terrorism. The peace process must continue because it is the only way to ensure lasting peace and we congratulate all those who have been working hard to try to make the peace process a real success.

My Lords, it appears from her last answer that the noble Baroness accepts that the peace process is the single most important factor in the well-being of all parties in the Middle East. Therefore, as those of us who live a safe distance away, if we cannot always do much to promote it ought at least not to retard it, does the Minister agree that it should not become a pawn in American domestic politics? Will the Minister further accept from me that, if the Government deliver that message, however they do so, they will receive the total support from many of us in all parts of the House whose friendship for Israel and for the United States has never been in doubt?

My Lords, no one in his right mind would wish to retard the peace process. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, is absolutely right. However, I learnt long ago that one would find it quite difficult, unless one had spent many years in the United States, to understand how domestic politics in that country really work and why some things happen. Therefore, in the coming months leading up to the presidential elections I expect that we will hear, sadly, a number of expressions of view which we would gladly not hear. But we will keep our nerve. We will work for peace in the Middle East and for peace in Northern Ireland and everywhere else. We shall try to influence our American cousins to do likewise.

My Lords, in view of the strong: support of the Government and their influence in Middle East affairs, can my noble friend the Minister advise the House as regards the support that the British Government ARE giving to the Palestinians, who are, after all, the other half of the peace process?

My Lords, my noble friend is correct. We have been giving a great deal of bilateral aid to Palestine. We have been helping with police equipment; we have formed a know-how fund over three years; we have a major education project for the Gaza area; and we have been training for elections. We continue to carry out such work. We shall also be giving assistance in the future to the new Palestinian Council, in which I am glad to say our parliamentary Clerks in both Houses will be involved. We are delighted that that should be so. In addition, we give help through the World Bank, the EIB and of course the ECA package.