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Mike Gapes (Ilford, South): The right hon. Gentleman referred to low-level contacts. Will he draw attention to the fact that people in the religious communities, on both sides, have been trying for many months quietly to build dialogue? The same thing is happening in this country between Jews, Christians and Muslims who are working hard to maintain dialogue to reduce the tensions that might arise in our own society.

Mr. Ancram: I pay tribute to those who try to maintain dialogue. I have always believed that dialogue is the way out of an impasse of this kind and I certainly hope that dialogue will continue. However, there must be direct dialogue between the parties to the conflict, and that can take place at an extremely low and insignificant level without losing its value.

The second step is the gradual building of confidence. Generations of hatred and mistrust will make that a long haul. It needs the backdrop of United Nations resolution 1397 and of the generally accepted concept of two states west of the River Jordan: the state of Israel and an independent, viable Palestinian state, both recognising the reality and legitimacy of the other and both secure in their respective boundaries. Within that, the building of confidence can begin.

It must start with the most basic problem—fear. There is fear of violence and destruction in the short term, followed by the longer-term fear of domination and dispossession. The answer to both lies in security. In the short term, Israel must cease its present incursions into the territory of the Palestinian Authority and must withdraw. As a democracy, it should respond fully and publicly to the serious accusations being laid against it about the conduct of those incursions.

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Equally, it is vital that the terrorist suicide bombings and the carnage of innocent Israelis that results must also be ended. Israel has a right to demand that, if she cannot pursue and apprehend those who instigate, equip and train the terrorist suicide bombers, they will be restrained by other means. When I talked to Yasser Arafat in February he seemed to be firmly in denial as to his responsibility for Palestinian violence, either in Israel or on the west bank, so if he is not prepared to restrain the bombers, other means must be found.

Michael Fabricant (Lichfield): Has my right hon. Friend read the report produced by the BBC monitoring station at Caversham, which shows clearly that during the past year Chairman Arafat has encouraged both a jihad against the state of Israel and suicide bombings?

Mr. Ancram: I have seen several reports to that effect and I have also seen the evidence of arms shipments earlier in the conflict from Iran to the Palestinian Authority.

The important point is that Israel should receive the guarantee of security that she has a right to expect, and if Yasser Arafat cannot deliver it, another means must be found. It must, therefore, be valid to ask what action can be taken by other Arab states to constrain the terrorism and to guarantee Israel the security for her citizens that she has a duty to provide. Will the Foreign Secretary or the Minister who responds to the debate give us information about any discussions that may have been held in that regard?

Mr. Peter Kilfoyle (Liverpool, Walton): Of course everyone deplores suicide bombings, but can the right hon. Gentleman explain how Yasser Arafat is currently expected to exercise any form of control when he is under siege in Ramallah, when the Palestinian Authority's communications have been destroyed and when his own security forces have been killed, taken prisoner or dispersed? What can he do positively, given the current circumstances?

Mr. Ancram: Perhaps the hon. Gentleman does not understand what I have been saying. I was saying that, if Yasser Arafat cannot exercise such control because he does not want to or because he is unable to, another means to do so has to be found. Without mutual security, the confidence to make progress is unlikely to occur. That lesson has been learned in other conflicts, and we have to learn it here.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr. Ancram: I shall give way once more on that point and then move on.

Mr. Tony Clarke (Northampton, South): On 28 March, Chairman Arafat clearly said in Arabic:

Can the right hon. Gentleman explain why Chairman Arafat said that?

Mr. Ancram: I read what Chairman Arafat has said, but I come back to the same point: both sides to the conflict

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need in the end to believe that they are secure if talks are to proceed. Such mutual security measures providing both sides with freedom from present violence would be a crucial step forward. It would, for a start, reinstate the Tenet proposals and Mitchell recommendations, leading to a ceasefire and resumed negotiations. If that path is to re-emerge, there are further steps to be considered, because confidence in the long-term stability and security of the two states must be established.

Mr. Salmond: A few moments ago, the right hon. Gentleman rightly bemoaned the evidence of Iranian arms shipments to Palestinians. A few minutes before, the Foreign Secretary said that he had no confidence in the Israeli Government's explanation of the use to which United Kingdom arms are being put. In that light, and in view of the right hon. Gentleman's even-handed approach, would he now like to call for the cessation of United Kingdom arms exports to the state of Israel?

Mr. Ancram: I have not had the opportunity to read the exact words that the Foreign Secretary used in his answer, but from what he told the House—obviously, I shall study his words carefully—I would say that we would adhere to that position as well.

In establishing confidence, Israel would need to reaffirm that it accepts an independent, viable Palestinian state west of the Jordan; and the international community would need to underwrite it. At the same time, the Arab states would need formally to accept the right of the state of Israel to exist and their willingness to normalise relations with it.

The Saudi proposals in the name of Prince Abdullah, to which the Foreign Secretary referred, provide a gateway to that end, but if they are to work, they would have to recruit to their standard those who currently are Israel's most implacable foes: Syria, with its sponsorship of Hamas; Iran, with its sponsorship of Hezbollah, its vocal incitement of suicide bombers and its inflammatory talk of uprooting Israel from the region; and Iraq, with its weapons of mass destruction and its total hostility to Israel.

We need to be realistic. So long as those countries and regimes remain committed to the destruction of the state of Israel and have the ability to deliver that result, the confidence in her own security required by Israel to reach a settlement will be impossible to achieve. In the case of Iraq, I welcome the Prime Minister's commitment again today to supporting United States initiatives to remove Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction, and to backing measures including the re-involvement of United Nations inspectors, but ruling out no course of action at this stage in our determination to ensure that those weapons are dealt with. The Government's recent announcement on smallpox vaccines underlines the chilling threat that those weapons could pose.

In pursuit of all this, it would help to show that de-escalating violence produces a peace dividend. Commitments by the international community that there will be investment, trade and jobs so long as peace is

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maintained can positively encourage the Israelis and Palestinians to come to terms. Again, I have welcomed the Foreign Secretary's remarks today in that regard.

There must then be formal negotiations towards a fair and lasting settlement. We need to understand that, in the end, the only parties that can negotiate that settlement and make it stick are the Israelis and the Palestinians. Although outside encouragement may be valuable, outside interference could be fatal. Internationally tabled blueprints, as the European Union's Javier Solana seemed to accept yesterday, can promote rather than reduce intransigence. The way forward is therefore to identify common motivation: on the Israeli side, the sustaining of a secure democratic state within pre-1967 boundaries that will not be eroded by demographic leakage or unrestricted Palestinian return; on the Palestinian side, the realisation of a self-governing and viable Palestinian state to which Palestinians can feel genuine and sovereign allegiance. Those are not mutually exclusive. Indeed, as I ascertained when I was in the middle east recently, there are people in high office on both sides of this conflict who subscribe to those concepts, which must provide hope.

Although blueprints can be counterproductive, what I call negotiating road maps or frameworks can be valuable. They do not need to provide the only answers; they need to show that the detailed elements that require resolution and negotiation are technically capable of a resolution. They are the essential first step around which political agreement can be negotiated.

Before Camp David in 2000 and Taba in 2001, I doubted whether technical solutions to the key issues of territory, Jerusalem, the settlements and the right of return were available. However, as the Foreign Secretary said, it is now clear, from formal and informal records of both Camp David and Taba, that they were, and, I hope, still are available. On territory, with a little give and take, the 1967 lines could, in accordance with UN resolution 242, form the basis for the borders between Israel and the state of Palestine. On settlements in the west bank, some land swapping and border modifications recognising, in the words of the report on Taba, both Israel's and Palestinian needs and interests, and a safe passage between Gaza and the west bank, could point the way to an acceptable outcome. On the previously seemingly intractable problem of Jerusalem, divided sovereignty, with capital status for both sides within an open city, and with respective control over each side's holy sites and vertical responsibility over parts of the Temple Mount—these could provide an answer. A demographically acceptable quota on the delicate and sensitive question of the right of return could recognise the legitimacy of the claim while balancing it against the need to preserve the Jewish state.

Those are the raw elements of a road map that can point to a way through. None is without difficulty and all require concession on each side. Every one of them requires a compromise on cherished positions. One of the sadder truths about the middle east today is that those who at this crucial moment in history find themselves in the leadership of their respective peoples are not natural deal makers or compromisers. They look to their places in history as the leaders who remained unyielding in their adherence to their principles. They regard compromise as

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a weakness and a betrayal, and they are bolstered by apparently massive domestic support for their contrasting actions. On the face of it, they will never come to terms, but we must believe today that the pressures of history will make them think again, and underline again the historic role that they could play at this crucial moment.

It may seem unreal to be talking in terms of the way forward while blood is still being spilled in the middle east, and while the threat of a wider conflagration still remains, but we have no option but to do that. I remember that, in the dark days in Northern Ireland in 1993, I was told time and again that there was no answer and that we were wasting our time looking for one. I also remember, however, the never-extinguished hope of ordinary people which drove us to identify a road map of solutions that could provide a way through. That is what is now needed in the middle east.

That is why this is the time to return to the basics of informal dialogue, of elementary confidence-building measures and of even-handedness. We should not seek to dictate or to prescribe, to bully or to condemn. Our job is to be friends, with all the frankness that friendship involves. We should be ready to help, but always on the understanding that, in the end, Israel and the Palestinian people must make their own peace, their own "shalom", their own "salaam". We must give them all the support that we can in so doing.

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