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Several hon. Members rose

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Michael Lord): Order. Before I call the next speaker, may I remind the House that Mr. Speaker has placed a 10-minute limit on Back-Bench speeches. That applies from now on.

4.55 pm

Donald Anderson (Swansea, East): One conclusion is clear from the speeches made by those on the two Front Benches: there is a substantial degree of consensus in the two spokesmen's analysis of the situation and, indeed, of the road map. It is an escalating crisis and perhaps events have moved on so fast that only the most fundamental questions are relevant here. The end point has largely been agreed, but how do we get from here to there given the fact that hopes have been frequently dashed in the past, as at Camp David and in many other attempts to find a settlement? Equally, a key question is whether the key participants are capable of moving towards that goal on their own or do they need robust external intervention that uses the leverage that is available to the international community? Perhaps we have reached the point where international and robust intervention needs now to be exercised.

I commend to the House a recent report of the International Conflict Group. It argues persuasively that, because of the failures of the past, the incremental approach is no longer relevant. The Mitchell and Tenet proposals are landmarks of the past, detached from the current realities on the ground. Events have moved on and we now need a radical new approach as we search for a solution. If the international community can put a fair and final political settlement plan on the table, it would demonstrate that community's determination and give both sides something tangible to reach for. Obviously, for maximum legitimacy, the European Union and the United

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States should take a leading role, but they should be backed by Russia and the Arab states.

Clearly there is considerable scepticism about the proposal for a regional conference put forward by Prime Minister Sharon this week. It smacks of a tactical concession. He has said that Arafat should be excluded from it, so perhaps it is not a serious suggestion.

However, the outlines of the overall settlement are clear. The two states should be based on pre-1967 borders. The settlement should include land swaps in areas such as Gilo, a resolution to the issue of the capitals of both states, an international force to provide stability to both states and a fair and realistic settlement to the refugee issue. The politics of fantasy that have fed the idea that there can be a substantial return of refugees must be put aside, but a fair and just solution must certainly involve some movement and a considerable effort on the part of the international community to provide financial compensation and a choice of resettlement in other areas. Despite all the faults involved in such a settlement, does any other serious alternative have a chance of being accepted?

We must address the problem of the extremist groups, such as Hamas and Hezbollah. Part of the package must also involve the rebuilding of the Palestinian Authority area. The carrot is the counterpart of the stick, and the Authority must be prepared to pay the price in meeting suitable conditions if finance is to be provided.

International involvement is just one part of the equation. Success depends on both the Israeli Government and the Palestinian Authority, so what leverage is available to the international community? Clearly the Israeli Government depend substantially on financial support from outside. For example, in the last financial year, the United States gave more than £2 billion in aid to Israel. We know about the extent of military supplies from the United States, but Israel's response over the past few weeks has done substantial damage to its cause. It has lost friends all round. It must withdraw, stop the incursions and adopt a more mature attitude to Chairman Arafat. It will have to deal with him. As the debate in the United States appears to have concluded, Israel cannot simply marginalise him and write him off. With all his problems and faults, he is there and he must be seen as part of the solution.

So far as the Palestinian Authority are concerned, it is clear that public denouncements of terrorism must be made, along with a serious commitment to preventing it. They must stop the creation of a climate in which suicide bombers are thought of as heroes, and take pre-emptive action to stop terrorist attacks. In that context, the evidence of Karine A is not encouraging. The Palestinian Authority are also heavily dependent on outside financial and other help, particularly from the European Union—a further external lever that can be used. At the moment, the two key participants—made for each other, alas, in a rather tragic way—seem incapable of reaching a solution themselves.

Neighbouring countries must also be heavily involved, because no amount of peace initiatives will work if they continue to play an unconstructive role. I welcome the Arab League declaration, but further vital steps are

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necessary: the cessation of all support for extremist Palestinian groups engaged in terrorism, and the public condemnation of terrorism. Without that guarantee, it would be unrealistic to expect Israel to trust any settlement.

I should like to make one or two final reflections on Iraq, on which we have yet to touch. A clear nexus exists between the escalating crisis concerning Palestine, and the war on terrorism. That makes the task of building and maintaining a coalition the more difficult, as do bellicose statements by the United States on a possible military incursion to bring about a change of regime in Iraq. In respect of Palestine and Iraq, the war for the ear of the President appears in some cases to have been won, not by Secretary Powell, but by more extreme elements.

I have one or two questions on Iraq for the Secretary of State. Does he claim that a clear basis exists in international law for any military incursion? Does the Foreign Office accept that the post-1991 and post-11 September resolutions of the Security Council of the United Nations are sufficient for any military incursion into Iraq? Does it also reject Richard Haas's new and dangerous doctrine of the "right of pre-emptive self-defence", which suggests that the American Administration have no serious confidence in the legitimacy provided by current Security Council resolutions? Does it disagree with those who suggest that the real agenda in respect of Iraq is regime change, and that the return or otherwise of weapons inspectors is wholly irrelevant?

Those are serious concerns. At the same time, we cannot duck the question of Saddam Hussein and the major threat that he poses to his region and to world peace. Many obstacles to peace in the region remain, and in terms of the peace process a desperate situation demands desperate measures. That is part of the tragedy of the individuals whom the Foreign Secretary described. Ultimately, a solution can be reached only through compromise, negotiation and a political process. We must be ready to do all that we can to assist in that process.

5.4 pm

Mr. Menzies Campbell (North-East Fife): I thought long and hard about my contribution to this debate, and I concluded early on that it would be easy to adopt a position of equidistance. I concluded that it would be easy to argue for some moral equivalence between Israel's army and the suicide bombers; and that it would be wrong to take refuge in such moral equivalence. I reached that conclusion not because some lives are worth more than others; not because I have an emotional attachment to the Arab cause or an in-built prejudice against Israel; and not because I believe that Arafat can be excused from not having done more, from not having been sufficiently robust in his condemnation of terrorist actions or from sometimes having been less than effective in the clampdown on terrorism which was his obligation and responsibility. The reason why I believe that moral condemnation cannot be neatly divided in light of the events of the past few days—I do not say these things lightly—is that one side has self-evidently been the aggressor; one side is self-evidently the more powerful; one side is self-evidently the more determined to breach international law; and one side is self-evidently more

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willing to ignore the legitimate protests of the United Nations, the European Union, the United States and Russia.

Our Prime Minister sought last week to draw a limited parallel with Northern Ireland. He rightly asserted the need to have an identifiable and acceptable political process marching robustly in tandem with any military response to terrorism. But one parallel is patently lacking. When the most terrible atrocities were committed at Omagh and Enniskillen, the British Government did not put attack helicopters over the Bogside and we most certainly did not invade terrorist-supporting enclaves in the south.

I do not pretend that it is always possible to act according to some international Queensberry rules in dealing with acts of terrorism. I do not pretend that Arafat has always fulfilled his responsibilities or kept his promises. I certainly do not pretend that when ordinary citizens celebrating the most important time in their religious year are brutally killed by acts of terrorism, the provocation is not intolerable. I do argue, however, that it is not just Israel's good name and its credentials as a democracy that are damaged by continuing unfettered and defiant military action, but the prospects of a settlement that is sustainable in the long term.

President Bush asked what it was that made an 18-year-old Palestinian woman strap explosives to her chest, go to a discotheque and murder—yes, murder—among others her 17-year-old Jewish equivalent. We should ask ourselves that question, and perhaps the answer is a sense of hopelessness, a lack of self-worth, or a terrible vengeance for the indignities and humiliations past and present. We should then ask ourselves this: after the military operations of the past week, how many more will feel the same? How many more will feel moved to sacrifice themselves unless measurable progress is made?

We have all seen the images of refugee camps, with mothers standing in the wreckage of their homes, fearful for their children. We have seen the most holy place in Christianity under seige, and scenes of desolation and devastation, as if a terrible earthquake had visited the area. We have heard the claims of unburied bodies, of massacre and of indiscriminate violence. Israel says, "Do not judge us harshly. We are a democracy. We are fighting for our existence", but it is precisely because Israel is a democracy that we impose higher standards than if it were not. We expect democracies to implement the resolutions of the Security Council of the United Nations. We expect democracies to allow the Red Cross access when it requests it.

There have been claims and counter-claims, all of which need investigation, as the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, the hon. Member for Exeter (Mr. Bradshaw), has said and as the Foreign Secretary acknowledged this afternoon. There should be an investigation, and it should take place as soon as possible.


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