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I totally agree with my right hon. Friend, and I say to him that we ourselves had experience of this in these lands. We can pursue the terrorists individually, accurately and surgically, rather than with the blunt weapons that are being used in the middle east region. That is what we should be doing, to make sure that the terrorists do not succeed in
disrupting the negotiations and dialogue that my right hon. Friend and I believe are necessary.
Mr. Love: I thank the right hon. and learned Gentleman for giving way. Does he accept that the one issue that we still need to resolve is the outstanding dispute between Lebanon and Israel over the Shabba farms? Until we resolve that, relations will not improve to the extent that we want.
Mr. Ancram: Right across the region, there are an enormous number of detailed problems that have to be resolved. They can be resolved only by negotiation, and not by military action, and that is why I am so intent on trying to get back to a positionhowever long it takeswhere we can begin using words rather than bullets to achieve our purpose.
I want to mention briefly two other areas of crisis that affect us and which deserve to be raised today, given that we are not going to be here in this House for three months. The first is Iraq. For the past six months, I have been calling for our troops to be brought home. I know that it will not make me especially popular in the House, but I do so again today. I am full of admiration for what they have achieved, in the most difficult circumstances, over the past three years, but the situation is deteriorating and I am no longer sure what we can achieve by staying on.
Mr. Ancram: When I say that our troops should return from Iraq, I am told that we would leave chaos behind us. That is a real fear, but I am worried that the deterioration of the situation means that the same case might be made in a years time, or three years time. The present difficulties now demand that we rethink our role in Iraq, and I hope that our troops will be brought home.
I take a totally different view, however, about the equally difficult circumstances that obtain in Afghanistan. If we were to leave that country, we would leave not only chaos but the virtual certainty that a Taliban state would be restored. Such a stateonce again and as its fundamentalist philosophy dictateswould allow itself to become a base for international Islamist terrorism. As we know, that would pose a direct threat to Britain, Europe, the US and all western nations.
I am concerned that we face very difficult circumstances in Afghanistan because our mission there is not clear enough and because the resources provided to it are not yet sufficient. I hope that the Government will consider very carefully over the summer what is needed to make sure that our mission there succeeds.
Our role in international affairs must not be based on romantic dreams of curing the world, nor on an unquestioning acceptance of US policy, but on realism and on what is in the British national interest. From what I have heard today, I cannot be certain that that is necessarily the Governments position. I hope that, over the summer, they will make sure that it is their position by the autumn.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. As a significant number of hon. Members are still seeking to catch my eye in this debate, in accordance with the order of the House of 26 October 2004 on shorter speeches, it has been decided that, between 5 oclock and 5.30 pm, a time limit of three minutes will apply. I remind the House that, in the period of shorter speeches, no added time is allowed for interventions.
Sir Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton) (Lab): Let us set aside the morality of the situationthe wanton slaughter of hundreds of innocent Lebanese and the destruction of their infrastructure, the havoc caused by the Israeli army in Gaza and the kidnapping of half of the Palestinian Government, the murder of innocent Israelis and the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers. Let us accept as a given that Hezbollah and Hamas are terrorist organisations, and that the Israeli Government are dominated by right-wing thugsunfortunately now augmented by the former peacenik leader of the Labour party who is in charge of the attacks on Lebanon.
Let us look instead at the undeniable facts. This is Israels fourth invasion of Lebanon, and none of the three previous invasions has been successful. The 1978 invasion was called Operation Peace in Galilee: is Galilee at peace today? The commander, Rafael Eitan, described the Litani Operation by saying, We come, we kill, we go. It did not achieve its objective. In 1982 I was with Israeli troops after they had invaded Lebanon. It was the first time that I had ever seen Israeli soldiers who were scared of the enemyand I have been with Israeli soldiers from 1967 onwards. That war caused Sharons resignation and Begins resignation. It did not work, and this war will not work either. Already, Israeli troops are taking serious casualties on the ground and their commanders are warning that they cannot go on in this way.
Israels invasion of Lebanon is not simply immoral; it is futile. At the same time, Israel is facing an existential threat. A once-proud nation of pioneers and warriors who proclaimed that Jews would never again be confined in ghettos is now building an illegal wall behind which its people are cowering in a Jewish Israeli-made do-it-yourself ghetto. That is what is happening to Israel now.
Within a measurable period, Palestinians will outnumber Israelis. Unless there is a two-state solution, with two countriesone for the Palestiniansthe Palestinians will be penned into Bantustans directly adjacent to affluent illegal Jewish settlements. As in South Africa, this will become unviable for the Israeli state and the whole future of Israel as a viable state will be thrown into doubt. The only way of saving Israeldo not let us talk about the Palestinian interests, although I have championed them for many yearsis a two-state solution.
Hezbollah and Hamas set out to cause chaos. That is what they are about, and they are achieving it. The Israeli Government and the United States Government are obliging Hamas and Hezbollah in the way they are approaching the situation. They are playing with fire. If Syria and Iran are drawn into the conflict, global repercussions will burgeon out of control, with an incalculable economic impact for the whole of the western developed world far worse than the oil shock of 1973, which, among other things, brought down the Heath Government.
Remember what happened to Jimmy Carter. He was brought down by Iran as President of the United States. Remember, too, that western meddling in the middle east ends again and again in tears. We are just commemorating the 50th anniversary of the illegal invasion of Suez by Britain and France in collusion with Israel.
There is a story of a scorpion approaching a frog on the banks of the River Jordan. The scorpion says to the frog, Will you give me a ride on your back across the river? The frog says, Dont be foolish, you will sting me and I will die. The scorpion says to the frog, Dont you be foolish. If I sting you I will drown. That goes against all kinds of sense. So the frog says to the scorpion, Get on my back. Half way across the river the scorpion stings the frog. The frog says, What have you done? Now I will die and you will drown. The scorpion says, This is the middle east. What we are seeing is futility on all sides in this conflict.
I have championed a Palestinian state since my first meetings with Yasser Arafat in Tunis. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Riverside (Mrs. Ellman) that Arafat made a profound error in rejecting the Barak offer at Camp David, but there is no point in repining. There is no point in saying that things should have been done differently. When I first visited Syria, I had a meeting with the vice-president in which he spent 40 minutes talking about the iniquities of the Zionists since the Balfour declaration. When he had finished, I said, Yes, lets take all that for granted, but that was then. What about today and what about tomorrow?
Our British Government have a role to play in trying to drill sense into the Israeli Government and in trying to explain to the Palestinian people that their best interests are not those championed by Hamas. But let us be clear: America invaded Iraqso we are toldto bring democracy to the middle east, to get genuine elections. The Palestinians held a genuine election, so are we saying that the only acceptable genuine elections
in the middle east are those whose result is acceptable to George W. Bush? If so, there will be few successful acceptable democratic elections in the middle east.
I am more pessimistic about this situation than I have been in more than 40 years of involvement in the middle east. I do not believe that it helps the Israelis to give them a free hand. The duty of my right hon. Friends in the British Government, whom I have constantly supported and will continue to support, is to make it clear to the Israelis and to the Palestinians that compromise is essential. That is what I told Arafat when I first met him and I said it to him again and again.
Letting the Israeli dogs of war loose on Lebanon will solve nothing. It will undermine the existence of the state of Israel, it will kill more and more Israelis and the poor Palestinians at the bottom will continue to suffer. I look to our Government to try to do something to help us out of that mess.
Mr. Dai Davies (Blaenau Gwent) (Ind): Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for calling me to make my maiden speech in this important debate. I shall take up as little time as I possibly can, because many Members want to speak.
I want to put on record my sincere thanks to the Speakers Office and all the House staff for their help and support over the past three weeks; their fairness and dedication is to be commended. I offer special thanks to the hon. Member for Wyre Forest (Dr. Taylor) for his support and friendship since I arrived in the House. I would apologise for the confusion caused by another David Davies entering the House, but we solved it amicably.
It is a great honour and privilege for me to represent the people of Blaenau Gwent at the highest level of politics, but it is also a humbling experience when I think about the hopes and expectations of my constituency for its future. I take this opportunity to pay my respects to my predecessor, Peter Law, a friend and a great political servant to Blaenau Gwent for more than 30 years. He followed the tradition in our area of producing people who were prepared to speak out for fairness and justice for all.
From the days of the Chartist riots, and through books such as Rape of the Fair Country and The Citadel, it can be seen that the south Wales valleys have played a significant part in the present structure of British politics and the way in which our communities are represented. Blaenau Gwent has proven that we take the people who elect us for granted at our peril. We must respect and care for our communities at all times and ensure that at all levels of government we give value for money. Do we believe that at this moment in time the general public would support a move to use taxpayers money to finance political elections?
We must never be afraid to talk and listen to the people we represent and to encourage them to take a full and active part in politics and the democratic representative process. We should not be considering ways to force people to vote. Instead, we should seek to find out why more and more people are becoming disillusioned with the political process. If we are honest
with ourselves, we already know the answer. We must strengthen the citizenship agenda for schools to encourage more young people to talk about politics and learn the art of debate. Visits to this House would be an inspiration to them all.
The problems and social needs of my constituency are not unique and have been the same for some years. Employment, health, education and community safety are at the top of the list, as I am sure they are across many areas of the country. We are all here for the same reason: to improve the standard of living and life chances of the people we represent. I have been a shop steward all my working life, giving a voice to those who needed help and support, and that is the role that I will play for the people of Blaenau Gwent. I believe that, as long as I carry out my duty with honesty, integrity, openness and accountability, I will continue to have their support.
The south Wales valleys have played a significant part in the social and economic development of this country from the industrial revolution to the present day, and the people of Blaenau Gwent want to continue to play their part in developing a strong and vibrant economy for future generations. One of the greatest opportunities for my constituency is the development of an integrated tourist industry across Blaenau Gwent and neighbouring areas. I am sure that the significant numbers of visitors who came to our area during the by-election, increasing our tourist trade considerably, would agree that we have an industrial history and a medical history that is second to none, and some of the most beautiful valley countryside in Britain. I hope that all Members would support us in establishing an attraction that would bring visitors from all over the world and provide much-needed employment for our area.
This afternoons debate on international affairs should take into account the role that our individual communities can play in this very important issueprimarily through education and the sharing of information. The involvement of our young people is important in considering international affairs. I had planned to make my maiden speech during the debate to establish a commissioner for older people in Wales, because over the past two months I have aged considerably and will probably have need of their help sooner rather than later. The intergenerational working in our communities is vital to any respect agenda. We are never too old or too young to learn from each other. Wales can lead the way with a commissioner for older people, working alongside the already appointed commissioner for young people. The investment in young people in terms of meaningful training and practical skills, as well as academic courses perhaps with training involving a mixture of ages and of experienceis vital in creating real and lasting job opportunities and increased earning potential. We must ensure that areas of the country that receive European funding, and have a Community First process in place, maximise its potential for the benefit of our people.
The people of Blaenau Gwent have suffered the loss of coal and steel industries in recent years, but, as we have shown over the past two months, we are people
who care for our community. We had no party machine, only individuals who wanted their voices heard and I would respectfully request that those who believe that our by-election result was just an insignificant protest should think again and heed the resultdo not ignore it.
I will do everything that I can to deliver the hopes, wishes and aspirations of the people in my constituency by following my principles of socialism, trade unionism, co-operation and family and Christian values. To add to the debate this afternoon, there was a phrase used many years agojaw-jaw not war-war. From what we have heard today, that is the way forward. Thank you for this opportunity, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and I thank all hon. Members for their patience.
Mr. Iain Wright (Hartlepool) (Lab): May I begin by paying tribute to the fine maiden speech made by the hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Davies)? I, too, came to the House via a contentious by-election. It is two years to the week since Peter Mandelson resigned the Hartlepool seatmy life has never been the same since. The hon. Gentleman made a fine and spirited maiden speech and I wish him well during his time in the House. I also wish to pay tribute to the balanced statements that were made to the House by my hon. Friend the Minister for the Middle East on Monday and by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on Tuesday, and to the balanced speeches made by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague) in this debate.
The British Government are gravely concerned, as we all are, about the escalating crisis and the threat that it poses to the relationship between Israel and the Palestinians, to the wider middle east region and to British citizens in the region. The civilian casualties in Israel, Palestine and Lebanon are absolutely horrific. It is imperative that hostilities and violence from both sides end immediately to avoid the risk of losing further innocent lives.
The immediate crisis results from efforts by extremist forces to destabilize the region and to frustrate the aspirations of the Palestinian, Israeli and Lebanese people for democracy and peace. In Gaza, elements of Hamas launched rocket attacks against Israeli territory and abducted an Israeli soldier. In Lebanon, Hizbollah, in violation of the Blue Line, attacked Israel from Lebanese territory and killed and captured Israeli soldiers, reversing the positive trends that began with the Syrian withdrawal in 2005, and undermining the democratically elected government of Prime Minister...Siniora...These extremist elements and those that support them cannot be allowed to plunge the Middle East into chaos and provoke a wider conflict. The extremists must immediately halt their attacks.
That analysis is also shared by Arab nations. Saudi Arabia, in particular, has used extraordinarily frank language to denounce the attacks. Its official news agency, SPAthe Saudi Press Agencystated last week:
A distinction must be made between legitimate resistance and uncalculated adventures undertaken by elements inside
and those behind them without recourse to the legal authorities and consulting and coordinating with Arab nations...These elements should bear the responsibility for their irresponsible actions and they alone should end the crisis they have created.
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