Examination of Witnesses (Questions 240-259)|
TUESDAY 23 APRIL 2002
240. Can I come back to the Minister on a question
that I asked earlier and that Sir Patrick was asking. I appreciate
the point that the Minister makes about not divulging intimate
and sensitive discussions with our American allies, but can you
answer the question? Have the issues that I raised regarding reparation,
regarding the US aid to Israel, been raised with our American
colleagues? I do not expect you to give an answer on what was
agreed; I just wish to know whether the Government has raised
(Mr Bradshaw) No, I am not aware of those specific
issues being raised, but I have not been present at all the conversations
where they might have been. What I will repeat, as I said earlier,
is that of course we discuss the Middle East situation and the
importance of American engagement, and I think that is the single
most important thing. If, Chairman, you will allow me, I have
been passed a note by which, if I may, I would like to clarify
the answer that I gave on Sir John's question about potential
future ICC involvement in violent events in the region. The ICC,
one must remember, only gets involved where states are unwilling
or unable to do other work themselves, and as I said earlier,
in the case of Israel, being a country that has respect for the
rule of law, we would expect it to carry out its own investigations
and to take action against those people who had been shown to
have broken the law, and similarly for any future Palestinian
Chairman: Sir John, do you want to come back?
Sir John Stanley: No, thank you.
241. Minister, you very helpfully said earlier,
in an answer to Mr Mackinlay's question about whether Chairman
Arafat truly has command of the entire Palestinian Territories,
that the Government believed that he did, that obviously he could
not control some of the factions that were involved in suicide
bombings, but that he was broadly in control and was somebody
with whom the Israelis could negotiate. That is obviously and
clearly different to the Israelis' own view. Last week, in the
debate on the floor of the House, I think almost every Member
who spoke condemned the use of excessive force by Israeli Defence
Forces in the Occupied Territories, but I think one thing that
we have not really mentioned today was the reason why the Israeli
forces used that excessive force in the first place, and that
was the appalling spate of suicide bombings. The one that shocked
the world most, I think, was the one that took place on the eve
of the Passover, 27 March, in Netanya, in the hotel, prior to
a sederite meal; 27 people were killed, hundreds were injured,
some very seriously. What I want to put to you is that the anger
that that has generated, and the public opinion that has now risen
in Israel to support the actions of their government and their
prime minister in making the incursions and using force in the
Occupied Territories to root out those bombers, is also matched,
as I think you alluded to yourself, by the proportion of the Israeli
public who would favour a settlement which involved the establishment
of a Palestinian State, provided it gave the security required.
Does the British Government acknowledge fully that in spite of
the excessive use of force, the Israeli government had cause to
try to root out those terrorists, given the lack of action by
Chairman Arafat and that the Natanya bombing was caused, if I
remember rightly, by the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, I believe
controlled by the Chairman of the Fatah region in Ramallah, Marwan
Barghouti, who has now been arrested? Surely Chairman Arafat has
control of at least that faction and can therefore be deemed to
be responsible, however indirectly, for that appalling fact of
the bombing in Natanya?
(Mr Bradshaw) I think what is very important in what
you have just said is that we recognise the public mood in Israel
and what has caused that public mood, and of course we support
Israel's right to security, but we do not happen to believe that
the way the Israeli government and the IDF recently has gone about
that will provide Israelis with security. All the evidence of
the last 18 months is that the strategy, if you can call it that,
adopted by the Israeli government has done exactly the opposite
and more Israelis have died in the last 18 months than, I think,
in the whole history since the foundation of the State of Israel.
So for a government that was elected to provide security to its
people, and peace, it has not been terribly successful, but of
course we understand the levels of frustration among the Israeli
public and, indeed, the political class. We just seek to persuade
them that the way that the government is currently going about
things is not likely to succeed. We should not forgetand
you are absolutely right to have reminded us of thatthat
there are violent, evil, rejectionist groups operating from the
Palestinian Territories, who are not interested in a peace settlement
with Israel, who do not recognise Israel's right to exist, and
consistently in the last 18 months, just at a time when there
has been a period of quiet, when the international community could
have put real pressure on both sides to come back, through the
Mitchell and Tenet, to meaningful talks, have exploded a suicide
bomb. It is not coincidental. The timings of those attacks have
not been coincidental. So I think you are absolutely right in
reminding the Committee of the reasons for the current mood in
Israel, but that does not mean to say that we have to endorse
the actions that the Israeli military have taken in recent weeks.
242. I am not suggesting that we do, but I wonder,
with your permission, Mr Chairman, if you could come back on the
one point about Yasser Arafat. If he is in control or not, and
if he is in control, surely he must have had some knowledge of
what the Al-Aqsa Brigades were doing in Natanya?
(Mr Bradshaw) My understandingand I will ask
Christopher to come in on the detail of thisis that there
is no evidence to link President Arafat with any of the actions,
including the one that you referred to. I do not know, Christopher,
whether you want to add anything.
(Mr Prentice) On the Al-Aqsa Brigades, these are individuals
on the very extreme fringe, who are secular rather than religious
in their motivation, who claim these appalling suicide bombings
in the name of Al-Aqsa Brigades; they claim a connection to Fatah
which is a very broad organisation, but they are not under Arafat's
direct control, authority, and particularly when, by the time
of this Passover bombing, he was himself under virtual siege and
house arrest in his headquarters, held incommunicado. There is
a paradox that over months the Israeli reactions to these events
have been targeted against those very security apparatuses close
to President Arafat which they are separately asking and requiring
should take action against the extremist groups. So they are undercutting
his ability to act, at the same time as they are insisting that
243. I am sorry, my point was not about that.
I made the point about Yasser Arafat, but the point I made earlier
was about Marwan Barghouti and his involvement.
(Mr Prentice) Marwan Barghouti is connected with the
Fatah-Tanzim who are a street movement arising out of the Intifada.
That is not identical to the Al-Aqsa Brigades.
244. So you are satisfied that there is no connection
between Al-Aqsa and Marwan Barghouti?
(Mr Prentice) I cannot say there is none, but they
are not identical. Marwan Barghouti is a semi-political figure
who has openly pledged himself to a future settlement with Israel
on the basis essentially of the Arab peace plan; if they fully
withdraw, then he is prepared to accept Israel's future existence.
He has written public articles in that sense, and also predicting
that he would at some stage become a martyr, be assassinated,
as he said. He was expecting that because, as he put it, he was
somebody who was very tough in defence of Palestinian interests
and open to peace, but uncompromising. He did not expect to survive.
I think it has been true that some Israelis have seen Marwan Barghouti
at other times as a potential person with whom they could do business
in the future as an alternative leader who might emerge. They
have changed their view on him now apparently, but there have
been other leaders who have been into Israeli jails and out of
Israeli jails, as he has himself. He speaks fluent Hebrew. For
many years I think the Israelis considered him a replacement for
Arafat, and perhaps he will emerge again.
245. I will leave you with this. I accept the
point you make about Marwan Barghouti because I have actually
met him myself, but you are clear that in spite of what you said
about Yasser Arafat being unable to operate in the last few weeksand
of course that is very clearthere is no connection between
any of the recent suicide bombings and Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement?
That is what your intelligence is telling you?
(Mr Bradshaw) No evidence that we have seen, that
Sir John Stanley
246. Does the British Government have grounds
for believing that the real objective of Prime Minister Sharon
is the de facto annexation of the whole or the greater
part of the West Bank?
(Mr Bradshaw) We do not, no, but it is a prospect
that is one of those that we consider when we try to work out
exactly what his strategy might be.
247. That is a very Delphic answer. I am glad
you do take that prospect in mind, because I think you might agree,
Ministerand I appreciate this is a public forum and there
might be further information you may wish to give the Committee
on a classified basis, and the Committee would welcome that if
you choose to do so, but I think you would agreethat there
is an abundance of empirical evidence in terms of the Israeli
security systems which have been set up in the West Bank, the
readiness to use overwhelming Israeli military force, against
the background, which has been perfectly properly referred to
by Mr Hamilton, of an unprecedented level of suicide bomb attacks,
and that it does appear that everything is being put in place
for a de facto annexation of a large area of the West Bank?
(Mr Bradshaw) Let me put it like this, Sir John. I
think that if that were the case, if that were the strategy, we
would say that strategy was cataclysmic, not just for Palestinians
but also for Israel. It is in Israel's interest that there is
a viable Palestinian State, and any idea that the solution to
the current situation is the one that you fear is illusory, and
we do hope that it is not being seriously considered by anyone,
least of all the prime minister of Israel.
Sir Patrick Cormack
248. Have you told him that?
(Mr Bradshaw) Indeed we have.
249. Minister, you have spoken quite properly
of the United States as having the greatest leverage within the
Middle East. We have not touched on the European Union. Can you
confirm that the European Union is the largest contributor to
the Palestinian Authority?
(Mr Bradshaw) Yes, and I think I said that in answer
to an earlier question.
250. To what extent is that EU contribution
conditional upon good behaviour or types of behaviour by the Authority?
(Mr Bradshaw) I am not in a position to answer that
with total accuracy, Mr Chairman, so I might ask Christopher to
come in here.
(Mr Prentice) The direct budgetary assistance which
the European Union has provided was vital, particularly since
Israel has not transferred the tax revenues which it owed. When
Israel stopped payment of the tax revenues that it formally owed
to the Palestinian Authority, it threatened the whole budgetary
process, and the European Union stepped in, as did some of the
Arab League countries, to provide emergency budgetary assistance.
That budgetary assistance was conditional on transparency of the
process, and the IMF was brought in to certify the proper uses
of that and the existence of a rational emergency budget to reflect
priority expenditures. There were also European conditions attached
to good governance aspects. At an earlier stage when this seemed
possiblewhich it does not now of coursewe were very
keen to see the consolidation of various budget headings, the
introduction of reforms to the judiciary, the promulgation of
a constitution and other reforms which we saw as necessary stepping
stones towards building up viable institutions in the Palestinian
Authority. We were using the financial assistance the EU was providing,
as a means of securing those necessary and desirable reforms.
251. Obviously these are longer-term contributions,
hopefully to a peace process, but there have been many criticisms
that, for example, maps in the Palestinian Authority never show
the existence of Israel, that there is within the press in the
Authority a certain glorifying of suicide bombers and so on. Is
there any concern about that?
(Mr Bradshaw) There is, Mr Chairman, and we have expressed
that concern regularly, although I have to say that not the most
recent evidence, which I have not seen, but certainly up until
about three months ago there was evidence that some of the incitement
and the language that we had been worried about in the Palestinian
media had reduced. It is a point that we make repeatedly to the
Palestinian Authorityand this is not just a problem within
the Palestinian Authority, it is also a grievance that Israel
rightly raises with us about the language that you get in countries
like Egyptthat the language can be extremely virulent,
anti-semitic, violent and not conducive to giving confidence to
those people in Israel who want to make peace and who agree with
the principle of land for peace. You are right in the suggestion
of your question that it is an obstacle to building up confidence
252. Obviously we contribute to education. Do
any maps in the schools show Israel, on the maps in the Authority?
(Mr Bradshaw) I am afraid I am not aware of the detail
of maps in Palestinian textbooks. I do not know whether Christopher
(Mr Prentice) I cannot say there are not any such
maps, but the EU has had a project on reform of the Palestinian
textbooks, which has made possible the issuing and the gradual
distribution of new texts which are far more acceptable. The Palestinian
Authority have co-operated in this, and I think there is an improving
Andrew Mackinlay: I do not think we need to
get hung up too much on maps, Chairman. No doubt in certain places
in Germany there is Wroclaw shown as Breslau. I do take your point,
Mr Hamilton: A slightly different one.
253. What is Mr Moratinos doing with his time?
Is there any role being played by the EU?
(Mr Bradshaw) The EU has, I think, been playing a
very important role in quite difficult circumstances, and that
includes the role played by Mr Moratinos and Mr Solana. As to
what they are doing at the moment, I am afraid at this very moment
I cannot tell you, Mr Chairman. I do not know whether any of my
Chairman: Minister, we have had a fair innings
on the Israel/Palestine issue. Fundamental to our inquiry into
the war against terrorism is the whole question of Iraq, weapons
of mass destruction, where we go as an international community
in dealing with the problem of Saddam Hussein. Mr Olner has a
few points on this.
254. Actually it links the two of them together.
Has the escalation of violence between Israel and the Palestinians
affected the Government's plans to address the threat of weapons
of mass destruction from Iraq?
(Mr Bradshaw) No. I think the whole international
community is agreedand this is outlined quite clearly in
successive United Nations resolutionsthat there are obligations
on Iraq that Iraq is not in compliance with. I think it would
be a mistake to think that the threat posed by Iraq is just going
to go away. It is not. The British Government's position is quite
clear on this. Saddam needs to comply fully with the demands of
the United Nations, not just to allow weapons inspectors back
in unconditionally, but so that they can ensure that the weapons
of mass destruction programme has been dismantled. This is the
agreement that he made at the end of the Gulf War, and he is in
contravention of that.
255. I do not disagree with Iraq being forced,
one way or another, to conform with UN resolutions that have been
passed against it, but surely the escalation of the violence between
Israel and Palestine has to some extent, if you want, soured things?
Anything we do against the Arabic world seems to be US dominated.
We want further action by the UK Government.
(Mr Bradshaw) I think what would be rightand
I think this is the inference of your questionis that the
current state of affairs in Israel/Palestine makes any idea of
military action against Iraq politically in the region a great
deal more difficult, and I think that is simply recognising reality.
The appetite in many Arab countries whose leaders do not have
a lot of time for Saddam Hussein and in private, if not in public,
would dearly love to see the back of him, for military action
against Iraq is diminished by the situation in the Middle East.
I think that is a political fact.
256. I wonder if I could use this occasion to
ask you, Minister, but I imagine it is Mr Ehrman who might answer
this one on José Bustani, who is the Director General of
the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. The
Americans have used their clout and have mustered a large number
of votes, and I understand the United Kingdom support this action,
to sack him. Could you take this opportunity of telling Parliament
why the United Kingdom Government supports the sacking of this
(Mr Bradshaw) The United Kingdom Government voted
along with all the other EU members.
257. I vote along with Labour MPs every night
but I have to explain whyoccasionally. Do you know, on
occasions, just to complete the story, sometimes it is extraordinarily
difficult to explain why. Why have we supported the sacking of
(Mr Bradshaw) Because we share the belief of all the
other European Union members who voted the same way and the vast
majority of members of the committee who also voted the same way
that there were serious management problems and that Mr Bustani
was not the best candidate to sort those out.
258. What were these management problems?
(Mr Bradshaw) I would rather not go into the details
because I am not sure whether I am covered by parliamentary privilege.
259. You are.
(Mr Bradshaw) Suffice to say that the management of
Mr Bustani left something to be desired, the consequence of which
was he had lost the confidence of the vast majority of the members.
What we are concerned about is that this body is an effective
body. We had the view which was shared, as I said, by the vast
majority, I think only one per cent of the members voted against
1 Note by witness: A Special Conference of States Parties
was called on 21-22 April to consider the matter. At the Conference,
48 States Parties voted for the resolution to terminate Mr Bustani's
appointment, seven voted against and 43 abstained. Every EU country
voted for the resolution (except France, which abstained), as
did other key countries like India, Australia, Canada and Japan. Back
Note by witness: Around 7% of members voted against this. Back