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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Wright of Richmond, for what he has said about Sir Jeremy Greenstock, who is an extraordinarily experienced and very able diplomat. I am sure that he takes the good wishes of the whole House with him in his huge task.
As to the point that the noble Lord raised about Yasser Arafat, let me put his mind at rest. He has no need to persuade Her Majesty's Government of the importance of the role of Yasser Arafat. As the noble Lord will know, there are a number of voices that raise questions about Mr Arafat's role and some of the things that he has said. However, the fact remains that Yasser Arafat is the elected leader of his people and, while he is in that position, it is of course incumbent on all of us to deal with him as the elected leader of the Palestinian people.
Lord Campbell-Savours: My Lords, my noble friend will know that land in the ownership of Palestinians has been confiscated by the Israeli authorities. Would she be prepared to put a detailed reply in the Library as to the whether the seizure of property in the ownership of Mr Abdul Karim at Beit Eksa and Beit Souriq by the Israeli official Mr Mikka Yaven on behalf of the civil administration of Judea and Samaria is in compliance with the terms set out in the road map for peace? If it is not in compliance with the terms of the road map, in so far as we seem determined to implement it, what do we intend to do about the seizure of that land?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, there are probably quite a few Palestinians who have difficulties, given the seizure of land. The settlement activity, including road building, is creating a great deal of difficulty on the ground, and not only for individuals for whom such land seizures are a very terrible personal loss. It also makes for great difficulty in breaking up Palestinian territorial contiguity, particularly on the West Bank. That makes the possibility of a negotiated settlement very much more difficult.
If the noble Lord will allow me, I shall take away the names of the individual to whom he referred and see what additional information I can give him. It is very important at the moment that we do everything we can to further peace. There may be some individual instances when over-exposure of what has happened to individuals may not be fully in concert with that overall direction. I hope to be as helpful as possible to him, and to be able to give him more information, if he is kind enough to let me ask the department about that matter.
The Earl of Onslow: My Lords, the Peel Commission found that dual state partition was a good idea in 1936, the United Nations tried it in 1948 and we are trying it again. The Middle East is the most depressing place that it is possible to think about. I refer to the criminal activities of the Israeli settlers and Government on the basis of Genesis 17, which says that if an elderly man changes his name from Abram to Abraham and his wife from Sarai to Sarah, he can have kiddies and they can nick the best piece of real estate on the eastern Mediterranean littoral. That is not how the authorised version of the Bible version puts itthat is essentially what Genesis 17 says. We must not go on tolerating the fact that because God said to Abraham, "You can have this piece of propertybecause you believe this and live in Brooklynyou can go there and dispossess Palestinians". That is quintessentially what is happening; it is a harsh way to say it, but it is quintessentially true.
Until we recognise the basic illegality and immorality of the disposition of one people by another, we are not going to have peace in the Middle East. I accept that we cannot go from the position in which we would have liked to be in 1917, when the Balfour Declaration referred to a situation without prejudice to existing rights, religious or political, of the existing inhabitants. Of course, we cannot go from there, but we must go to the core of the problem and try to settle it. I have not the faintest idea how to do it, but until we recognise that that is the core of the problem, we shall not even be able to begin to try to settle it.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I am not quite sure what question the noble Earl is asking me. I have heard his views on Genesis 17 before, and I am relieved that they were less colourfully expressed on this occasion than on many others. Of course the situation is depressing, and what has happened over the past few weeksand particularly over the past 48 hours or sois deeply worrying. The noble Lord says that he does not have the faintest idea how we deal with the problem. The fact is that the international community does have a good idea, which is the road map.
The road map may not so far have been met with acclaim on all sides, but I am bound to say to your Lordships that it is the only solution on the table at the moment that commands any degree of international support. It commands support from as diverse a group of opinion as the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia on one
Lord Bramall: My Lords, for a number of reasons, some of them apparent, I was against the war, brilliantly as the initial military campaign was conducted. However, I fully recognise now that we must do what we can to finish what the coalition has started. That, as the Minister said, will require more of our own forces. Indeed, reconstruction apart, the coalition seems to have embarked consciously on the vital war against terrorism on a definite strategy, which can only be described as a Dien Bien Phu strategy. Having forced Al'Qaeda rather incongruously into cahoots with Saddam's loyalists, it intends to take on the terrorists head-on, on ground of its own choosingthat is, Iraqand to destroy them with superior force.
There were other ways, but that can be said to be one coherent strategy, which, although the name that I have given it implies risks, could be successful. I sincerely hope that it will be. Those supporting itand, judging by his latest press conference, that includes our own Prime Ministerwill claim that it will pre-empt later, less manageable terrorist activity, which could then be encountered only over a wider area and in much more inaccessible places. However, successful or not, it will require many troops over a prolonged period at a prodigious cost, and a very steady nerve, not only in government but in the country. Democracies sometimes soon get tired of such demanding adventures.
The question that I put to the Minister is how the Government will reconcile that prospect with the state of our long-time over-stretched and under-funded Armed Forces, whom the last Chief of Defence Staff, my noble and gallant friend Lord Boyce, clearly warned could not undertake another commitment on the scale of the Iraq invasion, to which the impending force levels are rapidly returning, for another one to two years. When will the Governmentwhich, of course, means the Treasurymatch resources in manpower, material and money to commitments? Alternatively, when will the Government deal with our far-flung commitments more circumspectly?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I thank the noble and gallant Lord for at least part of what he said. The details of the deployment are to be found in the Statement made by my right honourable friend the Defence Secretary, and I believe that my noble friend Lord Bach will be answering a Written Question in your Lordships' House tomorrow to give further details.
The noble and gallant Lord rightly raises the point of the pressures on our Armed Forces, which I am sure that all your Lordships will understand and with which many of your Lordships will sympathise. What my right honourable friend the Defence Secretary has announced today should bring our deployment in Iraq up to something in the region of 11,500 troopsalthough as I already indicated to the noble Lord, Lord Howell, that may well be under review. If more suggestions are put forward by commanders in the region, no doubt those will be looked at. In terms of overstretch, however, the noble and gallant Lord will know that the British Armed Forces are currently not as overstretched as they were three or four years ago. Although that may not be a huge comfort to him, I say to him that when I sat where my noble friend Lord Bach now sits, some of the overstretch was a great deal more difficult than it is today.
So I absolutely take the noble and gallant Lord's strictures that we must handle this very carefully and not put unendurable pressures on our Armed Forces. Again, however, I think that we have to see this in the context of the very considerable gains that there are if we are able to sustain the position in Iraq.
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