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Lord Jacobs: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Wright of Richmond, for introducing the debate and, in particular, for generously contributing eight minutes of his time, which we on short rations eagerly need.
Today, the world is faced with three large intractable problems; that is, world terrorism, Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I shall address the question of why the Israelis and Palestinians are making no attempt whatever to solve their problems by negotiation. Is it because they both have right on their side?
The Palestinians are in the right because, first, they have lived in the old land of Palestine for more than 1,000 years. Secondly, in 1948, the United Nations voted to partition their country without even consultation. It gave a substantial part of it to Jews who were living there to form the state of Israel. Thirdly, after the 1967 war, Israel began the occupation of the West Bank and has remained there for more than 36 years, which is six times longer than the British occupation of Germany after the Second World War.
Fourthly, Israel has established permanent settlements in what will be the state of Palestine with 220,000 Israelis living there. Surprisingly, 70 per cent of them are there primarily for economic reasons, including the provision of excellent housing. The remaining 30 per cent, which is just 70,000 out of a total Israeli population of 6 million, are there for ideological reasons. Israel, in its attempt to protect the settlements and provide security, has divided the country into small segments by the use of road blocks and the construction of many new roads reserved for the use of Israeli settlers. Normal social and economic life is no longer possible for the Palestinians.
The Israelis also have right on their side. First, Jews settled in the present land of Palestine and Israel 3,200 years ago. Secondly, following the Holocaust, when 6 million Jews diedrepresenting one third of the world's population of Jews at that timein 1948 the United Nations voted to partition Palestine for the Jewish people to create the state of Israel. The very next day Egypt, Jordan and Syria, by force of arms, attempted to crush the newly formed state. They did so again in 1967 and in 1973. Those attacks forced Israel to begin the occupation of the West Bank.
Today, there is a plan known as the road map to peace, which was devised by the United States, Europe, Russia and the United Nations. It reads very well on paper and in my opinion Israel is capable of carrying out all of its terms. However, it will not do so unless the Palestinians do the same. On the Palestinian side, it fails at the first hurdle, for the Palestinians are obliged to curb the suicide bombing attacks by Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Al-Aksa. If we can accept that Arafat wants to end the bombings, he does not have the means to do so and if he tries the result might end in civil war.
What do the populations of both countries think? Around 70 per cent of the people of Israel want a peace agreement. At a recent parliamentary Middle East
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meeting, I asked Mr Bazouti, a well known authority on Palestinian problems, whether there was an equivalent to the Israeli Peace Now! movement. He replied that the overwhelming majority of people, albeit silently, favoured peace with Israel. So clearly the majority of both peoples want peace but cannot force their governments to negotiate.
If there is one bright light on the horizon, it is the Geneva accord. This is a private initiative between senior Israeli and Palestinian politicians that attempts to create a peace agreement acceptable to both sides. The Israeli delegation was led by Yossi Beilin, a former Israeli Minister, and the Palestinian delegation by Yasser Abd Rabbo, a former Palestinian Minister. The Geneva accord was signed on 1 December 2003.
Comparing the two plans, we find that the objective of the road map is to allow the resumption of negotiations, while the objective of the Geneva accord is to resolve the outstanding final status issues. The British Government commended the Geneva accord for its conclusions, which offered clear solutions to the disputed issues. However, they preferred the road map to peace which, at the time, appeared to be a workable solution. However, many now agree that the road map to peace has failed primarily because the Palestinians are unable to meet their obligations.
Where do we go from here? I believe that the most realistic possibility for peace between Israelis and Palestinians is the Geneva accord. I now propose a three-stage structure: stage one should be for this plan to be studied by the three countries most able and willing to support the PalestiniansEgypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. At the same time, the United States and some European countries which are able and willing to support Israel should also study the plan. The second stage should be to present the agreed accord to Prime Minister Sharon and President Arafat, but also to leaders of the other political parties in Israel as well as to the leaders of the other factions in Palestine. The third and final stage should be for a referendum to be agreed between Sharon and Arafat, and to be held in Israel and Palestine on the understanding that, if the accord is approved by a majority of those voting in each country, it would be adopted.
Lord Thomas of Swynnerton: My Lords, I propose to speak about terrorism, which is generally supposed to be the most serious challenge facing both foreign and domestic policy making. There are two versions of terrorist activity. The first is the local form, such as the IRA, ETA in the Basque region, Corsican terrorists in France and others. It is also, I think, permissible to regard Hamas as an organisation with basically local aims. Contemptibly brutal though these organisations have been, they have aimed at local targets rather than widespread international ones.
Now we are faced with what seems to be a larger and more ambitious terrorist movement, Al'Qaeda, which seems to want to shock the West into surrender in a
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variety of ways and on a wider scale, although with one major local aim, which is to drive the United States out of Saudi Arabia. The essence of Al'Qaeda seems to be that it is an austere, fundamentalist movement of Muslims possessedI use the word of Dostoevskyby certain ideas. It is sometimes suggested that this movement, like other terrorist movements, can be dealt with by addressing the breeding ground that lies behind it, one of poverty and misery. However, I do not think that that is relevant here. Al'Qaeda, along with most other terrorist movements, does not have economic roots. I believe that Marx would have agreed with that statement, were he still living. Those involved with Al'Qaeda are men determined to create a different world from our own. Discussion about the rule of law as we define it has absolutely no relevance to their machinations.
It is perhaps comforting to be reminded that there have been other such movements in the past. Noble Lords will be glad to know that I do not refer to two armies of the Middle Ages, both Muslim, which derived from the preaching of an austere Moroccan hermitthe Almoravids and the Almohadesalthough they certainly did have something in common with Al'Qaeda, and within Islam I think I am right in saying that the past has much less perspective than it has with ourselves.
Rather, I shall refer to the anarchist terrorist movement which was the cause of many tragedies during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Anarchists were also austere and moved by the dream of an ideal worldone without governments and without capitalism which would be created when, as they put it, the last king was strangled in the guts of the last priest. Exactly like Al'Qaeda, anarchists believed in what they called the "propaganda of the deed". Surely if they murdered an archbishop in particularly striking circumstances or blew up a train, the bourgeoisie would quiver into surrender.
In some ways the anarchists were more successful than Al'Qaeda has been up to now. They assassinated a President of the United States, they murdered an Austro-Hungarian empress and they killed three Prime Ministers and one archbishop of Spain, among many other people. Known as "internationals" in the first instance, they were particularly busy in Spain where they blew up trains, caused havoc at a royal wedding in 1905, bombed an opera house and set off many other explosions.
Perhaps through skilful propaganda and the use of ideas, that realisation can be contrived in the long runartificially, no doubtwith the leaders and followers of Al'Qaeda. Alternatively, and perhaps this is a frivolous suggestion, they might be ruined by the soft life, which did contribute to lessening the drive of their distant predecessors, the Almoravids.
Finally, turning to how to carry on the campaign against terrorism, which is essential and which, in this country, seems to be being accomplished with great
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skill, it is necessary to do whatever we need to do in a spirit of honour and within the framework of a love of the law which, in every detail, should distinguish us from our opponents.
In 1916, Trotsky, who I suggest was just as dangerous a man to western civilisation as bin Laden seems to be today, was imprisoned in Spain as an illegal immigrant. He refused to take his hat off. He asked to see the rule which insisted that hats should be removed in prison. There was no such rule and so he was allowed to keep his hat on. That suggests the spirit with which prisoners, however appallingly brutal they are, should be treated by civilised captors.
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