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Baroness Park of Monmouth: My Lords, I shall begin with a story. Once upon a time there was a boy who was trusted with, though he did not own, a fine box of toy soldiers, and told to take good care of them. He discovered that, if he took them to parties, other children thought he was wonderful and played with him. His distant cousins, UN and EU, and even AU, quite often borrowed his soldiers and forgot to send them back. Incidentally, though he had only one box, he had promised first refusal to his friend NATO.

One day he woke up to find he had only a few brave little tin soldiers trying to march gallantly and fight without having even proper swords to fight with.
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Meanwhile his younger brother, who liked playing supermarkets and Monopoly, thought the soldiers a terrible waste of time, though he did try out on them some of the secret charms of his friend, The Wicked Treasury Witch, such as NECs and resource accounting. This demonstrated how much money could be saved by not painting them or mending their swords, and what a waste it was when they went on marching anyway. The odd thing about this story is that the first boy never lifted a finger to protect the loyal tin soldiers. That is the end of the story, but not of the troubles of the Armed Forces, for we are dealing with real soldiers and real families.

The admirable Defence Committee in another place believes that British military forces are designed for serious military duties other than simply peacekeeping. The unique nature of MoD and defence business makes the application of resource accounting to it in some cases slightly strange. The committee admits that the policy was Treasury-driven and MoD-endorsed, while,

The committee recognises that developments since 1988 are making the SDR look increasing out of date and that service men and women have been working at or near, and in some cases beyond, the boundaries of what was planned for some considerable time now. It recognises that there is still no substitute for numbers and that any reduction in the establishment of the Army would be premature. The Government, it says, must recognise that the Armed Forces are simply not large enough to sustain the pattern of operational deployment since the SDR on a permanent basis, without serious risk of damage to their widely admired professional standards. Incidentally, I endorse most strongly all the admirable remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Garden.

The constant addition of more tasks, which can only create roulement and training problems, not just lack of skilled manpower, is exemplified in the planned rapid response battle groups, each of 1,500 men, to be available at 15 days' notice for both peacekeeping and combat missions under the EU flag. First, they are duplicating NATO so far as combat missions are concerned. We have only one set of men and they will be wearing, so far, four hats: the EU, the UN, NATO and our own national defence, which has become more rather than less important. Only we and the French are capable of producing a 1,500 strong battle group: the other EU countries have neither the men, the resources nor the training.

Who shall we be working with and for? Foremost is the UN, which the EU intends to assist in this way. Forty per cent of the UN's resources are already contributed by the EU. Presumably the United States foots most of the rest of the bill. A UN panel is even now looking at a failed institution whose own senior management feel no confidence in it after a series of failures ranging from wholly ineffective peacekeeping under mandates which provide presence but no protection, to serious corruption in the Iraq Oi1 for Food programme. Incidentally, the issue of oil was one
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on which both the French and Russians—but not we—had their own agenda. There is also corruption in the rest of the UN.

There is no hope of effective UN sanctions against the Khartoum government being agreed, it seems, because China and Russia have too much to lose in arms sales and the sale of jets. Others in the Security Council, the AU and the General Assembly have effectively prevented one word being said by the so-called guardian of human rights about Zimbabwe and the slow destruction of a people.

The Brahimi report some three years ago recognised the total inability of the UN to exercise effective command and control, and the EU has only a most limited experience. Some 16,000 troops spent at least three years doing absolutely nothing to end the war in Sierra Leone. The job was finally done by some 1,200 British troops in a week or so. The UN was totally useless in the Congo in 1960–62, as I can say from personal experience, and is so now.

Incidentally, the original EU plan to fund an African army from development funds to intervene in conflicts in Africa has been quietly changed. It appears that it is now the EU troops who will be expected to bring emergency situations under control—that is the phrase—before handing over peacekeeping tasks to African soldiers. Does that mean British troops in the Sudan?

I thought that we were right to go into Iraq, although it is a matter of concern that our troops are now to be expected to stay there until the end of 2005. However, I firmly believe that, first, there are now too many tasks for too few resources. It seems an unending and uncontrolled process.

Secondly, the Armed Forces are not a business and it is deplorable that the Treasury's policy is to force the sale of essential services to the private sector, which is going on all the time, where the forces have real expertise, for instance the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency. Proper accounting is one thing. Asset-stripping is quite another. Our defence policy is being driven not by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office but by the EU and the Treasury. We cannot afford that. We should put all our energy into making the UN viable and worthy of respect, before we commit our valued Armed Forces to any UN adventure with no visible exit strategy.

Lord Skidelsky: My Lords, my remarks will be addressed to that part of the gracious Speech which pledges the Government to,

The Middle East is indeed the powder-keg of the world and the pacification of the Middle East is the most urgent task of international relations today. One of the main purposes of Tony Blair's visit to Washington two weeks ago was to revive the road map unveiled in May 2002.

As the noble Lord, Lord Bach, pointed out, the hope is that with Yasser Arafat dead, a new window of opportunity will have opened up, although the road
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map's aim to have a final and comprehensive settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by 2005 is, I would judge, a pipedream. In truth, Arafat was not the main obstacle to peace. The main obstacle is the Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, this "savage man of war" as Professor Avi Schlaim calls him, and he is far from dead. Behind him lies the whole policy of planting Jewish settlements in the occupied lands as part of the Greater Israel project.

Professor Schlaim argues that that has always been the main obstacle to peace. There are now an estimated one quarter of a million settlers. That plantation policy is incompatible with the creation of a viable Palestinian state, which has been the main object of the peace process ever since the Oslo accords of 1993. Sharon has made that inconsistency even more glaring by building a security wall higher than the Berlin Wall that runs deep into the West Bank, reduces the area available for the Palestinian state by up to 50 per cent and cuts it up into 16 isolated enclaves. As Professor Schlaim notes, the wall paves the way for the de facto annexation of a large chunk of the West Bank by Israel. Moreover, Sharon has got Bush to agree to that.

So I ask the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, who will wind up the debate: what remains of the road map? What remains of the two-state solution? What remains of the whole peace process to which the Prime Minister is so fervently committed?

Pope John Paul is supposed to have said that there are two possible solutions to the Arab-Israeli conflict: the realistic and the miraculous. The realistic would involve divine intervention; the miraculous a voluntary agreement between the parties. Alas, divine intervention is unlikely, but some outside intervention is necessary. We have the quartet, consisting of the United States, the European Union, United Nations and Russia. But the quartet exists merely to monitor, evaluate, assist and facilitate. It lacks any effective enforcement mechanism. Moreover, as long as Bush is hitched to Sharon, and our Prime Minister is hitched to Bush, the quartet will remain completely ineffective, powerless to facilitate anything because it will not agree on anything.

Here is where Britain can lead a new initiative. The noble Lord, Lord Howell, was kind enough to mention my ideas on the United Nations. Two and a half years ago, the noble Lord, Lord Desai, and I wrote an article advocating a temporary UN protectorate over the occupied territories as a way of unlocking the road to peace. The article took up the old League of Nations idea of the mandate or trusteeship as a bridge between colonialism and full independence.

The nub of our argument was that there is simply not enough land available to satisfy the territorial claims of both sides. So the emphasis in the peace process has to be shifted from the idea of "land for peace" to that of "economic development for peace". If the security needed for trade and investment could be established—we thought that only a UN protectorate could do that—the land question, while not disappearing, would become secondary—would recede in importance. In time, one could envisage all three political units carved out of the old Palestine—Israel, Palestine and Jordan—living at
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peace within the framework of an economically dynamic customs union, which could gradually be enlarged to cover other states in the Middle East.

Every journal in this country and the United States to which we submitted the article turned it down, including the Financial Times, which thought that, although interesting, it was irrelevant. That was at the moment when the Palestinian intifada, or uprising, was at its height, with brutal Israeli repression—maybe necessary, but brutal—leading to thousands of deaths on both sides and Palestine reduced to an economic wreck. The only newspaper that would publish our peace plan was that brave and estimable journal, the Moscow Times, in its issue of 15 April 2002.

I mention that not to extol our work but to point out that our suggestion is very much in line with discussions now going on about the requirements for economic development; the relationship between security, good government and reducing poverty; and external intervention to deal with humanitarian disasters and with failed or failing states. Palestine is ripe for intervention on all those counts, quite apart from the fact that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a threat to international peace.

Moreover, protectorates exist, whether they are called that or not. We have two in the Balkans: the noble Lord, Lord Ashdown, is still the Lord High Protector of Bosnia. There was one in East Timor and there will be one in Iraq for years to come. So the mandate approach is no longer a matter of pure theory, it is one of those facts on the ground.

It is in that context that I want to mention a recent proposal for an international protectorate for the West Bank and Gaza Strip put forward by the Middle East Policy Initiative Forum, the members of which include a Member of this House, the noble Lord, Lord Stone of Blackheath. The proposal tries to overcome the principal weakness of all previous plans: that they rely purely on the good will and co-operation of both sides, with no intervention mechanism.

The essence of the proposal is that a temporary international protectorate take over the legal jurisdiction of the occupied territories. The protectorate would be set up by a UN Security Council resolution. The resolution would designate a mandate authority, based on the quartet. Security would be provided by troops assented to by both the Palestinians and the Israelis. That could be a NATO force, but the report also envisages participation by Arab states. There would be as much decentralisation as compatible with security.

Here is the nub. Pressure would need to be applied to Israel to abandon its occupation in return for the protectorate. The United States is the only country that could apply the necessary pressure: if necessary, by imposing conditions on the use of American weapons or the 3 billion dollars of aid that it supplies to Israel. Presidents Nixon, Carter and Bush senior all did that in the past; but President Bush junior has never done it. So this is the idea: the protectorate offers the advantage of withdrawal with security for the Israelis, the end of Israeli occupation and support for nation building for the
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Palestinians, and a period of separation with assurance of protection for both as a prelude to peaceful co-existence.

This is a remarkable proposal, put forward with much less obligatory waffle than one has any right to expect from a committee. It shirks the issue of the final shape and scope of the Palestinian state, but that does not matter so much. Agreement on that could more easily be reached in conditions of security which are not presently available. I submit that this should be the basis of a British-led peace initiative. The Prime Minister would dearly like to host an international conference on the Middle East. Here is a plan that would give an international conference something to talk about, and not lead straight to another Camp David fiasco.

The difficulty in these matters is not resistance to new ideas; it is to get new ideas into circulation so that they can start doing their work of dissolving entrenched positions. I beg the Government to look at the protectorate proposal seriously, refine it as necessary and act upon it.

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