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Lord Dykes: My Lords, apart from three brief excursions outside for just a few minutes, I have been present at the debate all day and have been struck and
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impressed by the enormously high quality of the speeches, as I had expected on such an occasion. Like, I am sure, other noble Lords, I was very moved by the references to the West Bank, Israel/Palestine, the road map and all the other seemingly intractable problems that have arisen so far but not, I hope, in the future. I mention, in particular, the outstanding speech of the noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky, the wise words of the noble Baroness, Lady Turner of Camden, and the moving account of some of the events on the West Bank that have shocked the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Winchester.

I must declare two interests in order not to be out of order. I live in France as well as in London and the United Kingdom and therefore I was very sympathetic to the dignified way in which the French Government handled the crisis surrounding President Arafat and the return of his body to the Middle East for burial. That received some sneering comments in the British newspapers.

My other interest is that for many years I have been a devoted friend of Israel. I am also particularly concerned with, and involved in, the UK Peace Now support committee for peace in Israel. Peace Now Europe is also about to come into being, mainly in the core European countries nearest to us, and it will be campaigning for a just solution to the Israel/Palestine conflict.

As chairman of the European Movement, I had the pleasure of going to South Africa in 1994 for the first general election as one of the European Commission visitors and observers. When going round various polling stations, I had to wear all the official Community gear, which was quite interesting for the South African people whom I met. I did not breach any of the regulations or procedures that we had agreed when, in a very posh suburb of Cape Town called Wynberg, for a short while I had to man the telephones taking inquiries because one of the lady clerks was taken ill for an hour-and-a-half or two hours.

One call that I received was from a very grande dame with a wonderful English, not South African, accent. She said, "I believe, young man, there's a general election on and that it's important to come down and vote. Are the times as usual? I'm coming to the same polling station". I replied, "Yes, madam, you are indeed". She said with a very grand voice, "I'll bring the Bentley and come down. But there's one thing I want to ask you, young man. Is it correct that my maid is now allowed to vote because I didn't know that before? Obviously she will have to come by bus so I hope she gets there in time. It will take some while from our house in Wynberg". I said, "No, madam, she can come with you and vote in the same general election in the same polling station". "Do you mean coming through the same entrance door?", she inquired politely. She was not very interested in politics and did not really know what was happening with this first new all-South African election. I said, "Yes, madam, come to the same door". She came through arm-in-arm with the maid and they voted together for the first time ever. There were many other similar anecdotes in that South African election.
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That is what the geo-strategic people call the "doctrine of break-throughism"—that is, when there is a crisis of long-standing and suddenly the atmosphere, the climate, the circumstances, the political decisions and conclusions and the public reaction change. Is it possible that that could happen in the Middle East with, for the first time, a realistic glimmer or indication of a breakthrough in this dreadful crisis?

Although I have long been a friend of Israel, I was not very enthusiastic about most of Sharon's policies until he himself gave some indication of a change of attitude. Following his unilateral Gaza withdrawal proposals, I began to think that there might be a possibility of a breakthrough.

We must now look to the Americans, above all, who presumably want to continue to give the lead in this matter. Will Condoleezza Rice really live up to the occasion? Will she do what is necessary to ensure that the Israeli Government take the lead in responding? I say that deliberately because I do not wish to hear it repeated too often that it is up to the Palestinians to do everything, to take the first step and to make all the decisions, with the Israelis then following suit.

Israel is an established and successful state, partly as a result of 34 continuous United States vetoes, which helped Israel not to follow UN resolutions in the Security Council and elsewhere since 1968, and partly because of aid donations from the United States—the largest amount given to any single country. After all, Israel is an advanced country. All the necessary support has been given to Israel in order to protect her, to give her guaranteed security and to ensure that she is the unbeatable military power. The quid pro quo is that Israel must now make concessions that only an established state, vis-à-vis a struggling quasi state such as the Palestinian Authority, can make in order to achieve the best possible conditions for a real breakthrough.

It is not just a matter of Israel saying that it will react to the Palestinian elections. It is not just a matter of George Bush at the press conference with Tony Blair saying, as far as I can see, without any consultation with the quartet or anyone else, not even the State Department, that maybe there could be a Palestinian state by 2009, whereas originally it was 2005. We have to press the United States, Israel and the Sharon Government and of course the Palestinians to reciprocate and do all those things that they have to do to live up to this possible breakthrough to ensure that it happens this time.

Time is running out. I do not believe that it is a matter of just saying that the situation can never be solved and that there are long-standing reasons why people can never get together on this. This was a solemn promise and an undertaking given to the Palestinians a long time ago, dating back to the Oslo accords. We can all trawl back and decide who is to blame for the weaknesses, mistakes and failures and the reasons why matters have collapsed on many occasions. But there is no point in doing that, as the UK Government know.
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Tony Blair may want a way to redeem himself for the mistakes made in Iraq, of which there are many—there will be many more to come, despite the wish of us all that the elections in January will succeed in beginning the democratic steps in Iraq. I commend and congratulate him on taking the decision to go to the Middle East now—apparently, he is to go before Christmas—and on his decision to go immediately to see George Bush to talk about the resumption of the road map. There is a rumour that he came back from Washington more or less empty handed. I do not wish to believe that. I believe that Tony Blair will stick to his last on this and will try to prevail, as we all wish to do.

The Israeli public want many things out of this settlement. There are successive polls that indicate that the public in Israel are quite content with the idea of withdrawal from all the occupied territories. That does not mean that it is Gaza first and last. It is Gaza first, as Peace Now campaigners are saying repeatedly. Many moderate Jews in this country dream of a genuine settlement between Palestine and Israel that will bring a breakthrough, as we saw in South Africa when apartheid collapsed, virtually overnight. We can see the hatred and the conflict collapsing, not overnight but over a few days, a few weeks and a few months, if the United States takes a courageous lead now.

I believe that George Bush in his second term, with courage, the insistence of the British Government, aided, abetted and encouraged by his father—I hope that Tony Blair will continue to phone George Bush—and through Tony Blair's visit, and that of Jack Straw, to the Middle East, will ensure that the right things are said to the Sharon Government. I hope that he gives them encouragement and sees the way in which the Israeli Government are beginning to respond.

I believe that I am right in saying that official spokesmen, on behalf of the Israeli Government, are saying, "Yes, we don't have to go right back to the beginning of these potential negotiations, but we can start from the Camp David moment and pick up the pieces and go on from there with what was agreed; we can take another look at the idea of the refugee issue which was so important to the Palestinians and prevented Arafat, quite understandably, from agreeing to the Camp David agreement when Clinton was so keen to get an agreement at that stage".

All that can be done. Reciprocity is self-evident. The Palestinians are struggling for their state. They need the help. The right reverend Prelate was quite rightly shocked by what he saw, as were other people. I commend, for example, the courage of the Israeli ladies, who like the Black Sash ladies in South Africa, have formed the Checkpoint Watch and regularly watch the IDF. They manage the checkpoints. There are still 600 in the West Bank. Can noble Lords imagine such a vast number and how they affect the Palestinians?

The Israelis have also promised that they will facilitate the movement of populations as the general election to provide a new president, prime minister and government in Palestine looms. That too is an encouraging sign. I believe it is possible; it has to be
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now; it cannot be avoided. Not only should all noble Lords send copies of our Hansard to the United States Congress so that they can read some sensible and wise advice from this Parliament, but we should also ensure that we keep up the pressure on Israel, on Palestine, on the quartet, on Russia and on the United States so that justice prevails.

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