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More widely in the region it means involving Syria and, yes, trying to involve Iran. I say that because, if I have learnt anything about conflict resolution, it is that one must avoid demonisation at all costs, and there have been some crassly insensitive and stupid things said about Iran. They demonstrate the total

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lack of a sense of history on the part of some of those who should know better. Iran is an extraordinarily significant regional power, at the moment feeling increasingly excluded. It will be a terrific challenge to bring Iran back into the fold, but if we really want stability in the region, what is the alternative? Incidentally, it has to be said that, in the polarisation, Iran is not the only potential nuclear threat in the region. Everyone knows that and to pretend to speak as though Iran is the only one does not help.

At this juncture I pay tribute to the courageous Israelis and Palestinians who see all this and stand for a negotiated, mutual approach, perhaps especially those brave personnel in the Israeli military who have refused to take part in operations which they think are unacceptable. In 1967, before I was in government, as a young Labour Back-Bencher, I was in Israel at the time of the war and became caught up in it. What impressed me at the time were the Israelis who said to me, “It’s all right for some people to talk in these extreme terms, but we’ve got to build peace with these people in the future”. I do not say that they were in the majority, but they were important voices. There have always been such Israelis, and we should seek all the time to strengthen their role.

The Middle East and the plight of the Palestinians is central to global security and recruitment for militant extremism, leading to terrorism across the world. Why is that? It is because there is a real sense of injustice, and to deny it is just stupidity. It is a sense of injustice compounded by frustration at what are seen as corrupt and at times brutal authoritarian Arab regimes with which we are prepared to deal. They are regimes seen by many of the Islamic faith as hypocritical in their religion. That again is an underlying truth we have to face. We may not like it but that is the reality, and perception becomes an important part of political reality.

All this is also underlined by what are seen as self-fulfilling prophecies about unreliable, ineffective government—for example, of the Palestinians—while fostering humiliation, instability and the impossibility of an effective, unified, well administered Palestine as a state, with the disruption and hardship caused by the wall, the attacks on centres of government, and all the adverse economic consequences of trade blocks and border harassment.

I declare an interest. I am a former director of Oxfam and remain close to it. Oxfam keeps me well briefed on its front-line experiences as of now—today—in this situation. The cuts in power have been having grave and far-reaching impact on water supplies, sewage systems, hospitals and healthcare in general. Like other NGOs in that area—as well as international institutions—my Oxfam friends have become exasperated at the consequences of violence and its total counterproductivity on both sides. It is absolutely counterproductive.

I will finish by quoting the present director of Oxfam, Barbara Stocking, whom I greatly admire. She has recently come back from the area and has been commenting on the most recent events. Her words are worth considering:

If ever there were an example of the urgent indispensability of a co-ordinated European approach to these major international challenges, and of supporting those within the regimes who struggle to curb extremism and violence, this is it. We should be grateful to the noble Lord.

9.03 pm

Lord Bew: My Lords, I join the noble Lord, Lord Judd, in paying tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, for bringing about this debate tonight. We are all in his debt for doing so, and for allowing us the opportunity to have this discussion. The noble Lord played a distinguished role in the peace process in Northern Ireland as leader of the Alliance Party, as one of the negotiators involved in the Good Friday agreement, as Speaker in the Northern Ireland Assembly and recently in his work for the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning. He should know that in Grand Committee this afternoon, Members of all parties paid tribute to the work of that commission and the progress it has made. He speaks with considerable authority and experience on these matters.

He has acknowledged that some of his views on the development of peace processes have changed. This evening, as on other recent occasions, he has made it clear that he is committed to the concept of the inclusion of the extremes as a necessary prerequisite. I think he would agree that this was not his starting point on these matters, but it is now his current position. There is no doubt at all, as I said, that he speaks with considerable knowledge of what has happened in Northern Ireland. I hope he will forgive me for also saying that he is perhaps influenced to a degree by his training as a psychiatrist in the ways he thinks about issues of human hurt and healing. If you take the Northern Ireland settlement as an example of community psychotherapy as it now operates, you can see that the noble Lord’s work and training have not been in vain.

It is therefore with some reluctance that I question at least some of the assumptions that lie behind the noble Lord’s argument today about the applicability of the Northern Ireland model to the Middle East. It is true that since Annapolis a kind of conference table has been constructed, even if it is not exactly along the lines that the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, would like to see. The broad principles which underlie the approach of the quartet were summarised a long time ago, in the Rose Garden, by President Bush. Flanked by, among others, Condoleezza Rice and Donald Rumsfeld, who is not as loved on the Liberal Democrat Benches as much as he might be, the president said:

That scenario imposes heavy costs on Israel. But it is also clear that in President Bush’s mind there was no place in this dialogue for parties which continue to use

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terror and deny the right of the Israeli state to survive. That is the broad context in which we are moving forward. Those remarks were made in June 2002 and, five and a half years on, in terms of the definition of the tragedy of the situation, they were fairly accurate.

Members of the House will be aware of the remarkable think tank associated with the name of Mr Peter Hain, the former Northern Ireland Secretary and now Works and Pensions Secretary. We were impressed that it had not produced any pamphlets, lectures and so on, but that can be misleading because it has made us forget that Mr Hain, as Northern Ireland Secretary, produced one major lecture at Chatham House, which I was fortunate to hear, in which he outlined his vision of the lessons of Northern Ireland for the Middle East and elsewhere. His argument there—which has, to a degree, been argued by the noble Lord, Lord Judd, today—was that the key thing in the Northern Ireland process was the avoidance of preconditions and that, for example, to say that Israel’s right to exist must be accepted may be not an enabling precondition for the Middle East peace process.

That is not my view of what happened in Northern Ireland in the 1990s. In effect, all the parties were told in political terms, “You can have whatever settlement you want as long as you accept the principle of consent, power sharing plus an Irish dimension”. It was Henry Fordism in politics; that is what they were all told. It is true that preconditions as regards arms being handed over were flouted, but on the broad political structures both the British and Irish Governments made it absolutely clear that there were very firm preconditions. Indeed, it was very interesting that Mr Hain, in answering questions, respected this difficulty in the way he dealt with the matter in discussions at Chatham House on that day.

The media today stress the lack of optimism of both Israelis and Palestinians about the Annapolis process. In fact, this lack of optimism is not a particularly significant indicator of the prospects of success one way or the other. Both peoples have long and bitter experience of the other. The citizens of Gaza who are suffering because of Israel’s decision to close the local power station can hardly be expected to like it. The people of Israel recall that Israel left Gaza in 2005 and since then Gaza has been used not as a platform for democratic and economic Palestinian uplift but for attacks on Israel. Since then, more than 1,000 rockets have been fired into their state.

What matters is something else. Most Israelis have for a long time, according to polls, been in favour of an historic compromise. The most recent polls, which I read at the weekend, showed that 71 per cent of Palestinians, too, want their leaders to seek a peace settlement with Israel. Interestingly, for what it is worth, the same polls showed a drop in confidence in Hamas. These are difficult matters. All of us who are familiar with Northern Ireland know that these polls can be misleading but, none the less, they represent a comparison of like with like within the same polling organisation over a period of time.

In the end, everything here depends on the role of political elites. It is not true, as it is often sentimentally said of Northern Ireland, that the people were ahead

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of the politicians; it was the political elites that drove the process and surprised the people by achieving a result. Achieving a settlement in the Middle East will be a far more difficult task than it was in Northern Ireland. In the past two months two remarkable books have been produced from within the Jewish tradition and the Palestinian tradition: Professor Ruth Wisse’s Jews and Power and Professor Sari Nusseibeh’s Once Upon A Country: A Palestinian Life. Both books are written with profound and deep culture and historical imagination, yet the differences between both writers on fundamental points of politics and religion are greater than the differences that existed in Northern Ireland, if you take two books written by representative intellectuals of the two communities in the 1990s.

We have to respect how difficult this is going to be, given the generosity and wisdom of both those writers. Indeed, if we are to use an analogy from Ireland, it is more the Troubles of 1921-22 than those of the 1990s that are applicable. At that time the British state made a decision, in dealing with a revolutionary challenge, to make a deal with a more moderate faction and then at a later date allow the irreconcilables of that deal to come into the process; that is, if any Irish analogy applies in the first place.

In the time that remains for me, which is running out fast, I shall make some brief points about other differences that exist. One has already been alluded to by the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice—selfish strategic interest. The Middle East is awash with selfish strategic interest: Iraqi, Iranian, Chinese, Russian, American and so on. In Northern Ireland the precondition part of the agreement was dealt with when the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville, declared in 1990 that Britain had no selfish strategic interest in Northern Ireland. The Irish state, for its part, eventually moved to remove its territorial claim from the constitution. Again, there is no comparison in the state of play within these movements. We now know that British intelligence had a very high level of penetration of the IRA and therefore knew a great deal about its level of war-weariness, in a way that no one knows about where Hamas and Hezbollah are to this day.

Then there is the level of hatred. Noble Lords may have listened at the weekend to the report on the BBC website of the words of Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, the goading, ghastly, horrific language that was used, about Hezbollah’s possession of the body parts of Israeli soldiers. No IRA leader, no matter how cruel or solipsistic, would ever have used such language. It is a simple fact; that would have been beyond the pale. Again, it is an indication that we are dealing with deeper hatreds here, and we have to respect that. The noble Lords, Lord Kilclooney and Lord Maginnis, have just reached their 70th birthdays—people will know that they are very lucky to have done so because they survived assassination attempts—and they would say that no IRA leader would use such language.

I want to talk about the conflicts forum. The noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, is a distinguished member of its advisory board. I have looked at some of Dr Assam Tamimi’s texts. Dr Tamimi is controversial because some sections of the media have raised the issue of his views on suicide bombing, but I was more concerned

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about the general political tone: glee that earlier peace deals had failed, a sense of catastrophism and pleasure in the mounting catastrophe in the Middle East. That is really worrying. It is something the Israelis would find it difficult to cope with.

I understand and respect the good intentions behind the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice. More than most people in this House, I know how much he has contributed to the peace process in Northern Ireland. However, inclusivity is not in itself a magical solution. It depends above all on the mood of the revolutionary movement you are dealing with. Is it war weary? Is it resigned, which was the case with the IRA in the 1990s, or is it maximalist, enthusiastic and increasingly bitter, which looks to be the case with Hamas and Hezbollah in the first decade of the 21st century? I regret that there is no sign that the resigned, war-weary mood that overtook the IRA in the 1990s is taking over Hezbollah and Hamas in the first decade of the 21st century.

Despite its great importance, we can at times overemphasise the Arab-Israeli dispute. We must remember also the work of the noble Lord, Lord Malloch-Brown, on the Arab Human Development Report when he was at the UN. It stressed the general issues of economic failure in that region, some of which are not fundamental consequences of Israeli policy. That was very important work by the noble Lord, Lord Malloch-Brown, which also is worth placing in context. I thank again the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, for giving us the chance to have this discussion this evening.

9.16 pm

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, this debate is partly about Northern Ireland as well as the Middle East, and I am conscious that I am one of the participants who is less expert on Northern Ireland than most. I have some strong memories of the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe, on which the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, partly bases his proposal. It was a Soviet initiative, intended to hold to the status quo of Soviet domination over eastern Europe and cleverly used by the Germans above all to begin to change the nature of the discussion between hostile states in western and eastern Europe. It left us with the problem of how we dealt with states and dissident groups. The Charter 77 groups, which used the Helsinki final act as a lever and a rationale for standing up against their Governments, were not something with which western Governments found it easy to deal. Did we deal formally with the socialist states, or did we support those who opposed them? It is not such an easy model on which to base this proposal.

However, I strongly support my noble friend Lord Alderdice in his suggestion that we need to build a broader group in which to operate, that we need to treat the region as a whole, and that we have to bring the Arab League more formally into the discussion about the future of the Israel-Palestine peace process. At my own party conference, we passed a resolution on the Arab-Israeli negotiations in which we called for the quartet to be expanded into a quintet, bringing in the Arab League. It is clear that the Saudis are key

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players. What Prince Turki said yesterday in Germany about opening up the rest of the Middle East to the Israeli economy after a settlement was a very positive step forward. We do not know how much it represents the views of the rest of the Saudi Government, but there are ways in which we clearly need to grasp at everything which is possible.

The CSCE included powers from outside the region—the United States and the Soviet Union. It is clear to all of us that, in any move towards a process for negotiations about the region, Israel will not accept being left on its own. The United States, the European Union and probably Russia have to be engaged as counterweights to the Arab League. I take it as given that the United Kingdom cannot usefully act alone—that we have to make the best of our role as a player within the European Union, which is part of the quartet.

As noble Lords have already said, there is also the problem of movements and what we do about those powerful, non-state actors, particularly Hezbollah. Whether we regard Hamas as part of the Palestine Government—it was elected as so—or as a hostile movement is a question with which we have to grapple. It is a huge mistake of the Israeli and American Governments to attempt to delegitimise Hamas, which is what they are doing, in the hope that collective punishment in Gaza will reduce popular support for Hamas, relegitimise Fatah and so provide a more reasonable Palestinian Authority with which to negotiate. The noble Lord, Lord Trimble, will remember the long history of British Governments preferring to choose the more reasonable people in Northern Ireland with whom to negotiate rather than negotiating with the less reasonable people. It was not always very successful there, unfortunately.

The noble Lord, Lord Judd, has talked about some of the immediate issues. We shall get nowhere if Gaza collapses. The immediate humanitarian crisis there has to be dealt with. I was briefed today by a distinguished Israeli academic on the current situation there. I have to say that he is remarkably optimistic that President Bush’s recent initiatives and the clear change of direction from the US Administration is going to take us forward relatively rapidly towards the beginnings of a settlement. I hope that he is right, but we will not achieve that if Hamas collapses into civil war and disorder in the next few weeks. We have to grapple with that—which means that we cannot entirely ignore Hamas.

I am happy to understand that there are informal conversations going on between the Americans and Syria. That is very positive. When we look at it, we all understand that there is a basis for an agreement between the United States and Syria. One knows what the only acceptable settlement between Israel and Palestine could be in outline, but I fear that reaching even the heads of agreement of that between now and next January 20, when President Bush leaves office, leaves us very short of time.

We also agree that we must be inclusive with regard to the current Iranian regime; nothing would do more to weaken the power of President Ahmadinejad than for us to embrace the Iranian regime, offer it security guarantees and show the Iranian public that the West

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is not fundamentally hostile to Iran. We have to hope that we get over these short-term disagreements. I desperately hope that President Bush is able to push things forward, that Prime Minister Olmert can carry his Government—having lost the right, holding on to the left—and that there are a Palestinian Government able to respond with the positive support of the Saudis, a more constructive response from Syria and a constructive response from Egypt. The question is how we make that stick.

However far these negotiators get in the nine months, they can achieve only the beginnings of a different peace process. That is where the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, has some very useful things to say about a collective continuing conference for the region, with outside support, which will open up economic exchanges and encourage social interaction and educational interchange. The Middle East already has some advantages over a wider Europe in the 1970s and early 1980s, when we had great difficulty communicating across the east and west of Europe. Western television reached only parts of East Germany and western radio was jammed, but television carries all the way across the Middle East, and multichannels with different programmes and points of view are already beginning to transform the discussions within some of those authoritarian regimes.

We need to bring together Iran and the Arabs across the Gulf region and the Arabs and Israelis across the Fertile Crescent. Whether we can also include the countries of the Maghreb I am not entirely sure; it saddens me desperately that that Algerian border remains closed with Morocco and Tunis. Both those neighbours of Algeria should be trading actively and interacting tremendously closely, or the Maghreb simply does not work, never mind sorting out the detail.

I urge the noble Lord, Lord Malloch-Brown, to outline support—to encourage us to believe that the European Union would like a more active and continuing multilateral process rather than just have the external quartet handle the immediate problem of the Arab-Israeli process and the longer-term problem of how we build a more peaceful and economically integrated Middle East.

9.25 pm

Lord Trimble: My Lords, I join other noble Lords who have offered their congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, on bringing about this debate. The noble Lord and I have a similar background and we have worked together, so I also wish to acknowledge the considerable contribution that he made to the positive developments that have taken place in Northern Ireland over recent years. Although he may not be aware of the full details, one thing I remember fondly from the final day of those talks nearly 10 years ago was the occasion on which I managed to prevent a member of my party physically assaulting him.

It is natural, given the positive experience in Northern Ireland, for us to look at other areas in the world to see whether there are ways in which the example can help or lessons can be drawn. But we must approach this very cautiously. We may be dealing with similar issues, but in every situation there are different circumstances

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and different histories and we must treat each case on its own merits. We must not approach a situation with a vision that is conditioned from somewhere else. Reference was made to respect for the parties. If we approach a situation such as the Middle East and say, “We did this in Northern Ireland therefore you should do it”, we would not be paying respect to the parties there. We should follow through what we mean in that situation.

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