Middle East Conflict: Motion.

Thursday, 7 June 1990

Seanad Éireann Debate
Vol. 125 No. 7

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Mr. Lanigan: Information on Mick Lanigan  Zoom on Mick Lanigan  I move:

That Seanad Éireann, seriously concerned at the recent escalation of violent incidents in Israel and the Occupied Territories, calls upon the Minister for Foreign Affairs, in his capacity as President of the Council of Ministers, to exert every effort to end this cycle of violence and to encourage a dialogue which would lead to a settlement of the tragic conflict there.

[858] It is appropriate this morning that we should be taking this debate. At this moment in Dublin Castle the Minister for Foreign Affairs is chairing a meeting of the ministerial Troika on the Middle East. This, as part of the Euro-Arab official dialogue, had been reconvened in Dublin. It is the second time during the Irish Presidency that the Troika has met to discuss this subject and we must compliment the Minister on his initiative in making certain that the question of the Palestinians is brought to the fore during the Irish Presidency.

Today, we should concentrate on two aspects on this problem. The motion deals specifically with the area of Israel and the Occupied Territories, but I am sure that nobody will worry too much if it drifts a little into other areas of conflict in the Middle East.

I have felt for some time that the only way this conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians can be resolved is by direct confrontation or direct talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians. The Palestinians have the PLO as their leaders and as their Government. The Israelis have stated time and time again that they will not speak to the PLO. Therefore, dialogue cannot take place. This is regrettable. We have spoken on many occasions and in many places of the urgency of convening an international conference on the Middle East. We have seen the question of this conference brought to the forefront of international argument. We have equally seen it disappear into limbo whenever some other international matter of immediate concern bursts upon the international stage.

What is the difference now? Why the increased urgency? Where does the question of the Arab-Israeli conflict stand now on the international stage? The motion speaks about increased escalation of violence in the Occupied Territories. I suppose the violence that has occurred over the past number of years is something similar to the violence that is occurring in the North of Ireland for many years. People seem to get numbed by constant reference to this type of violence. Two recent incidents would show the type of [859] violence and the escalation that is occurring.

On 26 April at the Jabaliya camp near Gaza there was an official attack on citizens of that area which resulted in three deaths and 215 injuries among the Palestinian refugees there. Again, we had an unofficial attack on 20 May at Rish Lezion which is basically the slave market of that area. It is where the people from the Gaza Strip gather and sell themselves as cheap labour to the Israelis. The attack there is said to have been caused by somebody who was not fully compos mentis but it resulted in 70 people killed and 30 people wounded. It has escalated violence not alone in the Occupied Territories but for the first time inside the State of Israel in the town of Jerusalem.

We are living in a time of unprecedented political change and of potential major realignment of the world political and economic powers. The changes which have taken place in eastern Europe have caused many people to rethink their attitude to traditional borders and regimes. There is a danger in that in the new realignments we will see in the short term a build-up of regional, ethnic and religious tensions which will need the full attention of the international community if they are to be resolved.

Looking at the super powers it would have been reasonable to assume that the American Government would be too concerned with the political situation in Central and South America and with efforts to cement relations with Russia and eastern Europe to concentrate on the resolution of the major Middle East conflict. One might also have assumed that there would be a greater concentration on discussions with Iran on the release of the American and other hostages held presumably in Lebanon by people over whom Iran may have influence than on the major conflict in the area. The defeat in Nicaragua of the Ortega Government by Mrs. Chamorro has opened up new horizons for the Americans in that country and one presumes that this would reduce their efforts in other areas of the world.

[860] Fortunately, the Middle East has continued to hold the attention of the larger nations who are prepared to devote time and attention to assist in the resolution of the problems there. The Baker initiative was a welcome effort to broker a first ever Israeli-Palestinian dialogue. While it does not go far enough in the direction of an international conference it is a first step. It is a pity that Israel has so far been unable to take that step and has been unwilling to agree to meet Palestinian representatives who would have a mandate to speak on behalf of their brothers in the Occupied Territories, including East Jerusalem. I hope the present consultations in Israel will lead to a government that is ready to match the courage of the PLO in accepting this dialogue.

There is a vacuum in Israeli politics at present and this vacuum is very valuable to the caretaker government because it basically allows them to do anything they want to do without the sanction of their erstwhile partners in the Labour Party. An attempt is being made this week to cobble together a government which will include very right-wing elements who will bring nothing to the peace process but could lead to further escalation of violence because it is within the mandate of the extreme right-wing people there to annex further land in the Occupied Territories. This could have very dangerous consequences not alone for people in the Middle East but it could escalate problems outside the territories. There is a slim hope that the same thing will happen to the present Government in their attempt to cobble together a government, that happened to the Labour Party when they attempted to get a government together, namely, that at the last moment people will pull out of the agreements that were made and that, as has been suggested, there may be a return to the Government of national consensus, as it was called at the time.

We have to be aware that the range of opportunity is limited. Israel is already on notice that the United States will work on this initiative only so long as there is a realistic hope of it being accepted. There are, as I have said, other calls on their [861] time when they could consider potentially more fruitful if there is no movement in the Arab-Israeli conflict. We have seen a withdrawal from negotiations by the United States because, as they see it at present, there is no point in trying to progress the Baker plan when there is no government in Israel. They have to have somebody to speak to. The Baker plan, which is encouraging, cannot be added to at present and the United States are not prepared to give it full attention until there is a stable government again in Israel.

The continuing efforts of the United States and the USSR towards a lessening of tensions on the wider world stage seem likely to be a cause of postponing again the convening of the international peace conference in the Middle East. I would argue against postponement. Changes which are taking place in the USSR are profound. I feel that some of these changes make it imperative that the international conference should be pressed by everybody who has the interest of everyone involved in the Middle East conflict at heart.

For many years the USSR has been under extreme pressure from the international community to allow its Jewish population the freedom to emigrate if it wished. There was a siege mentality at work in pre-Gorbachev USSR which did not allow a major resettlement outside her territories of citizens of the USSR on the basis of religious conviction. There was considerable odium attached to the USSR because of its policy towards its Jewish population. The attitude of the USSR would now seem to be that emigration is to be allowed to happen in an orderly manner and this is welcome.

While the USSR was under pressure over the Jewish question, the United States State Department and United States citizens were at the forefront of the battle for freedom of exit. Now that this right has been granted there are unexpected problems. It would appear that the US has put into effect a quota system which will limit the number of Jewish immigrants into the United States. It would appear that this year over [862] 200,000 Jews will emigrate freely from the USSR. The prediction is that the majority of these will go to the place offering what is considered by them to be a safe haven. As Jews, the immigrants can go to Israel under the automatic right of return laws. The danger of this unprecedented migration is that the Israelis may allow or encourage these immigrants to settle in the Occupied Territories and that Palestinians would be expelled from their homes and their lands to make room for them. This influx of Jewish immigrants from the USSR could have further major destabilising effects on the whole area of the Middle East if they are resettled in the Occupied Territories. In the past seven years over 500,000 Jewish emigrants left the USSR. Of these 200,000 approximately went originally to Israel, but only about 700 settled in Palestinian lands.

In the 1930s the Palestinians pleaded with Britain to halt the influx of Jews from Europe. Today we cannot and should not ask the USSR to halt the exodus of Jews but the international community must ensure that the rights of Soviet Jews are not exercised at the expense of the rights of the Palestinians of the Occupied Territories. Much has been made by the Israelis at present that only a very small number of these Jews from Russia have gone to the Occupied Territories, and that they are not encouraging them to do so. Of course, there is a difference between encouraging and giving them grants to settle. They can get grants to settle in the Occupied Territories and they can get subsidised mortgages. On the one hand, they are saying that they are not encouraging but, on the other hand, they are giving them subsidised mortgages and they are giving them land at a cost which is not compatable with the prices that could be got in the area. Equally, they are forgetting that they are settling many of these Jews in Jerusalem, and in East Jerusalem in particular. There is no mention of this when the Israelis talk. This, again, is an contravention of international law and is destabilising the area further.

The prospect of major new expansion [863] of settlements must again give a new impetus to the need for a major initiative towards the setting up of the international peace conference. The development of diplomatic relations between the USSR and Israel should eliminate one of the major stumbling blocks to the international conference. Israel has said that the absence of diplomatic relations with the USSR has been a hindrance and that the USSR would not be acceptable as a participant in the conference if they had not diplomatic relations with them. China, which is the other permanent member of the Security Council which does not have diplomatic relations with Israel, should be acceptable as a participant as it has not played any major intrusive part in the politics of the region.

It is imperative that the initiatives of the PLO under its President, Yasser Arafat, should not be forgotten when we concentrate our minds on the international conference. On the international political stage, the Palestinians have grown in stature under his very able and exceptional leadership. It is time that the international community reacted positively to ensure that the efforts of all the Palestinian people to attain nationhood should not be lost. The present Palestinian leadership and the Palestinian people should be allowed to take their place among the nations of the world. We appeal to all people who might have influence on the setting up of the international conference to make every effort to allow it to take place. To the Israelis we say: “Your future and your security as a fully recognised international state is assured, but that for you to be fully recognised as an equal partner in the brotherhood of nations, you must give the recognition to the rights of the Palestinians. Give them an opportunity to sit with you to eliminate the antagonisms and to have a rebirth of confidence in the future of the area as a peaceful hub of the world and a rebirth of the historical friendships which were achieved in this, the birthplace of the three great religions of Christianity, Judaism and Islam”. To the USA we say: “Do not allow the [864] intransigence of the Israelis to stop you from using all your great powers of persuasion and your diplomatic and monetary powers to ensure the initiation of the international peace conference”.

The Baker plan has within it the necessary safeguards for both sides to the dispute. The role of western Europe in the convening of the international conference cannot be underestimated. The involvement of Europe in the creation of the State of Israel and her colonial intrusions in the area have played a major part in the continuing Middle East conflict. Historical ties, geographic proximity, patterns of trade and economic independence ensure that the tragic divisions and instabilities of the Middle East remain a matter of consistent concern and priority for Ireland and its partners in the EC. Ireland is a small country and should be proud of its active and constructive role in the formulation of European policy on the Palestinian question. Ireland has played a leading role in the evolution of the keynote Venice Declaration of June 1980 which still today remains the basic expression of the fundamentals of the policy of the European states towards the question.

During Ireland's Presidency of the EC in the second half of 1979 Ireland played a significant part in moving our partners towards a commitment to Palestinian self-determination, one of the two essential principles underpinning our common approach. The other is the right to the existence and security of all states in the region. The European Governments must keep up the momentum which has emerged recently and take advantage of every opportunity to push the conference concept.

The road to peace is not an easy one. The setting up of an international conference is a difficult task, but I feel that the process has been helped by the great suffering under which the people of the Occupied Territories have lived before and during the period of the intifada. The intifada has been of tremendous importance in concentrating the attention of the media worldwide on the living conditions [865] of the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. The Palestinian people have been making a statement to the world for the past three years, a statement of their rejection of the inhuman conditions under which they have been forced to exist for the past number of generations under illegal Israeli occupation. Generations of Palestinians have grown up in refugee camps, lacking the most basic of human rights, with no hope of a better life and with no hope of giving to their children the basic human demands of adequate food, accommodation and hope for the future.

The intifada has shown the world that the human heart is indomitable, that hope springs eternal and that there is a way of confronting superior power in a dignified manner which has attracted the attention of the world media. The intifada has had a profound effect on the perception, particularly in the West, of the plight of the Palestinians. The popular movement in the West Bank and Gaza has been an expression of genuine democratic reaction to oppression. The popular conception of Israel as an oppressed people have changed. The oppressed have been patently seen to be the oppressors. The focus of the world media on the struggle of the intifada has been on the civil rights violations by the Israelis and has clearly demonstrated a dynamic that is deep-rooted and has crossed all the boundaries of class, creed, political and factional affiliations among the Palestinians. The leadership of the PLO outside the Occupied Territories has responded in a very responsive and sensitive manner to the populist uprising. The people in the Occupied Territories have succeeded in articulating the values of the Palestinians, the cohesiveness of the Palestinian people in their struggle against oppression, a sensitivity to the different aims and values of the Palestinian people and have shown by the confrontation between people and troops that in a world where right has been associated with might the rights of the children emerge as a beacon of hope in a sea of oppression.

The politicisation of the Palestinian [866] struggle entered a new and very important stage when the residents of the Occupied Territories said collectively “Enough is enough”. A new dimension has been brought into the struggle against oppression. Israel, as well as world opinion, is changing as a result of the intifada. The struggle of the Palestinian people is a struggle which will be concluded successfully. If the Israelis continue to go down the road they are going, I am afraid they are in fact committing suicide. It will happen. They will commit political suicide if they do not allow an international conference to take place; if they do not want to have an international conference, they should sit down and talk directly to the other people who are involved in the conflict.

It is strange, I suppose, to bring an Irish patriot into this discussion, but when we talk about the struggle of the Palestinians and how long they have been struggling — they have been struggling now since prior to 1947 — we can recall Roger Casement in his speech in the dock saying some words which are appropriate to this debate and I think we should all take them into account, to bring into focus the urgency of having a resolution of the problem there. Roger Casement in his speech from the dock said:

Ireland has soon her sons, aye, and her daughters too, suffer from generation to generation always for the same cause, meeting always the same fate and always at the hands of the same power, always a fresh generation has passed on to withstand the same oppression.

The cause that begets this indomitable persistency, the faculty of preserving through centuries of misery the remembrance of lost liberty, this surely is the noblest cause man ever strove for, ever lived for, ever died for. If this be the cause I stand here indicated for and convicted of sustaining, then, I stand in goodly company and a right noble succession.

The other aspect of this conflict we [867] should address ourselves to is the violations of international law in the Occupied Territories, as defined under article 1 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Israel was a signatory to this convention. It has to be noted that so far Israel's cosignatories have singly failed to provide effective protection for the civilian population of the Occupied Territories, which is what this Fourth Geneva Convention was all about. The Government, former Ministers and the Minister have at all times appealed for a cessation of Israel's serious violations of international law in the Occupied Territories and have encouraged the engagement of all parties of this view in negotiations aimed at a just and durable settlement of the conflict.

The Irish Government regard as illegal the pursuit of an annexationist agenda by Israel. This is noted in the Ministerial Troika meeting on 2 April 1990 by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Gerard Collins. This position is backed up by Ireland's agreement with the international consensus on the applicable international law in those territories.

Earlier this year, in responding to a question in the Dáil on 7 February, Deputy Collins stressed that

the provisions of the Geneva Convention on the Protection of the Civilian Population in Time of War are applicable to the Occupied Territories.

Ireland has also expressed this view in the forum of the United Nations. After the killings of several Palestinian civilians by Israeli soldiers at the West Bank village of Nahalin last year, the General Assembly reaffirmed once again

that the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12th August 1949, is applicable to Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied by Israel, including East Jerusalem

and demanded

that Israel, the Occupying Power, abide scrupulously by the (Fourth) Geneva Convention... and that it [868] desist immediately from its policies and practices that are violations of the Convention.

With regard to more specific violations, the Irish Government have taken note of the distressing scale of suffering inflicted on the civilian population in the Occupied Territories since the beginning of the uprising. On 30 November 1989, the Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Deputy Calleary, emphasised in the Seanad the consensus of the Twelve in these points when he said:

Some 650 Palestinians have been killed since the disturbances in the Occupied Territories began almost two years ago, many thousands have been injured and tens of thousands have been detained... As the Twelve, we have had to repeat to Israel our rejections of the violent methods being used to attempt to bring the Palestinians to heel. We decry the shooting of children, collective punishments such as the deliberate destruction of family homes and the arbitrary holding of people without trial in “administrative detention”. We also deplore the measures taken to deny the Palestinian people their right to education by the forced closure for two years now of the universities and the regular disruption of the secondary school year, most recently for two months from the beginning of November.

Ten days later, on 9 December, the day the uprising entered its third year, Ireland joined its European partners in a European Council Declaration that demonstrated the alarm of the Twelve not only at the more immediate human rights abuses by the occupying power, but also at the longer term implications of Israel's policies on the social and economic welfare of the population protected by the Fourth Geneva Convention. I quote:

Seriously concerned by the violations of human rights in the Occupied Territories and recalling the need for the occupying power to observe strictly its obligations under the 4th Geneva [869] Convention to which it has notably not conformed in such basic areas as education and health, the European Council deplores the continuous deterioration of the situation in the Occupied Territories which seriously affects the living conditions of the people, compromises in a lasting fashion the future of Palestinian society and prevents the economic and social development of the Territories.

Since January of this year Ireland has held the Presidency of the European Community. In the traditional start-of-Presidency speech to MEPs at Strasbourg on 16 January, Deputy Collins cited the search for a settlement of the Israeli-Occupied Territories as a foreign policy priority during the Irish Presidency. Ireland had, in fact, already begun to demonstrate its interest in this area by initiating on January 14th a formal démarche to Israel by the Twelve, expressing concern

at the unjustified use of generalised violence against hundreds of people during authorised and peaceful demonstrations in Jerusalem on 29-30 December 1989; and that the current guidelines appear to permit the use of firearms in situations which are nonlife threatening...

The Twelve therefore appealed to Israel:

to allow peaceful demonstrations to proceed freely; to cease using excessive force to put down demonstrations and other manifestations of the uprising; to ensure that law enforcement officials do not exceed their powers; and to review urgently the guidelines on opening fire.

Since the beginning of this year Israel's policy of illegal settlement in the Occupied Territories has given rise to much concern and apprehension on the part of Ireland and its European partners. As President of the European Community, Ireland has been vocal on the illegality of settlement activity and the threat the policy poses to the prospects for peace in the area. In a statement by the Twelve, [870] meeting in European Political Co-operation on 20 February, the Foreign Ministers reiterated their view that:

Jewish settlements in the Occupied Territories, including East Jerusalem, are illegal under international law... The Twelve deplore the Israeli settlement policy in the Occupied Territories. The Israeli statements on this matter are not conducive to establishing the climate necessary to make the progress which is urgently needed in the peace process.

On 2 April in the context of a Troika meeting, Deputy Collins clarified the legal and political issues at stake in the continuing establishment of Israel by settlements in the Occupied Territories, and I quote:

The settlement by an Occupying Power of its own population in the territory it has occupied is contrary to the Fourth Geneva Convention. Thus, the settlement of parts of the population of Israel in any parts of these territories is illegal and the Twelve have consistently expressed their opposition to it. Withdrawal from the territory occupied is an essential element of a peace settlement. Over time, a policy of settling occupied territories amounts to creeping annexation. It makes withdrawal, without which there will be no settlement, much more difficult.

The last two extracts I have quoted makes it quite clear that the Foreign Ministers of the European Community are painfully aware of the contradiction between allowing Israel to continue its ultra vires exercise of de facto sovereignty and its violations of international humanitarian law in the Occupied Territories, on the one hand, and the commitment of the Community to promote the prospects of peace in the area, on the other. This was summarised most forcibly by Deputy Collins in the Dáil on 7 February this year, when he said:

I cannot overestimate the need to open dialogue in order to reach a peace [871] settlement which alone can ensure the rights and legitimate aspirations of each of the parties. It is my firm conviction that the measures currently being applied by Israel in the Occupied Territories are not conducive to the climate of confidence necessary for any negotiation.

This, then, is the position in Ireland. Since 1967, and with increasing intensity over the past two and a half years, Israel has been engaging in serious violations of international humanitarian law in the Occupied Territories. Ireland, along with its European partners, has frequently demanded that Israel cease and desist from such violations. Moreover, as we have heard, Ireland is actually bound by its own legal duties, which both parliamentarians and the legal community here take very seriously, to ensure that such violations cease.

In addressing ourselves to the motion before us this morning I think we should add that we should urge the Minister and the Government to do everything possible to ensure that the violations of international law do not continue as well as making every effort to ensure that meaningful talks can take place which might give impetus to a settlement of this particularly tragic conflict. It has to be said that unless this conflict is brought to a reasonable speedy conclusion destabilisation can occur not alone in the actual territories involved but outside them. Ireland is a country which is not too far from this area and we have ties with it which I do not think we should break. It is a motion I have great pleasure in placing before the Seanad this morning.

Mr. McDonald: Information on Charles B. McDonald  Zoom on Charles B. McDonald  I am indeed glad to have the opportunity of speaking to this motion. I compliment Senator Lanigan on tabling it in order to give the House an opportunity to discuss this problem. While in mileage it may be fairly far away [872] from us, nevertheless, with the world getting smaller by the day through its communication system the problem is not that far from us indeed.

I fully accept that there is provocation, violence and terrorist activities committed against the state of Israel on, I suppose, quite a regular basis. Having said that, that democracy is to a great extent reborn in Europe, the Presidency of Europe should press for a special sub-committee of the United Nations, or even a special sub-committee of the Council of Europe Ministers with the support and blessing of the United Nations, to spearhead a search for peace, reconciliation and co-operation, not only in Israel but in the Middle East in general.

When one looks at the flashpoints or the difficult areas, there has not really been much change in the past 40 or 50 years. The only problem I would see in the European Community taking a very strong role and using their considerable economic muscle to encourage countries, large and small, to have regard and respect and to grant human dignity to their minorities is that there are a few areas of conflict in the Community itself. How would an Israeli Minister, or an Arab Minister, react to the Irish Presidency? More than likely he would say: “Set your own house in order in Northern Ireland”. He would probably say the same to the UK Government; and he could with great justice say the same to the Greek Government, who again are accused of treating their minorities with something less than what one expects in the 1990s.

Northern Ireland and the Middle East are the main victims of pig-headed intransigence in the world today, where persons who style themselves as statesmen, politicians and religious leaders have not yet developed sufficiently to approach the table to talk through the common problems. Narrow-minded nationalism and religious fundamentalism will go down in history as the curse of the 20th century. Therefore, a huge effort, even at this late hour, must be made to find a way to international peace. Surely the thousands [873] and thousands of innocent displaced persons, refugees, ethnic minorities or tribes who are made to suffer starvation, famine, pestilence and murder are entitled to look to the international community for something better in this enlightened age?

I often wonder if some of these terrorist atrocities are carried out for propaganda purposes. I often ask myself why do the media give such prominence to murder and butchery from whatever corner of the world it happens on a daily basis? The pertinent question as far as this debate is concerned is: why must the state of Israel use such force against its civilian population? In 1976 the EC accorded most favoured nation status to Israel. At that time I was a member of the European Parliament and I strongly supported that move and have continued to feel sympathy for a small nation with, as it was then, its back to the wall. But when the Israelis commenced to use our UNIFIL volunteer soldiers as target practice, I certainly had second thoughts.

The Israelis make a big issue out of the holocaust of 50 years ago, but have they learned no lessons from that barbarity and tyranny that they should now, in 1990, treat their citizens and neighbours in a fashion reminiscent of that totalitarian power of 50 years ago? Unless Israel is prepared seriously to seek a peaceful solution, then I think the international community must take peaceful action; and, if sanctions work in one part of the world, then why not apply them to this festering sore? The time has passed for expressions of sympathy to the survivors, the relatives, the widows, the victims of the latest atrocity. Any Government, or so-called political movement, that is not prepared to engage in meaningful dialogue in search of a solution to the differences that are the underlying cause of so much hardship, murder, torture and crimes against humanity, irrespective of whether it is in the guise of nationalism or whatever, should be boycotted by the international community in the interests of freedom and human dignity.

I suppose, in common with all of my [874] colleagues here, I receive, almost on a daily basis, propaganda from many political organisations and movements across the world. It is sometimes difficult to find time to read them. Since the problems are far removed from the problems occupying our minds in this country, perhaps we do not give them the attention and study they possible should receive. As the European Community has developed, it is quite clear that it is an ever-growing economic power, but is also growing in status right across the world. As a result of following on a daily basis the various points of interest that are carried in Europe-Agence Internationale, I believe the Community is playing quite a significant role in the promotion of peace and harmony. For example, under the heading of “EEC-Armenia and Azerbaidjan”, I note that the European Commission has decided to grant emergency aid to half a million ECUs in favour of displaced populations in Armenia and Azerbaidjan. While it is perhaps not exactly in the same region and it is not directly connected with the question before the House, I use it as an illustration to highlight the work the Community is doing. The communiqué goes on:

Following the events of 1990 in Baku, a population of some 30,000 people of Armenian origin fled Azerbaidjan to take refuge in Armenia. Conversely, 15,000 Azeris fled the border area between the two republics to go to the central Azerbaidjan and notably Sumgait.

The aid which is recorded there by the Community must be of significant help to those people. We are inclined to forget that there are hundreds and thousands of refugees right across the world; and, since we can no longer say we are not aware of their existence, there must be pressure put on the international community to allocate greater resources in assisting those people and perhaps, more importantly, in tackling the underlying problems.

I feel that as the European Community [875] develops in economic power and in stature in the eyes of all democratic-minded people, the time will surely be ripe to tackle head-on some of these continuing problems. Since the Israeli conflict is one that has been on the international scene for many decades, I believe it is appropriate that greater efforts ought to be made to find a solution, a lasting solution that will embody recognition of the claims of all the people involved. There will have to be a situation of give and take, but the main objection I have is that people are not prepared to talk.

We have just the same situation, where you have politicians representing the majority community in the North of this island who, although they have been paid politicians from the public purse for 20 or 25 years have not yet found it possible to talk to those who differ or hold different views from them. I think that adds to our disgrace in the eyes of the world, just as last week after the murder of those two young Australian men in Holland, the IRA issued a statement from Dublin apologising for those dastardly murders. I should like to ask why the IRA are allowed to have an office in our capital city from which they can issue such hypocritical messages of sympathy, which only cause the ordinary citizen in this country to puke — and there is no fancier language I can think of putting on it. They certainly do not speak for us. But, I am sure that if you are reading a newspaper in the Middle East and you see a message from Dublin you will assume it is the Irish Government. That should be dealt with as a matter of urgency, and dealt with fairly severely.

Mr. B. Ryan: Information on Brendan Ryan  Zoom on Brendan Ryan  Have I got the wrong motion this morning, Sir?

Acting Chairman (Mr. McMahon): Information on Lawrence McMahon  Zoom on Lawrence McMahon  The Senator is quite in order. He is using rather strong language. I would ask him to——

Mr. McDonald: Information on Charles B. McDonald  Zoom on Charles B. McDonald  If Senator Ryan's sensibilities have been offended, I would [876] not wish to offend the Senator in the least——

Mr. B. Ryan: Information on Brendan Ryan  Zoom on Brendan Ryan  I am not talking about the sentiments; it is the context I am wondering about.

Mr. McDonald: Information on Charles B. McDonald  Zoom on Charles B. McDonald  The context I was speaking in was that the time has come for the European Community to go a little outside its economic mandate and to use its economic muscle to underline the desirability of expecting higher standards and better treatment for minority populations in particular in the countries with which we have economic ties and with which we have considerable trade. Perhaps some of my colleagues do not agree with that, but that is their prerogative and I am not in the least put off making that statement. We need peace in all the regions of the world and we must be prepared to pay a price for peace. I think every individual is entitled to the right to freedom, taking on the duties that freedom confers as well. There is no doubt the United Nations requires to be reorganised. It is time after so many years that that international body had sharper teeth. As I have already said, the EC Council of Ministers might consider setting up a special committee with the blessing of the United Nations to spearhead the search for peace and harmony in the Middle East and Israel.

It is extraordinary that the Israeli Government, remembering the hardship that the holocaust of the thirties and forties caused to their people, should use the same kind of policies against minorities in their own area. The EC must endeavour to put their own houses in order so that they can speak with a stronger voice. There are only a couple of blackspots in the entire EC and the main one we are concerned with is Northern Ireland. If the politicians there cannot find it in their hearts to talk to those who do not share their views, then they should not be in politics. They are earning their salaries by fraud. They should do what they were elected to do and speak out, which is the art of politics. They should search in a very clear and unambiguous way for the [877] road to peace so that we can live in freedom with dignity and with respect for the rights and views of our neighbours.

I support the motion. I compliment the Minister for Foreign Affairs for his unstinting efforts, especially during his period as President of the Council of Ministers, for the mind-boggling number of journeys and missions he has undertaken over the past six months, many of them concerned with a search for genuine peace and harmony. As a small country with no great hang-ups and not being aligned to any of the blocs, the Minister has used our neutral status to great effect. I hope that will long continue to be our policy. We should be very serious in what we say and should not merely express sympathy at the latest atrocity. There is a time when that must stop and serious action must follow.

Professor Conroy: Information on Richard Conroy  Zoom on Richard Conroy  I second the motion. What we are concerned about in this motion is the violence in that part of the world and our anxiety to make every effort to end the cycle of violence and encourage dialogue. We are not here to condemn the Israelis or Palestinians. We are here to try to bring both parties together, to understand the causes of this conflict and to do what we can to bring violence in that area to an end. We do this partly because of our own history and partly because we have a duty during our Presidency of the European Community and as a member of the European Community to do what we can in that respect.

We are all too familiar with the cycle of violence which can so readily and easily occur in countries where there is a history of conflict, deep-seated emotions and differences of view, where each party feels absolutely justified in their own particular viewpoint. In one sense this is an advantage in so far as we have a knowledge, and perhaps not so much a sympathy as an understanding, of the feelings of the various parties concerned in this dispute. Though we may have suffered from colonialism we have not been involved in colonialism and, therefore, we have a point of view which may be regarded as acceptable to both ideas. Our history of [878] neutrality and the fact that we are only a very tiny nation with no great power policies gives us an opportunity to bring the parties together without having any particular interest or axe to grind in the matter.

All the great powers have been serving their own interests in the Middle East. They have not been concerned to any serious extent with the problems of the Arabs, Palestinians, or the Israelis. There may be lobbies and interests from time to time to whom they pay lip service, but basically the United States and the Soviet Union have been serving their own selfish interests and care very little for the interests of either Arab or Jew.

In the European Community and in this debate so far we have been rightly critical of the behaviour of the Israeli Government and of the Israeli security forces in the area but we must put that in context. It is a fact that there was a horrible holocaust and that millions of Jews were killed simply because they were Jews. We will never know quite how many million were killed but it is one of the appalling barbarities of history. That was only 50 years ago and there are men and women still alive today who survived the concentration camps. There are children whose parents died in concentration camps. It is an acute and living memory. Even today, regrettably there is antisemitism and the desecration of cemeteries in Europe.

The holocaust ended and the state of Israel was set up. Perhaps the interests of the Palestinians were not really considered with any great sympathy at that stage but nonetheless the Jews have found since then that their state has been threatened and not just in words. There have been a series of devastating wars which could easily have led to the elimination of the state of Israel. That is the reality. There has been a sustained campaign of terrorism and of appalling atrocities such as at the Munich Olympics. Small children have been killed on the beaches in Israel simply because they happen to be Israeli children. There is no use in arguing and condemning the Israeli [879] security forces and the Israeli Government without bearing in mind what has happened out there.

That is not to suggest that we do not have sympathy for the most unfortunate people of the Occupied Territories. As Senator Lanigan and other Senators have said, it is ironic that the Jewish population, having themselves suffered so horribly, should not seem to have so little thought or consideration for those unfortunates who have come under their aegis, rule and control. It is part of the innate evil or wickedness which we all have in our human nature but there is no excuse for it whatever. For far too long it has been ignored.

The tendency to focus on one particular aspect of suffering is not unique to the Middle East. I mentioned the appalling atrocities and the bestiality of the holocaust in which millions of Jews died. How many of us ever reflect, some of us perhaps do not even realise, that over two million German civilians died in the period 1945-46. These people were not German soldiers, they were not members of the Gestapo or the SS. They were German civilians, elderly men, women and children who were forcibly evicted from eastern Europe. It was another appalling massacre which we tend to totally ignore.

Let us not ignore the appalling situation of those in the refugee camps in the Arab world and the suffering which the people in the ghettoes of Gaza and the West Bank are now enduring. There plight has been described almost as slave labour. That may be an exaggeration but there is a lot of truth in it. They had been largely ignored until in the intifada they began to assert themselves. This is perhaps the major change which is taking place in that area of the Middle East. It is the people of the Occupied Territories, of the West Bank and Gaza Strip who are themselves, in a very united and determined way, making clear that their views will have to be taken into account, their suffering will have to be brought to an end and there will have to be dialogue with their representatives, the PLO.

[880] I am sure the Minister for Foreign Affairs in his capacity as President of the Foreign Affairs Council of Ministers of the European Community will ensure that these people are encouraged to enter into dialogue and, hopefully that there will be a just settlement in which they will no longer be referred to as people in the Occupied Territories. We must also ensure that the people of Israel can live in peace and, equally, that the other people of Palestine will be able to live in peace.

Mr. B. Ryan: Information on Brendan Ryan  Zoom on Brendan Ryan  I have often said that one of the things I am not too well disposed to is the even-handed approach to conflict, the apparent belief that there is a superior, liberal way where one can stand back from a conflict and by a judicious measure of criticism in both directions give the impression of a sense of superiority to the “unfortunate people” who have the bad fortune to be in conflict and not to take sides. I always find that people who do not have the ability to make up their minds about whose rights they support and about who are the victims of a conflict are usually those who are most easily influenced by whoever they last met. We had the fairly recent example of Members of this House who seem to go off on a tangent because they happened to have the experience of being in a country for a couple of weeks and now they have decided the whole of the western world is virtually wrong and everybody except themselves is wrong. If they had a history of participation in the work and the struggle of the various movements in this country for liberation in South Africa, perhaps they would not have gone or at least would have been able to distinguish propaganda from reality. However, that is an issue for another day.

On the issue of the Middle East, there is a similar tendency to pretend that there is some kind of lovely middle way in which one fires criticism at both sides and then, with differing degrees of eloquence, prays for a resolution which will be based on both of them more or less coming to their senses. In the case of [881] Palestine we have been subjected to this to an extraordinary degree. Part of the reason for that is history and the appalling history of the holocaust. One of the things that is often forgotten about the holocaust is that it was carried out by Christians. I will quote from the sort of authority that is liable to upset Senator Honan, Dr. Conor Cruise O'Brien's book, The Siege, because it is not the sort of thing you read about in our newspapers very often as it is usually left out. We are presented with this image of Israel, the Jewish state, threatened by all these fundamentalist Arab states all around them who are apparently carrying out some sort of fanatical religious mission to obliterate Judaism. On page 337 of Conor Cruise O'Brien's book it states:

But in general, Muslim contempt for Jews was of much lower intensity than Christian hostility to Jews. There was a clear theological basis for this difference... The offence of the Jews, in the eyes of Muslims, ...is one of having rejected the teaching of the Prophet. For that offence it was generally a sufficient penalty that the Jews should submit to Muslim rule, and be humble.

He quotes a Professor Lewis as saying: “Muslims feel neither fear, envy nor hatred towards non-Muslims, but simply contempt...” The point worth making out of that is that whatever was done to the Jews in Muslim states was relatively benign in comparison with what was done to them for 1900 years of the 2000 years of Christianity by Christians. It is a particular irony and distortion of history to somehow portray this conflict in the Middle East as the inevitable consequence of Muslim fundamentalism. Anyone who is familiar with BIPAC the Israeli propaganda agency operating out of London which sends all of us vast amounts of paper on a regular basis, will be aware that they say over and over again that the two real causes of the intifada in the Occupied Territories are Islamic fundamentalism and over-population. It builds on this image of Israel, [882] the Jewish state, threatened by Islamic fundamentalists.

The truth is that all through its history Islam, while being far from perfect, has never felt the need to and has never been disposed to carry out the systematic pogroms, persecutions and massacres of Jewish people that we Christians have done. It is a very convenient way of dealing with a difficult historical problem for us Christians to support the setting up of a Jewish state and then claim that all we are doing is defending this brave little state against the entirely unprincipled, ruthless and savage depredations of every state in the region. That is the first thing that needs to be sorted out. Islam has a far less hostile record and far less threatening history in terms of its dealings with Jews than has Christianity.

The second thing to remember is that there are people called Palestinians — it needs to be said again and again. They are in the Occupied Territories, the state of Israel in Jordan and they were in Lebanon in great numbers. They are also in Egypt. They regard themselves not as Jordanians, Lebanese or anything else but as Palestinians. You cannot suddenly pretend that history began in 1948 and ignore the existence of a people who call themselves Palestinians. You cannot produce an even-handed solution by somehow suggesting to the Palestinian people that they should forget everything before 1948, pretend the world began in 1948 and accept all the so-called realities that existed in 1948. It should not be necessary to say it but a lot of the even-handed accounts of the Middle East would have us believe that to be even-handed is to start from 1948 and develop on from there. I do not accept that.

If we are going to get involved in the meanings of words and the use of words then we ought to be sure we are consistent. The word the Israeli Government and their various propaganda agencies use is “terrorism”. The cause of the Palestinian people has been severely damaged by the indiscriminate use of violence at various stages in their history, in the same way as the cause of my Catholic fellow countrymen has been severely hampered [883] by the indiscriminate and wrong use of violence. I have profound reservations about the use of violence though I cannot stand up and say that violence never works. All you have to do is ask the Nicaraguan people about whether violence works to realise that it is only some people's violence that never works. I find violence distasteful but it would need to be put firmly on the record that nobody has clean hands when it comes to the improper, immoral, and quite degenerate in many cases, use of violence.

In Dr. Conor Cruise O'Brien's book, The Siege, on page 281 he states that: “The most frightful atrocity of the entire Arab-Jewish conflict in the forties took place in Deir Yassin, near Jerusalem, on 9 April 1948 when Menachem Begin's Irgun killed 250 Arab civilians, including many women and children”. In 1948 a terrorist army led by a future Prime Minister of Israel massacred 250 Arab civilians, including women and children. That does not justify anybody else's violence because that is not a particularly honourable position to take, but it most assuredly suggests that those who strike high moral poses about terrorism ought at least to have the humility and dignity to recognise that we all have the capacity to use violence. It severely undermines any moral superiority they might claim. Again, I unfashionably remind this House about Sabra and Chatila and the clear fact that what happened there was not an accident. It was a deliberate decision carried out with the connivance of the Israeli Prime Minister of the time and with the support of senior officers of the Israeli defence forces. That is what a commission of inquiry in Israel concluded and it is to Israel's credit that all of this came out.

Let us not allow ourselves to be walked into a cul-de-sac where terrorism and the use of indiscriminate force is attributed to one side in this conflict. It is a brutal and unpleasant situation where both sides in their time have used quite appalling violence. Let us get rid of the rhetoric about who uses violence and let us also [884] sort out another issue which is that the occupation of the territories is not simply a response to an external threat. It is a logical consequence of the fundamental values of Zionism. I am very grateful to Dr. Conor Cruise O'Brien because he is nothing if not thorough. He has a letter from David Ben Gurion to his son written sometime in the 1940s which states:

A Jewish state in part of Palestine is not the end but the beginning. The establishment of such a Jewish state will serve as a means in our historical efforts to redeem the country in its entirety. We shall bring into the country all the Jews it can contain; we shall build a sound Jewish economy. We shall organise a sophisticated defence force. I have no doubt that our army will be one of the best in the world. And then I am sure that we shall not be prevented from settling in all the other parts of the country, either through mutual understanding and agreement with our Arab neighbours or by other means.

That was one of the founders of Zionism, the first Prime Minister of Israel, “either by agreement or by other means”. The suggestion that the political system which springs out of those values can point a finger at others and say “We will only talk when you renounce terrorism” is among the greatest deceits that has been foisted on the international community. It is to the great credit of the organisations that represent the Palestinian people that they have swallowed that, swallowed the massacres, and are still prepared to talk about compromise.

It is important to define compromise. Compromise means compromise by both sides. It does not mean compromise simply by those who have very few cards in their hands, a kind of concession to those who hold all the aces, in the interests of some sort of so-called solution. Compromise means compromise on both sides and, in particular, means compromise by those who have benefited most from an unequal relationship, who [885] have benefited most from power, weapons and the benevolence of the richest country in the world.

In terms of a debate on the Middle East it is important to recognise that above all else the real victims are the Palestinian people. They are the ones who have had to leave their homes. They are the ones who have had to leave large areas of a homeland that many of them have lived in, and many of their families have lived in, for 1,000 years. They are the ones who have been driven out and they are the ones who many people in the Likud Party would suggest should be driven even further out. It would not be wise to assume that there is any will among a large section of Israeli public opinion for any concession of territory under any circumstances because as I have said and from what I have quoted from David Ben Gurion there is a profoundly deep belief in the Zionist movement that they are entitled to the whole of the state of Palestine, including, as they call them, Judea and Sumaria.

I accept that world opinion is currently hostile to Israel because of its atrocities and because of the intifada and its response thereto. In order to restore the historical balance I should describe a little bit of my own experiences when I was in Palestine. It is important to remember all of this. There are many aspects of Israel and the Occupied Territories that do not get the notice they deserve. One of the things that strikes one in Jerusalem is the extraordinary degree of militarisation of Israeli society. There is something discomfiting and quite unsettling about sitting down in a very pleasant pavement bar drinking a beer in Jerusalem and to have a young fellow who is barely old enough to shave, or a young girl of a similar age, settle down beside you in civilian clothes and hear an Uzi submachine gun rattle off the back of a chair. We asked and we were told that if you are a settler in the Occupied Territories one of the privileges you have, and one of the status symbols that is conveyed to you, is the right to carry arms. As well as a huge army, with many young people in uniforms carrying weapons, there is the [886] even more disturbing spectacle of large numbers of non-uniformed people carrying weapons. I found that extremely disturbing and extremely upsetting.

One can have no illusions about how Palestinians living in the Occupied Territories feel about fanatics, which is what most of the settlers are, with the right to carry weapons and with an attitude towards the Palestinians in those territories which can best be described as being quite similar to white settlers in the Wild West in their attitude to the native Americans, an attitude which in my view as far as those people go is inherently racist and is built on a sense of racial superiority which is fundamentally and potentially destructive of everything in Israel, including the very existence of the state itself.

It is important to remind ourselves that, notwithstanding the imagery, Israeli-Arabs — Arabs who are citizens of Israel — are not equal. They suffer from a variety of forms of discrimination in terms of how their education is funded, in terms of how local government is funded, etc. The rhetoric is equality, the reality is quite severe discrimination. If the images of Israeli society in Jerusalem are disturbing, the experience of life in the Occupied Territories is quite devastating. The refugee camps I visited have, as a consequence of the intifada, become — and this phrase has caused offence before — effective concentration camps in which the population is controlled and regulated by virtue of the fact that they can only come in and go out through one or two entrances, that are controlled by the security forces. They are effective methods of controlling, and indeed on occasions imprisoning, huge populations for weeks on end as a form of quite savage collective punishment.

It is important to remember what a curfew in a refugee camp means in the Occupied Territories. It does not mean a curfew for the night, it means a 24-hour a day curfew which can last for seven days or two weeks and in which a sick child cannot receive any medical attention because he will not be allowed out of the camp and the doctor will not be [887] allowed in. That is the reality of the Occupied Territories, of refugee camps which are appalling in their very existence but which have been turned into large-scale communal prisons to control a population that has finally said “we will no longer accept forcible military occupation of our territories”.

I could go on about the individual experiences of brutality by large numbers, by people who queued up — nobody asked them to, nobody forced them or told them to — to describe to us what had been done to them. You could not move through the camps without young people queuing up to tell what had been done to them in the name of democracy, and of western democratic values let it be said. Israel claims to be a member of the community of democratic states. It is extremely important to remember that Israel makes that claim and Senator Upton's party accepts the Israeli Labour Party as a full member of the Socialist International, for instance.

Dr. Upton: Information on Pat Upton  Zoom on Pat Upton  No one has control over who is admitted and who can be expelled from the Socialist International, I am assured by our new super powers.

Mr. B. Ryan: Information on Brendan Ryan  Zoom on Brendan Ryan  Perhaps I can explain that membership of the Socialist International is available to socialist parties——

Acting Chairman (Mr. Farrell):  Senator Upton can speak at a later stage. There should be no interruptions now.

Mr. B. Ryan: Information on Brendan Ryan  Zoom on Brendan Ryan  I do not hold it against him. I would like to reiterate what I have just said. I find it somewhat peculiar that the Israeli Labour Party, given the history of Israel in recent times, are regarded as a body committed to the principles of socialism and democracy. I am not picking on the Labour Party. It is a truth that most Western institutions accept the fact that Israel is a democratic state. In that case it should be judged by the values of a democratic state and not be allowed to flip the coin and demand to be judged by [888] the values of the countries which surround it, which are in many cases undemocratic. It is one of the great conveniences that Israel uses in its propaganda war, that when it suits it, it demands to be treated as a democracy, and when it suits it it demands and expects that we will understand why it cannot be a democracy because of what other people are doing to it. My view is that you judge a democracy by its democracy, not by its context, not by who is threatening, but whether it functions as a democracy and Israel, most assuredly, does not.

When one visits, say, Gaza there is a particularly painful contrast. First, you see the squalor of the Palestinians, the very large population, the enormous repression, and then you go further and come close to the Egyptian border and the settlements again — the settlers living in only what can be described as palatial luxury in the midst of systematic repression of a huge population in Gaza. There is no way that one can have sympathy with or support for a state which indulges in that sort of spectacular exercise of rubbing people's noses in it by instituting luxurious holiday camp settlements next door to, perhaps, the most appalling squalor that one could ever be invited to experience, squalor which has now been added to by the systematic and quite brutal repression of the intifada in Gaza.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  I do not disagree, but you could apply that argument to Dublin as well.

Acting Chairman:  The Senator will allow Senator Ryan to speak.

Mr. B. Ryan: Information on Brendan Ryan  Zoom on Brendan Ryan  Senator Norris's criticisms of Dublin are well recorded but I have not seen 15-year olds being shot on the streets of Dublin, I must say——

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  That is a surprise.

Mr. B. Ryan: Information on Brendan Ryan  Zoom on Brendan Ryan  ——nor do I anticipate 15-year olds being shot on the streets of Dublin. There is a difference, I am aware [889] of the difference between squalor in Dublin and squalor in Gaza, the consequences thereof and what happens to the people. Neither do we have refugee camps with the people locked inside in them for weeks on end.

The point that needs to be made on the whole question of Palestine is that we all, and in particular the Palestinian people, are carrying the consequences of the fact that Israel does not know what it wants. Israel does not know whether it wants a secure state or whether it wants to occupy the entirety of Palestine because there is a conflict between the principles and the aspirations of their founding fathers and the external rhetoric of some of their more far-sighted people. Israel does not know whether it wants a subservient Arab population available to do the work for wages no Israeli would accept. It does not know whether it wants a two-racial society, one of which will be the racially privileged and the other which will be the racially tolerated or racially exploited, and because it does not know what it wants it cannot agree on where it is going. The scandal is that the Western powers, and in particular the United States which support Israel are apparently prepared perpetually to indulge that lack of any sort of willingness to respond to reality, are prepared to fund it and support it on the most extraordinary scale.

One of the peculiar experiences of life is how everybody in the whole of Western society knows, for instance, that the Soviet Union has propped up the Cuban economy for 30 years. How many people know the extent to which the United States has propped up the Israeli economy over the same period and continues to do so, how much voluntary money, apart from taxpayers' money, comes from the United States to prop up Israel and how long the Israeli military might would survive if it actually had to survive without all the billions of dollars that come to it from the United States? The United States is the major figure in Israel. It is time that a country, which is so much given to the rhetorical defence of [890] freedom in conveniently located countries like Latvia and Estonia where there are no American strategic interests, which can talk about that sort of freedom, began to realise that it is simply perpetuating inequality, murder and massacre by allowing Israel to blackmail it into a continuing stand-off position.

It is not an Arab-Israeli conflict. All you have to do is talk to any group of Palestinians to realise that at this stage in their existence most of the Palestinian people have no more faith in their Arab brothers than they have in the Israeli Government. They see themselves as being on their own and they see themselves as needing, above all and before all else, a state of their own where they can escape from both the less than pleasant handling of their Arab neighbours and also from the equally unpleasant handling of their Israeli occupiers.

We need, then, an international conference, including representatives of everybody, including the PLO. There can be no time or patience given to Israeli niceties about the PLO. The problem for the Israeli Government about the PLO is not that they sponsor terrorism because their own hands are far from clean on that issue. It is not anything like that. It is because they will not negotiate with the one body that represents the Palestinian people because they are not happy that such a body would cut the sort of deal that Israel wants. They are looking for somebody else somewhere among the Palestinian people, to do a deal that would suit Israel.

The problem for Israel is that the PLO wants a Palestinian state, Israel does not want a Palestinian state and is looking for somebody else who will make that concession to them. They have tried various devices in various ways to try to get other people elected but whatever they do, whenever they allow elections, however limited they are, the people who are elected invariably declare their allegiance to the PLO, either before or after the election, depending on what the Israelis are prepared to tolerate. In the most recent elections they tolerated, they thought they had a lovely set of compliant [891] local municipal authorities. They all turned out to be sympathetic towards and supportive of the PLO and they promptly dissolved most of them and locked up many of them.

We cannot tolerate indefinitely letting Israel dictate to the rest of us what we should or should not believe, what we should or should not hear. There are two peoples now firmly established in Palestine. One people have been there for the best part of 1,000 years, the other people have been there in large numbers for 40 years but they have an historic and religious attachment to the area. However, those historic and religious attachments do not give some sort of impeccable moral superiority which enables one community, the Jewish community, to dictate the future of the area and, most assuredly, it does not give them the right to claim some sort of monopoly ownership over Jerusalem, which is sacred to three different religions and which must, ultimately, be governed in a way which preserves the integrity of three different major world religions and which allows the citizens of that city to live in a way that does not cause inter-religious strife.

We need an international conference, we need a settlement and that settlement must be based on the recognition of the right of the Palestinian people to an independent sovereign state of their own. I believe the PLO have done enough compromising. The PLO have come a long way in the direction the rest of the world has been telling them to come. It is time now, having persuaded, coerced, or whatever it is, the PLO into a particular position, that we turned our resources now towards the other protagonist in the conflict, towards Israel, and coerced, persuaded, and led them into a similar position of compromise, so that we can have a withdrawal from the Occupied Territories, we can have a Palestinian state and we can begin to build peace in the Middle East.

Mr. Lydon: Information on Don Lydon  Zoom on Don Lydon  This is a timely and important motion and one which I feel certain [892] all Members of the House will find very easy to support. Peace is a much sought after commodity these days and any efforts made by anyone are to be lauded and, in particular, our Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Gerard Collins, has, during the Presidency, worked assiduously to establish peace in various areas. I suppose people only start talking about peace where injustice reigns, and surely injustice reigns in Judea, Sumaria and the Gaza Strip. It is a situation with which I feel we in Ireland can empathise because of similarities with our own situation; a foreign power invades, takes the land from the natives, settles it with foreigners and maintains those foreigners in residence by force of arms long enough for them to put down roots, and then declare that the natives have no right to reclaim the Occupied Territory.

In February of this year we had no less a body than the International Red Cross condemning Jewish settlement in occupied Palestinian lands as illegal. It was in fact on 13 February that the President of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Cornelio Sommoruga, at a press conference held in Geneva said, that the fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 on the subject of protecting civilians from the effects of war, prohibited an occupying power from transferring its population into land under its control.

The Twelve members of the European Community in their joint statement of 2 June said that the status quo in the Occupied Territories is not sustainable. They went on to say that the Twelve reiterate the need for early progress in the direction of a peace settlement and their determination to encourage all efforts to promote a dialogue leading to a comprehensive settlement in the framework of an international conference under the auspices of the United Nations with the participation of the PLO. What happens when there is this participation by the PLO? Israel insists that it has the right to approve or reject members of the Palestinian team to the proposed Israeli-Palestinian talks. Surely this is one way of preventing dialogue. As PLO Chairman, Yasser Arafat, said recently “in all [893] known human history has any party ever claimed the right to name the representatives of its enemy, even the vanquished appoint their own representatives to sign the terms of surrender.”

A further block to any peace initiative at the moment is the mounting toll of Palestinian deaths and injuries resulting from an insensitive and provocative approach by the Israeli authorities. Do not think that this is all one way provocation. It is not. It is very easy to forget Munich where a number of innocent people came together to play and were unceremoniously dispatched by the PLO. When a deranged man killed at Rishon le Zion the massacre was strongly condemned at the highest level by the Israeli Government. However, we may ask why has the Israeli attitude hardened of late? Why have they the third largest air force in the world? Why did they feel the need to develop nuclear weaponry? Why did they violate the sovereignty of friendly western allies in order to kidnap and put in solitary confinement Mordechai Vanunee simply for telling the world that they possess this nuclear capacity? I suppose they are, or perceive themselves to be, a people under continual seige. Having suffered for so long themselves, the wandering Jew settled in the promised land and decided to hold onto it come hell or high water.

Israel is always preoccupied with issues of war and peace, foreign policy, relations with Arabs and in, broad terms, its own future and its own survival. Let us remember that it might find it difficult to survive if it were not for continued United States support. It has been reported that, political support aside, every Israeli citizen is receiving an annual American subsidy of around $700, quite a large amount of money. There is a cause for hope because, in one sense, the Palestinians and the Israelis have never been closer to peace in the half century in which the conflict has been going on between them. Primarily because of the major moves towards political and diplomatic realism taken under the pressure of the intifada or the Palestinian uprising. The ideological distance between the two [894] parties is narrower than it has been in the past few decades.

The cost to both parties of traversing the remaining distance may well be very very high. I am sure that violence and rage will characterise the final stages before any settlement. I do not think there is any settlement on the horizon at the moment but the outlines are visible. The intifada is now moving into its fourth year. This constitutes the single, most important new fact in the whole Palestinian-Israeli struggle. Whereas the status quo on the West Bank has been an acceptable interim arrangement to Israel for nearly 20 years, it is no longer so. The consequences of the intifada both for Israel and the Palestinians are serious, far-reaching and growing.

The impact of this intifada was dramatically augmented during the past two years by a series of critical, political steps taken by the PLO. These steps include the proclamation of a Palestinian state and the provisional Government by the Palestinian National Council in November 1988, the PLO chairman, Yasser Arafat's formal recognition of Israel's right to exist and its forswearance of terrorism in December 1988 and the immediate opening thereafter of a formal United States dialogue with the PLO and the blessing of the Arab Heads of State for Arafat's policies at the Arab Summit in Casablanca in May 1989. These events have changed the whole picture substantially.

The ultimate establishment of a Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza is now inevitable. The only questions are how and when. It is no secret that a large part of the Israeli body politic is absolutely determined to prevent the establishment of such a Palestinian state, so to say that it will come does not mean it will necessarily come easy.

There are really only two outcomes of the whole Palestinian-Israeli struggle. The first is that the Palestinians will achieve this independent state, ultimately because the cost to Israel of holding another people captive will become too high, or else Israel will drive 1.7 million [895] Palestinians out of the Occupied Territories. I believe that most Israelis, particularly the older ones who have suffered themselves, would find such an act grossly repugnant.

Who holds the cards or, as the Americans say, who calls the shots? He who pays the piper calls the tune, and I firmly believe that what our Minister for Foreign Affairs should be doing, and what the Twelve should be doing, is to call on the United States to intervene. They can insist that Israel accept the Palestinians as equal negotiating partners. The US Secretary of State, George Baker, on 22 May 1989 at the annual Washington Policy Conference of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee, urged the Arabs to end the economic boycott of Israel and to stop trying to exclude it from the United Nations. He urged the Palestinians to turn the intifada into a dialogue of politics and diplomacy with Israel. He spoke even more bluntly to Israel which, he said, must give up the unrealistic vision of a greater Israel in order to gain peace. It must foreswear annexation of its Occupied Territories, stop settlement activity and reach out to the Palestinians as neighbours who deserve political rights. This speech seemed to convey a United States intention to play an active role and to take an approach less sympathetic to Israeli concerns than had been taken through the Reagan Administration. However, there does not seem to be an awful lot of follow up. I believe peace will be be achieved only with the help of the United States.

Like Senator Ryan I visited and travelled through Israel and Palestine. I have seen Palestinian refugee camps and I concur with his description of these camps. I mixed freely with Jews, Moslems and Christians. It should be remembered that a large proportion of Palestinians are Christians, and not always Moslems as is sometimes put about. I found all these people friendly and hospitable. It was sad to see the conflict between them. There were hopeful signs and not so hopeful signs. One [896] hopeful sign which I saw — an example of co-operation — was in Bethlehem, where, for the first time since the birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ, a maternity hospital has been developed by the Sisters of Charity in conjunction with the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Malta, to which the Irish branch gave tremendous financial help. This Christian hospital in a Jewish state caters mostly for Muslim women.

On the other hand, there were unpleasant sights also. I remember taking a photograph of a young couple, obviously in love, walking arm-in-arm through a pedestrian street in the middle of Jerusalem but he had an Uzi submachine gun lying across his shoulder. As Senator Ryan said young people go into bars and restaurants and throw their Uzis on the ground. This is a continual reminder of how important the gun is in Israeli life. I also saw examples of that in Nazareth. One day when I was in Nazareth a riot suddenly broke out and gunfire came from all directions. We were all told to duck but I could not resist looking. That brought home to me that the Israelis constantly feel themselves under this threat.

There is another unpleasant sight at Masada, which was the site of the Jewish resistance to the Romans. On that plateau a number of Jews, rather than give themselves up to the Roman soldiers took their own lives. A ceremony now takes place there by torch-light at night by one of the elite corps of the Israeli army. This bears a chilling resemblance to similar ceremonies which were held at Nuremberg. There is always the danger of the persecuted becoming the persecutor.

However, there is cause for hope. As I said, for the first time in years the two sides are moving closer together. I support the motion that the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Twelve should continue efforts in this regard. However, without American intervention and unless the American Government clearly state to the Israelis that support will be dependent on peaceful initiatives and accepting the right of the Palestinians to a homeland, there will not be peace. [897] Therefore, our efforts should be directed towards the Americans rather than anywhere else. I hope the Minister will take this on board.

It is not an insoluble problem. When the Israelis are assured that they are no longer under threat from their Arab neighbours, they may be prepared to give the Palestinians the right to self-determination, to live in their own country.

Mr. Harte: Information on John Jack Harte  Zoom on John Jack Harte  It is sad for me to talk about the Israeli-Palistinian conflict because I was a witness to some of the conflict 52 years ago. The wheel has turned full circle. At that time, in 1938, the state of Israel did not exist — it came into existence ten years later — there was a conspiracy between the British, the Nazis — who were trying to get the Jews out of Europe — and the Zionist movement, to off-load many European Jews into Palestine. I have not got evidence of this but it was the information to hand at the time. The only evidence I can offer to substantiate it is that as a young soldier I had to go on duty on a ship carrying illegal emigrants and 24 hours later I was relieved of that duty and was not replaced. Therefore, one had to assume that the story about the conspiracy was false.

It is understandable how things developed. The Arabs at that time were engaged in guerilla warfare against the Israelis and inflicted damage on soft targets. When the Jewish people were trying to assemble communications throughout the country, and build it up, they were easy targets for the terrorists on the Arab side. Our duty was to detect the Jewish people who were engaged in this kind of work. There were many other incidents. Patrols were blown up, usually because of the nature of their work and the army were the usual target. The Jews who went there, legally or otherwise, could not work peacefully in the fields.

Having witnessed the position in those early days, it is clear that events have happened in the opposite direction. So much so, that we cannot get any clear information on the Arab-Israeli conflict. Not only is the Middle East in turmoil, [898] particularly in relation to Palestine, but the propaganda and the lobbying come from sources related to the conflict. Obviously, each present its own kind of turmoil to the people they are trying to convince but that makes it very difficult for those who are trying to distinguish between opinion, assumption and fact.

We are talking about the violation of human and fundamental rights. If only one-third of what is said is accurate— whether it is issued from one side or the other—it gives rise to serious concern, particularly when it involves a denial of human rights and fundamental rights. This poses an even greater challenge to us all. If people's land is occupied — as is the case of the Palestinians since 1967 — it is almost certain that the occupiers will not have concern for human rights and will be indifferent to those whom they regard as the enemy, whose aspirations are set on a small independent Palestinian state. The occupiers' mentality clearly is that their conflict is not really with the Palestinians but with the Arab states or the Arab world as a whole, possibly with the exception of Egypt. The Israeli occupiers firmly believe that the PLO, led by Yasser Arafat, have not only the aspiration to preside over a Palestinian state but over a Palestinian state which includes the whole of Israel. Israel believes that this small Palestinian state would be only a first step. I do not accept that but that fear exists. The Israelis, through denying people their fundamental and basic rights, use this argument which does not have much substance.

This fear and lack of trust lead to many things. It leads to a violation of the person's integrity by torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment, arbitrary arrest or imprisonment, a denial of fair public trial, invasion of the home, freedom of movement within or without the State and freedom to take part in Government. In Prime Minister Begin's time nobody was allowed into Israel to investigate the position, not even the United Nations or any delegation appointed by them.

There is a terrible denial of political [899] rights in Israel based on fear and mistrust. Maybe it started with blowing up telegraph poles, and so on but the degree and consistency of this practice the hardship and the deprivation it imposes on the Palestinian nation cries out to all free nations to put more effort into getting all the parties involved to the negotiating table. Above all, they should find out whether the aspiration of the Palestinians for a Palestinian state exceeds what they say. I do not believe it does; the Israelis use this as an excuse. They have no great desire to concede the Palestinian state. For that reason the people who are subsidising Israel the United States and all other Western democracies, have the challenging task of asking the Israelis to produce proof to establish their case. It cannot be established. For many years we have had aspirations about the North but it is only an aspiration. If the Arabs have an aspiration to have a state of their own — and there is no evidence that they want a state which includes the whole of Israel — then we must put pressure on the Israelis to negotiate with the Palestinians. However, the Israelis do not like the idea of negotiating with the Palestinians.

I have met some wonderful Jewish people in my travels — I am not anti-Jewish. I would put as much effort into fighting for Jewish rights as for those of Palestinians. However, their behaviour is destroying the Arab nation and it is a crime against humanity. How can we be free if we do not force those who are treating others in a degrading way to the negotiating table to bring about a peaceful solution? The Palestinians are those people living in Saudi Arabia, and in other Arab nations, and some of them are living in appalling conditions in refugee camps that are not fit for a dog.

I visited the Lebanon some years ago and was appalled at the conditions in which people were expected to live. I was annoyed when the Palestinians, and others took over the Lebanon because when I was there around 1943, it was the Paris of the Middle East. It was a crying shame to see what the Palestinians were doing to one side of Beruit and what [900] other factions were doing to other parts of the city. For that reason I condemn the Palestinians but where were they to go? They could not all go to Saudi Arabia. Where were they to find an educational programme which would help their children to keep the idea of Palestinian state alive? I do not agree with what the Palestinians did but I understand why they had to settle there. They had to try to keep the name of Palestine alive and educate their children to the idea of a Palestinian state eventually becoming a reality.

We go out of our way when we hear of threats of terrorism to any country but here we have state terrorism in its widest sense. We must make our voices heard loud and clear, although that will not worry the Israelis, but if we can make our voices heard in other Western democracies we can influence them. We have worked very hard to improve the democratic processes in other countries and we have supported the unremitting call for social justice throughout the world. We have been effective in fighting for the right of peaceful co-existence.

The Arab/Israeli conflict is crying out for our assistance because, as a small nation we have some understanding of the struggles they face. It is imperative that we do not let this opportunity pass without putting the pressure on. We must deal with the Israeli excuse that the Palestinians are looking for a small state as a stepping stone to becoming the rulers of a large Palestine state, which will include the state of Israel. They have to change from that way of thinking. They have to be told that most nations do not buy that anymore and that negotiations with the PLO must become a reality. Palestinians outside Israel consider the PLO as their Government and look to them to bring about the state of Palestine so that they will have a homeland. Any submissions from us should make that clear.

Mr. Hanafin: Information on Des Hanafin  Zoom on Des Hanafin  I support the motion to ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs to encourage dialogue between the Israelis and Palestinians. The state of Israel was [901] founded 40 years ago following the holocaust. The new state was born in violence and many non-Jewish people felt they had no alternative but to leave and live as refugees in camps in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and in other Arab countries. In general, the host countries did little to integrate them. They seem to be happy to keep the refuge camps as hotbeds of discontent. Jerusalem and the West Bank were occupied after the Israelis decisive victory in 1967 over the neighbouring Arab nations, and have been governed by Israel since.

There are two sides, however, to the present problem, as in all conflicts. No one can deny that the Jews were in need of a homeland. Israel was their traditional home and they fought hard for it with unparalled skill and tenacity. They are surrounded by hostile countries. The PLO, and other Palestinian liberation groups, have committed many atrocities to make their point, not only acts of terrorism in Israel but internationally, by hijacking passenger aircraft, and the atrocity which will never be forgotten, at the Olympic Games in Munich.

We are only too aware of what can happen when people start a fight for a cause which they believe is a good cause. Violence leads to atrocities. We are only too aware of the atrocities that have been committed just a few miles away by both sides, in the name of patriotism and nationalism. Violence never achieves anything. The world has become a very violent place, not just in the Middle East, but in North and South America, and so on. Those are the conflicts we read about, but we seldom read about the violence that is committed on unborn children or in the form of euthanasia against old people. That is as much a violent act, and possibly in many ways more so, than the violent acts we read about because it is violence against the innocent.

The Palestinians see Israel as the intruder who dispossessed them but a thaw seems to have developed in the intervening years. Now the PLO talk of two states in Palestine and they say they are prepared to tolerate the existence of Israel. Israel has expressed its intention [902] of holding elections in the Occupied Territories so that representatives of the Palestinian population may be elected with whom Israel can negotiate. Those are views expressed by both sides but the continuing violence is hardening attitudes on both sides and driving them into extreme positions. In the interest of world peace, some effort must be made to break the deadlock and bring both sides to the conference table. There are rights on both sides and there are wrongs committed by both sides.

As a small nation Ireland has much to contribute. A positive and practical step would be to establish an Israeli embassy here. Then our influence could, perhaps, be much greater. We would definitely be in a good position to mediate and to help both sides enter into dialogue on the future of the Occupied Territories.

Mr. O'Toole: Information on Joe John O'Toole  Zoom on Joe John O'Toole  In addressing the Middle East question, and particularly the motion, I must say I spoke at some length on this matter recently when we discussed the intifada and related matters. The position in the Occupied Territories at the moment, more than any other issue in international affairs, requires an urgent international response. The intifada more than anything has shown the basic unity of the Palestinian people. Their response has been that of a united nation of people to increasingly upsetting standards of behaviour. When I spoke recently in this House on the matter I gave examples of the type of difficulty that exists for Palestinians living in the Occupied Territories. I gave examples of young Palestinians wearing the kaffiyeh, the traditional scarf of the Palestinians, being stoned, punished, arrested and, in one case, shot for that reason alone. Conditions since then have deteriorated. The extraordinary set of circumstances in the past fortnight have once again inflamed the intifada. The whole “Israelisation” of the Occupied Territories is a development which cannot be accepted or condoned by civilised countries.

There is an unfortunate bias in the Western world against the Palestinians. There is a bias in the Western world, and [903] very often in the Western media, against Yasser Arafat. For many years the Irish Government alone have been the standard bearer among European Governments in taking a most rational approach to the question of Palestine and on other occasions I have complimented the Government on the strong stand they have taken on this issue. It is also quite clear that there has been a flagrant breach of international law, no matter what standards we set ourselves. What is happening there at the moment is completely unacceptable. As far as I am aware, all the evidence indicates that Israel is predominantly and flagrantly in breach of fundamental human standards in dealing with this issue. There is a lot of pussyfooting going on around here. I am not going back into the history of this. I have done that before.

During the period of our Presidency we should make it an urgent priority of Government that Europe would respond to the problems of the latest developments of setting new immigrants to Israel in the Occupied Territories. Without a shadow of a doubt, this must be condemned again and again and we are in a very strong position to influence world and European thinking at the moment. More than anything else, we also need to convince the Irish people that what is happening in Palestine cannot be allowed to continue.

Because we are politicians talking about a political response and because that has also been recognised by the Palestinian leadership, we must insist that the PLO is headed by Yasser Arafat, that he remains the commanding and legitimate voice. He is also subject to several challenges within the PLO, as all politicians are subject to similar challenges. His leadership is constantly challenged. In the same way in a totally different context that we recognise Nelson Mandela as having a particular role in leading those opposed to apartheid in South Africa, we recognise Yasser Arafat's role as leader of the Palestinian people. We have to recognise and respond to him in that way. [904] In doing that, the political response must include an involvement by him. Without the shadow of a doubt, the discussion going on internally in Israel about whether, how and if they might settle around a table is really delaying any achievement of a solution. It will not happen. It will not happen without recognition of his role in leadership. It will not happen without a recognition of the entitlement to nationhood, statehood and a homeland for the Palestinian people.

There must be a clear recognition in the West of the huge progress which the Palestinian people have made under Arafat. He has brought them to a situation where they have now turned their backs on violence, where they are now seeking a political solution, where they have now agreed to accept the existence of an Israeli state and where they have also indicated their wish to sit down in an international conference in order to tease out the matter and find a political, negotiated resolution. The sad fact is that there has not been a response from the Israelis on this point. The sad reality is that the response from Israel is that they are trying to decide who they should sit down with and who are the true leaders and representatives of the Palestinian state. It is sad, indeed, that there is further violence because of the tardiness of the Israeli response.

It also saddens me that the Israeli response is likely to be to ignore what Arafat has said publicly and go back to information that is being issued in Middle Eastern newspapers to tell us what are the real views. We all recognise that in leadership roles people can take nuances from the speeches and the commitments given, but there has been a very straightforward recognition by Yassar Arafat of the need to find a non-violent solution, negotiate a settlement, and of the recognition of the Israeli state. Having recognised all that, we now demand an Israeli response. The response over the past year has been an increase in violence in the areas where the intifada is taking place and an absolute total lack of response to the need to get together. There needs to [905] be an international consensus before the pressure can be put on Israel to settle down and deal with it.

I will not go back into the history of where this all began. My views on the matter are very well known, but I do not have any difficulty with the concept of an Israeli embassy in this country. I do not object to that at all. I use embassies in this country to make my views clear to the particular states on what I believe is happening in their territories. I certainly would have no difficulty with the idea of an Israeli embassy in Ireland. It would allow us to put further pressure on them. A political solution means that there must be political contact. Political contact means, to some extent, some sort of consular or ambassadorial connection between the countries.

I believe that at the moment Israel is in breach of international law. I believe they are the aggressors and the invaders in the Occupied Territories. The developments in recent times to increase resettlement in those territories is totally and utterly unacceptable. The effect on the education service and the normal social and other services is totally disruptive. The Palestinian people are suffering badly. I do not believe there is any nation on earth suffering like them at this time. They are a nation without a state, a people without a homeland. On the last occasion when I spoke on this matter I quoted for the record the words of the intifada. I do not intend to do this again, but it saddens me to think that in the intervening period matters have only worsened. They have worsened in the Occupied Territories at the instigation of the Israeli authorities. It is no longer acceptable to us to stand back and allow the “Israelisation” of the Occupied Territories that is taking place.

I am delighted there was all-party agreement on this motion. It is a motion to which many of us on all sides of the House would have liked to attach our names and I totally support it. It is a matter of urgency during the period of the Presidency. I would like to stress this to the Minister of State. I have heard him indicate his views time and again and I [906] thoroughly support them. I commend him for being so keen to put his views forward and explain them on every occasion. The Government can be proud of the position they have taken on this issue, but in the pivotal role of the European Presidency we can now demand a little more. We can demand that the boot go in firmly on this issue in our final month of the Presidency. I know that the Minister's view would coincide with my own view. Let us try to get a final push on this matter.

I utterly condemn the recent developments in the Occupied Territories. A nation without a state and a people without a homeland is something we can respond to very emotionally in this country. I urge the Minister to take a stand on the matter and at European level we should push this further over the next month.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  Like the other speakers, it is important first to draw the attention of the House to the fact that this effectively is an all-party motion. There is very little disagreement. That is partly because the terms are vague and wide so that everybody can be in favour of it. For me, one of the interesting developments was the speech of Senator Lanigan who has played a crucial role in this. I found for the first time that I could agree with virtually everything the Senator said and that is a useful development. It would be more useful, of course, if we had a foreign affairs committee of both Houses. The Minister is raising his hands and looking agonised. I am glad he is looking agonised. He has every reason to look agonised. We are the only country in the European Community that does not have one. This is a sensitive technical issue, one in which Ireland can play a leading role. We have played some role but I do not believe it has been quite the role it might have played had there, for example, been a foreign affairs committee where these matters could be properly teased out and where the subject could be examined in all its very complex legal and political ramifications. I am very glad, indeed, that several speakers [907] from all sides of the House — it is very noteworthy — have raised the subject of an Israeli Embassy. I would like, first, to devote a little time to that because I think it is essential.

I would like to place on the record my strong belief that the Government have consistently and deliberately misled the Israeli authorities as to whether a fully fledged embassy would be established here. I would like the Minister to clarify this. This is my very firm understanding. I go to the Middle East on a regular basis. I have been three or four times in the last year. I spent the whole month of April there, and I have close contacts. This is a shameful and a dangerous thing.

On the other hand, we have a very valuable and useful Palestine Liberation Organisation information office in Dublin, which is very professionally staffed. We all got very useful and detailed briefings. I believe that it would be appropriate — and I am sure nobody in the House would object — if I recognise the fact that we have a distinguished visitor with us in the Chamber, Leila Shaahid, an official of the PLO. It is a pleasure that this distinguished personage should be with us to listen to the debate.

It is only a pity that we do not have a resident diplomatic mission from the Israelis for a number of very good reasons, including the one that it would be an opportunity for those of us who are and have been on the record for a long time as being friends of Israel would have the opportunity to discuss clearly with them, and place on the record, our strong reservations about current Israeli policy. However, it is necessary to place those matters of policy in a particular context.

I am glad that people did not go back too much over the history. Few of the participants have a great deal to flatter themselves over in this matter, but it is worth while nothing, I think, that the developments in these territories have been brought about as a result of a succession of aggressive wars waged against [908] Israel. That is the source of the occupation of the territories that are in dispute. That needs to be examined, because it lies at the heart of the legal tangle as well as everything else.

With reference to this, I would like to mention a conference of parliamentarians and jurists which took place on 17 May this year in Dublin— which was extremely useful — looking at international aspects of the situation in the Occupied Territories, and it places it in a very useful context indeed. Among the background papers was a paper by Professor Adam Roberts on the Palestian uprising and the international law. Arising from an examination of the international legal background, he isolates six questions which I think are the fundamental questions that lie behind this resolution:

1. What body of international law regulates the situation in the Occupied Territories?

2. What is Israel entitled and not entitled to do to preserve public order in these territories?

3. Is Israel entitled to bring settlers into the territories?

4. Is Israel entitled to deport the inhabitants?

5. What is the status of Palestinian refugees in the territories?

6. Can the international community do anything to assist implementation of the applicable rules of international law?

If we look at the first question — the body of international law that regulates the situation in the Occupied Territories — the situation needs some clarification because there is even a problem of nomenclature. What do you call these territories? This is a matter for dispute between both the Palestinians and the Israelis. Is in an occupied zone? Is it a civil administration? The Israelis have noticeably moved towards the phrase “civil administration” which appears to be an attempt to deny the fact that it is an occupying power.

The kind of international covenants [909] under which these territories are generally viewed as being governed include the 1949 Geneva Convention. Here again, the importance of naming — in international legal terms — comes to the fore, because Israel does not accept that the 1949 Geneva Convention is formally applicable on a de jure basis. It is, however, willing to apply the humanitarian provisions of the convention on a de facto basis. The argument legally is that neither the West Bank nor Gaza was, in the words of Convention's article 2 “the territory of a high contracting party before Israel occupied in 1967”. Here, at the heart of the matter, there is a dispute which has certain ramifications and certain problems for us.

There is another side to the coin. As we look at the rights of the Palestinians — in my opinion, perfectly justifiably — we must also recognise that there is not only a right, but an obligation, on the Israeli Administration to maintain law and order. This is perfectly clear from a reading of the 1907 Hague Regulations, Article 43:

The authority of the legitimate power having in fact passed into the hands of the occupant, the latter shall take all measures in his power to restore and ensure as far as possible, public order and safety while respecting, unless absolutely prevented, the laws in force in the country. We are really dealing with the limits of power in terms of the application of law by the occupying powers. We also have to look at the context in which these decisions are taken.

I would be very critical, of course, of abuses and some of these had been listed. If I can just give an illustration of it the kind of thing that worries me in a village called Beita, I think it was, a group of Israeli hikers led by a man who subsequently turned out to be a settler were involved in an incident. Shots were fired. It emerged that three people were killed, two Arabs and an Israeli hiker. It was thought immediately — and the situation was prejudged — that the aggression had [910] come from the Arabs but forensic examination subsequently determined that the Israeli girl had been killed by a ricochet from a volley let off by the leader of her party. So, in fact, all the casualties were caused by the Israeli side. However, in the intervening period in a form of collective punishement, houses in the village were destroyed. I seem to recall at that time Mr. Shamir exacerbated the situation by calling for this kind of punishment. In my opinion — and I am a friend of Israel — that is a matter on which Mr. Shamir should have resigned, having been found wrong and having been implicated in the causing of that damage.

Let us look at the political dimension of the problem, because there is a political dimension. One of the sources of this problem is that whereas the PLO have apparently moderated their stance — and I very much welcome that and it took a man of initiative like Yasser Arafat to do so — the Israelis have a problem in believing that this is the case. I would like some reassurance that this actually is the case. I would like to quote from an article in the Boston Globe where one of the senior people in that newspaper, H.G.S. Greenaway, the assistant editor of the Boston Globe says that there will be a great difficulty in persuading the Israelis of the bona fides of the Palestinian side. He said:

When asked, neither Shamir nor his lieutenants will concede that Arafat's offer to peace means anything. They say that Arafat does not really mean it, and could not deliver the PLO hardliners even if he did.

Unfortunately for the moderates, the hardliners give Shamir every opportunity to make his case. I sat with PLO Foreign Minister Farouk Kaddoumi in Amman the other day and heard him say that unlike his boss he did not accept Israel's right to exist. He said that the two state solution he envisaged would be defined by the border suggested by the United Nations in 1947 and not the 1967 line of which Palestinian moderates speak. [911] There is clearly a divided view taken at the highest levels of the PLO.

I am concerned — and perhaps we can have some clarification because I may have been misled — because although I welcome, endorse and encourage the statesmanship of Yasser Arafat I also have to say that there is a growing feeling that Mr. Arafat, perhaps because he is caught in a political situation, speaks with at least two tongues; one in English, one, by simultaneous translation, in the public fora of the United Nations and of international legal bodies and so on, where he will be reported in the West, and in another in Arab newspapers in his own native Arabic tongue.

I think this indicates, quite clearly, why I disagee so strongly with my colleague, Senator O'Toole, when he said we must “put the boot” into the Israelis. I think that language is dangerous and unnecessary. I do think we have got to keep pressure and my Israeli friends tell me this as well, that external international pressure operating in Israel is beneficial in correcting mistaken attitudes, but it must be kept up even-handedly. We have heard a lot about the Israeli background, there is also a certain murky element in the PLO as well, and that does continue. Mr. Arafat told a rally in Baghdad on the occasion of Land Day that the Palestinians will resort to all possible means to achieve their goal of an independent state in the territories. He said: “We will enter Jerusalem victorious and will raise our flag on its walls.” The Palestine Liberation Organisation chairman said to President Saddam Hussein, who unexpectedly attended the rally in the Al Mustansirrya University Hall, “You will enter with me, riding on your white stallion.” I tell them [the Israeli leaders], “we will fight you with stones, with rifles and with Al-Abed....”. This was a reference to the missile that President Hussein has been developing.

We must remember the strategic position of Israel in this very dangerous, very volatile part of the world. We recently had the situation where a big gun was being developed which could deliver [912] gas missiles into Israel. Let us remember, that the Iraqi authorities were quite happy to wipe out 5,000 of their own Kurdish minority with a gas attack, which is admitted. We must remember also that in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, Black September came not from any action of the Israelis but from the mopping up of 20,000 Palestinians, more or less, over a weekend because the king found them rather burdensome and difficult to deal with.

I have here another statement made at a meeting held in Baghdad on 6 April, which appeared in the Paris-based Lebanese newspaper Al Muharrar on 10 April 1990. This says that the following statement was made by President Arafat:

Open fire on the new Jewish immigrants — be they from the Soviet Union, Ethiopia or anywhere else. It would be a disgrace if we did not lift a finger while herds of immigrants conquer our land and settle in our territory. I want you to shoot, on the ground or in the air, at every immigrant who thinks our land is a playground and who thinks that immigration to it is a vacation or a picnic.

I am not going to go on with the quotation; it could be tedious. It also could possibly be disinformation. I am not sure. It looks pretty firm to me, but it is the kind of thing we must be sensitive to. For that reason, we must keep up the pressure on President Arafat, whom we all think is moving in the right direction although the position is difficult. I think that pressure applied unevenly at this stage would be dangerous, although pressure in terms of human rights is eminently applicable to the Israelis.

I would now like to turn to another worry I have, but I am speaking principally on putting it into the Israeli context because so many people spoke on the Palestinian side — although, as I have said, most of what has been said with regard to the violation of the human rights of Palestinian Arabs, I completely and fully endorse. If I appear to be onesided, it is in order to redress the balance and raise some questions.

[913]Professor Conroy: Information on Richard Conroy  Zoom on Richard Conroy  On a point of order, while I appreciate what the Senator is saying, Senator Lanigan and myself in proposing and seconding this motion were anxious that it be a question of dialogue and that it be a balanced approach. I think that is essential to make any progress.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  I accept that as a correct statement. I welcome in the beginning the fact that it was much more balanced. There were some things with which I would have disagreement. For example, if I can put it into context, my respected colleague, Senator Ryan, said that in discussing the relationship between the Moslems and the Jews as opposed to relationship between the Christians and the Jews that the Moslems were much more sensitive to Jewish religion because all they asked them to do was to be humble — he quoted learned professors and academics to support this — and to accept Islamic law. That requires a great deal of humility, I might say. I would not last five seconds in Tehran, and I am well aware of that.

Professor Conroy: Information on Richard Conroy  Zoom on Richard Conroy  That is the Senator's own particular comment. It is not in the Government motion.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  I accept that. I am not varying from my support. I am just teasing out some matters. I think that the PLO have taken the moral high ground. I think the Israelis are committing diplomatic suicide and I regret to see this. May I just develop this point a little bit? You have two parties to a conflict. In my opinion they must sit down and they must meet. Let me put it in that framework. I have to accept — and I did not always accept — that it is quite clear that the PLO are the representatives of the Palestinian people. That is my first point. My second point is that whatever the background or track record or the atrocities on both sides or on either side, these two combatants will have to sit down at some stage and meet and if an international conference can bring this about [914]— it is going to be very difficult diplomatically — I would certainly endorse that. At the end of the day, unless there is going to be a real holocaust, that is what must happen.

I am trying to explain why I think the Israelis have at the moment got a considerably hesitancy in coming to the table. It goes back, I think, for example, to the phased plan — and perhaps we can be reassured more on this — which was adopted on 9 June 1974. The plan is based on a three-pronged strategy which is, first of all, the establishment of a PLO state on any territory vacated by Israel, which is Article 2 of the plan; secondly, the use of a PLO state as a base to continue the war against Israel, which is Article 4; and thirdly, the initiation of a general war between Israel and the Arab states to complete Israel's annihilation, which is Article 8. I believe the PLO have moved from that. They have got to be absolutely clear. They have got to speak with one tongue. If they are making the kind of inflammatory statements for domestic Arab consumption that I have read into the record — and perhaps this is disinformation — they had better stop and make it absolutely clear what the situation is and how they are going to reassure the Israelis. The Israelis have got to be reassured on this issue of policy.

I would like to turn very briefly, if I may, to the question of human rights in the Occupied Territories. I would like to preface it by saying that I have visited this area on a number of occasions and, of course, like other people, I am moved by the plight of the people in these areas. I believe certain things could be done. I am also proud, I have to say, of the Irish contribution through organisations like UNWRA. I feel some greater contribution could be made by Ireland through Geneva and through UNWRA to the funding of hospitals and medical supplies in this area. If this was done, it would certainly increase Ireland's stature and, in addition, it would relieve the very considerable strain and hardship placed on the excellent doctors who work round the clock in extremely difficult circumstances.

[915] The question of the effect of curfews on the Palestinian population has already been mentioned. This is serious, for a number of reasons, including the difficulties that are caused in certain medical conditions, like diabetes and so on, and the necessity of moving supplies in to help people who have this medical condition. There is the question of the free movement of ambulances during a curfew, which is extremely important. These may seem small problems, trivial almost in this difficult situation but if you are taken seriously ill with a heart attack and are not able to be moved to hospital, then it becomes extremely serious for the person involved.

I would like to turn to the question of stone throwing and the kind of things that go on. I would like to put into the record a paragraph from an article in the Journal of Palestine Studies by a Mr. Daoud Kuttab. It is called “A profile of the Stone Throwers”. Mr. Kuttab is a Palestinian journalist and I do not think he could be taken as being antagonistic to the intifada. This is what he said and these are the tactics of the intifada.

... when the danger alarm is sounded the young people of the neighbourhood divide into three teams. The first is composed of look outs ... the second team is basically defensive in nature; its main task is to cover the offensive team ... the offensive team, neighbourhood leaders say, are made up of the quickest and most courageous. After advancing to the Israeli position and throwing stones, the defensive team goes into action to cover the retreating youths. When the offensive team starts to retreat it is a job of the defensive team to throw a barrage of stones at the soldiers.

I suppose in a situation like we have in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank it is difficult to restrain people from some kind of resistance, particularly after the situation is carried on for too long. However, we need to understand what stone throwing is and what it implies for the people who are on the receiving end, [916] who are not always Israeli soldiers, but most of the time I suppose they are. During the last year 2,000 civilians and soldiers have been hospitalised as a result of injuries inflicted during riots. They are often referred to in the West just as demonstrators hurling rocks at soldiers, at military and civilian vehicles, but they also throw them at buses carrying Israeli tourists and other Arabs. Since the beginning of the intifada Israel's largest bus company has suffered intifida related damage to 3,800 of its buses. So, it is quite a widespread impact. Sixty have been totally destroyed.

In the last year a woman called Esther Ohana had her skull crushed by a rock which was hurled through the windshield of the car in which she was a passenger. Just to show that there is nothing racist in the comments I am reading into the record — this woman subsequently died, I may say — there was an equally tragic death of a 14 year old Arab girl, Rada Isa Skiman, who was fatally injured when the car in which she was a passenger was stoned by Arabs who mistook it for a Jewish owned vehicle.

The reaction — as I have said already, I am just giving a flavour of what the intifada is in its physical aspect — is understandable, because people have been pushed almost beyond endurance by the situation; but it has created a situation in which under the international treaties Israel has an obligation to maintain order. They do this sometimes in ways which are quite unacceptable and I have no objection to placing that on the record.

However, I also have to place on the record the dispatch by the Israeli military chief of staff which specifically forbids the following: (a) use of force as a means of punishment; (b) use of force after the need for it has elapsed; (c) infliction of blows to the head or other sensitive parts of the body; (d) brutal, humiliating or degrading steps against the local population; and (e) wilful damage to property. Of course, regrettably, this has not happened. There have been incidents in which all these things have taken place, and for that reason I would support, and [917] support strongly, the United Nations resolution to set up an investigating committee in these territories, which was — I think regrettable — veoted by America in the last week or so. I feel that this would be a useful thing, It should be done and the friends of Israel — those who are genuinely friendly to Israel — would support this particular call. This has to be encouraged.

In the same way those Israelis who honourably strive for peace and who have spoken with members of the PLO should not be isolated and punished for so doing. I would like to pay tribute to those, like the veteran peace campaigner, Abe Nathan, who was recently jailed by the Israelis for conducting just such talks. At the end of the day we have to sit down to talk.

I would like to draw what I have got to say to a conclusion — because I know the Minister wants to come in and I have to keep my eye on the clock — by drawing attention to the fact that in The Irish Times of yesterday there was a very useful, a very careful and considered article by a leading Palestinian writer and academic, Professor Sari Nusseibeh, and he is the kind of person with whom it is useful to have dialogue. Also for us in Ireland it is useful to listen, because he appears capable of the imaginative act of understanding the concerns and the fears on both sides. He does, however, take a wide look at the current Israeli political situation.

I have to say that it would be foolish to condemn the population in Israel for the policies of the Government without understanding the political situation in Israel itself, which is vitiated by the pivotal role of small and extreme religious parties, most of them on the right wing of the political spectrum. That is a fact. There is at the moment a dangerous vacuum in which the Government can act unwisely and, sadly, the likelihood is that if there was an election you would have in fact a completely right wing Government placed in charge. Mr. Nusseibeh, understanding this, understanding the build-up of tensions and frustrations among the young, dispossessed Palestinians in the [918] Occupied Territories and, on the other hand, the political stagnation of the Israeli Government situation, with a strong influence of extreme and fanatic elements, concludes his analyses in a way that must cause us all concern. He says

...a tragedy is being set in motion. On the Palestinian side, the ideology of modernisation and compromise is being gradually submerged in the face of Israeli self-engrossed political acrobatics and a rising mood of extremism. Soon, there will be only warriors on both sides, and no room for peace makers. Israel, conceived to be a place of security and peace for Jews, will turn out a disaster receipe for itself and for the region.

That paragraph must give us all pause for thought.

I would like to recap in a few sentences. The position I start from is: in the light of world history there is no question of doubt that the Jewish people need a homeland after the experience of 2,000 years of being in a minority, mainly in Christian countries, where, I accept, they were treated worse than they were treated in the Arab countries and where in recent years six million of them were exterminated. For their own military, psychological and political security there must be somewhere, one place, where the Jews are themselves in the majority and do not have to rely on the goodwill of the governing majority, which is non-Jewish, which has been found over 2,000 years repeatedly not to exist. That is my first position: the right of the state of Israel to exist. That is why I am concerned about the phased plan approach.

In addition to that, I believe that you cannot divide human rights. You cannot have human rights just for one group of people. The occupants of a country all have an equal right to be treated with humanity, with compassion, with respect for their dignity. In my opinion it would be difficult for the Israelis to assert that that is currently the case in the territories they administer. Their position is a difficult one. They acquired these territories as a result of an aggressive series of aggressive wars. There was no war of [919] conquest by the Israelis. They are now left with a problem, the problem of administering these territories. They have attempted in most cases to administer them with a degree of observance for international law which is unusual, I may say, in that part of the world; but there are serious problems. I have to say that even in the paper which I have quoted, which gave the context in which it was possible for me to be critical of Israel, the distinguished author, Professor Adam Roberts, himself accepts that Israel has attempted to observe at least a minimum of international law in this area. He says:

Israel deserves some credit for by and large accepting in principle that the rules relating to military occupation are applicable.

I wish this was so in many of the other countries of that region.

I have tried to be even handed. It is not a pleasure for me to be critical of the state of Israel. I am aware of the fact that this debate will be widely read by both sides. I hope that our contributions have been useful. My criticisms of Israel are well intentioned. They are the criticisms of a friend who is concerned to see a decline in the high standards to which Israel has always aspired, and I very much hope that these matters will be corrected. I have also tried to balance this out by pointing to the difficulties experienced by Israel — the extremely vulnerable military and strategic position, the well recognised and well justified fears of the Israeli people. I found some comfort both in the fact that speeches from all sides of the House were reasonable, reasoned, moderate and concerned to play a supportive role in this difficult position, and principally because the voice of moderation, of sanity and of compassion continues to be heard from inside this part of the world, both from the Israeli sections of the Israeli Jewish community and, even more importantly, from the moderate, civilised and balanced appeals to the rest of the world by the Palestinian Arab representatives.

[920]Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs (Mr. Calleary): Information on Seán Calleary  Zoom on Seán Calleary  First, may I thank the Senators who spoke — Senators Lanigan, McDonald, Conroy, Ryan, Lydon, Harte, Hanafin, O'Toole and Norris — for their very fine contributions. It is of interest in a debate like this that quite a number of the speakers have had the actual experience of being in Palestine and in Israel, have actually been in situ, so to speak, and have a personal knowledge of the situation in the Occupied Territories. That can give a certain reality to contributions, and has certainly done so this morning.

I intend to take up one or two points which were raised. If I may start with Senator Norris who spoke last. Senator Norris came back again, as indeed did some other Senators, to the question of the establishment of an Israeli embassy. I must flatly contradict him and say, quite sincerely and seriously, that it has never been the intention of the Government to mislead any foreign Government, let alone the Israeli Government. I must ask him to accept that as the truth. In no way have the Irish Government sought to mislead the Israeli Government. I am sorry to hear Senator Norris, or indeed any other Senator, saying that about an Irish Government. The matter is still under consideration and will be considered in the light of circumstances.

Senator Norris and Senator Ryan raised the question of the curfews and the free movement of ambulances. On foot of a mandate from the Twelve, our Ambassador to Israel raised this very matter — the question of the free movement of ambulances — at a lunch of the Twelve Ambassadors with the Foreign Minister of Israel on Tuesday. This issue will be pursued at official level.

The past year has seen an extraordinary change in the political situation of most of the countries of Eastern Europe. These changes, which we warmly welcome, offer the prospect of a better life for millions of people who had for too long been denied the freedom which we enjoy here. Elsewhere in the world we have also seen the beginning of a welcome process of change. For example, [921] in South Africa, which has long been a source of concern to us, we have witnessed the beginning of the dismantling of the system of apartheid and of moves towards a more equal and equitable society. Certainly, in all these countries there is much more to be achieved before their citizens enjoy their full rights. We have also to be vigilant that the gains so recently won are maintained and strengthened. Nevertheless, the pace of change has been rapid and it offers the hope of substantial progress sooner rather than later.

It is, therefore, all the more sad that in the cradle of western civilisation, in the land where the major religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam have their roots, there appears to be little progress towards the settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict. A year ago, when there were just the stirrings of change in some countries elsewhere, there was real hope of progress towards peace in the Middle East. Undoubtedly, there were real difficulties: the repression by the Israeli authorities of the Palestinian popular uprising had left many hundreds dead and many thousands injured. As Twelve, we were very concerned at these and other violations of the human rights of the population of the Occupied Territories. Yet, there were positive signs that peace was possible. The Palestine National Council had renounced violence and had recognised the right of the state of Israel to exist; the Israeli Government had announced its election plan for the Occupied Territories — both of these points have been made by various Senators — and consideration was being given to ways and means of bringing about a first ever dialogue between Israel and the Palestinians which could pave the way to a comprehensive settlement of the conflict between these two peoples.

In the intervening year efforts to encourage movement towards a settlement have continued. However, there has been no significant progress so far and we have to be concerned that the frustration, caused by the absence of progress and hope, easily boils over into violence and renders the search for a [922] solution even more difficult. As has been mentioned by Senator Hanafin, the violence and counter-violence make it harder to reach any kind of peaceful settlement.

Looking at the situation which has developed in the fortnight since the killing of eight Palestinians in Rishon le Zion, we are reminded starkly of this fact. Seanad Éireann is rightly concerned at the explosion of violence in Israel and the Occupied Territories since 20 May. This concern is shared by the Government and by our partners in the European Community. On 22 May the Minister for Foreign Affairs issued a statement on behalf of the Twelve in which the Twelve expressed their shock and sadness at the violence which has by now left over a score of Palestinians dead and hundreds injured. They extended their condolences to the families and friends of those killed and their sympathy to the injured. The killings in Rishon le Zion was the work of somebody who was mentally disturbed and were condemned as has been mentioned by Senators, at the highest levels by the Israeli Government. Nevertheless, it is a measure of the frustration at the lack of progress towards peace that they caused widespread demonstrations. The latest upsurge of violence only underlines the imperative of resuming the peace process in a meaningful way at a very early date.

The Community and the member states continue to be concerned about the tense situation in Israel and the Occupied Territories in the wake of these events. We have noted the alarming build up of actions and reactions, as illustrated by retaliatory attacks in Amman and Jerusalem and, most recently, by the attempted terrorist attack on the Israeli coast, as mentioned by Senator Conroy in his reference to the background of the problem. These attacks could have a very detrimental effect on the peace process. It is a mark of our concern that the Twelve issued a second statement on 2 June in which we condemned without reservation all such acts and repeated our appeal for calm and restraint. In response [923] to Senator Ryan, we have always condemned violence regardless of where it originated.

In deploring the tragic massacre in Rishon le Zion, the Twelve stated that it was a matter of very grave concern that the response of the Israeli authorities, to the spontaneous demonstrations which broke out in the Occupied Territories, caused further deaths and hundreds of injuries. We have, as Senator Lanigan stated, repeatedly raised with the Israeli authorities the question of the use of excessive force to put down manifestations of the Palestinian uprising in the Occupied Territories. We regret that our concerns have not been met.

Our concern is widely shared and the United Nations Security Council has been meeting in Geneva and New York to consider the question. In our statement of 2 June we stated that the United Nations can and should play a useful role in the present situation, particularly in relation to the protection of the population. The Twelve support such a role. In 1988, after the disturbances which gave rise to the intifada, the Secretary-General sent a representative to the Occupied Territories on foot of Security Council Resolution 605. We hope that the United Nations will address the present situation in a no less urgent way.

The Twelve are engaged in a continuous dialogue with the Israeli authorities on the aid and human rights aspects of the declaration made by the European Council in Strasbourg in December 1989. We are resolved to step up our already considerable support for the observance of the human rights of the population of the Occupied Territories and are considering how best we can influence change in this respect.

The Twelve are also concerned that no further obstacles should be put in the way of the peace process. The establishment of new Jewish settlements in the Occupied Territories is an example of such an obstacle, one that was mentioned by a number of Senators in their contributions. We are acutely aware that a political settlement of the Arab-Israeli [924] conflict based, as it must be, on the exchange of land for peace becomes even more remote with every new manifestation of Israel's illegal settlement policy. The Minister for Foreign Affairs, with his Troika colleagues, has already discussed the question of settlements at length with the Arab League Committee on the intifada in Luxembourg on 2 April and understands the concern which these settlements cause. Senator O'Toole, who mentioned this matter in particular, may be glad to know the Minister has made clear the Twelve's position that such settlements are illegal and are not conducive to a climate which would favour a settlement.

In parallel with our advocacy of peace, we have pressed ahead with giving effect to the commitment to double direct Community aid for the Occupied Territories by 1992. Senators will also wish to be aware that, nationally, we have allocated from our development co-operation budget the sum of £87,700 for education purposes in the Occupied Territories. Part of these funds are allocated to Bethlehem University on the West Bank and the remainder to vocational training centres in Gaza.

It is in everyone's interest, including of course that of the Twelve, that the political approach to the Arab-Israeli conflict should be vindicated. The lack of progress has caused a build-up of tensions, not only in Israel and in the Occupied Territories, but also in the Middle East region generally. We have to be alarmed at the threat of the use of chemical or nuclear weapons, even where the threats are issued in the context of a reaction to a first strike. The Twelve have protested at such threats which are a worrying escalation of the war of words. It is only through negotiation, and not by achieving a balance of terror, that peace can be achieved.

In our contacts with both sides the Twelve regularly, on the basis of the principles which they have enunciated in the Declarations of Venice (1980), Madrid and Strasbourg (1989), do all we can to promote significant steps in the direction [925] of a comprehensive settlement. We continue to work to prevent any further hardening of attitudes which could compromise that objective. In handing over our many statements of concern to Israel and the PLO, we repeat our appeals for calm and restraint and our belief that it is only through negotiation that the cause of peace in this troubled region can be advanced.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs has been concerned to urge this message to all interested parties. He participated last year in a European Community Troika visit to the region. During our own Presidency he has made clear our desire for moderation and progress towards peace to the Deputy Foreign Minister of Israel, to a delegation from the Israeli Knesset, to European and Arab parliamentarians, to Arab leaders in multilateral and bilateral meetings and to the chairman of the PLO, whom he met just over a week ago. He will continue his advocacy when, later this month, he meets the Foreign Minister of Egypt who has been trying with others, particularly the United States to broker an Israeli-Palestinian dialogue.

The peace process is a long and hard journey. There are many false turns and cul-de-sacs. At times we may despair of achieving a settlement. But we cannot succumb to any temptation to abjure our obligations as a member of the international community to help achieve a just, fair and secure resolution of this conflict. The possible consequences of a failure to achieve a settlement are too great for the people directly concerned — the Palestinians and the Israelis; they are too serious for the Middle East region; and they are too serious for us, their northern neighbours.

The US, whatever Senators may say of their role in the past, has recently tried very hard to persuade Israel to take part in a dialogue with the Palestinians. The inescapable facts are that Israel must be a party to any negotiated settlement, interim or final, and that Israel will not at this point negotiate in an international conference. The issue, therefore, is how to influence Israel to change course while [926] encouraging the PLO to wait with its political approach.

Now, more than ever, there is a need for dialogue and negotiation. We have had a glimpse of the possible consequences of continued stalemate. We cannot afford to let it continue. As the Twelve, we will continue to use every opportunity to ensure that both sides, Israel and the Palestinians, become engaged in a political process leading to an overall settlement. There is no other way forward and this point was stressed by Senator Lydon and Senator McDonald and by many of the other Senators who spoke.

I welcome this motion. It has given me an opportunity of putting before the Seanad the very substantial efforts already made by the Government and the Twelve and reflects the Minister's determination to continue his discussions and consultations seeking a settlement of this longstanding conflict.

Question put and agreed to.

Acting Chairman (Mr. Fitzgerald): Information on Tom Fitzgerald  Zoom on Tom Fitzgerald  When is it proposed to sit again?

Mr. Fallon: Information on Sean Fallon  Zoom on Sean Fallon  It is proposed to sit on Wednesday next at 2.30 p.m.

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