British Minister Reports to Parliament on Arab-israel Situation
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British Minister Reports to Parliament on Arab-israel Situation

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The Israel-Arab conflict is one of the situations in the Middle East which cause the British Government “considerable anxiety” Foreign Secretary Harold Macmillan told the House of Commons today during a foreign policy debate which placed considerable emphasis on the effects of the Israel-Arab situation One of the high points of the debate was a demand by Kenneth Younger, Minister of State in the Labor Government at the time the Tripartite Declaration was issued, that the declaration be converted into a treaty.

Mr. Macmillan told the House that the Arab-Israel situation has not improved. Of Gaza he said “Both sides are responsible and both sides have broken the armistice agreement.” Israel vehicles have been blown up by landmines and Egyptian outposts have been attacked in reprisal, he reported. “In this unhealthy atmosphere” the Foreign Secretary continued, “one violation breeds another and the situation daily becomes more dangerous.”

The United Nations Truce Supervision Organization under the direction of Maj. Gen E.L.M. Burns is doing all it can to ease the tension, Mr. Macmillan said. “They have our full support and we have joined with our American and French friends in urging both sides to cooperate with Gen, Burns,” he emphasized.

Gen Burns is attempting to bring both sides together to reduce the tension, Mr. Macmillan noted. “Nevertheless, the situation is of grave concern to us. We are members of the United Nations and we have special historical interests in that part of the world and we have special obligations under the Tripartite Declaration. I beg no one to think whether in this House or outside it that we do not take these obligations seriously. We do and shall stand by them.”

At this point Emanuel Shinwell, former member of the labor Government intervened to ask whether, in these circumstances, it was desirable to continue to supply Egypt with arms, including Centurion tanks and aircraft. “Would it not be wiser to suspend the export of arms#” he queried. There then followed an interchange between Mr. Macmillan and Mr. Shinwell in the course of which Mr. Shinwell restated his point and the Foreign Secretary insisted that the arms shipments must continue since they were obligations under three and four-year-old contracts.


During an exposition by Mr. Macmillan of the advantages of the Iraqi-Turkish pact, to which Britain subsequently adhered, Laborite Richard Crossman intervened to ask, whether in view of this British action and the Secretary’s expressed desire to keep the balance between Israel and the Arab states, the Minister was now prepared “to sign a similar pact of a purely defensive nature with Israel#”

The Foreign Secretary thereupon insisted that the Iraqi-Turkish-British pact was aimed at protecting the Middle Eastern states against aggression from outside the area, while the Tripartite Declaration–signed by the United States, Britain and France–covered aggression by one state in the region against another. The two situations are not comparable, he insisted, dismissing Mr. Crossman’s plea.

Drawing on his experiences in the Foreign Office, Mr. Younger said that when the declaration was made public it was the intention of the British Government that it should have the force of a treaty. “But one has to appreciate that this is not understood and accepted in the Middle East. Not only is it not accepted by very many of the Israeli people, but I believe also that it is not accepted by the Arabs, which is perhaps very much more dangerous.

“If it is really the true intention of the British Government that the declaration should be the equivalent of a treaty, I do not see that there can really be a very great obstacle in turning it into a treaty, “Mr. Younger underscored. “It is a question of Israeli security which is involved above everything and it is not much comfort to the Israelis to have rather cryptic hints given in the April debate that the then Foreign Secretary (now Prime Minister Eden) would be opposed to venturing into some new form of guarantee.”

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