LONDON (Feb. 10)
The British Government declined, in the House of Commons, today, to take any definite stands on a number of Israeli-Arab issues raised chiefly by the Labor Party opposition.
Hugh Gaitskell, leader of the Labor party, led off a foreign affairs debate that turned into a lengthy wrangle between the laborites and the top government foreign affairs experts present, Undersecretaries John Profumo and Robert Allen.
The Labor MP’s tried to pin the government down on application of the 1950 Tripartite Declaration by Britain, France and the United States, guaranteeing the existing Arab-Israeli borders; freedom of shipping through the Suez Canal; and the recent border clashes between Israel and Syria.
Both Mr. Profumo and Mr. Allen were evasive in their answers to all the questions. On the 1950 Declaration, Mr. Profumo said the query must be made the subject of a specific question in writing.
Regarding the Suez Canal situation, Mr. Profumo declared that issue involves “a legal argument, and is not an argument for us but between Israelis and the Egyptians. ” He reiterated the Government’s stand, however, in favor of the principle of freedom of navigation.
Asked whether there was indeed “a state of war” between Israel and the UAR–as claimed by the Egyptians and denied by the Israelis–Mr. Profumo replied again that “this is a matter which is capable only of legal interpretation, and is not our affair. ” The two undersecretaries refused also to go into the recent Syrian-Israeli border clashes, declaring that was a matter for the United Nations to handle.