Behind the Headlines Britain Now Firmly Committed to a ‘land for the Palestinians’

Britain is now firmly committed to a “land for the Palestinians” as an essential component of a Middle East settlement. The phrase, first used in the UN General Assembly by British Foreign Secretary Anthony Crosland on Oct. 5, is now a stock phrase in British official thinking about the Middle East.

However, Whitehall is deliberately vague about what “a land for the Palestinians” entails. As Crosland put it, it would “not necessarily be a sovereign state but a place where the Palestinians will be free to look after their own affairs.” In using this language, Britain is taking account of the complexity of the Palestinian issue, while adhering to the collective formula of its European Common Market partners.

It also maintains that an Arab-Israeli settlement must be based on what has been called “full implementation of Security Council Resolution 242 through the negotiations called for in Resolution 338.” Britain is also ready to play a role in peace-keeping or negotiations if asked to do so.

ECONOMIC CALCULATIONS DOMINATE

Above all, though, Britain’s Middle East policy is dominated by economic calculations. Last year the area was the source of 85 percent of her imported oil. Bilateral links with Middle East oil producers are particularly important in view of their holdings in Sterling. Middle East sources help to meet Britain’s public-sector foreign currency borrowing program and there is considerable private investment in Britain by individuals in the area.

On the trade front, the Middle East is the fastest-growing export market in the world for British companies. Trade with Arab countries rose from 500 million Pounds Sterling in 1973 to nearly 1500 million-Pounds Sterling in 1975. This year it may exceed 2000 million Pounds Sterling.

During 1975 and the first quarter of 1976, the value of British exports to Arab countries in creased more than those of any other Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development exporter. Exports to Israel are also significant; 237 million Pounds Sterling in 1975 and 181 million Pounds Sterling to the end of September, according to official quarters.

Although Britain remains publicly committed to supporting the United Nations and its Charter, it is recognized that the UN’s position as regards the Arab-Israeli question has further declined due to last year’s resolution equating Zionism with racism, which is still condemned here without reservation.

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