London (Jul. 6)
Britain has called for a “new chapter” in relations with Israel once the new Israeli government is formed. Douglas Hurd, Foreign Office Minister of State, said he hoped relations would improve regardless of who becomes the new Israeli Premier. However, in an interview with Jewish press representatives several days ago he added his hope that the new Israeli government would be “more reasonable in tone” than previously.
“We will try to understand the preoccupations and anxieties of Israel and hope they will accept that we in Britain and the European Economic Community (EEC) are working in good faith for a lasting peace in the Middle East,” he told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
Referring to the closeness of the Israeli election result, Hurd also expressed the hope that the next government could pursue “a clear line of policy, and I expect that will happen.” Speaking on the day after Britain assumed the six-month presidency of the EEC Hurd added that the 10-member countries would pursue the EEC peace initiative “without respite.”
Besides awaiting the outcome of the Israeli elections, it would await the evolution of the Reagan Administration’s Middle East policy, and make the EEC’s policy “complementary” to that of the U.S. U.S. policy was “not yet fully defined” and Britain sought to keep “closely alongside the U.S.,” he added.
Asked whether Britain had a scenario for the six months during which Lord Carrington will preside over the EEC Council of Ministers, Hurd said there was nothing “magic” about the six months and Britain was not aiming to put its own label on EEC diplomacy in that period.
ISSUE OF THE PLO
On the contentious issue of whether Carrington would meet Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasir Arafat, Hurd said emphatically that no meeting was planned. However, it remained a possibility within the framework of the Euro-Arab dialogue later in the year.
Looking forward to what Hurd termed “close and frank relations” with Israel, he suggested that relations could have been better over the past year had Israel reacted differently to the EEC’s Venice initiative, calling for mutual recognition by Israel and the Palestinians.
“It should have been possible without yielding anything of substance for Israel to have welcomed the Venice declaration, and at the same time underlining the principle of Israel’s right to exist,” he said. However, Israeli reaction had affected the tone of public exchange with Britain. “I hope we can now start a new chapter with the Israel government which is more reasonable in tone,” Hurd said.
Although Britain had had contacts with the PLO, these had been on official and not ministerial levels and the exchanges had always been on the basis that the PLO would recognize Israel’s right to exist. This had also been the basis of British discussions with “moderate Arab governments.”
Although not immediately evident from Hurd’s remarks, there are also reports here that Carrington, in the wake of the Israeli elections, now gives himself little chance of making a major contribution to the Middle East peace process during his presidency of the Council of Ministers.
Another reason for his hesitation is that under President Francois Mitterrand, France has become markedly more favorable to the furtherance of the Camp David peace process and less interested in the Venice declaration than under the previous French Administration.