LONDON (Jul. 24)
The Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Commons has urged the United States to exert economic leverage on Israel to advance Middle East peace.
In a report published Wednesday, the all party committee referred specifically to Israel’s upcoming request for $10 billion in U.S. loan guarantees to absorb immigrants.
It held Israel’s settlement policy primarily to blame for the failure of peace efforts to date.
“We believe that, more than anything else, Israel’s settlement policy calls into question the good faith of the Israeli government over negotiations,” the report said.
It called on the British government to make strong representations to the Israeli authorities about the ill treatment of increasing numbers of Palestinians.
The report, based on hearings by the House of Commons committee and a tour of the Middle East by its members, cited Israel’s restraint when under Scud missile attack by Iraq in the Persian Gulf War.
“In recognition of its self-restraint during the Gulf war, as well as the costs of absorbing Soviet immigrants, Israel is now asking to receive further help from the United States, including $10 billion in loan guarantees,” the report said.
“This provides an opportunity for stronger American pressure on Israel, and it is an opportunity which the U.S. government should be prepared to use,” the parliamentary report said.
It supported President Bush’s “framework for peace” and the efforts of Secretary of State James Baker to arrange a peace conference.
But a “continuing climate of bitterness and mistrust” is hampering Baker, it said. The committee found “little sign that enough flexibility is available to start negotiations.”
It referred to testimony given by Israel’s ambassador to Britain, Yoav Biran, who stressed the importance of “strategic depth” — meaning territory — to self-defense.
That was the same “uncompromising mes- sage” the members received from private meetings in Israel, the report stated.
“While this emphasis on holding territory for ‘strategic depth’ remains, it seems unlikely at this stage that, if a conference is set up and negotiations begin, the gap between Israel and the Palestinians can be bridged.”
‘DENIAL OF RIGHTS TO PALESTINIANS’
The report said the situation in the Israeli administered territories is deteriorating and the instability is spilling over into Israel.
It said that since the intifada began in December 1987, 900 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli security forces and about 400 by other Palestinians, plus many thousands injured.
“Not only does the continuing violent confrontations between Palestinians and the Israeli authorities lead to tragic injuries and deaths, but also the denial of rights to Palestinians by the Israeli authorities in the name of public order,” the report said.
It said Israel sees the conflict as a struggle for survival against 21 Arab states which, except for Egypt, remain in a state of war with it.
It is seen by the Arabs as a struggle for statehood, sovereignty and independence for the Palestinian people, with regional acceptance of Israel to ensure its security.
The parliamentary committee was pleased by the European Community’s growing role in the peace process. The report said the panel is encouraged by the Arabs, who see the E.C. as more sympathetic to their cause than the United States.