Michael Howard on Palestine
Michael Howard, the Conservative leader-in-waiting, was a panellist on Question Time broadcast from Qatar on 24 April 2003 while the invasion of Iraq was in progress. Naturally, Israel’s failure to obey Security Council resolutions, and the failure of the “international community” to do anything about it, was brought up. Michael Howard replied to this by saying that Israel’s position was not the same as Iraq’s, that the resolutions about Israel demanded action by parties other than Israel as well as Israel itself. Therefore, he implied, it wasn’t Israel’s fault that these resolutions had not been fulfilled.
The following correspondence ensued with Michael Howard:
On Question Time on 24 April, you said that the outstanding Security Council resolutions concerning Israel demand action by parties other than Israel, as well as by Israel itself.
That is simply untrue. Israel is in breach of some 30 Security Council resolutions demanding action by it, and it alone. Three examples are:
252 (21 May 1968) on the annexation of parts of Jerusalem:
“2. [The Security Council] Considers that all legislative and administrative measures and actions taken by Israel, including expropriation of land and properties thereon, which tend to change the legal status of Jerusalem are invalid and cannot change that status;
“3. [The Security Council] Urgently calls upon Israel to rescind all such measures already taken and to desist forthwith from taking any further action which tends to change the status of Jerusalem;”
446 (22 March 1979) on the establishment of Jewish settlements:
“[The Security Council] Calls once more upon Israel, as the occupying Power, to abide scrupulously by the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention, to rescind its previous measures and to desist from taking any action which would result in changing the legal status and geographical nature and materially affecting the demographic composition of the Arab territories occupied since 1967, including Jerusalem, and, in particular, not to transfer parts of its own civilian population into the occupied Arab territories;”
497 (17 December 1981) on the annexation of the Golan Heights:
“1. [The Security Council] Decides that the Israeli decision to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights is null and void and without international legal effect;
“2. [The Security Council] Demands that Israel, the occupying Power, should rescind forthwith its decision;”
Those resolutions place obligations on Israel, and Israel alone, and it is obviously within the power of Israel to obey them if it wanted to.
If the same standard were applied to Israel as to Iraq, then Israel would be forced to obey unconditionally these and other outstanding Security Council resolutions which require action by it and it alone, and to do so prior to any negotiations with the Palestinians and others about a final settlement in Palestine. Instead, it is now being proposed that Security Council demands, some of which are outstanding for over 30 years, be once again the subject of a process of negotiations – with no obligation on Israel to obey any of them.
Thank you for your recent letter about Security Council Resolutions concerning Israel.
I am afraid I do not think it is a valid approach to refer only to some Resolutions of the Security Council or to some parts of some Resolutions.
Taking the history of Security Council Resolutions on the Middle East as a whole, it seems to me to be clear that they impose obligations both on Israel and on the Arab States and the Palestinian authority.
I very much hope that progress will be made on the basis of the Road Map and that peace will at last be brought to the region.
In your letter of 2 June, you write:
“I am afraid that I do not think it is a valid approach to refer only to some Resolutions of the Security Council or to some parts of some Resolutions.
“Taking the history of Security Council Resolutions on the Middle East as a whole, it seems to me to be clear that they impose obligations both on Israel and on the Arab States and the Palestinian authority.”
It is true that some Security Council Resolutions impose obligations on parties other than Israel, but it is equally true that some 30 Resolutions require action by Israel, and Israel alone. For example, Resolution 446 passed on 22 March 1979, which “calls once more upon Israel … not to transfer parts of its own civilian population into the occupied Arab territories”, imposes no obligations on any Arab state or any party other than Israel.
The only sense I can make out of what you write is that you think it is OK for Israel not to comply with Resolutions which impose obligations on it and it alone, because there are other Resolutions on the Middle East which impose obligations on parties other than Israel. That is an extraordinary proposition.
Surely it isn’t the policy of the Conservative Party that a state can pick and choose which Security Council Resolutions, if any, it complies with and the degree to which it complies? After all, your party has just supported a war which was fought to enforce the will of the international community as expressed in Security Council Resolutions, and in supporting the war motion in the House of Commons on 18 March, Iain Duncan Smith said on behalf of your party: “We want all UN resolutions to be enforced”.
Does this plain statement include the 30 or so Security Council Resolutions which require action by Israel and Israel alone? Or is it Conservative policy that Israel be allowed to pick and choose which Security Council Resolutions, if any, it complies with, and the degree to which it complies? In particular, is the Conservative Party in favour of Israel complying with resolution 446 and removing all settlements from the West Bank and Gaza?
Thank you for your letter of 5 June.
I am in favour of all countries in the Middle East complying with all United Nations Security Resolutions which apply to them.