Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

Complete list of 8,000+ Thatcher statements & texts of many of them

1985 Sep 30 Mo
Margaret Thatcher

Press Conference for Israeli and British Jewish press

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: Press Conference
Venue: No.10 Downing Street
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1410-1435 MT was due to be interviewed by the Jewish Chronicle; the press conference seems to have taken place in its stead. The interview transcript was embargoed until 0001 on 4 October 1985.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 3283
Themes: Defence (general), Defence (Falklands War, 1982), Trade, European Union (general), Foreign policy (International organizations), Foreign policy (Middle East), Foreign policy (USA), Northern Ireland, Terrorism

Question

Prime Minister, the two PLO men which have been invited by you to have talks with Sir Geoffrey next month in London are on the record to say that they are not willing to reject terrorism and they are committed to armed struggle. Even as late as this year, for instance, Mr. Milhem refused to condemn terrorism when he was in Dundee during the Labour Party Conference. And Mr. Khoury is accused by the Israelis to smuggle explosive in the past.

Prime Minister

One moment! What did you say?

Same Man

Mr. Khoury, the Bishop Khoury, is held at least by the Israelis to…   .

Prime Minister

Did they prosecute him?

Same Man

No! [end p1]

Prime Minister

Did they bring him to court?

Same Man

No. They expelled him from the country.

Prime Minister

But they had evidence, but they did neither prosecute him nor bring him to court?

Same Man

They did not bring him to court. They had evidence. So they said at least.

Prime Minister

How extraordinary! Now look! Please! I am not in the business of making statements like that. I notice that they have not been prosecuted and not been brought to court and usually, you know, if you do have evidence—powerful evidence—you do that.

But these two are coming to London and I believe them to be men of peace. I think perhaps you are referring sometimes to incidents which occurred more than a decade ago. I believe them to be men of peace. They are coming to London, representing themselves. You know, it is a Jordanian-Palestinian delegation. It is not a PLO delegation. We would never receive that. It is a Jordanian-Palestinian delegation consisting of two very distinguished Jordanians, Archbishop Khoury and Mr. Milhem, the former Mayor of Halhoul (phon.), whom I believe to be men of peace and who are coming on the understanding that they do reject terrorism and that they recognise all the relevant United Nations [end p2] Resolutions and that they will say so and they are part of that delegation in London.

Question

While in London, will they also recognise the Israeli State?

Prime Minister

What I said was the two things are the rejection of terrorism, which is absolutely vital. After all, this is what we want the PLO to do. They will recognise all the relevant United Nations Resolutions. That is the ones you know. That they will say so.

Now, this is not a PLO delegation. It is a Jordanian-Palestinian delegation and you will, of course, recall that Mr. Peres said some time ago that some of the Palestinians would have to be involved in direct negotiations, and I think he said Palestinian National Council. So that is the basis on which they are coming to London—as part of a Jordanian-Palestinian delegation.

Question

Will they reject, for instance, the Palestinian Charter, which calls for the destruction of Israel?

Prime Minister

They will reject terrorism and they will recognise the relevant United Nations Resolution. I believe, as I hope you do, that we will only get this problem solved if we get peaceful [end p3] negotiations. What I therefore want to do is to make the moves that will help those peaceful negotiations to start by people who are men of peace, who will say clearly that they reject terrorism and that they recognise the relevant United Nations Resolutions which you know as well as I do, and it seems to me a step which I could take in that direction, as part of a Jordanian-Palestinian delegation.

I also hope it would activate the whole peace process, which seems to have got rather bogged down at the moment, and that it would help to get some more movement. After all, the aim of Israel is peaceful settlement, all countries being able to live secure behind recognised secure boundaries. That is my aim too.

Question

Mrs. Thatcher, you have said quite clearly that the two individuals are coming as individuals, not as members of the PLO…   . but they are…   .

Prime Minister

They are coming as part of a joint Jordanian-Palestinian delegation, so therefore they are coming as Palestinians…   .

Question

Yes, but you accept that they are members…

Prime Minister

…Jordanian-Palestinian delegation. [end p4]

Question

Yes, but you accept that they are also members of the PLO Executive?

Prime Minister

I accept they are members … I accept that they are members who have and are prepared to renounce terrorism and, as I have indicated, to accept the relevant United Nations Resolutions. They are also ones who are quite well known in this country. Mr. Milhem has, of course, seen George Shultz. I believe he is attending the Liberal Party Conference now. He is about this country quite a bit, an Anglican Bishop, Bishop Khoury.

Question

The parallel has been drawn, both in Britain and in Israel, between the PLO and the IRA, both of which use terrorism to advance their cause. You constantly and consistently condemned terrorism and said you will not even have any dealings with terrorists or those who support terrorism. Is not your invitation to these two akin to Israel, or any other country for that matter, inviting two members of the IRA to discuss the Irish question?

Prime Minister

No, it most certainly is not, because I have partly answered that question by saying these two are prepared in London to reject violence and terrorism and accept the relevant United Nations Resolutions. May I also point out that the situation with the IRA in Northern Ireland is totally different from the West Bank and Gaza. Northern Ireland is a part of the United Kingdom; has [end p5] been a part of the United Kingdom for a very long time. Its people have been asked to vote on a referendum and have voted that they wish to stay a part of the United Kingdom. Every single person in Northern Ireland has a vote on an equal basis for representatives to the Westminister United Kingdom Parliament. Every single person in Northern Ireland has a vote on an equal basis to an assembly in Belfast, so there is no parallel whatsoever between Northern Ireland and the West Bank and Gaza.

You will see: no referendum in the West Bank, no voting on an equal basis for the Knesset, no border poll—do you wish to stay—indeed, if you look at Camp David, of course, you will see—and Israel signed the Camp David Agreement—that it recognised the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people, and you will see that it gave them the right to vote on their own future and probably who should represent them.

So, please, there is no parallel at all.

Question

Mrs. Thatcher, to what extent is this a link-up between the invitation of the Palestinian-Jordanian delegation to London and the arms deal signed with Saudi Arabia?

Prime Minister

None at all. None at all. None whatsoever.

Question

…   .a suspicion that the Arabs bought not only Tornadoes but also British …   . unclear [end p6]

Prime Minister

First, I am astounded that you should even ask it, and when I give you the answer I am astounded that you should even question what I have said!

We have been talking to King Hussein for a very very long time. The Ambassador Murphy initiative was announced quite a long time ago and I had hoped that it would have come about before now; that Ambassador Murphy would have met a joint Jordanian-Palestinian delegation. Unfortunately, he has not and that situation seemed to have run into a little difficulty. I am anxious that the peace process should continue, so we decided that this was something that we could do to help it. There is no connection whatsoever between the Saudi Arabian deal and that. We have been friends and we have supported openly—openly supported—King Hussein 's initiative for a very long time.

Question

Britain, is selling Tornadoes and other aircraft to Saudi Arabia, a country which is still in a state of war with Israel. Is that not likely to upset the delicate balance of military strength in the Middle East? It is already bristling with arms, and just recently, the British Government pressurised the United States to veto the sale by Israel of Skyhawks to Argentina. The Government still maintain that it is an arms embargo against Israel Is there not a clear-cut case of double standards here?

Prime Minister

No, I do not believe Saudi Arabia will ever attack Israel, ever, ever, ever. Saudi Arabia is really quite a bastion for stability in the Middle East and, as you know, she has taken a [end p7] very statesmanlike position on many things that could have destabilised the Middle East, a very statesmanlike position. She too is entitled to defend herself.

Question

And with regard to the arms embargo and the sales of arms to Argentina?

Prime Minister

That is for a country which within the immediate past has actively attacked our people, actively attacked and killed our people, flouted international law, an international law recognised by the United Nations, and invaded. That is again wholly different, wholly different.

I believe that Israel is supplying arms to Argentina or has, but it is very very different, as you know, very different. 257 people—citizens—we lost, young men.

Question

…   .to other countries who might attack Israel in future?

Prime Minister

I do not believe either Saudi Arabia or Jordan will attack Israel. I am trying to get a peace process going. If you get a peace process going, you get security for the area. I believe Israel wants peace with security. I am trying to help to get it going. Do you believe Israel wants peace with security? [end p8]

Interviewer

Oh yes.

Prime Minister

So do I.

Question

The view has been expressed, Mrs. Thatcher, both in the United States and in Israel, that your invitation to two prominent members of the PLO will undermine the United States peace efforts and also make the selection of Palestinians by the United States for a future delegation all the more difficult. How do you react to that criticism and can you assure Israel that you are not planning any further EEC initiatives like the Venice Declaration which all major parties in Israel said was so unhelpful?

Prime Minister

You have got about six questions there!

The first part of it, I must say, absolutely falls because Mr. Shultz welcomed the initiative. Mr. Shultz told Sir Geoffrey Howe when he saw him that he welcomed the initiative, so all of that great part of the question just falls to the ground.

The Venice Declaration really has stood the test of time. 1980. And the Venice Declaration says that for an agreement to stick the PLO would have to be associated with a settlement and, as I understand it, the arrangements are that it is hoped that the negotiations would start. The Jordanian-Palestinian delegation, I understand that Mr. Peres indicates that that can include members of the Palestinian National Council, so it is for you to decide the nuances. I want to encourage the moderate part of the PLO, those [end p9] who do reject terrorism and of course that it should finish with, according to the Venice Declaration as I understand it, it would have to finish with the PLO accepting the settlement.

Do not forget ever—do not forget ever—the Camp David Agreement which Israel signed. Do not forget it ever, because sometimes the questions you put to me seem to me to be as if Israel never signed that Camp David Agreement.

Interviewer

Jordan never participated in the discussion.

Prime Minister

“The solution from the negotiations must also recognise…   .” this is what Israel signed …not talking about Jordan … this is what Israel signed … “the solution from the negotiations must also recognise the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people and their just requirements. In this way, the Palestinians will participate in the determination of their own future through …   . negotiations by Egypt, Israel, Jordan and the representatives of the inhabitants of the West Bank and Gaza to agree on the final stages of the West Bank and Gaza and other outstanding issues by the end of the transitional period, submitting their agreement to a vote by the elected representatives of the inhabitants of the West Bank and Gaza.”

Question

You do accept Mrs. Thatcher, that neither Jordan nor the PLO accepted Camp David or the process or anything associated with it? [end p10]

Prime Minister

No, but that was what Israel signed as to the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people and it included the negotiations among Egypt, Israel and Jordan. That is what they signed.

Now, of course, when the Palestinian-Jordanian negotiations with Israel get started, one hopes—and indeed it is part of the peace process—that it be in some wider international framework and there are strenuous efforts being made to work out that wide international framework, and a good deal of disagreement as to what it should include, but I think we would all recognise that for it to stick it should be in a wider international framework, because one wants it both to get going but one wants it to stick.

Just go back and have a look at that wording, because you see the point I am making: for a country who signed that has recognised the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people and their just requirements and submitting their agreement to a vote by the elected representatives of the inhabitants in the West Bank and Gaza.

So you see, what I am doing, really, is trying to further the peace process which really has taken far too long in my view, and I hope it will get further along the road.

Question

King Hussein of Jordan spoke just two days ago at the UN about the need to have direct talks with Israel, something which has been welcomed by Prime Minister Peres. Why not use your influence on King Hussein to start direct talks at once? [end p11]

Prime Minister

Because King Hussein has said—and will continue to say—that he must have it in an international framework and I think you are forgetting that. You will, of course, recall—never mind—he must have it in an international framework.

Can I just recall to you, King Hussein is the first to know the difference between the moderate PLO and the extremist wing—the very first. I think you sometimes forget that. He is the first to know the difference. He has gone right out on a limb to encourage the moderate ones, and I think he needs a little help, and that is why we have said these two, as part of the Jordanian-Palestinian delegation, and certainly said, on the understanding which I laid out clearly.

Question

Mrs. Thatcher, what specific results do you expect from Mr. Peres 's forthcoming visit to London and how soon do you plan to go to Israel yourself, to be able to judge the mood and the feeling of Israelis?

Prime Minister

We shall welcome Mr. Peres to London. Last time he came he was not Prime Minister. He sat in the chair where you are sitting. I think he is a man who wants a peaceful settlement of the dispute, one in which Israel will be secure, behind secure boundaries, and I think that…   .well we shall welcome him very much to London and if he should issue an invitation for me to go to Israel, I should be very happy to go. [end p12]

Question

You put no time-scale?

Prime Minister

Not this year, not this year. Mr. Peres will come here first. Do not forget, I have been to Israel several times. I had never been to Jordan, except going through airports…   .

Question

You have received strong protests from the Jewish community in Britain and specifically, I understand, the Anglo-Israel Friendship League in Finchley. What reassurance have you got for them that your moves are not…   .

Prime Minister

I set out the whole position in the letter to Sir Michael LathamMichael because I think that they had got hold of the wrong end of the stick… as I set it out to them…they have not all taken that view.

Question

Have you given, for example, any consideration to what has been called the “Finchley factor” ?

Prime Minister

In all of my things, I have to do what I think is fair and reasonable and I believe it would be a tremendous advantage to Israel, to Jordan, to the whole Arab-Israeli problem, to the whole of that Middle East, if you were able to get a peaceful settlement, and we would not fear that another generation of young men would have to risk what previous generations do. You are very well aware— [end p13] and so am I—that there is another problem in the Middle East with your Shi'ite extremists is devastating in some of the attacks it makes. If only we could get this one settled—the Arab-Israeli problem. You can only have it settled, if it is settled to satisfaction of Israel and Jordan and to all those states in the area. I think that it would be something which this generation could do, something which perhaps can be achieved under …   . while President Reagan is in office.

You see, we have lived with this a long time. I think there is a chance, within the coming two months, and I did not want that chance to be missed. It is not going to come again for quite a time.

Question

While Mr. Peres is still the Prime Minister?

Prime Minister

Well, I do not want that chance to be missed. When President Reagan came to power, I thought that it might be carried forward and, certainly, you will remember he made a very very effective speech, I thought in 1982. Now, it did not get carried forward very much and I believe that the President is prepared to carry it forward now. I believe that the Ambassador Murphy initiative was part of that. I am very sad that we have not had four names chosen out of those which were submitted and it seemed as if there was suddenly a new condition attached. It did not seem to be the four names, but a new condition attached at a very late stage which held things up. What I am trying to do is to say: “Please, I want the process to go forward!” Of course, I want it to go forward with [end p14] the peaceable Palestinians, because those are the ones whom we would deal with.

Question

…with further British involvement?

Prime Minister

Of course you know that King Hussein is the first person to know the difference between the moderate wing of the PLO and those who…   .others whom he has occasion to know…and bearing all that in mind, I do not think that any of my constituents in Finchley, or Jewish people in London, have any occasion to be worried at what I have done. Rather they should welcome it as a stage forward in the peace process and for the reasons I have indicated there is no parallel at all between this and the IRA.