Hague talks tough on Iran

November 6, 2008
William Hague: “unacceptable threats to Israel”

William Hague: “unacceptable threats to Israel”

The Shadow Foreign Secretary, William Hague, has made a call for renewed pressure on Hamas and Hizbollah, and a united world strategy on Iran.

In Tel Aviv this week to give the annual Balfour Declaration lecture, Mr Hague told his audience: "We share your anger that rocket attacks have continued, and that Gaza has fallen into the hands of those who do not recognise Israel and are still wedded to violence. We understand that this poses an unacceptable security threat to Israel and acts as a landmine under the feet of those attempting to negotiate a peace settlement. We have not forgotten that Gilad Shalit is being held hostage in Gaza at this very moment.

"We believe passionately in a negotiated peace leading to the state of Israel living securely alongside a viable and secure Palestinian state. We support steps to improve the standard of life for Palestinians, to undercut the inroads being made by extremists. We categorically support the conditions placed on Hamas that it must renounce violence, recognise Israel, and accept previous peace agreements. These conditions are non-negotiable."

Hizbollah, he said, "poses an unacceptable threat to Israel. The British government has not yet banned it in its entirety in the UK. We have urged it to do so".

Nevertheless, Mr Hague struck an optimistic note when he said that there were "signs of some recognition in the region that it is time to move relations with Israel on to a sounder footing, that hostility to Israel is wrong and outmoded, and that the world's problems cannot simply be refracted through the prism of Palestinian grievance." He cited the visit to Israel last year by an envoy from the Arab League, Egypt's role in securing a ceasefire in Gaza, Turkey's work as an intermediary with Syria, and Bahrain's proposal of a Middle East forum which would include Israel, as positive steps. But, he said, "far more needs to be done. Syria is a case in point".

Mr Hague complained that Iran had "paid no serious penalty for its defiance of the [UN] Security Council... the fact that the Security Council failed to agree a single new sanction on Iran in the last seven months sends a terrible sign of weakness and disunity... European countries must summon the will to impose new sanctions, and do so quickly.

"There should be a ban on new investment in Iranian oil and gas, an end to European export credit guarantees which subsidise trade with Iran and a freeze on those Iranian banks which have abused the international financial system."

In London, the former head of MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove, gave the Zionist Federation's Balfour lecture on the importance of intelligence services and agencies in the Middle East. Sir Richard, who headed MI6 from 1999 to 2004, addressed more than 200 guests in the Foreign Office's Locarno Suite, where the Balfour Declaration was signed 90 years ago.

Last updated: 6:08pm, November 6 2008