Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure today to speak on Bill C-61, the Canada-Israeli free trade agreement.
We in the Reform Party approve of bilateral trade agreements on the basis that they will strengthen the existing World Trade Organization.
I know my colleague for Peace River has some very good ideas on this and he would certainly be happy to advise the government on various new initiatives it should undertake.
A larger issue with respect to the Middle East is the security issue that threatens trade agreements and threatens the security not only between Israel and Palestine but the regional security which exists there which will have a huge impact on world economy.
Currently the peace process is in disarray. There is a possibility it will fall apart. The Israelis and the Palestinians are polarized. We have a very important window of opportunity to help build bridges between the two groups.
After Mr. Netanyahu was elected it seemed that the Likud Party was pulled away from the work which was done by Mr. Netanyahu's predecessor, Mr. Shimon Peres.
On the other side, it did not take much for Mr. Arafat and the Palestinian authority to pull away from the peace agreement.
Both groups have to realize that their fates are intimately entwined. History, geography and the future will not separate them.
The conditions in the Palestinian autonomous areas are absolutely appalling. It is no wonder that terrorism has stemmed from these areas. It reflects the sheer frustration, anxiety and fear of these people. For example, in the Gaza Strip unemployment is over 70 per cent. That breeds desperate people and desperate people often resort to violence.
I would humbly suggest that economics is partly responsible for this situation. We have an opportunity through the free trade agreement with Israel to place conditions on how the Israelis will engage with the Palestinians in Palestinian autonomous areas. It should not be done in a heavy handed way, but in a coercive way for the betterment of both groups. The outcome of that will be improved chances for peace for all people.
If we can do that we will cut the legs out from the radical elements of Hamas that are responsible for the bombings that took place in Tel Aviv. It will cut the legs out from grassroots support for Hezbollah. It will cut the grassroots support for the Islamic Jihad. The only way to do that is to offer the Palestinian people in the autonomous regions some element of economic emancipation. Hamas has received support by providing schools, medical care and economic opportunities for these desperate people who are crying for improvement in their appalling situation.
I would encourage the government to find ways to work with the Israeli and Palestinian authorities to improve their bilateral economic agreements.
I would also suggest that the closure of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip must end. It must end in conjunction with agreements from Mr. Arafat and the Palestinian authority that they will make swift, decisive and effective moves against terrorism in their areas. They cannot have it both ways. If the Palestinian authority is going to preach peace, it must act in a peaceful way. It will be painful, but it will have to act with its own people. Only by doing that will the Palestinians be able to achieve the respect and trust of the Likud Party and Mr. Netanyahu.
On the other hand, Mr. Netanyahu has to stop closing down the West Bank and the Gaza Strip so freely and, at times, unfairly. That polarizes the Palestinian people and grassroot support wanes.
We must also pursue avenues to improve the education system in the Palestinian autonomous areas, the economics and also the infrastructure development which will be required. In order to do this there has to be a radical shift. We cannot continue to have this polarization between both groups.
A few of the key players are going to have to be brought to the table. A key in the Middle East peace process is Hafez al-Assad of Syria. One of the great failings is that Mr. Assad has not been brought to the table with Mr. Netanyahu or his predecessor and with the King of Jordan and hopefully Mr. Mubarak of Egypt.
If these people can be brought to the table face to face then we are going to see some action. Mr. Assad controls Syria. He also has a huge sway in what happens on the northern border of Israel with Hezbollah. Israel is only going to feel secure on her northern boundary if the activities of Hezbollah are removed and the key to that is Mr. Assad.
Mr. Assad's intermediaries are not going to call the shots. We are not going to get any significant advancement in the peace process without Mr. Assad himself sitting down face to face with Mr. Netanyahu, King Hussein of Jordan, Mr. Mubarak and of course Mr. Arafat.
Another aspect is Jerusalem, an extremely sore spot. It eludes me as to why this area, the seat of so many religions of the world, this exquisitely beautiful area which all of us in this House and billions of people around the world have such a connection to, is the seed of such rancour and animosity and the root provocation of so much killing. It is completely opposed-I do not care whether they are Muslims, Christians or Jews, that is not what Jerusalem has ever been about or should be about. It is not what Jerusalem stands for.
A possible solution, because the groups are actually polarizing quite dramatically with Jerusalem, is to put it under UN protection. If the groups are not willing to share in Jerusalem, as right now they are not prepared to do, then the United Nations has to try to get tacit support from them to make Jerusalem a protected zone for the world, for all religions and for all people who follow those religions and have a spiritual connection with that beautiful city.
My other point is on the whole aspect of the Palestinian autonomous areas and settlements. It is an absolute provocation for the Israeli government to continue to support settlements in the Palestinian autonomous areas. It is a slap in the face to the Palestinian authority and a slap in the face to the Palestinian people. It polarizes them dramatically and is only an act of provocation.
The first thing the Israelis ought to do, and Canada can take a coercive role in this, is to: one, stop immediately all new building of Israeli settlements in Palestinian autonomous regions; two, remove some of those settlements out of the Palestinian autonomous regions and there will be some kind of trust again from the Palestinian people. The Palestinian authority must also provide assurances to the Government of Israel that terrorist activities are going to cease and desist. They will not but they must at least take an active role with the Israeli defence forces to come down on these extreme groups that are causing havoc in the whole peace process.
Another factor which not many people are talking about and which in the long run overshadows much of what can take place in the Middle East is water. There is very little potable water left in the Middle East. Those water levels are going down dramatically. It may not sound like very much but if human beings cannot drink water, they will not live there. If there is no water, they cannot grow crops. If crops cannot be grown in these areas, there are not going to be settlements. This is a problem that affects not only Israel and
the Palestinian people but it also affects Jordan and to a lesser extent Syria.
Here is an opportunity for Canada to get groups of hydrologists together with other hydrology specialists in the world to help the Middle East try to maximize the water available and to improve the conservation and the development of the water tables that exist there. No matter what we do, if there is no water in the future, there simply is not going to be any people who wish to live there.
I will close by saying that historically we have had two sides in the polarization. They have come together in a narrow window of opportunity and with great hope for the world in the peace process that took place in conjunction with the Americans.
Sadly, what has happened since the last election is that the two groups are polarizing. They must realize that their fates again are intimately entwined. Perhaps they cannot live together in the same country. I think that is probably what is going to happen, but at least let them live side by side in peace and then develop economic co-operation between both groups. If those economic bridges develop, then peace will develop and the decades of mistrust and hatred are going to peel away, albeit slowly.
There is a saying in the Middle East that peace is when a son buries his father and war is when a father buries his son. I hope for all the people of the Middle East that there will be far fewer fathers burying their sons. I also hope that Canada can take her role with the other members of the international community to develop in co-operation to bring peace to this much troubled area.