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1995 - Mr Major’s Comments on Gaza Visit

Below is the text of Mr Major’s comments on his March 1995 Gaza visit, made in his auto-biography, page 520.


SIR JOHN MAJOR:

Not to go to the UN ‘Social Summit’ in Copenhagen in March 1995 was one of my easiest decisions. The Foreign Office pleaded with me to change my mind, as did the Danes. I was told that sixty or seventy other leaders would be at this jamboree, including all the Europeans (though not President Clinton). If I didn’t drop in to deliver the British speech, I was assured, it would look as if we didn’t care about world poverty; and our relations with the host nation, Denmark, would suffer.

Instead I fulfilled a long-standing commitment to go to Israel, Jordan and Palestine. I cemented strong personal relationships with Israel’s Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and King Hussein of Jordan, and was the first Western leader to visit Yasser Arafat in Gaza, in the newly-established Palestinian entity. I was able to give some modest help to the faltering Middle East peace process by brokering an agreement between Rabin and Arafat for monitors from the European Union to oversee the elections in Gaza. I like to think that I also did some practical good for world poverty, both by announcing a new aid package for impoverished Gaza and by encouraging my travelling party of senior British businessmen to think of investing and purchasing in Jordan and Palestine. Because of the Arab boycott of Israel they had never previously been able to fly from Israel to Jordan, and many of them had concentrated on the more profitable Israeli market.