To go to Beirut just when Shimon Peres is doing his uniquely energetic electioneering both there and in southern Lebanon does not seem well-timed. However, a friend in Beirut says it's quiet there this morning and the weather is good. As the four of us are heading not for the beaches but for the refugee camps on behalf of Medical Aid for Palestinians, the weather is not decisive. We stick to our plans and I telephone the Foreign Office to discover if I can defend British policy on Lebanon, assuming we have one, and if so how. The Foreign Office man tells me that it is all Hizballah's fault because they are against 'the peace process'. I murmur that the attacks on civilians were unquestionably started by the Israelis and ask what the Government feels about the creation of yet more hundreds of thousands of refugees. The FO chap thinks that none of that is really relevant because the Hizballah are against the 'peace process', adding, however, that we are 'now moving back to the middle'. He means that we are moving way from Michael Portillo's pompously ignorant remarks a few days ago when he gave his Israeli hosts carte blanche to do what they liked in Lebanon. I ask with a touch of acrimony why we ever left 'the middle' and ring off.
LRB 23 May 1996 | PDF Download