Because the United Nations promised when Israel invaded the West Bank in 1967 that it would secure the “withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict” and that it would stand by the principle of the “inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war”.
Because it is disingenuous to condition the recognition of a Palestinian state on “the conclusion of successful peace negotiations”. Every round of peace talks in the last 20 years – Madrid, Oslo, Annapolis and most recently the Kerry talks – has failed because of illegal settlement construction on stolen Palestinian land. If the Israelis were serious about concluding an agreement with the Palestinians, they would have stopped the building of illegal settlements. And if they are not serious, isn’t UK recognition of a Palestinian state exactly the kind of thing that will focus their minds on what they need to do?
Because 138 out of 193 UN member states already do. As Baroness Warsi said in her resignation statement: “There is no point in us talking about a two-state solution if we don’t do the simple things like recognising Palestine in the way the majority of the world has.”
Because – as former foreign secretary Jack Straw said three years ago – “it is vital … that the UK and other European countries have the courage to point the way forward. I believe the way forward is for the international community to recognise a Palestinian state alongside Israel”.
Because “we have waited too long: we should recognise Palestine, preferably bringing with us the few remaining EU refuseniks and aligning them and us with most of the rest of the world.” Oliver Miles, former UK Ambassador to Libya and Greece.
Because President Barack Obama said in a speech in 2010 that he looked forward to welcoming “an independent sovereign state of Palestine” as a new member of the United Nations by September 2011.
Because Britain has already said in 2011 that Palestine passes every test for statehood: in a statement to the UN Britain said “the Palestinian Authority has developed successfully the capacity to run a democratic and peaceful state, founded on the rule of law and living in peace and security with Israel… Palestine largely fulfils the legal and technical criteria for UN membership, including statehood, in as far as the Occupation allows.” The World Bank, the IMF and the EU have similarly declared Palestine to be ready for statehood.
Because granting recognition will renew the Palestinians’ belief in the path of non-violence and international action and it will weaken support for the path violent resistance, which leads nowhere.
Because Palestinians have the right to self-determination, guaranteed by the UN charter and by successive UN resolutions. It does not need to negotiate this right with anyone. Israel does not have a veto. There will have to be negotiations over how this happens, but not over whether it happens. As Douglas Alexander said at Labour’s conference last month, “recognition of Palestine is not a gift to be given, but a right to be had”.
Because the Palestinians recognised the State of Israel as part of the Oslo Accords 1993 and it was part of the Oslo Accords that the Israelis would end the occupation and recognise a Palestinian state by 1999 – but they never did.
Because recognising Palestine is a good starting-point for negotiations. It means that both sides are at least nominally at the same level. Recognition does not remove the need for negotiations and it does not prejudice those final status negotiations. On the contrary, it assists them. As the Palestinian politician Hanan Ashrawi put it: “Those who claim to support the two-state solution must realize that in order to reach it, what’s missing is a sovereign Palestinian state.”
Because Britain did not oppose UN recognition in the UN General Assembly vote in 2012. If we were not against the UN recognising Palestine, how can we be against the UK recognising Palestine? And when you look at the nine countries that voted against recognition (the vote was 138 for, nine against), you won’t know whether to laugh or cry: Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Panama, the Czech Republic, Israel, Canada and the United States.
Because when the Israelis say that recognising Palestine as a state would be “premature” you have to remember that negotiations started in 1992 and have got absolutely nowhere. “It would have been better for Israel to .. say yes to a Palestinian state…. Then Israel could hold .. negotiations, government to government, on an equal basis aimed at reaching a solution for two states.” Zahava Gal-On, former leader of the Meretz party in Israel.
Because “Britain, more than any country, has an obligation to the Palestinians and we should fulfil that obligation by recognising Palestine” – says Baroness Patricia Morris, Chairwoman of the Conservative Middle East Council. “As a good friend of Israel and Palestine, the UK has always supported a viable Palestine alongside a secure Israel, and we believe this vote will help to move us closer to that goal; at the very least it will mean that the Palestinians can sit a little taller at the negotiating table.”
Because “our position not to recognise Palestinian statehood at the United Nations in November 2012 placed us on the wrong side of history and is something I deeply regret not speaking out against at the time.” Conservative Foreign Office minister Baroness Sayeeda Warsi explaining her decision to resign over the Government’s policies towards Palestine in August 2014.
Because Britain recognised Israel in 1950. It did not ask anyone’s permission. Equally it should now recognise Palestine and it does not need to ask Israel for permission. Recognition is a purely bilateral diplomatic issue.