David Cameron lost little time in pouring cold water on Monday’s vote in the Commons, telling Liberal Democrat MP David Ward during Prime Minister’s questions, that Palestine will not be recognised until “negotiations that bring about a two-state solution”.
This is precisely what the House of Commons rejected by voting by 274-12 on Monday that Britain should recognise Palestine without any preconditions and without waiting for peace talks – because, as Grahame Morris said in his introduction, there were no peace talks and no prospect of peace talks, so this would give the Israelis a veto on UK policy and recognition should be a matter for the UK alone.
Negotiations broke up on April 29th after nine months of fruitless of talks when the Israelis announcement yet another illegal settlement in Palestinian East Jerusalem and there is no likelihood of talks restarting at any point in the near future.
The Palestinian ambassador, Mr Hassassian, has described Monday’s vote on the recognition of the Palestinian state as “a momentous vote”. Indeed it was. He has also said:“Now is the time for the UK government to listen to its democratically elected parliament and to take decisive political action by recognising the State of Palestine and upholding its historical, moral and legal responsibility towards Palestine”.Does the Prime Minister agree?
Of course, I look forward to the day when Britain will recognise the state of Palestine, but it should be part of the negotiations that bring about a two-state solution. That is what we all want to see—a state of Israel living happily and peacefully alongside a state of Palestine—and that is when we should do the recognition.
Although the parliamentary motion is not binding on government, the hope is that it will encourage other European countries to announce recognition of Palestine – France and Ireland are known to be considering it – to create a bandwaggon effect after the announcement by the new Swedish government earlier this month that they will recognise Palestine.
Already 135 countries (out of 193) recognise Palestine, including many EU states, and the main exceptions are the major West European and North American countries. Even without the support of the British government, the British Parliament may inspire other countries to follow suit.
But the more important effect of Monday’s vote is that many MPs have voted in support of Palestine for the first time and this may embolden them to go on to give their support to the Palestinians on other issues, such as discouraging or banning trade with the illegal settlement or putting economic pressure on Israel to stop building more settlements.
For Palestinians recognition will make no visible difference – except that a small well-fortified building in East Jerusalem will take down a sign saying “British Consulate-General” and put up a new sign saying “British Embassy to Palestine”.
For the first time the House of Commons has demonstrated its support for the Palestinians’ case and the Palestinians’ hope – and the Israelis’ fear – will be that they will do so again on an issue which will have more than a symbolic effect on the long-running conflict.