An almost complete majority of MPs expressed recognised Palestine as a state whereas the UK government does not. The UK government will now have to clarify their position. While paying lip service to the notions of Palestinian statehood, the coalition government have contradicted this in actions, such as the decision to abstain on the 2012 UN vote.
Activists project Palestinian flag onto Westminster
David Hearst, Editor, Middle East Eye, comments as follows on the historic vote on Palestine in the British Parliament:
Israel is losing the battle for public opinion in Britain. Few are in a better position to chart the draining of support than the Israeli ambassador to Britain. Daniel Taub was born and educated here and has only to compare the benign views about Israel of his youth with the cold, unvarnished judgments of today.
Gone is the rose-tinted vision of Israel as an island of democracy in a sea of irrational and violent Arabs. Gone is the belief that Israel wants to negotiate, if only it could find a partner to talk to. Gone, too, is the notion that there is symmetry in this conflict, that this is a battle between equal forces.
This is not the effect of a larger Muslim community. All Britons today are more likely to be aware of the 14,000 settlements Israel approved during its nine month peace talks with the Palestinians; to wonder where a Palestinian state is going to go, with more than 600,000 settlers in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank; to acknowledge the insouciant racism of Israeli discourse about non-Jews; to recoil at the cost in Palestinian civilian lives of Israel’s definition of its own security.
The more Israel insists that its supporters choose between their liberalism and their Zionism, the weaker its case becomes that the two can co-exist. Britons are losing faith that a solution is just around the corner. The idea of Israel is changing in the minds of its allies. It is no longer a cause. It is becoming heavy baggage.
Monday’s vote in parliament to recognize Palestine as a state does not therefore come out of the blue. Neither did the largest ever demonstration seen in Britain on this conflict during the recent Gaza war. Nor did the resignation of the Foreign Office minister Lady Warsi, the highest placed British politician yet to resign over the UK’s “morally indefensible” stance over Gaza. Warsi was no George Galloway, a figure on the political fringe. She remains a mainstream politician who was courted by the two other political parties after her resignation.
Therefore her plea in the Observer on Sunday to recognise the state of Palestine carries political as well as moral force:
There is a lack of political will and our moral compass is missing,” the former Foreign Office minister told the Observer. “There are no negotiations, there is no show in town. Somehow we have to breathe new life into these negotiations, and one of the ways we can do that is by recognizing the state of Palestine.
The vote will be a symbolic one. A Palestinian state is a virtual concept, and it has already been recognized by 134 states, most recently by Sweden. But there is nothing symbolic or theoretical about the pressure applied by the Israel lobby on MPs of all parties to toe the line, but particularly a Labour Party led Ed Miliband. The vote in favor would amount to an historic act of defiance with an ally used to dictating the terms of the debate.
Israel and America’s argument that recognition and the reluctant, faltering moves by Mahmoud Abbas to join UN institutions like the International Criminal Court, would prejudice the outcome of meaningful talks is holed below the water line. There are no meaningful talks. What greater prejudice to the outcome of a negotiated solution could there be than the monthly announcements of settlements, which unlike moves in the UN, take immediate concrete shape, and for which Israel pays no cost? Who does more to de-legitimize the state of the Israel, than the state of Israel itself? As the former foreign secretary William Hague himself said, how long can this go on without the two state solution dying. It is by all appearances already dead. It will not take much before the coroner issues its death certificate.
Warsi revealed the support she got for her position from the “highest levels” of the Foreign Office after her resignation. She accurately described the vice like grip on policy by a small group of politicians “who are not allowing public opinion, ministerial views, parliamentary views and the views of the people who work in this system”
This is not a debate about outcomes, a one or a two state solution. It is about the ability of Israel to fashion and limit the international debate; to ensure that debate takes place only within narrowly defined parameters; to ensure that it continues to enjoy impunity for its actions; to nullify the international pressure on it to come to the table.
Occupation, as Abbas has himself said, is cost free to the occupiers. The strategy by all members of the international community has now got to be to start making the occupation more expensive. This debate and the vote will be an important start.
One thought on “UK Parliament votes by a landslide to recognise the State of Palestine”
By Jafar Ramini
Two significant developments pertaining to our struggle for freedom and independence have taken place in the last few days.
The first one was in Cairo when the donor countries pledged $5.4 billion in aid for the reconstruction of Gaza. The operative word here is ‘pledged’ not paid. Nothing will happen without the approval of Israel. As usual, Israel has the power of veto over our lives and destiny.
We are in the olive harvest season in Palestine and the heavily armed and fully trained squatters on our land are continuing to uproot our ancient olive trees and prevent our farmers from collecting their meagre harvest. But enough of this.
The second, and more significant event was the vote last night in the British parliament to recognize a Palestinian state. The proposer of the motion, Mr. Graham Morris MP said that Britain had “a unique historical connection – and a moral responsibility to the people of both Israel and Palestine”. He said: “In 1920 we undertook a sacred trust to guide Palestine to statehood and to independence. That was nearly a century ago and the Palestinian people are still yet to have their rights recognised.”
Bravo Mr. Morris. And bravo Mr. Richard Ottaway, powerful chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee who had this to say.
“I have stood by Israel through thick and thin. But I realise now that Israel has been slowly drifting away from world international public opinion.
“The annexation of the 950 acres of the West Bank just a few months ago has outraged me more than anything else in my political life.”
Please note the word ‘trust’. The first, as Mr. Morris said, “ the sacred trust to guide Palestine to statehood” was totally neglected. The second, the establishment of a homeland for the Jews was pursued meticulously.
Israel was created in 1948 and the British government acknowledged it in 1950. We, the Palestinians are still waiting for justice to be served.
Having said all that, is what happened in the British parliament last night a cause for celebration? And if it is, what are we celebrating?
Public recognition that we Palestinians are people after all with the same human rights as anyone else on this planet? Yes, excellent. But these 274 MPs from both sides of the House of Commons, who voted for the motion have no real power.
The vote is not legally binding. The current British coalition government of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats shows no signs of altering its course, at least, not at the moment. As former Foreign Secretary, Malcolm Rifkind said,
“For me the most important question is what practical benefit would passing this resolution make? It might make us feel good. But recognising a state should only happen when the territory in question has the basic requirements of a state. And through no fault of the Palestinians that is not true at the moment and it seems to me that the resolution before us is premature.”
Yet, Mr. Alan Duncan, the former international development minister, said he would be supporting the motion. “Refusing Palestinian recognition is tantamount to giving Israel the right of veto,” he said.
Here, as a Palestinian, is my dilemma.
Yes, we all crave recognition and yes we all would want to see a fully independent and functioning Palestinian state, joining the international community. But what is on offer here? And is it cause for celebration? Or just one small step on the long and hard road of our struggle to regain what is rightfully ours?
You may celebrate if you feel that this vote was a victory, but though I applaud these MPs who finally found their conscience and courage their vote may make us feel good, but what practical advancements have been made?
My compatriots let us take this symbolic gift with grace. Now it is incumbent upon us, all of us, the Palestinians to take our destiny in our own hands and affect the changes that are so sorely needed if we are to achieve our goals. I said it before, on many occasions, and I shall say it again now. Unless we are all united under one flag for one purpose, irrespective of partisan loyalties all will be lost. And now, I hope that you will understand why I am not celebrating yet.