MPs back Palestinian statehood alongside Israel

MPs have voted by 274 to 12 in favour of recognising Palestine as a state alongside Israel.

The House of Commons backed the move “as a contribution to securing a negotiated two-state solution”.

The vote is symbolic but could have international implications.

Government ministers abstained in the vote, and Middle East Minister Tobias Ellwood said Britain reserved the right to recognise Palestine when it is “appropriate for the peace process”.

In 2012 the UN General Assembly voted to upgrade the Palestinians’ status to that of “non-member observer state”.

The assembly voted 138 to nine in favour, with 41 nations – including the UK – abstaining.

The motion was put forward by Labour MP Grahame Morris and amended by former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw.

Mr Morris told MPs recognising Palestine as a state would be a “symbolically important” step towards peace, saying relations between Israelis and Palestinians were “stuck at an impasse”.

‘Two-state solution’

Current UK government policy, as set out by former Foreign Secretary William Hague, is that it “reserves the right to recognise a Palestinian state bilaterally at the moment of our choosing and when it can best help bring about peace”.

The full motion stated: “That this House believes that the Government should recognise the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel as a contribution to securing a negotiated two state solution.”

Another former foreign secretary, the Conservative Sir Malcolm Rifkind, said he too wanted to see a two-state solution but added: “Symbolism sometimes has a purpose, it sometimes has a role, but I have to say you do not recognise a state which has not yet got the fundamental ingredients that a state requires if it’s going to carry out its international functions and therefore, at the very least, I would respectfully suggest this motion is premature.”

Ahead of the debate, the prime minister’s official spokesman said: “The government’s position is very clear and hasn’t changed, so I think that is a very clear indication of the British government’s approach.

“The government’s approach is a long-standing one and is in support of a two-state solution and we will continue to work with a range of international partners – Israel, the Palestinian Authority – in support of that.”

Although Liberal Democrat ministers were expected to abstain, in accordance with established policy on backbench debates, it is party policy to support recognition of Palestinian statehood.

The vote comes amid moves elsewhere in Europe to recognise Palestinian statehood officially, more than 100 countries having done so.

Israel says moves to recognise Palestine are premature and undermine efforts to reach a peace settlement between the two sides.

Palestinian officials say they have been forced to pursue measures including seeking greater recognition internationally because a succession of peace talks has failed.

Labour has twice called on the government – in 2011 and 2012 – to back Palestine’s request for official state recognition at the UN.

14th October 2014