CMEP Bulletin: International Debate over Recognition of a Palestinian State Intensifies
Weekly update from Churches for Middle East Peace
On October 13th members of the British Parliament voted 270 to 12 to support a non-binding motion calling on the British government to “recognize the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel.” Prime Minister David Cameron and other conservatives of the 650 member House of Commons abstained from the vote. While the vote is largely symbolic, it reflects a significant shift in public opinion since the breakdown of US sponsored peace negotiations and the Gaza war last summer. Conservative House of Commons foreign affairs committee chairman Richard Ottaway said, “[I] stood by Israel through thick and thin [and] under normal circumstances [would] oppose the motion; but such is my anger over Israel’s behavior in recent months that I will not oppose the motion. I have to say to the government of Israel that if they are losing people like me, they will be losing a lot of people.”
Left wing Israeli MKs responded to the UK vote by blaming the Israeli government for failing to advance the peace process, Israel’s embassy in London issued a statement saying, “The route to Palestinian statehood runs through the negotiation room,” adding: “Premature international recognition sends a troubling message to the Palestinian leadership that they can evade the tough choices that both sides have to make, and actually undermines the chances to reach a real peace.” British Ambassador to Israel Matthew Gould said that Monday’s UK parliamentary vote reflected broader public opinion and said that the outcome of “Palestinian sovereignty could only be achieved through direct negotiations with Israel.” The Palestinian Ambassador to the United Kingdom Manuel Hassassian said that the UK vote is symbolic but has placed Palestinians “one step closer to statehood.”
The Israeli Foreign Ministry, said, “The stated policy of the Israeli government is already in support of a Palestinian state. So there’s no big deal here on substance, the question is process.” Other Israelis including former Director General of the Israeli Foreign Ministry Dr. Alon Liel disagree. Liel organized a public letter signed by 363 prominent Israelis encouraging the British Parliament to pass the motion.