UK Parliament Supports Palestinian Statehood
by Stephen Lendman
It did so overwhelmingly. Symbolically. Voting 274 to 12. A PR victory only. Yet significant because it happened. A first in Britain.
It followed Sweden's newly-formed center-left Prime Minister, Stefan Lofven, announcing his intention to recognize Palestinian statehood.
The first EU country to do so. The 134th to recognize what's long overdue.
Parliamentary approval doesn't commit Britain to officially extend recognition. A UK Foreign Office spokesman said:
"We continue to believe that negotiations toward a two-state solution are the best route to meeting Palestinian aspirations in reality and on the ground."
UK Foreign Secretary William Hague added:
Britain "reserves the right to recognize a Palestinian state bilaterally at the moment of our choosing and when it can best help bring about peace."
Expect business as usual to continue. Britain's parliamentary vote grants Palestine symbolic recognition only.
Israel's genocidal Operation Protective Edge high crimes against peace perhaps influenced parliamentarians. So does continued land lawless settlement construction on stolen Palestinian land.
Conservative foreign affairs select committee chairman Richard Ottaway said recent large-scale annexation of West Bank land infuriated him. Angered him more than anything else in politics.
He's been a loyal Israeli supporter. His family is connected to the generation involved in creating Israel.
"The Holocaust had a deep impact on me growing up in the wake of the second world war," he stressed.
"Looking back over the past 20 years, I realise now Israel has slowly been drifting away from world 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. It has made me look a fool and that is something I deeply resent."
"(S)uch is my anger with the behaviour of Israel in recent months that I will not be opposing this motion."
"I have to say to the government of Israel: if it is losing people like me, it is going to be losing a lot of people."
Former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw called the vote more than a simple gesture. If it was, Israel wouldn't have expressed as much concern, he said.
Its government wants bilateral negotiations only to determine Palestine's fate. According to Straw, "such an approach would give the Israelis a veto over whether a Palestinian state should exist."
"The only thing that the Israeli government, in my view, in its present demeanour under Bibi Netanyahu understands is pressure."
Tory MP James Clappison opposed the measure, saying:
"I believe that international recognition of a Palestinian state in the terms of the motion would make a two-state solution less likely rather than more likely."
"I don't see Israel, having faced the challenges it has over the years, caving in to this backbench motion. It might be a gesture on behalf of this house, but it would take the process no further."
He lied claiming Hamas opposes peace and conducts a "campaign of terror." Truth is polar opposite. Previous articles explained.
Hamas numerous times expressed willingness to cede 78% of historic Palestine to Israel. In return for an independent Palestinian state within June 1967 borders.
These and other inconvenient facts are buried. Including explaining that Hamas is Palestine's legitimate government. Democratically elected in January 2006.
Abbas and other Fatah Israeli collaborators have no legitimacy whatever. Why Palestinians put up with them they'll have to explain.
Labour Friends of Palestine proposed what parliamentarians approved, stating:
"This House believes that the Government should recognize the state of Palestine alongside the State of Israel as a contribution to securing a negotiated two-state-solution."
While UK MPs debated, Palestinian supporters outside parliament held banners saying:
"Yes Vote for a Palestinian State."
"Time to start giving back what we had no right to take."
It referred to Britain's 1917 Balfour Declaration. Committing it to establish a Jewish "national home" in Palestine where it doesn't belong.
To establish Western influence. To do so for the usual imperial interests. For resource theft. For regional dominance.
According to Middle East minister Tobias Ellwood:
Britain remains a "staunch supporter" of Israel's right to defend itself. But settlement-building makes "it hard for Israel's friends to make the case that (it's) committed to peace."
He believes de facto Palestinian statehood is only possible when occupation ends. Cameron's government claims only through bilateral negotiations.
Empowering Israel this way eliminates any possibility of Palestinian self-determination. Netanyahu's government and others preceding him categorically oppose statehood.
They've gone all-out to prevent it. Expect nothing different ahead. Israel wants virtual total Judea and Samaria control.
It wants Palestinians denied all rights. It considers them subhumans. Institutionalized racism is official policy. So is state terror.
Reactions to Britain's vote came swiftly. Israel's was unsurprising. Its Foreign Ministry lied, saying:
"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."
Tory MP Nicholas Soarnes is Winston Churchill's grandson. He called recognizing Palestinian statehood "both morally right and in our national interest."
Britain's ambassador to Israel, Matthew Gould, called the vote "a sign of shifting public opinion in the UK and indeed beyond."
Prime Minister David Cameron abstained. So did other government ministers. A number of high-profile MPs were absent during debate.
Ahead of Monday's vote, Britain's Observer editors headlined "The Observer view on Palestine. Formal British recognition would be a powerful, progressive step in the right direction."
They called supporting Palestinian statehood "a rare opportunity (for) peace and justice in the Middle East."
Parliamentarians "should seize it with both hands." Though symbolic and non-binding, it sends "a powerful message to a region where unseeing violence often usurps legitimate political action."
"The message, in its simplest form, is that in even the most long-running and intractable disputes (and the Israel-Palestine conflict certainly qualifies on that score), positive progress is possible when democrats of all parties and persuasions find the courage to fight for the principles they were elected to uphold."
"(F)ormal British recognition of Palestinian statehood would be a powerful progressive step in the right direction…(It) cannot be sensibly disputed."
Even by Israel's staunchest supporters. Claiming otherwise is duplicitous.
"A parliamentary vote in favour of statehood would put Israel on notice that while its right to exist in peace and security as an independent state remains a fundamental, undisputed tenet of British and western policy, its apparently endless foot-dragging on the question of equivalent Palestinian rights is no longer acceptable to a growing segment of British and European opinion," said Observer editors.
It's unacceptable to say resolving longstanding intractable issues must precede recognition, they added.
Nor should Israel ignore "tangible momentum" building for Palestinian statehood. It's inevitable. Growing world public opinion demands it.
Labor party leader Edward Miliband called Cameron "wrong not to have opposed Israel's incursion into Gaza."
He criticized his "silence on the killing of innocent Palestinian civilians caused by Israel's military action."
He said he'll "fight with every fibre of my being to get the two-state solution, two states for two people, Israel and a Palestinian state living side by side."
"That will be a very, very important task of the next Labour government." It remains to be seen if his word is his bond.
In August, Tory MP Sayeeda Warsi quit her senior Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Office involvement over Cameron's failure to hold Israel accountable for its war on Gaza.
She called government policy "morally indefensible." Former Labour MP Martin Linton serves as editor of the Palestinian Briefing.
He believes events are catching up with public opinion. They're shifting significantly towards recognizing Palestinian statehood.
A French Foreign Ministry spokesman said "France will have to recognize Palestine."
It's inevitable sooner or later for most countries. It's just a matter of time. Perhaps America, Israel and a few Pacific islands dominated by Washington will become final holdouts.
Whether Britain's overwhelming vote proves catalyst enough for change remains to be seen.
UK Shadow Minister for Africa and the Middle East, Ian Lucas, believes "(s)tatehood will be decided by Labour when it comes to power if it has not been decided by (Cameron's) government."
Pollster Dahlia Scheindlin said "(i)t used to be understood that political support for Israel was bipartisan and goes across political party lines."
Recent survey results show "people are now looking at the issue through the prism of their political ideology."
On October 13, Reuters headlined "UK lawmakers pass symbolic motion to recognise Palestine as a state," saying:
Doing so won't change UK policy. "(B)ut (it) carries symbolic value for Palestinians in their pursuit of international recognition."
The New York Times highlighted Palestine's symbolic victory. It called it a "potent indication of how public opinion has shifted since the breakdown of American-sponsored peace negotiations and the conflict in Gaza this summer."
Parliament's vote "was the latest evidence of how support for Israeli policies, even among staunch allies of Israel, is giving way to more calibrated positions and in some cases frustrated expressions of opposition to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's stance toward the Palestinians."
The Washington Post and Wall Street both ran what AP News reported. It covered the ground explained above in abbreviated form.
London's Independent called parliament's vote "a historic decision to recognise Palestinian state(hood)."
It quoted former UK international development minister Alan Duncan saying:
"Refusing Palestinian recognition is tantamount to giving Israel the right of veto."
"Recognising Palestine is not about recognising a government. It is states that are recognised not governments."
"It is the recognition of the right to exist as a state - it is not about endorsing a state that has to be in perfect working order."
"It is the principle of that recognition that this House should pass today."
A previous article explained why Respect party Bradford West MP George Galloway abstained from voting. He's Palestine's best friend in Parliament.
He forthrightly supports their rights. He's done so for decades despite harsh criticism against him.
He's fully able to give more than he takes. He stresses vital hard truths most others suppress.
He regretted not being able to support Parliament's Palestinian statehood motion.
It "accepts recognition of the state of Israel, does not define borders of either state, or addresses the central question of the right of return of the millions of Palestinians who have been forced to live outside Palestine," he said.
He "continue(s) to support the only realistic solution, one democratic and secular state, called Israel-Palestine or Palestine-Israel."
"The proposed two-state solution is to all intents and purposes dead and is only used in order to provide Israel further breathing space to consolidate the illegal settlements and expand its land grab further."
"For these reasons," he said, he'd "abstain on Monday."
At the same time, if UK Parliament's vote kickstarts other EU states to follow suit, it's a good start toward recognizing Palestinian statehood officially.
It's just a matter of time!
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.
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