dinsdag 14 oktober 2014
Bristish parliament votes in favor of recognition of the state of Palestine
Thousands demonstrated in London on 19 July 2014 against Israel's onslaught in Gaza (Photo: AP)
The British parliament voted Monday in favor of a non-binding motion to recognize the state of Palestine, in a majority vote of 274-12. The vote followed a debate that lasted nearly five hours. It has no practical significance since it does not oblige the British government to change its current policy of recognizing Palestine only after a peace deal is reached between Israel and the Palestinians.
The vote passed thanks to the Labour Party's mobilization, as well as the Conservative Party's virtual absence from the vote. Outside the Palace of Westminster over the course of the debate, a small group of Pro-Palestinian demonstrators held a banner saying "Time to start giving back what we had no right to take" – a reference to the 1917 Balfour Declaration in which the British government committed itself to establishing a "national home" for the Jewish people in Palestine.
The debate was opened by Grahame Morris, the head of the Labour Friends of Palestine lobby group, who tabled the motion. Most MPs of the Conservative Party and the government's ministers abstained from participating in the debate. One of the Conservatives who announced that he would be voting in favor of recognizing Palestine despite his party's position, was Nicholas Soame, the grandson of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's hero, Winston Churchill.
A former foreign secretary of the Conservative Party, Malcolm Rifkind, one of the most veteran Jewish MPs, said that the "premature" recognition would mean "just 24 hours of public relations," but would have no effect on the ground in the Middle East. Another long-serving Jewish MP and a fierce critic of Israel, Labour's Gerald Kaufman, said that Israel was not acting "in a Jewish way," that its actions are encouraging anti-Semitism and that British recognition of Palestine would be "a game-changer." Labour's shadow Middle East minister, Ian Lucas, expressed his party's support for the motion, but also emptied it of practical significance by saying that "it was a matter for the government to decide when to recognize."
Matthew Gould, Britain’s ambassador in Tel Aviv, confirmed after the result that British policy on recognition remains unchanged, but warns that the issues raised by the Commons motion should not be dismissed out of hand. “Separate from the narrow question of recognition, I am concerned in the long run about the shift in public opinion in the U.K. and beyond towards Israel,” says Gould. “Israel lost support after this summer’s conflict, and after the series of announcements on settlements. This Parliamentary vote is a sign of the way the wind is blowing, and will continue to blow without any progress towards peace.”
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