Voting to Recognise Palestine as a State

Last night I voted for the UK Government to recognise Palestine as a state, because it strongly reflects my support for the principle of recognition of Palestinian statehood.  The vote was overwhelming won by 274 votes to 12.

I believe that Palestinian statehood is not a gift to be given but a right to be recognised and that is why since 2011 Labour has supported Palestinian recognition at the United Nations.

I fully support two states living side by side in peace and recognised by all of their neighbours, and it is clear that the events of recent months only underline the dangers for both Palestinians and Israelis of a resumption of violence and bloodshed.

I am clear that this conflict will only be resolved through negotiations. However after decades of diplomatic failure there are those on all sides that today question whether a two-state solution is any longer possible.

That is why I believe that, amidst the undoubted despair and the disappointment, the international community must take concrete steps to strengthen moderate Palestinian opinion, encourage the Palestinians to take the path of politics, reject the path of violence, and rekindle hopes that there is a credible route to a viable Palestinian state and a secure Israel achieved by negotiations.

Furthermore, recognising Palestine is to recognise the Palestinian right to self-determination. Palestine has acquired the attributes of a state and is ready for statehood.

We are clear that Palestinian recognition at the UN would be such a step. That is why Labour called on the then Foreign Secretary, William Hague, in 2011 and in 2012 to commit Britain to supporting the Palestinians’ bid for recognition at the UN, not a means of bypassing the need for talks, but as a bridge for restarting them.

Labour’s consistent support for the principle of recognising Palestinian statehood, as part of continuing steps to achieve a comprehensive negotiated two state solution, and my personal belief in equality for both negotiating sides is why I voted to support the principle of Palestinian statehood when the House of Commons debated the issue last night.

As you may be aware, I visited the West Bank and Israel with the Council for Arab-British Understanding (CAABU) in December 2012. I wanted to see for myself the situation on the ground. In my article following the visit I spoke about the injustices, frustration and indignity that many Palestinian people face on a daily basis. I also spoke about the wishes most ordinary Palestinians and Israelis I met with had, to live in peace.

In the most recent debate in Parliament on this issue on 10th September, I said,

“We should be demanding more, not just from Israeli leaders, but from the Palestinian leaders of Hamas and Fatah, as they are not blameless. Leaders on both sides have let down their people, but there is hope and I believe that ordinary people will prevail. I was sincerely moved by the real desire of ordinary Palestinians and Israelis for peace. In the long term they will prevail.”

My support of the motion to recognise Palestine as a state in its own right reflects my faith in the Palestinian people. We need their moderate leaders to come forward and, together, unite for peace across Palestine and Israel. An end to terror, blockade and occupation is the only path towards a negotiated two state solution that can bring lasting security and justice to the Israeli and Palestinian people.

A future Labour government will want to embrace the principle of Palestinian statehood as soon as possible; but there is still much to do to make this happen. I look forward to taking this forward with my work in Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle East, in the months to come.

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