Today I will be introducing a motion on the floor of the House of Commons as follows: ‘That this House believes that the Government should recognise the State of Palestine alongside the State of Israel’
An amendment has been submitted by MPs described in the press as “friends of Israel”, which adds the words ‘, on the conclusion of successful peace negotiations between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority.’
“Friends of Israel” argue that the “unilateral” recognition of Palestine would lead to violence and encouragement to Palestinians not to pursue meaningful talks, on the Today programme on Saturday I described such arguments as “Red Herrings”.
This will be no unilateral action, to date 134 nations have recognised Palestine, out of 193 member countries of the United Nations. While on Friday 3 October, Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven announced that Sweden was to become the 135th country, I hope after the vote on Monday night, the UK Parliament will be calling on David Cameron to act now and for the UK to become the 136th country to recognise Palestine. Not least as the country of the Balfour Declaration and holder of the Palestine Mandate, we have an historic debt yet to be fulfilled.
Recognition of Palestine now would not lead to an upsurge of violence or negatively affect the search for meaningful talks.
All sides in the debate on Monday will argue the only solution to this conflict is one in which two states live side by side in mutual security and prosperity. Yet for Palestinians there are serious doubts that America and Europe are genuine in their commitment.
This summer we witnessed day after day and night after night the Gaza strip reduced to rubble; hospitals and clinics were destroyed or damaged, tens of thousands injured, at least 1,462 civilians killed, of whom 495 were children and 253 women.
In the Guardian, Sir Vincent Fean formerly HM Consul-General to the Occupied Palestinian Territories called for Palestinian Recognition now. He commented:
“Illegality of settlements, the separation barrier, and the demolition of Palestinian homes in Jerusalem and the West Bank are incontestable. UK foreign secretary Philip Hammond “deplored” the latest Israeli move, just as he found “ill-judged” Israel’s expropriation of 1,000 acres of Palestinian land near Bethlehem two months ago. We have deplored Israel’s actions frequently, to no avail.”
It is this inaction by the UK and other western governments over such events that has lead Palestinians to question if the international community is serious in assisting equitable and meaningful negotiations. This path of rhetorical condemnation only gives succour to anti-politics organisations and voices who argue Palestinian concessions have achieved nothing and that diplomacy and peaceful protest has failed.
Labour Leader Ed Miliband did not follow such a course, during the devastation of Gaza he made it clear that Israel had responded disproportionately. Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander has repeatedly stated that “Palestinian statehood is not a gift to be given but a right to be recognised” and supported Palestine’s bid for recognition at the UN. We must recognise Palestine now to show the Palestinians that the world and particularly the UK, Europe and the United States are serious about helping to find a negotiated two state solution fair to both parties.
By recognising Palestine now we give meaning to that two state solution by validating both sides equally. Showing Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, and indeed the wider diaspora that the path to final security and prosperity is through negotiating peacefully with Israel.
By recognising Palestine we show Israel that our actions must be driven by doing what is right and just. This is not an anti-Israel action, but one that can help rekindle the peace process and therefore be as much a benefit to Israel as to Palestine.
I hope today, “Friends of Israel” vote in favour of my motion for Palestinian Recognition Now, as I truly believe it is to the benefit of both peoples.
Grahame Morris is MP Easington, County Durham and Chair of Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle East