The House of Commons backed the move “as a contribution to securing a negotiated two-state solution” – although less than half of MPs took part in the vote.
The result, 274 to 12, is symbolic but could have international implications.
Ministers abstained on the vote, on a motion put forward by Labour MP Grahame Morris and amended by former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw.
…The full motion stated: “That this House believes that the government should recognise the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel as a contribution to securing a negotiated two-state solution.”
Explaining Labour’s support, shadow foreign minister Ian Lucas said it would “strengthen the moderate voices among the Palestinians who want to pursue the path of politics, not the path of violence”.
“This is not an alternative to negotiations. It is a bridge for beginning them,” he said.
Conservative Nicholas Soames said: “I’m convinced that to recognise Palestine is both morally right and is in our national interest.”
Another former foreign secretary, Conservative MP Sir Malcolm Rifkind, said he too wanted to see a two-state solution but added: “Symbolism sometimes has a purpose. It sometimes has a role. But I have to say you do not recognise a state which has not yet got the fundamental ingredients that a state requires if it’s going to carry out its international functions and therefore, at the very least, I would respectfully suggest this motion is premature.”
Britain is now one of over 100 countries who have cast a symbolic vote to recognize the State of Palestine. While the vote carries no real power over foreign policy, it is an undeniable push for a two-state solution in the face of what many see to be a failed peace process on the part of America and Israel.
“That awkward moment when Palestinians praise the old colonialist empire for giving it recognition,” noted Zionist Chloe Valdary commented via social media.
Speaking to the Jerusalem Post, Matthew Gould, the UK Ambassador to Israel, commented that the vote is a “strong indication of public opinion,” remarking:
“As the guardian of the relationship between the countries, I worry about the direction of public opinion in the absence of progress to the peace peace. I worry about the impact of settlement announcements on public opinion and I worry where that will leave the relationship in the future. …friends of Israel should take note of the debate and what it signifies.”
Gould indicated concern over what “instructions may be given” in the future if settlement activity does not come to a halt.
The real question is, what does “settlement activity” truly mean? While the British Parliament is only the latest in a litany of government bodies voting to recognize a Palestinian state, their vote comes only days after the White House’s staunch reaction against the sale of East Jerusalem homes to Jews. In fact, the British vote makes White House press secretary Josh Earnest’s statement appear to be more like a threat:
“This step is contrary to Israel’s stated goal of negotiating a permanent status agreement with the Palestinians, and it would send a very troubling message if they were to proceed with tenders or construction in that area,” Earnest continued. “This development will only draw condemnation from the international community, distance Israel from even its closest allies, poison the atmosphere, not only with the Palestinians but also with the very Arab governments with which Prime Minister Netanyahu said he wanted to build relations.”
“It also would call into question Israel’s ultimate commitment to peaceful negotiated settlement with the Palestinians.”
In a “clarifying” statement, State Department press secretary Jen Psaki referred to the sale of East Jerusalem apartments by Arabs to Jews as “settlement activity” and a “provocative action”.