Cameron says Britain is mulling recognition of Palestinian state

Shortly before fourth Middle East trip, UK foreign secretary tells Conservative MPS that move could set stage for ‘irreversible progress to a two-state solution’ after ceasefire

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu  (right) meets with British Foreign Secretary David Cameron in Jerusalem, January 24, 2024 (Kobi Gideon/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) meets with British Foreign Secretary David Cameron in Jerusalem, January 24, 2024 (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

The UK is considering recognizing a Palestinian state as a way to apply pressure on Israel to accept a two-state solution after a ceasefire in Gaza, British Foreign Secretary David Cameron said at a Westminster reception Monday.

Speaking to the Conservative Middle East Council at the House of Commons, Cameron said such recognition – after Hamas releases all hostages – would represent “irreversible progress to a two-state solution and, crucially, the establishment of a Palestinian state.”

“We have a responsibility there because we should be starting to set out what a Palestinian state would look like; what it would comprise; how it would work,” he said. “As that happens, we, with allies, will look at the issue of recognizing a Palestinian state, including at the United Nations. This could be one of the things that helps to make this process irreversible.”

The Uk is pushing a five-point plan that would see an end to the fighting, the release of hostages held in Gaza, a “political horizon” for a two-state solution, and a technocratic Palestinian government that would run both Gaza and the West Bank. Hamas’s leaders would be expelled to another country.

Cameron mentioned ongoing efforts to end the war in Gaza, telling assembled lawmakers that “there is a path that we can now see opening up where we really can make progress, not just in ending the conflict, but progress in finding a political solution that can mean peace for years rather than peace for months.”

He also criticized Israel for failing to make headway toward an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying that despite the Jewish state’s rising standard of living over the past three decades, its failure to guarantee its citizens’ security meant that “for Israel… the last 30 years has been a failure.”

Israeli soldiers operate in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip in an undated photo released by the military on January 30, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Foreign Secretary’s speech reflected an op-ed he published the day before in The Mail on Sunday, in which he wrote that the UK must give the Palestinians “the political perspective of a credible route to a Palestinian state and a new future.”

“And it needs to be irreversible,” Cameron continued. “This is not entirely in our gift. But Britain and our partners can help by confirming our commitment to a sovereign, viable Palestinian state, and our vision for its composition. And, crucially, we must state our clear intention to grant it recognition, including at the United Nations.”

Cameron’s speech came shortly before his fourth visit to the region since his surprise appointment to the post of foreign secretary in November. He  headed for Oman on Tuesday, and a diplomatic official told The Times of Israel he would be in Beirut as well.

Cameron was in Israel just last week to discuss details of a deal to free hostages held by Hamas. He also stressed the need to move toward a sustainable ceasefire in meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Israel Katz.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with British Foreign Minister David Cameron in Jerusalem, January 24, 2024. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Earlier this month, Cameron told British lawmakers he was concerned that Israel may be violating international law in its Gaza campaign. However, the British Foreign Office has rejected South Africa’s accusation that Israel is committing “genocide” in Gaza.

The war in Gaza was triggered by Hamas’s brutal October 7 onslaught on southern Israel, which saw some 3,000 Hamas-led gunmen storm the Jewish state to murder nearly 1,200 people, mainly civilians, and take over 250 hostages of all ages, while committing numerous atrocities and engaging in rampant sexual violence.

Britain’s Foreign Secretary David Cameron leaves from 10 Downing Street in central London on December 5, 2023, after attending a cabinet meeting. (Ben Stansall/AFP)

The war has claimed the lives of over 26,000 Palestinians, according to the count of the Gaza Strip’s Hamas-controlled Health Ministry, which cannot be independently verified, and which does not distinguish between civilians and combatants. The Israeli Defense Forces say they have killed some 10,000 Hamas operatives, believed to comprise about 25% of the terror group’s fighters.

A former prime minister, Cameron has long supported a two-state solution plan, but resisted unilateral Palestinian moves toward statehood, such as the Palestinian Authority’s 2015 bid to join the International Criminal Court. In 2014, as prime minister, he abstained during a symbolic House of Commons vote to recognize Palestine, which passed by an overwhelming majority of 274-12.

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