The Israeli embassy in London reacted harshly to Monday’s non-binding vote in the House of Commons urging “the government to recognize the State of Palestine alongside the State of Israel.”
“The route to Palestinian statehood runs through the negotiation room,” read the embassy’s statement. “Premature international recognition sends a troubling message to the Palestinian leadership that they can evade the tough choices that both sides have to make, and actually undermines the chances to reach a real peace. Recognition of a Palestinian state should be the result of a successful conclusion of direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.”
The motion, unlikely to change government policy, was passed by 274 in favor to 12 votes against, and was advocated as a “contribution to securing a negotiated two-state solution.”
Palestine Liberation Organization Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi said the vote was “both a principled decision and a significant step towards justice and peace.”
“Our right to self-determination has never been up to negotiations,” she said in a statement released by the PLO. “The recognition of Palestine is not contingent upon on the outcome of negotiations with Israel and certainly not something we will trade for; this claim is not only unfair, but immoral.
“This vote sends the right message to the British government and the rest of Europe— it will enhance the European voices calling for the recognition of Palestine and will create the right environment for the international community to grant the Palestinian people legal parity and rights.”
Two leading British bishops involved in foreign affairs, one Anglican and the other Catholic, welcomed the vote.
“Given the benchmarks established by international law and universal legitimacy, and in light of the support offered by the Christian Church in the Holy Land, we believe Palestinians should also have a state that they can at long last call home,” read a statement signed by Lord Bishop Christopher Cocksworth, Church of England’s Lead Bishop for Foreign Affairs, and Catholic Bishop Declan Lang, Chair of the Bishops’ Conference Department of International Affairs, according to Independent Catholic News. “Such a principled recognition by our Parliament and Government will facilitate rather than hamper the negotiations that would inevitably follow between Israelis and Palestinians to agree upon the details of this new and sovereign state created next to a secure Israel.”
The House of Commons debate was watched around the world after Sweden drew anger from Israel this month for saying it would recognize Palestine.
As the debate was initiated by a backbencher, Grahame Morris from the main opposition Labour party, the government was not bound to act on its results.
During the debate, Middle East Minister Tobias Ellwood said that a Palestinian state would only be recognized at the appropriate moment.
“The aspirations of the Palestinian people cannot be fully realised until there is an end to the occupation… and we believe this will only come through negotiations,” Ellwood said.
“Only an end to the occupation will ensure that Palestinian statehood becomes a reality on the ground.
“The UK will bilaterally recognise a Palestinian state when we judge that it can best help bring about the peace.”
Members of the government, which backs a two-state solution, had said they would abstain from the vote, Prime Minister David Cameron’s official spokesman said.
Morris said Britain had a “moral responsibility” to act because of its history as colonial power in the region.
“It’s absolutely clear that Israel-Palestine relations are stuck at an impasse, as is our foreign policy,” Morris said as he opened the debate.
“Both of these impasses must be broken. We hear a great deal of talk about the two-state solution but today, through validating both states, members will have the opportunity to translate all of that principled talk into action.”
Before the debate, a handful of protestors gathered in pouring rain outside the Houses of Parliament, where they had erected a giant banner saying: “Yes Vote for a Palestinian State”.
“If there is a state, the aggression would stop and the healing could begin,” said one of them, Eddie Clarke.
The Palestinian Authority estimates that 134 countries have recognised Palestine as a state, although the number is disputed and several recognitions by what are now European Union member states date to the Soviet era.
Britain abstained in 2012 from a vote in the United Nations on giving the Palestinians the rank of observer state, which was granted over the objections of the United States and Israel.