On 13 October, MPs voted to recognise the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel.
The motion, proposed by Labour MP Grahame Morris, was passed by 274 votes to 12. It is an additional commitment to a two-state settlement for Israel-Palestine of this and the last government .
In 2012, when the UN General Assembly voted on whether to recognise the Palestinian state, the UK was one of the 41 nations which abstained. Nine voted against, 138 in favour – but the nine included Israel and the US, the two states with an ability to bring justice to the Palestinians.
As Morris put it:
“I believe the government’s abstention on the vote for Palestinian statehood in the UN general assembly in 2012 was an utterly shameful act that placed Britain on the wrong side of history.
“... for too long the international community has cruelly refused the Palestinian people this right and by doing so has hindered the realisation of peace and security in the region.
“The two-state solution has been Britain’s stated policy aim for decades, but in politics talk often comes cheap. So far the government’s support for a two-state solution has been in rhetoric only.”
Earlier this month Sweden's government became the first in Europe to formally recognise Palestine.
A vote in the UK Parliament, like the previous vote at the UN, will not change much immediately, but has important symbollic weight. It could add to international pressure on Israel to negotiate for a genuine two-state settlement.
While much of the left in UK and a number of UK trade unions have campaigned for solidarity with Palestine, solidarity has often focused only on simple condemnation of Israel and boycotts of Israeli goods, companies and so on or of stores deemed to be “conneceted” to Israel, such as Marks and Spencer. Such a stance ignores many questions including, ending Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and the necessity of uniting Palestinian and Israeli workers.
The vote has the advantage of being a clear demand for an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. It implies the need for a generous settlement from both Israel and internationally towards the Palestinians.
Such a settlement would be a significant step forward for the Palestinians.