It was overwhelming. British MPs voted 274 to 12 this week in support of a motion to recognize Palestine as a state. The vote was only symbolic, as it isn't binding on the government, nonetheless it sends a clear message on how sentiment is going in the UK and elsewhere on the Palestine issue.
MPs from both sides of the House supported the motion, some making it very clear why. Conservative chairman of the foreign affairs select committee, Richard Ottaway, long a strong supporter of Israel, said, "The annexation of the 950 acres of the West Bank just a few months ago has outraged me more than anything else in my political life. It has made me look a fool and that is something I deeply resent."
Although the vote does not bind the government, it should accept the clear will of the House of Commons and officially recognize the State of Palestine, as134 other countries have done. And so should our government. We, like the UK, believe in a two-state solution to the Palestine issue. It is simply churlish therefore not to accept Palestine's peaceful accession to statehood. Instead we adopt uncritically the Israeli line that a Palestinian state only be recognized at the successful conclusion of negotiations between the two sides. But as former British foreign minister Jack Straw said this week, "Such an approach would give the Israelis a veto over whether a Palestinian state should exist." And as Palestine has no veto over a Jewish state, it is pure hypocrisy to allow Israel a veto over a Palestinian state.
Furthermore, all the leverage in negotiations lies with the Israelis. They have the most powerful military in the region, equipped with nuclear weapons and backed up by the most powerful nation in the world. And they control most of the territory and the water. When one side holds all the cards, demanding the other party negotiate with them is nothing more than demanding they submit, that they accept any crumbs they're offered. Naturally, this holds little appeal for the Palestinians.
The British MPs have done the right thing. Now it is up to their government to follow suit. And for ours as well.