By Richard Mather
So the ayes have it. British MPs have ignored the wishes of the Anglo-Jewish population and voted in favour of recognising Palestine as a state alongside Israel by 274 votes to 12.
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.”
The result is symbolic and is not binding on the current or future administrations, but it is a blow to the many British Jews who have lobbied their MPs to reject the motion. Opponents of the vote believe that a just settlement, which includes recognition of Israel by all countries in the Middle East, should be the aim of the British Parliament, not a unilateral declaration of statehood.
The Palestinian Authority has repeatedly refused to recognize Israel as a Jewish state and neighbouring Arab countries have failed to fulfil UN resolution 242, which calls for the exchange of land in return for peace and security.”
The motion was sponsored by a Palestinian lobby group called the Palestine All Party Parliamentary Group, co-chaired by the Conservative Arabist Crispin Blunt, a former chairman of the council for the Advancement of Arab-British Understanding.
Other sponsors of the motion included Liberal Democrat MP Sarah Teather, a supporter of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and an advocate of a European trade embargo against Israel. Graham Morris, Labour MP for Easingtom and chairman of the Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle East, also sponsored the bill. (This is a man who compares Zionism to Nazism.)
As well as causing distress to Britain’s Jews, the vote is damaging to the UK’s standing in the Middle East. No longer can London be a neutral party in Middle East peace talks. The recognition of Palestine, with no binding agreements with Israel and no international functions, is effectively acknowledging the legitimacy of Hamas to speak for the Palestinians in Gaza.
And so the Hamas-supporting demonstrators in Britain who boycott Jewish businesses and shout “Palestine will be free, from the river to the sea,” now have the tacit backing of the UK parliament. If British Jews are furious by the actions of MPs, they have every right to feel that way.