By Kerry-anne Mendoza
Oct 14, 2014
The UK Parliament voted in a landslide 274-12 on the evening of Monday 13th October to unilaterally recognise the state of Palestine.
The House of Commons debated on a substantive motion: “That this House calls on the government to recognise the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel”
What Does It Mean?
The debate was a Backbench Business Debate (BBD). Backbench MPs can make applications for debates and the Backbench Business Committee (BBC) decides on whether to allow the debate time in parliament. It is the BBC who are responsible for making the debate happen.
The application was originally presented to the BBC on 8th April 2014. They deferred their decision until after recess. Sources within Westminster told Scriptonite Daily that the primary reason for this was a rival application submitted by a coalition of Labour, Lib Dem and Tory friends of Israel.
Grahame Morris MP (Labour) re-presented the application again last Tuesday with the support of two Lead Members: Sarah Teather MP (LIB) and Crispin Blunt MP (CON). Labour’s Gerald Kaufman MP joined Morris, and the pair persuasively argued the case for the debate.
It’s the government, not the House that recognises states. Plus, it’s a BBD so the motions are none binding. Essentially, the vote is a clear expression of the will of the House.
It is a PR disaster for the government, to refuse to recognise Palestine while an almost complete majority of MPs expressed the opposite view.
It will put pressure on Labour to back up Douglas Alexander’s stance that a future Labour government would recognise the state of Palestine, after the UK government abstained on the 2012 UN General Assembly vote.
The government will also have to clarify their position. While paying lip service to the notions of Palestinian statehood, the coalition government have contradicted this in actions, such as the decision to abstain on the 2012 UN vote.
This is in line with the policy of US President Barack Obama who has also made repeated public appeals for the two-state solution, while veto-ing Palestine’s bid to become a member of the United Nations. He publicly criticized Israel for expanding its illegal settlement construction, yet vetoed a planned UN Security Council Resolution to tackle the problem.
This vote is intended to put some space between UK and US policy on the matter.
Speaking before the vote, Labour’s Grahame Morris MP told Scriptonite Daily:
“I’m delighted that we have secured this debate. Abstaining on the recognition of the state of Palestine in the UN General Assembly was an utterly shameful act that placed the UK on the wrong side of history.
The consensus from all Westminster parties is that the only resolution to the Israel-Palestine conflict is a just peace founded on a two-state solution. So far, this has been government policy in rhetoric only.
We know that only independence and sovereignty for Palestine can save the two-state solution. We hear a lot of talk in support of the peace process but on October 13th MPs will have the opportunity to back up their words with actions.”
The Bottom Line
In my view, the two-state solution is dead in the water – and would be a mistake even if it was still plausible.
Firstly, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu once again publicly promised to oppose the creation of a Palestinian state as recently as July this year. Telling a press conference on July 11th:
“There cannot be a situation, under any agreement, in which we relinquish security control of the territory west of the River Jordan,”
If Israel doesn’t relinquish security control, Palestinians cannot establish a state. The alternative, then, would be a single state in which Palestinians are second class citizens, under occupation and without democratic rights.
“That sentence, quite simply, spells the end to the notion of Netanyahu consenting to the establishment of a Palestinian state,” summed up Times of Israel editor David Horovitz, whom Ha’aretz described as a Netanyahu supporter.
So long as Israel remains wedded to the Zionist notion of a Jewish state, it will have to maintain its occupation of the Palestinians, in order to a) avoid the demographic realities that would undermine the racial character of the state, and b) avoid the democratic realities that would undermine the racial character of the state.
Secondly, there is a matter of principle here too. When we were calling for the end of Apartheid South Africa, we did not suggest separation, giving the white establishment control of the territory they’d ethnically cleansed and colonized while granting black South Africans the bantustans and townships. Why would we do so here?
Thirdly, Israel is buckling internally under the weight of this racist project. As a prominent Jewish-Israeli activist within the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement told me in Tel Aviv:
The Zionist project, particularly in Palestine, is a supremacist project. It’s not only a colonialist movement in that it demands the theft of resources, natural and human, of the indigenous people…But also says that this land is ours and only ours; and if you are not part of us you don’t belong here”
The consequences of which have been described by Gideon Levy, esteemed Israeli journalist and editor of Ha’aretz, Israel’s oldest daily newspaper:
“All the seeds of the incitement of the past few years, all the nationalistic, racist legislation and the incendiary propaganda, the scare campaigns and the subversion of democracy by the right-wing camp – all these have borne fruit, and that fruit is rank and rotten. The nationalist right has now sunk to a new level, with almost the whole country following in its wake. The word “fascism,” which I try to use as little as possible, finally has its deserved place in the Israeli political discourse.”
So let’s be clear on what the real end goal needs to be: one secular state where citizens are granted equal rights and responsibilities, regardless of their race or religion.
In the meantime, anything that puts pressure on governments in the West to promote the rights of self-determination, cultural identity and recognition of the plight of the Palestinians is no bad thing.