Photo: Reuters
Cameron and Abbas
Photo: Reuters

British MPs debate contentious motion on symbolic recognition of Palestine

Cameron to abstain from vote; motion from Labour backbencher has sparked controversy; chamber almost empty with many lawmakers from both sides absent from debate.

British Prime Minister David Cameron will abstain from a symbolic parliamentary vote Monday on whether the government should recognize Palestine as a state, his spokesman said.




Government ministers are also expected to abstain from the vote, that is unlikely to shift official policy but designed to raise the political profile of the issue.


"The government's approach is a long-standing one and is in support of a two-state solution and we will continue to work with a range of international partners - Israel, the Palestinian Authority - in support of that," Cameron's official spokesman was quoted by the BBC as saying.


The debate that preceded the vote took place in a House of Commons that was more than half-empty.  


Britain does not designate Palestine as a state, but says it could do so at any time if it believed it would help the long-running peace process between the Palestinians and Israel.


The motion in Britain's lower house of parliament, put forward by a lawmaker from the opposition Labour party, will ask parliamentarians whether they believe the government should recognize the state of Palestine.


It has the backing of the left-leaning Labour party's leadership which has told its lawmakers to vote in favor of the motion, an edict which has caused anger with some pro-Israel members of parliament set to rebel or stay away altogether.


David Cameron and Mahmoud Abbas (Archive photo: Reuters)
David Cameron and Mahmoud Abbas (Archive photo: Reuters)

According to the British media, some of the party's shadow ministers are outraged at being told by leader Ed Miliband how to vote on the issue, as they support recognition through as part of a peace agreement. They are reportedly considering a boycott on Monday should their lobbying to allow a free vote prove to be unsuccessful.


British newspaper the Independent quoted a senior pro-Israel MP as saying that, "To say that there is a row going on it putting it very mildly. People are furious. This is an attempt to rip up 13 years of carefully calibrated policy. It total madness and makes the prospect of peace less rather than more likely.”


Other parties are allowing their lawmakers to vote according to their own consciences.


Even if a majority of the House of Commons' 650 lawmakers do back the motion, it is non-binding and would not force the British government to changes its diplomatic stance.


Sayeeda Warsi, a lawmaker from Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative party who quit her ministerial post in August after accusing the government of taking a "morally indefensible" approach to the conflict between Israel and Hamas, said she hoped the motion would pass.


“There is a lack of political will and our moral compass is missing,” the former Foreign Office minister said of the government's policies towards Israel and Palestine.


UK parliament (Photo: AP) (Photo: AP)
UK parliament (Photo: AP)


“There are no negotiations, there is no show in town. Somehow we have to breathe new life into these negotiations, and one of the ways we can do that is by recognizing the state of Palestine,” she told The Observer newspaper on Sunday.


The debate comes as Sweden's new center-left government is set to officially recognize Palestine, a move that has been criticized by Israel.


The UN General Assembly approved the de facto recognition of the sovereign state of Palestine in 2012 but the European Union and most EU countries, including Britain, have yet to give official recognition.


The Palestinians want an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza, with its capital in East Jerusalem.


While Gaza's boundaries are clearly defined, the precise territory of what would constitute Palestine in the West Bank and East Jerusalem will only be determined via negotiations with Israel on a two-state solution, negotiations which are currently on hold. 

Ynetnews contributed to this report.


פרסום ראשון: 10.13.14, 10:24
 new comment
This will delete your current comment