Speed Reads

Israel and Palestine

Britain's Parliament votes to recognize state of Palestine

On Monday night, Britain's lower house of Parliament voted, 274 to 12, to pass a nonbinding resolution granting diplomatic recognition to a Palestinian state. Prime Minister David Cameron's government doesn't have to act on the resolution, but the lopsided support from all parties demonstrates the widespread frustration, especially in Europe, at the breakdown in Israel-Palestinian talks and simmering anger over Israel's bombing of Gaza over the summer. About half of the 650-seat House of Commons abstained from the vote.

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The resolution was put forward by Grahame Morris, a Labour lawmaker who leads a group called Labour Friends of Palestine. But there was plenty of Conservative support. Nicholas Soames, a Conservative lawmaker and grandson of Winston Churchill, argued that "to recognize Palestine is both morally right and is in our national interest." And Richard Ottoway, the Tory chairman of the House of Commons foreign affairs committee, said that while he has "stood by Israel through thick and thin, through the good years and the bad," things have to change:

Under normal circumstances, I would oppose the motion tonight; but such is my anger over Israel's behavior in recent months that I will not oppose the motion. I have to say to the government of Israel that if they are losing people like me, they will be losing a lot of people. [Ottoway, via The New York Times]

A spokesman for Israel's foreign ministry, Paul Hirschson, criticized Britain's vote, noting that "there's no legal weight behind" the resolution, saying it still "sours" relations between Israel and longtime ally Britain, and accusing Europe of "playing to the Arab world" for financial gain. "Europe is in terrible economic condition, and they have to trade with the Arab world," he told The New York Times.

Several European Union nations are considering formally recognizing a State of Palestine, as a way to further negotiations toward a two-state solution, and two weeks ago Sweden pledged to jump in first. If that seems like a radical step, Europe and the U.S. are in the clear minority. Of 193 U.N. member states, 134 recognize a State of Palestine. This map, from Quartz, shows who (and where) they are. --Peter Weber