Now is the time for fairness in the Middle East

If you believe in a two state solution in the Middle East we need to support the recognition of a Palestinian state. If you want the UK to recognise the state of Palestine, then vote for Labour at the next General Election. This isn’t a mere pitch for votes but a factual statement that has become all the more obvious in recent weeks.

On 13th October, British MPs got the first opportunity in five years to discuss Palestinian statehood. The debate was significant not just because it came in the aftermath of the horrific attacks on Gaza this summer, and after Swedenbecame the first major European country to recognise Palestine, but because MPs were able to vote that the UKGovernment should recognise the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel as part of a two state solution.

In 2012 the Tory-led government shamefully abstained at the UN General Assembly where countries overwhelmingly voted to give Palestine a non-member observer status. As theShadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander said at the time: “Palestinian statehood is not a gift to be given, but a right to be recognised.”

This view is shared by Ed Milliband who called on Israel to recognise the Palestinian right to statehood in his first speech after being elected leader in 2010. He also said he would “strain every sinew” to push for the Gaza blockade to be lifted. So the landmark vote gave Labour an opportunity to hold the government to account for its unwillingness to adequately condemn Israel for the slaughter of hundreds ofPalestinian civilians just a few months ago.

If Britain fully recognises Palestine, it would spur other major countries across Europe to do the same. The EU could then act as a broker for peace in the Israel-Palestine dispute with much more legitimacy. It would also send an important signal that democratic and peaceful political process is important and can deliver without resorting to violence.

Britain needs to take leadership in the Israel-Palestine conflict because the United States has failed to do so. And if we don’t, then we give legitimacy to extremists who say Palestinians can only achieve justice through violence. The rise of ISIS illustrates this point to brutal effect.

Although the recent parliamentary vote was largely symbolic, the Labour Party used the opportunity to send a signal to the world and provide the necessary leadership to end the grave injustice in the Middle East. From the reaction within Israel it was a significant move and a sign that it is time we stated unequivocally that Britain is also on the verge of recognising Palestinian statehood.