There was an historic vote in the House of Commons on Monday.
By 274 votes to just 12 against, the Commons resolved “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 last section was added by me, with the agreement of the mover of the motion. As well as the overwhelming vote, the debate was significant for wide cross-party support.
The fact that the Israeli Embassy invested so much abortive effort to see the motion kicked into touch underlines its importance.
When I first became interested in the Middle East, in the 60s, international sympathy lay very much on the side of Israel. The left, especially, was on Israel’s side in the 1967 “six-day” war.
The events of the last 40 years have, changed that basic assumption and Monday’s debate was illustrative of that fact.
Much of the international community is now, bluntly, fed up of Israel saying one thing about a so-called “two-state solution” (by which both a state of Israel and Palestine is established and recognised) and then proceeding illegally to annex more Palestinian land. Each time they do so making the chances of a settlement along those lines ever more unlikely.
On top of that, the conflict in Gaza over the summer, in which Israel employed disproportionate force, leading to the deaths of over 2000 Palestinians, compared to around 70 Israelis, has damaged the international respect for the Netanyahu Administration still further.
Of course Israel retains a strong ally in the US. All who spoke in the Commons on Monday fully support an Israeli state – but within agreed borders. It is time that the international community did not just mouth words about a state of Palestine, and took action to ensure a two state solution remains possible. That, in my judgement, was the purpose and effect of Monday’s debate. While the vote does not bind the UK Government it does, however, send a powerful message.