Jack Straw writes to MPs to urge them to support the Palestinian statehood bid. His letter his published in full below:
Dear Member of Parliament
I haven’t signed an EDM for many years but last week I decided to break the habit of (nearly) a political lifetime by putting my name to EDM 2135 on the United Nations’ vote on Palestine. I did this because of the urgency of making it clear both to the Government and to my constituents how important it is that we, as a country, make the right decision on this. I refer to the vote in the UN to recognise Palestine as an independent state alongside Israel and to admit it to the United Nations. This vote will take place most probably in late September or at all events before Parliament resumes.
The Foreign Secretary will have, shortly, to decide how to cast the UK’s vote. Like any sensible Foreign Secretary, he will be taking account of the strength of Parliamentary sentiment. If you share my view, would you please sign EDM 2135 if you have not already done so or, if you are unable to sign EDMs, speak or write to the Foreign Secretary directly? We already know the public’s view – an opinion poll based on a large sample of UK voters last week showed that well over half thought the UK should vote in favour of a UN resolution to recognise a Palestinian state and nearly three quarters thought the Palestinians should have a state of their own.
MPs may agree or disagree, but it is important they are not left without a voice on this issue.
I’m as firm as anyone about Israel’s rights to security, as a sovereign state. We all understand the fears that Israelis have for their security, but it will not enhance their security to deny the right of self-determination permanently to the Palestinians. The World Bank, the UN, the EU and the IMF have all assessed the progress of the Palestinian Authority and judged it to be ready for statehood.
In his speech to the UN last year President Obama looked forward to welcoming “an independent sovereign state of Palestine” as a new member of the United Nations by September 2011 – a target that was endorsed by the EU and the Quartet.
It is a matter of great regret that peace talks have broken down, but it would not be right to blame the Palestinians who have shown themselves flexible and ready to make concessions.
It is vital now that the UK and other European countries have the courage to point the way forward. I believe the way forward is for the International community to recognise a Palestinian state alongside Israel and to admit it to the UN.
This is the best way to get peace talks started again.
We hear the cry that this would be a unilateral declaration of independence by the Palestinians. If it were, it would not be so different from the previous unilateral declarations of independence by the new Israeli state in 1948 or, much longer ago, by the US. But in fact the UN vote would be a multilateral recognition by the international community that the Palestinians should have a state of their own and – even if they do not yet de facto control their own territory – they should be recognised de jure as an independent state. Recognition is, as Ban Ki-Moon said last week, “long overdue”.
In the original UN vote on the recognition of Israel in 1948, Britain abstained. That was a wrong decision. Britain should have voted to recognise Israel. We should not repeat or compound that mistake by refusing to recognise the other half of that equation – a Palestinian state.
Whether you consider yourself “pro-Israeli” or “pro-Palestine”, or even if you prefer not to get involved in the Middle East, this is a time when you need to stand up and be counted. It’s not a question of backing one side or the other, but of clearing the way for negotiations between two neighbouring independent countries on a basis of equality.
You can sign EDM 2135 at the Table Office until Thursday. After that you can still indicate your support by emailing the sponsors at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com It may be an important indication of parliamentary opinion when the vital votes are taken at the UN.