Parliament heard passionate pleas for the Palestinians to be granted recognition as a state and admission to the United Nations as MPs prepared for the conference season. Labour’s Sir Gerald Kaufman urged the Foreign Secretary to vote in support of the Palestinians when the UN meets in New York later this month and nearly 100 MPs of all parties have now signed a Commons motion calling on the UK to back the Palestinian state.
Middle East minister Alistair Burt told MPs at a special one-hour debate that the Government still has not made up its mind how to vote – saying it depended on the exact wording of the Palestinian motion which is expected to be tabled next week. The Palestinians can apply to the UN General Assembly for recognition as a state, giving them the right to attend UN meetings and join UN organisations, or they can apply to the UN Security Council for full membership.
Polls show that 71% of UK voters believe Palestine should be recognised as a state and even more in France and Germany but none of those three Governments has yet come out to support Palestine, and within the UK none of the main parties at Westminster has yet come out in favour of recognising Palestine at the UN next week.
This week former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw backed the Commons motion tabled by Labour’s Ann Clwyd calling for Palestinian admission to the UN along with former Conservative defence minister Nicholas Soames and a total of 58 Labour MPs, 13 Liberal Democrats, eight from the minor parties and four Conservatives.
In a letter to MPs he said: “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’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.”
He recalled that President Obama said in his speech to the UN last year that he looked forward to welcoming ‘an independent sovereign state of Palestine’ as a new member of the United Nations by September 2011. “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.”
Supporting the Palestinians in our picture are: (in the front row, left to right) Elfyn Llwyd (Plaid Cymru), Jim Fitzpatrick (Labour), Jeremy Corbyn (Labour), Cathy Jamieson (Labour), Bob Russell (Liberal Democrat(, Joan Ruddock (Labour), Sir Gerald Kaufman (Labour), (back row) AlexCunningham (Labour), Lisa Nandy (Labour), Ian Mearns (Labour), Virendra Sharma (Labour), Tony Lloyd (Labour), Andy Slaughter (Labour), Nia Griffith (Labour), Alan Whitehead (Labour, (middle row) Lyn Brown (Labour), Ann Clwyd (Labour), Jim Sheridan (Labour), (seated) Ann Begg (Labour).