Recognising Palestine is about the recognition of Palestinian rights and self-determination. As the former Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander said in 2012, statehood is not “a gift to be given, but a right to be recognised”. Labour Friends of Palestine supports the immediate recognition of Palestine as reflected in Labour’s 2017 manifesto.
Recognition is a policy decision for the UK Government and there is nothing to stop the current Government from granting diplomatic recognition to Palestine, should they wish – indeed 136 of the 193 UN Member States have already done so. Russia and China, 2 of the 5 permanent members of the UN Security Council have also recognised Palestinian statehood. In line with Labour’s 2017 manifesto, a Labour government would immediately recognise Palestine.
In October 2014, the House of Commons voted in favour of a motion calling on the UK Government to recognise the state of Palestine. The vote was passed by a majority of 262 votes. Years later, the UK Government still have yet to acknowledge that decision.
Over 100 years ago, the then British government issued the ‘Balfour Declaration’, which promised UK support for the creation of a Jewish national home in Palestine. The current British Government has an historic responsibility to uphold the second commitment in the Declaration, that “nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine”. That commitment remains unfulfilled. The Palestinian people continue to be denied basic rights – including self-determination – in contradiction of international law. This continued denial of rights remains one of the key causes of the conflict. A sustainable peace in the Middle East can only be built on the basis of equal rights for all and the self-determination of peoples on both sides. The UK Government should therefore recognise the State of Palestine alongside Israel and press for international law to be upheld in the search for a just and lasting peace.
Why UK recognition of Palestine is so important:
- Britain has already accepted Palestine’s right to statehood and has an historic responsibility for the region.
- Palestine has all the attributes of a state with functioning institutions worthy of a state – Both the World Bank and the IMF have reported that Palestine’s institutions are ready. The British government accepted at the time that this was the case.
- Recognition of Palestine does not prejudice negotiation and final agreement on borders – As it stands the internationally recognised borders of the state of Israel are not the same as those Israel defines for itself. For example, Israel considers all of Jerusalem to be within its borders whereas the UK, in common with other countries, only recognizes West Jerusalem as part of Israel. The UK acknowledges that Israel has de facto control of East Jerusalem but not de jure Israeli control there. These differences are not any impediment to continuing UK recognition of Israel as a state and they do not prejudice final status negotiations on Jerusalem or borders. Recognition of Palestine by the UK would not prejudice these things either.
- Israel should have no right of veto over the right of Palestinians to self-determination – Bilateral recognition of Palestine is something the UK can do bilaterally. Israel has objected to Palestine being recognised as a state. It states that this should be an outcome of negotiations. There are currently no negotiations and the peace process has been stalled for long enough while the viability and contiguity of any potential Palestinian state are eroded by Israeli authorities on the ground. Recognising Israel was not subject to negotiation and neither should recognition of Palestine.
- Recognising Palestine would balance recognition of Israel – The UK recognised Israel in 1950, it did not ask Palestinian permission to do so. It is time to recognise Palestine without having to ask Israel’s permission to do so. Palestinians have been denied the rights and freedoms accorded to citizens of a state. For example, they do not have a fully accredited Embassy in the United Kingdom. They do not have passports recognised the world over. This has been the case now for over 60 years.