On Oct 13th 2014 British MPs voted in favour of recognising Palestine as a state alongside Israel. The House of Commons backed the move “as a contribution to securing a negotiated two-state solution”
The full motion stated: “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 result, 274 for to 12 against, is symbolic but could have international implications.
Grahame Morris MP who sponsored the debate referred to Britain’s historical responsibility and the obligation to atone for its failure to fulfil its mandate: (For the full transcript see Hansard)
Grahame M. Morris (Easington) (Lab):…”As the originator of the Balfour declaration and holder of the mandate for Palestine, Britain has a unique historical connection and, arguably, a moral responsibility to the people of both Israel and Palestine. In 1920, we undertook a sacred trust—a commitment to guide Palestinians to statehood and independence. That was nearly a century ago, and the Palestinian people are still to have their national rights recognised. This sacred trust has been neglected for far too long. As the hon. Lady has just said, we have an historic opportunity to atone for that neglect, and take this small but symbolically important step.”
Other MPs speaking in the debate highlighted Britain’s obligation following the Balfour Declaration and the broken trust of its unfulfilled mandate.
Here are a few quotes from the debate which highlighted the recognition that the onus remains upon Britain to show leadership in seeking a just resolution for Palestine and Israel.
Sir Nicolas Soames (Mid Sussex) (Con): “This House should need no reminding of the terms of the Balfour declaration, which rightly endorsed “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people” but went on to state that “nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine”. Ninety-seven years later, the terms of the Balfour declaration are clearly not upheld with respect to the Palestinians, and in Britain that should weigh very heavily upon us indeed.
Mr David Ward (Bradford East) (LD): “…..Israel is in breach of the contract set out in the Balfour declaration stating that “nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine”.
Julie Elliott (Sunderland Central) (Lab): “….As has already been said, after the Balfour declaration—which was not carried through entirely—we as a country have a bit of a moral obligation to give our support.”
Andy McDonald (Middlesbrough) (Lab): “…….the Balfour declaration of November 1917 made it abundantly clear that, while this country would use its best endeavours to establish a national home for the Jewish people, nothing would be done that might prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine. A national home for the Jewish people was of course created, but it cannot, on any reasonable interpretation, be said that the interests of the non- Jewish people have not been prejudiced. Palestinian people are prisoners in their own land.”
Mr Andy Slaughter (Hammersmith) (Lab): “…Finally, this country has a special duty here. It is easy to try to duck that duty. We are the authors of the Balfour declaration and we were the occupying power. Anybody who goes to the middle east knows—I am sure that the Minister would agree with me on this—that the views taken by the British Government and the British people run powerfully in the region. We should set an example.”