Israel responds to symbolic parliamentary support for Palestinian state

Israeli leaders reacted after MPs last night voted in favour of a symbolic backbench motion calling for the government to recognise a Palestinian state.

The motion that “this House believes that the government should recognise the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel” was carried by 274 in favour and 12 against, constituting less than half of all MPs. It included an amendment, tabled by figures including former Labour Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, adding that recognition should come “as a contribution to securing a negotiated two-state solution.” Arguing for the motion, Straw said “The only thing that the Israeli government… in its present demeanour… understands is pressure.” However, another former Foreign Secretary, Malcolm Rifkind said that although he supports a two-state solution, the motion was “premature” as you don’t “recognise a state which has not yet got the fundamental ingredients that a state requires.”

Middle East Minister Tobias Ellwood told the House that UK policy would not be altered by the motion, reiterating “The UK will bilaterally recognise a Palestinian state when we judge that it can best help bring about peace,” which “will only come through negotiations.” Britain’s Ambassador to Israel Matthew Gould similarly told Haaretz that UK policy remains unchanged, but warned, “This Parliamentary vote is a sign of the way the wind is blowing, and will continue to blow without any progress towards peace.”

Israel’s Embassy in London said that the vote “sends a troubling message to the Palestinian leadership” and reiterated that, “The route to Palestinian statehood runs through the negotiation room.”

Meanwhile, opposition and Labour leader Isaac Herzog said that yesterday’s vote “is another resounding failure by [Prime Minister] Netanyahu,” who he accused of failing “to realise that the huge political storm is approaching.” Maariv this morning quotes an Israeli diplomatic official who noted a shift in “these kinds of initiatives” from “civilian or academic organizations” to “parliaments and members of governments.”

Earlier this week though, 360 left-wing Israeli leaders called on MPs to support yesterday’s motion. They included former Meretz ministers Yossi Sarid and Ran Cohen, plus former MK Yael Dayan.

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