Parliament Palestine vote: Any real change?

After the UK Parliament approved the motion recognising the state of Palestine, Israel condemned the decision as “undermining chances for peace”, while others labelled it as purely symbolic. Labour MP for Lewisham Deptford Joan Ruddock explains how the debate developed and why she voted yes

The motion approved by UK Parliament on Monday 13 October states: “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 relationship between Palestine and Israel is too complex to be solved with a vote. It is a step forward nonetheless, and it could pressure the two countries to find an agreement and peacefully coexist with one another.

The motion is non-binding. Prime Minister David Cameron abstained and specified that the UK government foreign policy “won’t be changing” despite the vote. But it does stimulate the discussion.

After last summer’s 50–day war, a need to stop the on-going conflict seemed to grow stronger than ever, with politicians on both sides openly speaking for peace. Conservative chairman of the foreign affairs select committee Richard Ottaway voted in favour of the motion. He was “outraged” by Israeli annexation of 950 acres in the West Bank area.

Labour MP Joan Ruddock also voted yes, “the recognition of Palestine as a state is important in the search for an agreed two state solution,” she told WNOL.

The MP has been involved in the debate for some years now and visited Palestine in 2012 as part of a delegation from the All-Party Palestine Group. In her speech to Parliament following her journey, she stated that what must prevail is the rule of justice. Ruddock had “no doubt that it does within Israel itself” although it “cannot be said to be true of justice within Palestine”.

Ruddock told WNOL the discussion developed after a “support for a two state solution” grew in the Parliament, adding that finally the All-Party Palestine Group and the Labour Party “have identified with the Palestinian cause”.

UK MPs “were taking their lead from the Palestinians who have mounted the campaign for recognition within the UN,” Ruddock says. Even though “most of us have supported Palestine all our lives”, she says, there are some who are “new to the issue”.

According to Ruddock, the process to recognise the State of Palestine has gone down a slow and difficult path, due to some “vested interests” originally in the UK and now primarily in the USA.

The MP thinks the UK “should always be on the side of justice for the Palestinians and security for both sides”, regardless of political benefits.

The United States has played a major role in the international conversation and the Israel-Palestine conflict. On Thursday 16 October, US Secretary of State John Kerry blamed the war for helping ISIS recruitment.

According to Ruddock, “it’s possible that some Islamic extremists may use the conflict as an excuse” for expanding their reach. However, “the greatest incentive for ISIS was the behaviour of the West towards Iraq and the establishment of a Shiite government that gave no place to Sunnis,” she explains.

The debate is now open in many countries and it is likely that increasing governments will express their opinion on the recognition of Palestine in the near future.

As David Cameron made clear though, the vote does not necessarily change a country’s foreign policy.

Palestine and Israel “actually have quite a lot in common and have coexisted” in the past, as MP Joan Ruddock says. But finding an answer to bring peace between the two nations is not as simple.

In her view the best way to achieve a substantial result is for Western countries to “talk openly with Hamas”. A key factor in the conversation would be the US, “which could force Israel to the table” to finally find an agreement.

Words: Giulia Poloni 

Pictures: UK Parliament

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