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Sun, 14 April 2024

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It’s time for the UK to recognise a Palestinian state

(Alamy)

3 min read

Having just returned from four days in Israel-Palestine, it is clear to me that we need the international community to take serious action. Not just to secure a ceasefire and release hostages in the short term, but to create a political horizon that will lead to a long-term political resolution to the conflict.

The Israel-Palestine conflict has been long neglected and ignored by the international community. It is that stagnation of the conflict that is a significant contributor to the terrible situation the region finds itself in today. The status quo has brought neither security for Israel nor dignity and freedom for the Palestinian people.  

The past four months have reminded us all that there is only one way to end this conflict, which is through a political, not military, resolution. The recognition of Palestine is a key part of that political process and one that a UK government should fully endorse and support.
Recognition is a very clear, tangible action that the UK government could undertake along with other allies that would send a message to both Israelis and Palestinians that the international community will accept nothing less than the creation of a Palestinian state. It would build some much-needed confidence among Palestinian people that they are not being forgotten in the process. 

The time for empty vacuous statements of condemnation is over

There is a grave danger that if a ceasefire is negotiated that does not end with any kind of political horizon to statehood, the combination of hopelessness and devastation will be a breeding ground for hard-line and extremist ideas. 

Recognition would also provide the Palestinian Authority (PA) with much-needed credibility as a non-violent governing body. As things stand, the PA has nothing to show for engaging in diplomacy. There is no benefit to Israel’s security for the PA to be a weakened governing institution. Recognition of Palestine could help tip the scales in the opposite direction. This would result in a clear material security benefit for Israel. 

It is essential that statehood recognition is not an empty vessel; the day after the United Kingdom or the United States recognises Palestine there will still be an occupation and little will change for Palestinians on the ground. 

In order for statehood recognition to actually serve a positive influence, alongside recognition we will need clear policies that will lead to de-occupation.  The entry bans and sanctions on extremist settlers should be just the beginning. Having witnessed first-hand this past week the devastation that settlers are causing in parts of the West Bank, I am convinced we need clear signals that this is unacceptable and incompatible with statehood. The UK government should look to extend and expand the sanctions regime as quickly and as widely as possible to bolster statehood recognition. 

The time for empty, vacuous statements of condemnation is over. We need clear and consistent UK policy that will help set the region on a better path. We may not have leaders in the region that we would choose, but that should not stop the UK from pursuing actions that properly reflect our long-standing foreign policy. 

The fact that, for so long, we have on paper been committed to two states in words but not in action is part of the problem that has led us to where we are. 

As Labour leader Keir Starmer has said: “Statehood is not in the gift of a neighbour. It is the inalienable right of the Palestinian people.” It is time for us to recognise that right for the benefit of Palestinians and Israelis alike.

 

Alex Sobel, Labour MP for Leeds North West

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