East Ham MP Stephen Timms says the recognition of Palestine remains controversial

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- Credit: Archant

The House of Commons voted by 274 votes to 12 this month in favour of recognising Palestinian statehood. I was pleased MPs had the chance to debate this important issue, and voted in favour. I received around 1,000 emails on the subject – one of the largest postbags I have ever had. But recognising another country is a matter for the Government, not for Parliament. Ministers made it clear after the vote that they would not be recognising Palestine any time soon.

There is a broad consensus in favour of a two state solution – Palestine and Israel as neighbouring states. Recognition of Palestine remains controversial, however. Some argue that recognition should be delayed until a full peace deal between Israel and Palestine has been achieved.

But I can’t agree. I visited Palestine with Christian Aid in 2005. I saw terrible hardship being endured by Palestinians, and I know things have become worse since. And Israel is still defying international law by building settlements in Palestinian territory, making the eventual establishment of a viable Palestinian state increasingly difficult.

In 2011, Labour called on the Government to support recognition of Palestine at the United Nations. In 2012 we urged the Government to support Palestine’s bid for ‘enhanced observer status’ at the UN General Assembly. The Government refused on both occasions.

It’s very important that Palestinians have realistic hope that politics and negotiation will deliver a decent future for them. Despite the claims of some, violence cannot do so. Many Palestinians recognise that. Their arguments for faster progress towards a separate Palestinian state should be respected.

This vote by Parliament is only a first step. But I hope that it leads on to serious negotiations, and helps to deliver a realistic prospect of Israel and Palestine as neighbouring states at peace with each other. More from Stephen Timms


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