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Volume 593: debated on Tuesday 3 March 2015

1. What criteria the Government will use to determine the right time for the UK to recognise Palestine as a state. (907827)

We want to see the establishment of a sovereign and independent Palestinian state, living in peace and security alongside Israel. We have been clear that the UK will recognise a Palestinian state bilaterally at a time when we judge it best to help bring about peace.

I thank the Minister for his answer, but does he not see that constantly saying that the UK recognition of the state of Palestine should be conditional on negotiations between Israel and Palestine in effect gives Mr Netanyahu or his successor a veto over the UK’s sovereign decision to recognise Palestine, especially as that Prime Minister is making a very divisive speech in Washington today? How can this be right?

Although I understand the hon. Lady’s passion—we have debated this matter in the House on a number of occasions—I hope she appreciates that such recognition is not simply a tick-box exercise but a strategic tool, which will have consequences when implemented, and which is therefore best used at a time when it will advance the process and leverage positive change.

The previous Foreign Secretary said that we were in the last chance saloon for the two-state solution. If the Government wait long enough, there will be no opportunity for a two-state solution and the question will then be completely irrelevant.

I am sad to say that I agree with my hon. Friend, as many of the ingredients that we witnessed in the build-up to last summer’s conflict are beginning to re-emerge. If we are to avoid another significant and punishing conflict, all parties must come together immediately after the Israeli elections are complete and a new Government are formed, to address these grave challenges.

There is no legalistic or bureaucratic route to Palestinian statehood and it cannot be imposed from outside. We will see a viable Palestinian state—the two-state solution that we all want—only as a result of proper negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians, which Britain should be doing everything it can to foster. We need to see the demilitarisation of Gaza, Iran no longer sending rockets to Hezbollah and Hamas, and Britain promoting organisations such as Project Cherish, the Parents Circle-Families Forum and Middle East Education Through Technology to bring together people on both sides who want peace.

I am not sure that was a question, but I certainly agree with the spirit of the hon. Gentleman’s comments. We want the Palestinian Authority to assert itself in Gaza, not just have a technocratic Government. We want the Palestinians to end the political stalemate with Hamas, as he implies, but we also want Israel to allow the free movement of people, particularly the politicians, into Gaza, and to increase trade between Gaza and the west bank.

The Minister is right—we have debated the subject a number of times. The House also voted by an overwhelming margin in favour of recognising a Palestinian state. Under what circumstances does he consider that the timing of such an announcement should be at odds with the sovereign will of the House?

As I said in my initial reply, this is not just a tick-box exercise. It is not something that we debate in Parliament and then move on to the next subject. There are real consequences of when we choose to recognise the Palestinian state. We want to be part of that process and to advance it. When we can leverage positive change, we will do so.