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Palestinian State: Recognition

Volume 744: debated on Tuesday 30 January 2024

3. What recent discussions he has had with his Israeli counterpart on Israel’s political objectives in Gaza. (901235)

11. What recent assessment he has made of the potential merits of the recognition of a Palestinian state. (901243)

13. What recent assessment he has made of the potential merits of the recognition of a Palestinian state. (901245)

We are clear that for a peaceful solution to this conflict there must be a political horizon towards a two-state solution. Britain will recognise a Palestinian state at a time when it best serves the objective of peace. Bilateral recognition alone cannot end the occupation.

Given the evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by Israel, and now recognition by the International Court of Justice of the risk of genocide being committed by Israel, have the UK Government sought to ascertain what the Israeli military objective is in Gaza, and does the Minister agree with the motion tabled by the Scottish National party at the Council of Europe last week, supported by nine nations and 20 members, that an immediate ceasefire and a resettlement scheme for those bombed out of Gaza by Israel are absolutely essential?

I have not seen the motion tabled by the SNP—and I probably would not agree with it if I had. We are always focused on addressing the points that the hon. Lady has made. When it comes to the International Court of Justice, and indeed international humanitarian law, the Government’s view is not the same as hers, but she may rest assured that we keep these things under very close review.

There is now a live ongoing investigation by the ICJ into genocide in Gaza. Given the British Government’s reluctance thus far to recognise the state of Palestine, does the Minister not understand that failure to do so will soon result in the UK Government just recognising a cemetery?

The Government’s position—and indeed, I believe, the position of those on the Opposition Front Bench—has always been clear: we should recognise the state of Palestine when the time is right. The Foreign Secretary last night added some further words to that commitment, but that is the commitment of the British Government.

Last night the Foreign Secretary indicated that the UK Government will consider recognising the Palestinian state in order

“to give the Palestinian people a political horizon so that they can see that there is going to be irreversible progress to a two-state solution”.

Can the Minister explain how that is possible when both the Israeli National Security Minister and the Finance Minister have advocated using the ongoing war as an opportunity to permanently resettle Palestinians from Gaza and establish Israeli settlements there, and the Israeli Prime Minister has openly said he is proud to have prevented the establishment of a Palestinian state?

The Foreign Secretary was making it clear that we need a credible route to a Palestinian state and the offer of a new future. It is very important to lift people’s eyes to the possibilities once a political track is established. I point out to the hon. Gentleman that progress has been made. Progress that was made at Oslo took place on the back of appalling events when people reached for a political solution. The same is true of what followed the second intifada. The aim of the British Government is to get a sustainable ceasefire and move to that political track.

My right hon. Friend’s comments about a big leap forward are noble—I recognise that—but as long as Hamas, who believe not in a two-state solution but in killing and raping Jews, cling on in Gaza; as Fatah is barely able to control the west bank; and as Israel is still in trauma, still trying to get 130 hostages, including babies, back from Gaza, what does he think that talk about early recognition of Palestinian statehood can achieve?

I recognise the voracity of what my right hon. Friend says, but there is no change in the policy. He is right that Hamas must agree to the release of all hostages, that Hamas can no longer be in charge of Gaza, and that we need an agreement to provide governance, service and security there, which will involve the Palestinian Authority. The Foreign Secretary, in his meetings with President Abbas last week, sought to advance that agenda.

On Sunday, a third of Knesset Members attended a conference calling for the return of settlements to Gaza and to the north of the occupied west bank. Some of those Members have also asked for a voluntary migration of Palestinians from Gaza, with Israel taking over control. Does the Minister agree that that is not in the best interests of Israel and that there should be a return to the pre-1967 borders, with both countries working together to maintain peace in the interests of their citizens?

Yes, I do. The only viable long-term pathway is a two-state solution based on 1967 lines, with Jerusalem as a shared capital, that guarantees security and stability for both Israelis and Palestinians.

Surely the only political objective in Gaza is inextricably linked to the security objectives, because the grim reality is that Hamas do not seek a ceasefire, and Israel cannot be reasonably expected to pursue one with a group who actively seek its destruction, not least the commitment made by a senior Hamas official, Ghazi Hamad, who recently said:

“We must teach Israel a lesson, and we will do this again and again”,

and that the 7 October massacre was

“just the first time, and there will be a second, a third, a fourth.”

The only political solution must be the elimination of Hamas and the release of the hostages.

That is why the Government have made it clear that calls for a ceasefire on its own will simply not work. First, Israel absolutely has the right of self-defence, to address and deal with the cause of the terrible events of 7 October. Secondly, Hamas have made it absolutely clear that they do not want a ceasefire; they want to replicate the events that took place on 7 October.

For a decade now, the Labour party has supported Palestinian recognition. As my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Keir Starmer) has said,

“statehood is not in the gift of a neighbour. It is the inalienable right of the Palestinian people.”

I welcome the Foreign Secretary adopting that position and rejecting the notion that recognition can only follow the conclusion of negotiations. After the unacceptable comments by Prime Minister Netanyahu, does the Prime Minister agree that no country has a veto over the UK’s decision to recognise Palestine?

I can tell the shadow Foreign Secretary that we will pursue the policy that we think is right. The Foreign Secretary set out clearly in his remarks last night the importance of a credible route to a Palestinian state and a new future. In respect of the conversations that the Foreign Secretary will have had last week with Prime Minister Netanyahu, I cannot trade the details across the House, but I can tell the right hon. Gentleman that the Foreign Secretary will have represented the British position with Prime Minister Netanyahu, whom he knows very well, with great accuracy.

Palestinian recognition is an inalienable right, not a privilege to be conferred by others. Although I was pleased to hear the Foreign Secretary say last night that the UK,

“with allies, will look at the issue of recognising a Palestinian state”,

I feel we have been here before, most notably in 2014. Given Netanyahu’s categorical rejection of a Palestinian state, what are the next steps? When will we hear about them, and how confident can we be that we will not be sitting here in another 10 years, wishing we had acted to prevent a genocide?

It is not easy to sustain the view that we have been here before—at least not to this extent. The British Government’s policy has been clear on the recognition of the state of Palestine. We are working extremely hard in the region and more widely internationally to secure a political track. The hon. Gentleman will recognise that that will be in the mix once that political track is able to start.