Israel-Gaza conflict: Labour Party motion will be 'righting a historic wrong'

Their hope is that a majority will be achieved when the vote is held on Monday

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Palestinian leaders welcomed the Labour Party’s decision to back a parliamentary motion recognising Palestinian statehood, deeming it a step towards righting a historic injustice.

They voiced the hope that a majority will be achieved when the vote is held on Monday. For Abdullah Abdullah, a Palestinian legislator and vice commissioner for foreign relations of President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah movement, Labour’s move was “very good as a kind of recognition of history”.

He was referring to the 1917 Balfour Declaration in which Britain supported the goal of establishing a Jewish national home in Palestine, something that, in practice, came at the expense of the Palestinian population.

In Mr Abdullah’s view, Britain bears responsibility for the Nakba – the disaster of Palestinian displacement – that accompanied Israel’s creation.

“Britain gave away something that didn’t belong to it. Correcting an old mistake even if it comes late is advisable,” said Mr Abdullah, who became a refugee during Israel’s establishment in 1948. He said the debate around the motion was an opportunity for the British public to see if their lawmakers are living up to their “moral responsibility’’.


Mr Abdullah took issue with the Israeli argument that recognising Palestinian statehood will discourage the Palestinians from negotiating with Israel, saying “it is Israel that is disregarding negotiations. They want negotiations for the sake of negotiations while stealing land and creating facts on the ground".

Israel says the Palestinians torpedoed the latest peace negotiations, brokered by US Secretary of State John Kerry when Mr Abbas forged a national unity agreement with Hamas, the militant Palestinian group whose charter calls for Israel’s destruction.

Israel is anxious to avoid another setback after Sweden announced last week that it will recognise Palestinian statehood. Paul Hirschson, a spokesman for Israel’s Foreign Ministry, said that “any decision that furthers the illusion Palestinians have that they can achieve whatever they want without speaking to Israelis and without compromising make conflict resolution more difficult, not easier’’.

But Mustafa Barghouthi, a member of the central council of the Palestine Liberation Organisation said that Labour’s move “is the proper response to Israel’s continuing its settlement building and threatening the two-state solution. We hope all of parliament will support it.’’

A Yes vote in the Commons would be a victory foremost for President Abbas who appeared to declare diplomatic warfare on Israel and turn his back on futile peace diplomacy during a recent speech at the UN. The passage of the motion would be seen as a sign that his diplomatic campaign can bear fruit.

But Hassan Khreisheh, the deputy speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council and a critic of Mr Abbas, said it would be a mistake to exaggerate the importance of Monday’s vote. “It has moral significance and no practical significance whatsoever. The US still has its veto in the Security Council. No one will give us a state unless we have power.’’

Israeli Labour Party and Knesse member Nachman Shai criticised the move. ‘’Those who feel they are friends of Israel shouldn’t support this. It just creates a negative result... Any unilateral step by Sweden and Britain encourages false hopes among the Palestinians.”