An historic motion recognising the state of Palestine was passed in the House of Commons on October 13, with 274 votes in favour and 12 against. The vote had the second biggest turnout for a backbench vote ever.
The motion, which was tabled by the Labour MP Grahame Morris, stated: “That this House believes that the Government should recognise the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel as a contribution to securing a negotiated two-state solution. The motion was amended by Jack Straw to make a reference to a two-state solution.
The Leader of the Labour Party, Ed Miliband, was the only Leader of the three main parties to vote in favour of the motion, although it is a convention that ministers abstain when voting takes place on a backbench MP’s motion. Of those 274 votes in favour, 192 were from Labour MPs. None of the Labour MPs voted no.
Morris who is the MP for Easington, Country Durham, told the House: “As a friend of Palestine, I earnestly believe that recognition of the state of Palestine is the only way forward, and that it should be the choice of all true friends of Israel. All parties should come together on that basis. Given our commitment to a two-state solution and the fact that an overwhelming majority of 134 nations voted in favour of Palestinian statehood, I was hugely disappointed by our decision to abstain on the issue at the UN General Assembly. We should regret that decision.”
Amongst the Muslim MPs who voted for the motion were Sadiq Khan, Rushanara Ali, Yasmin Qureshi, Shabana Mahmood, Khalid Mahmood and Anas Sarwar for the Labour Party. Khan told The Muslim News: “Palestinian statehood is not a gift to be given but a right to be recognised and that is why since 2011 Labour has supported Palestinian recognition at the United Nations. I am proud to be part of a Labour Party, under the leadership of Ed Miliband, who believes in recognising Palestine.”
Sarwar told the House that the debate was “one small part in righting a profound and lasting wrong…This issue has widespread public support in the UK and across the world. That has been shown by the hundreds of thousands of people who took to the streets over the summer to protest against the continued bloodshed in the region, and by the flooding of Members’ in-boxes by constituents asking us to support this important motion.”
The motion was not opposed by Conservative Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, Richard Ottaway, who said he would have opposed the motion in normal circumstances, had it not been for his “anger with the behaviour of Israel in recent months…I have to say to the government of Israel: if it is losing people like me, it is going to be losing a lot of people.”
Amongst the 41 Conservative MPs who voted in favour of the motion were Dominic Grieve and Cheryl Gillan. Gillan told the House: “More than 300 Israeli figures signed a letter…urging this Parliament to vote in favour of the motion, and they included former Ministers, ex-diplomats and activists in Israel.”
Sweden’s new Prime Minister, Stefan Löfven, has also indicated this month that his Government intends to recognise Palestinian Statehood, joining 130 other countries worldwide in doing so. The leader of Israel’s opposition, Isaac Herzog, described the British vote as a defeat for Netanyahu’s foreign policy.
The only two Muslim Conservative MPs Sajid Javid and Rehman Chisti abstained.
Twelve MPs voted no. They were: 6 Cons: Blackman, Djanogly, Freer, Mills, Offord and Syms. 1 LD: Beith. 5 DUP, Dodds, McCrae, Paisley, Shannon and Simpson.
274 Ayes included 192 Lab, 39 Con, 28 LD, 6 SNP, 3 PC, 2 SDLP, 2 IND, 1 Green, 1 Alliance.
Ukip’s new MP, Douglas Carswell, didn’t vote on his first day in the job.