Yesterday, Parliament voted in favour of establishing an informal recognition of Palestinian statehood “as a contribution to securing a negotiated two-state solution [to the Israel-Palestine conflict]”. The notion, proposed by Labour MP Grahame Morris, follows a clear shift in the public opinion about Britain’s relationship with Israel following their brutal campaign against insurgents in the Gaza Strip just a few months ago. It is truly unfortunate that, with Mr Morris being a mere opposition back bencher, this vote in practical terms counts for nothing. It holds no formal sway over foreign policy formation and even saw both Coalition parties have their MP’s abstain from voting. In a symbolic sense, however, it is little short of radical.
[Israel is worried], fearing that maybe now it will have to reign in its violent methods of quieting the Palestinian calls for a sovereign state of their own.
Israel has always been the darling of the Western World. Having successfully indoctrinated both its governments and citizens alike through their effective self-portrayal as a martyr nation, substantial quantities of financial, military and moral support has been bestowed upon Israel by the West for no reason other than to aid them in their seemingly endless and prolonged struggle against the Arab world. In the early years of Israel’s development this form of relationship was understandable: The West, headed by Britain and the US, had to arm Israel against hostile local forces because to be seen abandoning a former protectorate upon its independence would severely damage prestige. Moreover, during the Cold War the West needed an allied Middle Eastern power base in order to counteract the increasing influence of the Soviet Union infiltrating the region.
Now that turbulent period of history is over and a much needed revision of the way we conduct policy towards Israel is necessary. There is no way to legitimise Israeli action towards Palestine; the endless counterinsurgency raids which result in the deaths of innocent civilians combined with a consistent encroachment upon (what should be) sovereign Palestinian territory via means in violation of international laws. Such breaches of legal standards could not be clearer yet neither Britain nor any Western party has once stood to formally condemn such actions, rather attempting to excuse them by failing to assert the existence of Palestine as a state with any degree of sovereignty. This clearly has potential to change.
There is no way to legitimise Israeli action towards Palestine…
As mentioned, the notion passed yesterday is not formal in the sense of holding legislative or constitutional sway over government. Yet its formality takes root in the fact that for the first time MP’s have gathered together to voice that a state of Palestine, in order for the peace process to be a success, must be recognised by the West and indeed Israel as existing. Evidently it has had an impact already; Israel hit out at the decision today by suggesting that the vote sends a “troubling message” to the international community. It is apparent therefore that the notion has Israel worried, fearing that maybe now it will have to reign in its violent methods of quieting the Palestinian calls for a sovereign state of their own. Those who champion true humanitarianism and democratic principles will be thrilled to see a message being sent to Israel that its destructive appetite will no longer be simply looked over by the West, with this symbolic vote delivering voicing this idea.
Symbolism is an oddity within the realms of politics. Much relatively toothless action can often have a surprisingly severe bite, especially when considered retrospectively. Hopefully one day historians and political scientists will be able to reflect upon the notion decided yesterday and agree that this was indeed the turning point in British and possibly Western relations with Israel, who will no longer submit to Israeli desires and genuinely push for peace in the Levant.
Header image rights; Jodi Squirmelia