UK MPs pass vote recognizing Palestine

A passer-by carries a Union Flag umbrella past a pro-Palestine demonstration outside the Houses of Parliament in London October 13, 2014.

A passer-by carries a Union Flag umbrella past a pro-Palestine demonstration outside the Houses of Parliament in London October 13, 2014.

British lawmakers on Monday voted overwhelmingly in favor of recognizing Palestine as a state, a result that experts say is largely symbolic.

The motion – which is non-binding – was passed by 274 in favor to 12 votes against, to “recognize the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel” as part of a “contribution to securing a negotiated two-state solution.”

The motion comes only a week after Sweden’s new center-left government is set to officially recognize Palestine – a move that has been condemned by Israel, which says an independent Palestine can only be achieved through negotiations.

UK British Prime Minister David Cameron abstained from the parliamentary vote, his spokesman said earlier.

In addition to Cameron, the government was also asking ministers to not take part, the spokesman said.

The UK premier’s decision not to vote was no surprise, due to his party’s not having a strict line on the issue of Palestinian statehood, Chris Doyle, the director of the London-based advocacy group Council for Arab-British Understanding (CAABU) said earlier on Monday.

“He knows that he doesn’t really have to vote. The government has not issued a three-line [strict instruction to attend and vote] whip on this, so the Conservatives effectively have a free vote,” Doyle told Al Arabiya News.

“That the prime minister will not be attending the voting session means that it is not consequential,” said Hilal Khashan, a professor of political science at Lebanon’s American University of Beirut.

“It means also that he does not want to obstruct the outcome of the vote,” Khashan said earlier.

Symbolic value

The vote has symbolic value due to both Britain’s colonial history with the region and as a possible way to get other Western European nations to follow suit, Doyle said earlier.

“If Britain does take steps forward towards recognition, that will make it easier for other states to copy.”

Due to the “symbolic” nature of the vote, which is not in practice expected to change the UK’s policy toward Palestinian territories, the Palestinians are “expecting that this vote will usher in a new era,” Khashan said.

The outcome was being closely watched by Palestinian and Israeli authorities as a barometer for European readiness to act on Palestinian hopes for unilateral recognition by U.N. member states.

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron waits to greets Finland's Prime Minister Alexander Stubb at Number 10 Downing Street in London October 8, 2014.

Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron waits to greets Finland’s Prime Minister Alexander Stubb at Number 10 Downing Street in London October 8, 2014.

 
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