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Commons vote on Palestine defies Israel lobby


October 12, 2014
Sarah Benton

This posting has these items:
1) Huff Post: An Historic Vote on Palestine in the British Parliament, Israel is losing the battle for public opinion in Britain;
2) The Independent: Anger grows within Labour over forced Palestinian vote, Pro-Israel MPs unhappy at being whipped into voting to recognise Palestine;
3) The Independent: Israel-Gaza conflict: MPs set to vote to recognise the state of Palestine, Miliband to risk wrath of pro-Israel lobby in whipped Commons vote;
4) Mondoweiss: Symbolic motion is poised to pass, Labour split, Tories staunch for Israel
5) The Independent: MPs’ historic chance to help Middle East peace, letter from five former UK diplomats;
6) The Guardian: MPs should recognise Palestine to honour the civilians who died in Gaza, letter from Muslim leaders and activities;
7) Gush Shalom: Hundreds of Israeli public figures call upon Members of the British Parliament to vote in favour of recognizing the State of Palestine, the full list of signatories is not on the Gush Shalom site but can be found on the Arab Daily News site.


Labour leader Ed Miliband addressing a meeting of Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle East


An Historic Vote on Palestine in the British Parliament

By David Hearst, Huffington Post
October 12, 2013

Israel is losing the battle for public opinion in Britain. Few are in a better position to chart the draining of support than the Israeli ambassador to Britain. Daniel Taub was born and educated here and has only to compare the benign views about Israel of his youth with the cold, unvarnished judgment of today.

Gone is the rose-tinted vision of Israel as an island of democracy in a sea of irrational and violent Arabs. Gone is the belief that Israel wants to negotiate, if only it could find a partner to to talk to. Gone, too, is the notion that there is symmetry in this conflict, that this is a battle is between equals.

This is not the effect of a larger Muslim community. All Britons today are more likely to be aware of the 14,000 settlements Israel approved during its nine month peace talks with the Palestinians; to wonder where a Palestinian state is going to go , with more than 600,000 settlers in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank; to acknowledge the insouciant racism of Israeli discourse about all non-Jews ; to recoil at the cost in Palestinian civilian lives of Israel’s definition of its own security.

The more Israel demands of its supporters to chose between their liberalism and their zionism, the weaker its case becomes that the two can co-exist. Britons are losing faith that a solution is just around the corner. The idea of Israel is changing in the minds of its allies. It is no longer a cause. It is becoming heavy baggage.

Monday’s vote in parliament to recognise Palestine as a state , therefore, does not come out of the blue. Neither did the largest ever demonstrations seen in Britain on this conflict during the recent Gaza war. Nor did the resignation of the Foreign Office minister Lady Warsi , the highest placed British politician yet to resign over the UK’s “morally indefensible” stance over Gaza. Warsi was no George Galloway, a figure on the the political fringe. She remains a mainstream politician who was actively courted by the two other major political parties on her resignation.

Therefore her plea in the Observer on Sunday to recognise the state of Palestine carries moral force:

There is a lack of political will and our moral compass is missing,” the former Foreign Office minister told the Observer. “There are no negotiations, there is no show in town. Somehow we have to breathe new life into these negotiations, and one of the ways we can do that is by recognising the state of Palestine.

The vote will be a symbolic one. A Palestinian state is a virtual concept, and it has already been recognised by 134 states, most recently by of Sweden. But there is nothing symbolic or theoretical about the pressure applied by the Israel lobby on MPs of all parties to toe the line, but particularly a Labour Party led David Milliband. The vote in favour would amount to an historic act of defiance with an ally used to dictating the terms of the debate.

Israel and America’s argument that recognition and the reluctant, faltering moves by Mahmoud Abbas the Palestinian President to join UN institutions like the International Criminal Court, would prejudice the outcome of meaningful talks is holed below the water line. There are no meaningful talks. What greater prejudice to the outcome of a negotiated solution could there be than the monthly announcements of settlements, which unlike moves in the UN, take immediate concrete shape, and for which Israel pays no cost? Who does more to de-legitimise the state of the Israel, than the state of Israel itself? As the former foreign secretary William Hague himself said, how long can this go on without the two state solution dying. It is by all appearances already dead. It will take much before he coroner issues its death certificate.

Warsi revealed the support she got for her position from the “highest levels” of the Foreign Office after her resignation. She accurately described the vice like grip on policy by a “small group of politicians “who are not allowing public opinion, ministerial views, parliamentary views and the views of the people who work in this system”

This is not a debate about outcomes, a one or a two state solution. It is about the ability of Israel to fashion and limit the international debate, to ensure that it continues to enjoy legal impunity for its actions, to ensure there is no pressure on it to come to the table.

Occupation, as Abbas has himself said, is cost free to the occupiers. The strategy by all members of the international community has now got to be to start making it expensive. The debate and the vote will be an important start.

David Hearst is the editor of Middle East Eye



Anger grows within Labour over forced Palestinian vote

Pro-Israel MPs unhappy at being whipped into voting to recognise Palestine

By Oliver Wright, Whitehall editor, The Independent
October 10, 2014

Ed Miliband is facing an internal revolt from members of his own Shadow Cabinet over a decision to force Labour MPs to vote in favour of unilaterally recognising Palestine.

Earlier this week, party managers instructed Labour shadow ministers that they had to vote in favour of a historic parliamentary motion on Monday that would call on the British Government to unilaterally recognise the state of Palestine.

But the move has resulted in a furious backlash from pro-Israeli members of the party who believe that Labour should recognise Palestine only as part of a wide Middle East peace settlement.

It also led to an unprecedented letter to MPs from Labour’s sister party in Israel warning that any vote in favour of recognition would make peace less rather than more likely.

Several shadow ministers are understood to have gone to see Mr Miliband in an effort to persuade him to change his mind and offer Labour MPs a free vote on the motion – which is being proposed by the backbench MP Grahame Morris.

Rachel Reeves, the shadow Work and Pension Secretary, and Michael Dugher, the shadow Cabinet Office minister, are both officers of Labour Friends of Israel.

The shadow Chancellor Ed Balls and shadow Cabinet ministers Caroline Flint, Liam Byrne, Ivan Lewis and Jim Murphy are all listed as supporters.

LFI believes that the decision by the Labour leadership goes far beyond the party’s stated position that Palestinian statehood must be a part of a process of direct negotiations between the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli government. It has launched a frantic lobbying operation in an attempt to persuade Mr Miliband to overrule his shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander and allow a free vote on the issue.

The Independent understands that if he doesn’t, several shadow cabinet members will defy the whip and not turn up to vote in favour of the motion.

One senior pro-Israeli Labour MP said: “To say that there is a row going on it putting it very mildly. People are furious. This is an attempt to rip up 13 years of carefully calibrated policy. It total madness and makes the prospect of peace less rather than more likely.” The MP added that significant numbers of senior Labour figures had made views known to Mr Miliband.

“There is a blame game going on. Miliband’s people are blaming the decision on Alexander and Alexander’s people are blaming it on Miliband. But there will certainly be shadow ministers not turning up on Monday to vote regardless of the whip.”

Pressure on Mr Miliband is also coming from its sister Labour Party in Israel.

Its general secretary and deputy speaker of the Knesset, Hilik Bar, wrote to all Labour MPs urging them to defy the whip.

“I understand why many of you will want to vote for anything which claims to be a contribution to peace,” he wrote.

“But our view in the Israeli Labour Party is that unilateral recognition of Palestinian statehood does nothing to advance this vital cause.”

But Andy Slaughter, vice-chair of Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle East, said: “After the invasion of Gaza this summer at the cost of over 2,000 lives, the resumption of aggressive settlement building and Israel making every attempt to undermine the negotiating position of the Palestinians, it’s time to create a level playing field for negotiations.

“That is what the House of Commons is being asked to do on Monday: to afford the same right to the Palestinians as that we did to Israel, and to give Palestinians both a right to be heard and the recognition they deserve.”



Israel-Gaza conflict: MPs set to vote to recognise the state of Palestine

Miliband to risk wrath of pro-Israel lobby in whipped Commons vote on Monday

By Oliver Wright and Donald Macintyre, The Independent
October 09, 2014

MPs are on the verge of backing a historic parliamentary vote that would call on the British government to unilaterally recognise the state of Palestine. Politicians on both sides of the deeply divisive issue believe that the motion will be passed after Ed Miliband instructed his MPs to back it.

The resolution, due to be debated on Monday, also has the support of most Liberal Democrat MPs and a number of Tory backbenchers who have so far been given a free vote on the issue. Government ministers are expected to abstain.

While a vote in favour of Palestinian recognition would only be symbolic and not bind the Government it would nonetheless have profound international implications.

Last week Sweden became the first major EU country to announce that it intended officially to recognise the Palestinian state much to the fury of the Israeli Government, which called in the Swedish ambassador for a public reprimand.

The Israelis have always maintained that recognition should only follow a negotiated agreement between both sides, and it is understood that a senior member of the Israeli cabinet has directly lobbied senior Labour politicians not to back the motion.

Labour’s support for the motion also concerns Israel because it fears it could be a precursor to a future Labour Government following Sweden’s example and recognising Palestine.

The current UK position set out by the former Foreign Secretary William Hague is that Britain “reserves the right to recognise a Palestinian state bilaterally at a moment of our choosing and when it can best help bring about peace”.

But in a letter to The Independent a group of retired diplomats, including two former Consul-Generals to Jerusalem, have urged MPs to back the motion.[See below]

“This is a rare opportunity for MPs to assist the government to take a historic decision by conveying the feeling of the country on a non-party issue which is both open and important,” they wrote. “We hope that they will seize it.”

The motion, which will be debated as part of backbench business, has been proposed by the Labour MP Grahame Morris who said he felt it was “time to shout out loud that this should be done”.

“Not only is statehood the inalienable right of the Palestinian people, but recognizing Palestine will breathe new life into a peace process that is at an impasse,” he said.

The motion states: “This House believes that the Government should recognise the state of Palestine alongside the State of Israel.”

However several members of the Labour Shadow Cabinet are expected to defy the party whip and also abstain from the vote after heated behind the scenes arguments about Labour’s position.

One described the party’s stance as “mad” and predicted it would cause deep divisions between pro-Israeli and Pro-Palestinian factions within Labour. Two Shadow Cabinet Ministers are officers of Labour Friends of Israel.

“We should not be taking a position on this and whipping the vote,” they said. “I for one will be staying away.”

A senior cross-party group of MPs, including Jack Straw and Alan Duncan, intend to introduce an amendment that would add the words “contributing towards a negotiated settlement”.

Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander wrote on a blog post the he believed the motion to be compatible with Labour’s current official policy on Palestinian recognition.

“Labour’s consistent support for the principle of recognising Palestinian statehood, as part of continuing steps to achieve a comprehensive negotiated two state solution, is why we will be voting to support the principle of Palestinian statehood when the House of Commons debates the issue on Monday,” he wrote.

“Labour believes that, amidst the undoubted despair and the disappointment, the international community must take concrete steps to strengthen moderate Palestinian opinion, encourage the Palestinians to take the path of politics, reject the path of violence, and rekindle hopes that there is a credible route to a viable Palestinian state and a secure Israel achieved by negotiations.”

Alan Duncan, who also supports the motion from the Conservative side, said: “There is no peace process at the moment and there is no reason to seek Israeli permission for Palestinian recognition. It is their right and we should feel a moral duty to support it.”

But the Conservative MP Guto Bebb, who is opposing the motion and has laid down an amendment stating that recognition should only come “on the conclusion of successful peace negotiations between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority said that motion as stood “contradicted common sense”.

“The motion is completely contrary to UK Government policy,” he said. “How can you recognise a state when the borders of that state have not been agreed?

“This is profoundly unhelpful to the peace process.”

A Foreign Office spokesman said: “We continue to believe that negotiations toward a two-state solution are the best route to meeting Palestinian aspirations in reality and on the ground.”



British Parliament to vote on recognition of Palestinian state on Monday

By Allison Deger, Mondoweiss
October 12, 2014

On Monday the United Kingdom will vote on recognizing the state of Palestine. The House of Commons’ symbolic motion is poised to pass the Parliament despite Britain’s history of refusing to approve previous and similar bids. When the UK government was faced with Palestine’s own plans to seek recognition from the United Nations in 2012, Britain abstained.

The bill’s backers from the Labour party have shored up votes from Liberal Democrats and Conservatives alike, making Monday a likely Palestinian victory. But the vote is coming at a cost. The Independent is reporting that inside Britain’s Labour party, pro-Israel members of Parliament are “furious.” Still the measure more or less models what former Prime Minister Tony Blair has proposed through the Quartet. And the House of Commons bill is also being pushed by heavyweights from within the government.

The UK’s former consul-general to Jerusalem Vincent Fean has advocated that the UK should advance a two-state plan modeled after the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002—which called for a Palestinian state alongside an Israeli state on the June 1967 lines, and the division of Jerusalem in exchange for normalization of relations between the Arab World and Israel–by voting for statehood in the Parliament. Coincidentally in the West Bank, Fean is most known for causing uproar at Bir Zeit University outside of Ramallah. Two years ago the diplomat was scheduled to speak on campus when scores of students flooded the parking lot, pelting his car with stones. Nineteen school-goers were arrested. The clash was emblematic of the fact that sentiments of Palestinians towards their former colonial rulers are still tense–and no one from the British government has been invited to the university since.

But that background is exactly why Fean believes the UK should take a step on speeding up a Palestinian state.

“We are party to the history of this conflict – originators of the Balfour Declaration and holders of the Mandate for Palestine between 1920 and 1948,” wrote Fean in September when he staged the proposal in the British daily The Telegraph. “Under the Mandate, we took on a ‘sacred trust of civilisation’ to advance the welfare of the Palestinian people and guide them to independence,” he continued.

The UK broached the idea of acknowledging a Palestinian state by vote after Israel declared its largest settlement expansion yet at the close of summer. Just as the war between Israel and Gaza was cooling, Israeli officials announced tenders for settlement growth near Bethlehem. “Where we lead, Europe will follow – and there is urgency,” Fean wrote in his op-ed of the 1,000 acres of land Israel plans to build on nestled between the West Bank and Jerusalem. Israeli construction there compromises not only territorial continuity for a future Palestinian state, but access to Jerusalem in general.

“The combination of illegal Israeli settlements in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank and the closure of Gaza means that time is not on our side if the two neighbourly states we seek are to be realized,” wrote Fean.

The move also sidelines Israel’s demand that any agreement can only be reached through negotiations and not by unilateral declarations of statehood, or the international communities’. The United States has consistently echoed that approach since the Palestinian Authority went to the United Nations in 2012 and upgraded its status to non-member observer.

The U.S. is cool on these initiatives. “We certainly support Palestinian statehood, but it can only come through a negotiated outcome, a resolution of final status issues and mutual recognitions by both parties,” said State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki last week when Sweden made headlines by stating that it intended to be the first European Union country to recognize the state of Palestine. The UK’s Prime Minister supports the U.S. stance. Indeed there is considerable daylight between David Cameron’s Conservative party and Labour, which is pushing the Palestinian state inside of the Parliament.

Cameron has asserted himself as a staunch, no-holds-barred Israel-backer. He’s kept quiet on the statehood debate in his home country thus far, but earlier this year in his first visit to Jerusalem as head of state he made clear his policy was lockstep with Israel. “Let me say to you very clearly,” he said to Knesset last March, “with me, you have a British Prime Minister whose belief in Israel is unbreakable.” Then, Cameron announced he made special arrangements for Israeli officials such as Tzipi Livni who were unable to travel to the UK out of fear of prosecution for crimes committed against Palestinians under Britain’s international jurisdiction laws. “When I became Prime Minister I legislated to change it. My country is open to you. And you are welcome to visit anytime,” he continued.

Conservative Friends of Israel, Western Europe’s AIPAC is organizing against the vote, and their ties to the current UK government run deep. The head of the Conservative party attended their conference last week and at the end of the year David Cameron will keynote one of their events.



MPs’ historic chance to help Middle East peace

Letters, The Independent
October 10, 2014

On 13 October the House of Commons will debate a motion stating: “This House believes that the Government should recognise the state of Palestine alongside the State of Israel.” This is a rare opportunity for MPs to assist the Government to take a historic decision by conveying the feeling of the country on a non-party issue which is both open and important. We hope that they will seize it.

The debate will take place when the prospects for the peace process are bleak, in the aftermath of some of the worst violence in years in Gaza, and after Prime Minister Netanyahu told President Obama on 1 October that Israel was to build 2,600 new housing units, all of them illegal, between southern Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Significantly, however, the next day the new Swedish government announced that it intended soon to recognise a Palestinian state.

The British government’s position, stated by William Hague on 9 November 2011, is that “We reserve the right to recognise a Palestinian state bilaterally at a moment of our choosing and when it can best help bring about peace.”

Our government recognised the state of Israel (without agreed borders or capital) in 1950. Today there is a common EU policy on the framework for final status agreement, including borders based on the 1967 line, subject to any negotiated modifications, Jerusalem as a shared capital, and a just solution for the Palestinian refugees.

Given our own historical role, UK bilateral recognition would symbolically reaffirm and strengthen this position. Practically it would not sidestep negotiations but help them forward. Specifically it would give the parties rather less unequal status; it would give a very public political warning to the Israeli government and public to dissuade them from taking yet more unilateral steps which could soon leave nothing to negotiate; and it would strengthen the hand of those in the US administration who would like the US to show “tougher” love to Israel and play a more even-handed role, but who are frustrated by the powerful Israeli lobby. It would also, as the Swedish foreign minister said, give Palestinians more hope in the path of negotiation.

Our historical role, national values and self-interest all point to early recognition – a significant decision which would encourage many of our European partners to join the 134 other countries that have already recognised a Palestinian state. We hope that Monday’s vote will bring that decision nearer.

Robin Kealy
HM Consul-General, Jerusalem, 1997-2001

Sir Richard Dalton
HM Consul-General, Jerusalem 1993-1997

Oliver Miles
British Ambassador to Greece, 1993-96

Basil Eastwood
British Ambassador to Syria, 1996-2000

Sir Harold Walker
British Ambassador to Iraq, 1990-1991



MPs should recognise Palestine to honour the civilians who died in Gaza

Letters, The Guardian,
October 13, 2014

We, as leaders and activists in British Muslim communities, call upon MPs in parliament to support the motion in favour of Britain’s recognition of the state of Palestine at the debate tabled for Monday 13 October.

For many years we have seen British politicians acknowledge the impact the abuse of Palestinian human rights and the steady demise of the prospects for a two-state solution has had on radicalising British Muslim youth. We have also too often heard rapturous vocal support for the two-state solution and the Middle East peace process without due regard for the need to match words to deeds.

The former British consul-general of Jerusalem, Sir Vincent Fean, has written eloquently of the primary responsibility borne by the UK in this endeavour, knowing that where we lead, others follow. In 2011, the UK stood, as Baroness Sayeeda Warsi squarely put it, “on the wrong side of history” by failing to support the Palestinians in their bid for statehood at the UN.

On 13 October, British parliamentarians will be presented with the opportunity to reverse that woeful decision and affirm that support for a two-state solution begins with the recognition of two states. Let us honour the 1,473 Palestinian civilians who died in Gaza this summer and recognise Palestine.

Sufyan Gulam Ismail CEO, MEND, Lauren Booth Broadcaster,
Dr Shuja Shafi Muslim Council of Britain,
Imam Shakeel Begg Lewisham Islamic Centre,
Shaykh Abu Eesa Niamatullah Al-Maghrib, Dr Omer El-Hamdoon
Muslim Association of Britain, Sabir Khan Bolton Council of Mosques,
Saleem Kidwai Muslim Council of Wales,
Dr Syed Ayas Association of Muslim Professionals,
Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari Author and commentator,
Dr Mohammed Alauddin Association of Muslim Professionals,
Dr Daud Abdullah British Muslim Initiative,
Mohammed Kozbar Islam Expo, Dr Fiaz Hussain Luton Council of Mosques,
Tafazal Mohammad Muslim Youth Skills, Naeem Darr Muslim Directory,
Bashir Osman FOSIS, Qari Abdul Shakoor Qadri Oldham Mosques Council,
Alyas Karmani JUST West Yorkshire, Hanif Malik Hamara Centre,
Dr Salman Butt Academic, Cllr Arif Hussain Leeds,
Jahan Mahmood Military historian, Cllr Mohammed Iqbal Leeds,
Jabbar Karim FeverFM, Ridwaan Haris Community activist Bradford,
Mohammed Abbasi  Association of British Muslims, Hasnat Bashir Solicitor,
Dr Haseena Lockhat Consultant clinical psychologist,
Muslimaat UK, Waheed Saleem Lunar Society,
Umer Suleman Islamic finance professional



Hundreds of Israeli public figures call upon Members of the British Parliament to vote in favor of recognizing the State of Palestine

Press Release, October 13, 2014

363 Israeli public figures have signed a letter to the Members of the British Parliament, calling upon them to vote in favor of British recognition of a Palestinian State, to be created side-by-side with Israel.

The letter was handed on Sunday noon to representatives of the British MP’s supporting the motion, due to be voted tomorrow (Monday). The Israeli letter was initiated by Dr. Alon Liel, former Director-General of the Israeli Foreign Ministry; Prof. Amiram Goldblum, a founder of the Peace Now movement; and Yehuda Shaul of “Breaking the Silence”.

The letter reads:

We, Israelis who worry and care for the well-being of the state of Israel, believe that the long-term existence and security of Israel depends on the long-term existence and security of a Palestinian state. For this reason we, the undersigned, urge members of the UK Parliament to vote in favor of the motion to be debated on Monday 13th October 2014, calling on the British Government to recognize the State of Palestine alongside the State of Israel.

Signatories include:

Nobel Prize Laureate (Economics) Daniel Kahneman
Six Laureates of the Israel Prize – Professors Alice Levy, David Har’el, Shimon Sandbank, Yehoshua Kolodny, Yona Rosenfeld and Yoram Bilu;
Two former ministers – Ran Cohen and Yossi Sarid, as well as four former Knesset Members – Uri Avnery, Yael Dayan, Mossi Raz and Naomi Chazan;
Former Ambassador and Director General of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, Dr. Alon Liel, as well as former Ambassador Ilan Baruch;
Gen. (ret.) Emanuel Shaked, former of the Paratooper Corps;
Former Attorney General Michael Ben-Yair;
Four writers – Yehoshua Sobol, Yehudit Kafri, Savyon Liebrecht and Amos Mokadi;
Professor Rafi Walden, Deputy Director of the Shiba Hospital and Chair of “Physicians for Human Rights”
Yuval Rahamim, Co-Chair of “Bereaved Families for Palestinian-Israeli Peace” and the group’s founder Yitzhak Frankenthal;

As well as many residents of Gaza border communities and other peace and social rights activists.

(Full signatories’ list here)

Contact:
Dr. Alon Liel, Former Foreign Ministry Director General
+972-(0)50-5371000 amiramg@ekmd.huji.ac.il
Prof. Amiram Goldblum +972-(0)54-4653292
Naftali Raz +972-(0)54-5494172 zar89@netvision.net.il
Yehuda Shaul – Breaking the Silence <yehuda@shovrimshtika.org>

Links

There is no alternative to a Palestinian state, Peter Oborne in the Telegraph

Britain Has A ‘Moral Duty’ To Recognise Palestine, Claims Alan Duncan Ahead Of Tense Commons Vote, not all Tories are pro-Israel, Huff. Post, October 12th, 2014

This house calls on the government to recognise the State of Palestine alongside the State of Israel, campaigns for and against;

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