British lawmakers on Monday hold a non-binding vote on recognizing Palestine although government ministers will not take part, in a sign of the political sensitivity of the issue.
The debate is being closely watched internationally after Sweden incurred Israeli wrath this month for saying it will recognize Palestine.
The symbolic vote is on a motion put forward by Grahame Morris, an MP from the opposition Labor Party, and is likely to get the backing of most Labor members.
Within the two ruling coalition parties, some Conservatives and most Liberal Democrats are likely to vote in favor, despite the government’s position.
“If the vote is a success it would put a tremendous amount of pressure on the current government and the next government, which is likely to be a Labor government, to recognize Palestine as a state,” Morris told AFP in an email.
“The UK recognizing Palestine could give decisive momentum to more EU states following suit,” he said.
Some pro-Israel Labor MPs will vote against and have voiced resentment at being ordered by the party leaders to vote in favor in what is expected to be a charged debate.
The House of Commons debate, which will start at 1330 GMT, follows the collapse of peace talks between Israel and Palestine and this year’s conflict in Gaza in which more than 2,000 Palestinians and dozens of Israelis were killed, mostly soldiers.
The Palestinian Authority estimates at 134 the number of countries that have recognized Palestine as a state although the number is disputed and several recognitions by European Union member states date back to the Soviet era.
Newly-elected Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Loefven this month announced his intention to recognize a Palestinian state.
Sayeeda Warsi, a former British minister who stepped down in August saying the government had failed to condemn Israeli military action in Gaza severely enough, called on MPs to lead by example.
“There is a lack of political will and our moral compass is missing,” the former Foreign Office minister told Sunday newspaper The Observer.
“Somehow we have to breathe new life into these negotiations, and one of the ways we can do that is by recognizing the state of Palestine,” she said.
Referring to Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank and annexed East Jerusalem, she added: “If the settlements are not stopped … then the viability of a two-state solution is over.”
Morris said recognition would be “a clear and legitimate message that Britain and others recognize Palestinian rights and that the illegal settlement enterprise has no validity”.
Britain’s former international development minister Alan Duncan, a Conservative MP who is due to travel to Gaza with Warsi later this month, said the country had an “historic and moral duty” to recognize the state of Palestine.
Britain abstained in 2012 from a vote in the United Nations on giving the Palestinians the rank of observer state, which was granted despite opposition from the United States and Israel.
“We believe international recognition of a Palestinian state is premature,” US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said following Israel’s criticism of Sweden’s position.
(Agencies via Ma’an – www.maannews.net)