MPs are debating whether the government should recognise Palestine as a state alongside Israel, as the prime minister reveals he will abstain in the vote.
Labour MP Grahame Morris has proposed the motion, arguing that public desire exists across the UK for the issue to be aired. The vote is not binding and would not change government policy.
A spokesman for the prime minister confirmed that ministers would abstain on the vote. “The Government’s approach is a long-standing one and is in support of a two-state solution and we will continue to work with a range of international partners – Israel, the Palestinian Authority – in support of that,” he said.
“We think that what you should do is you should do everything you can that is supportive of a successful and sustainable outcome based on a two-state solution.”
The debate is considered to be the first lengthy parliamentary discussion on the issue of Palestinian statehood since 2012. It follows the collapse of peace talks between Israel and Palestine and a summer conflict in Gaza, which claimed the lives of more than 2,100 Palestinians – mostly civilians – as well as 70 Israelis, all but of them six soldiers.
More than 100 countries have voted to recognise the state of Palestine. Last week Sweden announced it intended to formally recognise Palestine, making it the first European country to do so.
Presenting his bid to debate the issue in the Commons, Grahame Morris told the backbench business committee last month: “I do think it is important that parliament has an opportunity to express its will.
“The last time we actually had a full debate on the issue was back in 2012. This is in relation to the recognition of the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel.
“Can I just point out respectfully to the committee that a lot has happened since we made the original bid?
“The Kerry-led negotiations have collapsed. We know that Gaza has been left devastated by the consequences of the conflict. We have seen the biggest annexation of Palestinian land in the West Bank for 30 years.
“There have been enormous protests, not just in London, but all across the UK – demonstrations, large public gatherings, meetings and protests.
“There is a huge public desire across the UK for MPs to debate the issue and discuss the conflict.”
The Board of Deputies of British Jews issued a statement calling on MPs to back an amendment to the motion adding the words “on the conclusion of successful peace negotiations between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority”.
“Whilst there is a general consensus that a negotiated two-state solution is the way forward in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, there are concerns that this vote is an attempt to force the government’s hand in supporting ‘Palestinian demands’ in lieu of a peace settlement between the two sides,” the statement read.
“Instead of promoting the peace process, it will actually cause damage to it and also to Israel’s legitimacy.”