- UK lawmakers vote to recognize Palestine as a state after a debate in Parliament
- The measure is mainly symbolic and is not binding on the government
- Motion says this would be "as a contribution to securing a negotiated two state solution"
- It came 10 days after the new Swedish government said it would recognize Palestine
UK lawmakers have voted in the House of Commons to recognize Palestine as a state "as a contribution to securing a negotiated two state solution."
The motion was backed overwhelmingly Monday by 274 votes to 12. However, fewer than half of the 650 MPs in the House of Commons took part in the debate.
The motion passed was, "That this House believes that the Government should recognise the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel, as a contribution to securing a negotiated two state solution.
The measure is mainly symbolic and is not binding on the government. However, it lends added weight within Europe to calls for Palestinian statehood.
Ten days earlier, the new government in Sweden said it would recognize a Palestinian state.
"A two-state solution requires mutual recognition and a will to coexist peacefully. Therefore, Sweden will recognise the State of Palestine," said Prime Minister Stefan Lofven in his first statement of government policy.
'Not a gift, but a right'
The UK vote came after five hours of debate in the House.
Former Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind, of the Conservative Party, told MPs that during his time in office in the 1990s, the United Kingdom committed "for the first time to a two-state solution with a Palestinian state."
"I have never wavered in that view and I believe that the earlier that state comes about the better, both for the Palestinians and for the Middle East as a whole," he said.
Shadow foreign minister Ian Lucas, of the opposition Labour Party, said the motion would be supported by his party but that the timing and manner of deciding whether to recognize Palestinian statehood was a matter for the current coalition government.
"It will be decided by Labour in government if the decision has not been made by this government before Labour comes to power," he said. The next general election will be held in May next year.
"We fully support two states living side by side in peace, recognized by all their neighbors. We are clear that Palestinian statehood is not a gift to be given, but a right to be recognized," he said.
The UK government's official goal "is a negotiated two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, resulting in a secure and universally recognised Israel living alongside a sovereign and viable Palestinian state, based on the borders of 1967, with Jerusalem the future capital of both states, and a just, fair and agreed solution for refugees."
In 2012, the United Nations General Assembly voted to grant the status of "non-member observer state," similar to the Vatican, giving Palestinians a certain implicit degree of statehood recognition.
However, a Palestinian bid in 2011 for recognition as a full member of the United Nations failed. It became apparent that the bid was not going to receive the requisite nine of 15 Security Council votes, and the United States promised to veto it if it came to a vote.