British lawmakers have voted in favour of recognising Palestine as a state, a symbolic move intended to increase pressure for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Legislators in the House of Commons voted 274 to 12 to support a motion calling on the British government to “recognise the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel.”
Prime Minister David Cameron and other government leaders abstained, and more than half of the 650 Commons members did not participate in the vote.
But the motion had support from both government and opposition lawmakers, who said it could help kick-start the peace process following a summer war in Gaza that claimed the lives of more than 2,100 Palestinians, the majority civilians, and more than 70 Israelis, most of them soldiers.
Labour Party legislator Grahame Morris said recognising a Palestinian state could help break the impasse in peace negotiations before it was too late.
Otherwise, he said, “any hope of a two-state solution, the only viable solution, will have disappeared altogether.”
Conservative lawmaker Nicholas Soames, grandson of World War II Prime Minister Winston Churchill, said that “to recognise Palestine is both morally right and is in our national interest.”
The government said the vote would not change Britain’s official diplomatic stance. Middle East Minister Tobias Ellwood said the UK would recognise Palestinian statehood when it would help bring about peace.
In 2012 the United Nations General Assembly voted to recognise a state of Palestine on territories captured by Israel in 1967. But the United States and many European countries have not followed suit.
But Western politicians have expressed frustration with Israel’s continued settlement-building on West Bank land the Palestinians want for a future state.
Earlier this month Sweden’s new Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said his government would recognise the state of Palestine, an announcement that drew praise from Palestinian officials and criticism from Israel.