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In the short time available to me I want to give my support to the motion for two main reasons. First, three years ago at the United Nations, the then Foreign Secretary said that Palestine met the conditions and was ready for statehood. How long do they have to wait? Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, against the backdrop of recurring violence, regular incursions into Gaza and settlement-building activity, we urgently need to find new ways forward, and I believe that recognition can and should be a part of that new process.
The Palestinians have waited a very long time for this debate, but the developing international consensus is that Palestine is ready for recognition. One hundred and thirty four countries have now recognised it diplomatically, including some members of the European Union, and the new Swedish Government made Sweden the 135th at the beginning of October. UN observer status was granted in 2011 by 138 votes to nine. There were 41 abstentions, including by the United Kingdom, but France, Italy and Spain all voted yes. Contrary to what Sir Malcolm Rifkind said, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the European Union have all separately reported that the institutions in Palestine are appropriate for the formation of a state.
The then Foreign Secretary elaborated the Government policy, saying that the decision on recognition should be
“at a moment of our choosing and when it can best help to bring about peace”.—[Hansard, 9 November 2011; Vol. 535, c. 290.]
There are many reasons why the timing is now right. Recognition would give a very clear signal about the illegality of occupation. We have talked incessantly about settlement building. There are 550,000 settlers in Palestinian territory, and recent announcements suggest that that figure will increase rapidly, so now is the time.