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Palestine: Recognition — Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:54 pm on 29th January 2015.

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Photo of Lord Pannick Lord Pannick Crossbench 4:54 pm, 29th January 2015

My Lords, there is of course another side to this debate. The United Kingdom is in good company in not recognising a state of Palestine. Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United States, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Denmark and many other European nations have not yet recognised a state of Palestine—and for good reason. Sympathetic though we all are to the sufferings of the unfortunate Palestinian people, recognising a state of Palestine at this time would hinder rather than promote a peace settlement. It would hinder a peace settlement because what is needed on both sides is to focus attention on the painful compromises that have to be made in bilateral negotiations. Yes; painful compromises are required from the Israeli side, and I know how difficult they will find it—I have an Israeli wife.

On the Palestinian side, which of course we are debating today, instead of the distraction of grandstanding international gestures, Palestinians need unequivocally to accept that the State of Israel is here to stay. They must give up the notion of a right to live in Haifa or Be’er Sheva. They need to throw away the schoolbooks that demonise Jews and deny that the Holocaust occurred, and unequivocally to condemn the attacks from Gaza and the suicide bombers, who are responsible for the blighting of the lives of other Palestinians, which we have heard about today.

Perhaps most of all, they need to recognise that Israel, for all its faults—and which society does not have faults?—has much to teach Palestinians, if only they would listen, about how a society born out of tragedy can promote free speech, democracy, the rule of law, scientific and literary achievements and, yes, prosperity for its people, with standards achieved in very few other places in the world, and of course none in the Middle East, all in the 66 years since its creation—a quite astonishing achievement in the most difficult of circumstances, surrounded by people who wish to destroy you.

Last week, a Palestinian man from the West Bank stabbed 10 people in an unprovoked attack on a bus in Tel Aviv. The New York Times reported that the assailant told police he was hoping to reach paradise—I assume he had not intended Tel Aviv to be his final destination. The London Times reported the response from Hamas. It was, it said, a “heroic and daring operation”. I will tell the House what would truly be heroic: for the Palestinian leadership to abandon gesture politics in the United Nations and take the hard and painful decisions that are necessary to secure peace in the only place it can be achieved—at the negotiating table.