British MPs have voted in favour of recognising Palestine as a state in a move which will not alter the government’s stance on the issue, but which carries a symbolic value for Palestinians in their pursuit of international recognition.
The UK does not classify Palestine as a state, but says it could do so at any time if it believed it would help peace efforts between the Palestinians and Israel.
David Cameron, UK prime minister, abstained from the vote, which was called by an opposition MP, and Cameron’s spokesman earlier said that foreign policy would not be affected whatever the outcome.
However, the vote was closely watched by Palestinian and Israeli authorities who are seeking to gauge European countries’ readiness to act on Palestinian hopes for unilateral recognition by UN member states.
Al Jazeera’s James Bays, reporting from the United Nations, said that while the vote was symbolic, the Palestinians would be hoping the outcome will give momentum to their plan to put a resolution before the UN Security Council.
The final motion, which passed by 274 votes to 12 at the House of Commons, the lower house of the parliament, stated “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”.
Phyllis Bennis, from the Institute for Policy Studies, told Al Jazeera that while the vote would make no difference on the ground, it would be a mistake to deny its importance.
“This is a statement from the closest US ally and perhaps the most influential country in Europe on this question to say that it is not prepared to go along with the US position that only US-orchestrated diplomacy that is based on this nonsense about the two sides coming together as if they were equals…rather than an occupier and an occupied population,” she said.
“This is a very important statement on the question of the legitimacy of Israel and the legitimacy of these failed 23-year-long diplomatic efforts controlled by the United States.”
The vote comes just as Sweden’s new centre-left government is set to officially recognise Palestine, a move that has been condemned by Israel, which says an independent Palestine can only be achieved through negotiations.
Earlier on Monday, violence flared in East Jerusalem when hundreds of Israeli police forces raided the al-Aqsa mosque compound and clashed with Palestinian worshippers.
Protesters in East Jerusalem have fought almost nightly with Israeli security forces in recent days.
The unrest has been fuelled by a number of factors, including the murder of Palestinian teenager Mohammed Abu Khdair and the recent war in Gaza.