ON 13 October, MPs will debate and vote on a motion to recognise
the state of Palestine. This is now the right course of action, to
sustain those in Palestine who abhor violence, and strengthen the
hand of those in Israel who seek a peaceful, secure coexistence
between two sovereign states.
The Holy Land is home to two peoples, Israeli and Palestinian.
It is anything but a beacon of peace and harmony. The conflict
there has cast a shadow over the region throughout my diplomatic
career: some 38 years, the last three in Jerusalem.
Jews, Christians, and Muslims all care deeply about Jerusalem,
and seek the freedom to worship there.
What can Christians do to advance the cause of peace with
justice in that sacred place? Pray for peace, mutual security, and
justice for all. Give to good causes, such as the rebuilding of
Gaza and non-political charities such as Friends of the Holy Land,
dedicated to enabling those Christian "living stones" to remain
where they were born.
And they can ask their elected representatives to do what is
right: recognise two states with equal rights and
OUR spiritual leaders care deeply. The Archbishop of Canterbury
spoke eloquently of security for Israel, justice for Palestinians,
and peace for all during his visit last year. Pope Francis prayed
for peace with Presidents Abbas and Peres in June. Tragically, the
third Gaza conflict in ten years was to follow. The latest
ceasefire has suspended the killing, but resolved nothing.
The British Government recognised the State of Israel (without
borders or a capital) in 1950. Why recognise Palestine now, based
on the borders before the 1967 war and occupation, i.e. East
Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza?
First, for our own sake: we regain our balance. We are party to
the history of this conflict, originators of the Balfour
Declaration and holders of the Mandate to rule Palestine (1920-48).
Under the Mandate, we took on a "sacred trust of civilisation" to
advance the welfare of the Palestinian people and guide them to
independence. There is unfinished business here.
Second, recognition makes a difference - not necessarily on the
ground but in the minds of men and women. It underlines our
commitment to an equitable two-state solution. Violence, the
expansion of illegal settlements, and the continued closure of Gaza
make that a two-state solution ever harder to discern, but it is
the only solution that will work justly. Put simply, recognition
makes it more likely, not less.
THE two parties to this conflict are at an impasse. The voices of
moderation on both sides need encouragement. Those Palestinians who
eschew violence and practise co-operation with Israel need
something to show for their pains - to prove that their peaceful
efforts, not indiscriminate Hamas violence, will lead to two
Those in Israel who acknowledge that settlements, the Separation
Barrier, and the demolition of Palestinian homes are both morally
and legally wrong need to be able to show that the world thinks the
same. It matters to Israel's international reputation to end the
External action is needed to break the impasse. The United
Kingdom has the freedom to act perfectly legitimately in ways that
are closed, politically, to the United States. US involvement in
resolving this conflict is necessary, but the actions of the
Secretary of State, John Kerry, are evidently not enough.
The Arab states have reaffirmed that they will recognise Israel
and do business with it in the event of an agreement acceptable to
Palestinian moderates. Europe too needs to act, beyond funding the
rebuilding of Gaza for the third time in a decade.
Where we lead, other Europeans will follow. Recognition of
Palestine is already under active discussion in France. The Nordic
countries are not far behind: in the Evangelical Churches in
Finland, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway, there is keen awareness of
the urgent need to find a way for two peoples to live in peace and
In Ireland and Italy, too, the debate has moved from conflict
analysis to determining action for the common good of all people in
the region. Israelis and Palestinians deserve to live in safety.
Both deserve statehood. The status quo is unjust and thus
indefensible. A one-state outcome is also no solution, for it means
further discrimination in an apartheid-style system, and yet more
The US administration sometimes says that we cannot want a
solution more than the two parties do. Not so. The absence of a
solution harms us directly in the region, through instability, the
risk of violence, and the financial cost of our contributions to
mitigating the damage caused by the Occupation.
Even more importantly, accusations of double standards
contribute to the radicalising of Muslim youth in the UK.
Recognition of the Palestinian State helps to level the ground for
future negotiations in the region, and demonstrates a respect for
the international law that we helped to create, and which needs
political will to enforce.
If you agree, please tell your MP before 13 October.
Sir Vincent Fean served as British Consul-General in
Jerusalem from 2010 until earlier this year.