Slough MP Fiona Mactaggart called on the Government to recognise Palestine before the elections in Israel on March 16th during question time in the House of Commons. Fiona challenged the Foreign Secretary, the Rt Hon. Phillip Hammond MP saying:
“The Minister earlier said that he didn’t feel it was right to do anything about the Israel-Palestine situation until after the Israeli election, and yet given that none of the major parties in that election are committed to withdrawal from the occupied territories, isn’t now the time to say that Britain intends to recognise Palestine?”
In his response the Foreign Secretary said: “I understand that the hon. Lady’s point is well made, but I can tell her exactly what any such statements now will do: they will play to the hard right in the Israeli elections. That will not make a settlement more likely; it will make it less likely.”
Fiona later commented, “The House of Commons voted to recognise Palestine but the Government has so far ignored the will of Parliament. They claim the time is not right, as the Foreign secretary did in response to me, but while they delay more illegal Israeli settlements are created on Palestinian territory and the prospects of a viable Palestinian state retreat.
British recognition of the state of Palestine would send a strong message that Israel cannot continue to act with impunity. I believe it is one of the few things which could restart peace talks and potentially lead to a lasting peaceful solution. The Foreign Secretary should be working hard to achieve peace rather than scaremongering about the way Israel may vote.”
Fiona was recently presented with a commemorative shield at the House of Commons by Palestinian students to thank her for supporting a motion urging the Government to recognise the state of Palestine.
Fiona Mactaggart was one of 274 MPs who voted for the motion in a backbench debate last October with only 12 against and it was followed by similar votes in the Irish, French, Spanish, Danish, Portuguese and European parliaments.
Five Palestinian student leaders, including one from Gaza, flew into London this week to present the shields to MPs “to express our heartfelt gratitude and appreciation for your continuous efforts to champion Palestinian statehood and human rights”.
The presentation was organised by the General Union of Palestinian Students which represents hundreds of students from the West Bank and Gaza studying at British universities.
The union’s Secretary-General, Fouad Shaath, told the MPs: "I don't know whether MPs have any idea just how much encouragement this vote gave to Palestinians. We often feel close to despair - but this vote gave us hope.”