Sir Bob Russell, who with Jeremy Corbyn MP and others, forced a vote in the British House of Commons on the recognition of the state of Palestine, says Britain's abstention over the same vote in the UN Security Council this week was an example of poor democracy.
Russell said the British Government was failing to take heed of British public opinion. In October, MPs voted 274 to 12 to approve the motion: "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."
However, at the United Nations Security Council meeting this week, Britain abstained as delegates failed to adopt a draft resolution that would have affirmed the "urgent need" to reach within 12 months a peaceful solution to the situation in the Middle East and would have paved the way to a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.
Single State would create Most Powerful Middle East Nation
Sir Bob Russell, who sits on the Defence Select Committee, told Sputnik he intends to pursue the issue in Parliament. "The view of the British Parliament, as expressed in a free vote in the House of Commons, is that we should recognise Palestine. Public opinion is moving very steadily against Israel, which is not in the long term interests of the people of Israel — whether they be: those who have settled there or the population of Israel that was Palestine, before the state of Israel was formed in 1948.
Having achieved the goal of recognising Palestine, Sir Bob then wants both states to start to work together to create a single state.
"And the great tragedy is that, if Israel and Palestine could come together as one nation (and I think we've gone past the two-state solution), a one-state of the people of Israel and the people of Palestine would be the most powerful nation in the Middle East. A lot of the problems in the Middle East — while they would not evaporate — they would certainly go off the boil.
The current state of affairs, says Sir Bob is untenable. "It's a tragedy. I have seen the occupied West Bank, I have been to East Jerusalem, but what I saw is not something that any democrat can support. Israel has policies of ethnic cleansing, of Apartheid — there's no other way to describe it. That is not in the long-term interest of those who align themselves to the State of Israel," he told Sputnik.
US "in Hock" to Pro-Israeli Lobby
Russia and China both voted in favour of the recognition of the state of Palestine. Sir Bob said that was significant. "The only reason that Israel has been able to do what it has done is because of the United States, where there is a massive lobby in support of Israel. The two political parties in America are very much in hock to those who are pro-Israel. And it has to be said, quite bluntly, that the mainstream political parties of the United Kingdom — including my own [Liberal Democrats] — is similarly affected by a pro-Israeli stance. But that is becoming more historic than current.
"I think the Government of Israel needs to wake up to what is happening around the world, and for both Russia and China to vote against [Israel] by voting for Palestine, must send shockwaves. Increasingly, in the Houses of Parliament there are MPs who are very sympathetic to Israel, who are now standing up and saying ‘I cannot support this'.
"Israel, disproportionately, engages in the antics that it does. Quite clearly, in my view, the leadership in Israel should be brought before the International Criminal Court for war crimes. They are war criminals and they should be treated as such."
Palestine this week began the process of committing to membership of the International Criminal Court. It has requested that the ICC look retroactively into allegations of Israeli war crimes recently committed in Gaza. Sir Bob says that public opinion in the UK is moving against Israel.
"My big hope is that, somewhere in Israel, there is a de Klerk figure [F. W. de Klerk, South African State President from September 1989 to May 1994] in political life. We sing the praises for Nelson Mandela for what he did in post-Apartheid South Africa. But it would not have been possible but for de Klerk working so closely with Mandela for the transformation from Apartheid into the country it is today, with all its imperfections.
"What Israel needs is somebody of the calibre of de Klerk to be quite blunt with the Israeli political leadership, saying: we cannot go on like this. We have to work with our neighbours. We have to work with all members of our population — and that includes the Palestinians'.
"It's in the interests of Israel of tomorrow, and the years ahead, that it ends what it is doing against the Palestinians," said Russell.
The British House of Commons returns from recess on Monday and both Corbyn and Russell will be holding the government to account to find out why its UN representative abstained in the face of overwhelming public support for the recognition of Palestine. Whether Sir Bob Russell can force the issue of a single combined state is another matter entirely.