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Britain should say yes to a Palestinian state...

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At the end of September the Palestinian Authority, under the seemingly never-ending leadership of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, will push the United Nations to officially recognise their claim to statehood. It is a vote few people seem to want to happen. European Union countries certainly don't because they are split down the middle with Germany and Italy being hostile while France and Spain being more receptive. With the EU being under so much stress already due to it's economic woes and serious waves of social unrest, notably in Greece and Spain, it is a fair assumption that most of it's leaders recognise that the last thing that is needed is a divisive vote such as this. Meanwhile, the United States is threatening to use it's veto to render the vote pointless in any case.

In this context, Britain could enjoy what is now a rare moment as a player on the global stage of significant importance. Foreign Secretary William Hague is currently playing his cards close to his chest on which way Britain could swing if it does come down to a vote in September:

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said, are "reserving our position for the moment" on the possible recognition of a Palestinian state.

"We will see of course what happens over the coming weeks," Hague said. "We want Israelis and Palestinians to return to direct talks."

He added: "The position on recognition is one that we will decide on if necessary come September, but it is far preferable for talks to resume."

However, he is wrong to be so coy. He should speak out unequivicaly in favour of recognising a Palestinian state. Opponents of the motion and Israel are busy trying to equate supporting the motion with Hamas's position of wanting the 'destruction of Israel'. This is a common dishonest intellectual slight of hand which is often deployed in this debate and its one of the reason's it is so hard to progress to a democratic and equitable solution. In reality recognition of Palestinian statehood (probably based on the pre-1967 borders) is merely a simple statement of a vital half of the two-state solution equation.

Israel really doesn't want to be inconvenienced by facing even greater pressure to comply with international law. It wants to protect its continuing settlement expansion into the West Bank. Given the fact that it currently enjoys a dominant position it is somewhat natural that in a fair and just two-state solution Israel will have to do a larger portion of the initial sacrificing. It is certainly going to have halt and reverse it's settlement expansion plans and cede some conquered land to make a Palestinian state viable.

The importance of winning recognition for a Palestinian state is that it begins to redress the imbalance in how both Palestinian and Israeli claims are addressed by the international community. Both have a right to exist within their own state frameworks but thus far this has been more a hypothetical aspiration for the formally stateless Palestinians.

Recognition would place them symbolically on a level footing with Israeli's and in doing so might well bring a negotiated peace closer. This is surely worth Britain getting off the fence, even it means annoying the United States, and saying 'yes' to a Palestinian state in September.