David Cameron's Recent Palestine Remarks Are Significant. Here's Why

The Palestinian ambassador to the UK called the comments the "best shot in the arm".
Foreign secretary David Cameron
Foreign secretary David Cameron
JOSEPH EID via Getty Images

Lord David Cameron has caused a stir by calling for the UK to start envisioning how a Palestinian state would work.

The foreign secretary told the Conservative Middle East Council on Monday: “We should be starting to set out what a Palestinian state would look like – what it would compromise, how it would work.

“As that happens, we, with allies, will look at the issue of recognising a Palestinian state, including at the United Nations. This could be one of the things that helps to make this process irreversible.”

He expanded on these comments during a trip to Lebanon on Thursday, he said no recognition would happen while Hamas is still in Gaza – something the militants have refused to do.

However, he did say this state recognition could happen even while Israel’s negotiations with Palestinian leaders about the war are ongoing.

He said such recognition “can’t come at the start of the process, but it doesn’t have to be the very end of the process”.

“What we need to do is give the Palestinian people a horizon towards a better future, the future of having a state of their own,” the ex-PM said, adding this was “absolutely vital” for sustainable peace in the region.

He added that the first step should be a “pause” in the fighting in Gaza, which could turn into a “permanent, sustainable ceasefire”.

Cameron also revealed the UK is looking at a plan to de-escalate tensions on the Lebanon-Israel-border, where Hezbollah militants have clashed with Israeli troops.

Why are Cameron’s words important?

The Israel-Hamas war has been divisive ever since it broke out in October, when Palestinian militants killed 1,200 people on Israeli soil and took 240 others hostage.

Israel declared war, and has since killed more than 26,000 people in Gaza, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

But, amid international upheaval, the UK government has stuck by its allies in Israel and their concerns about the threat of Hamas.

So, it’s noteworthy that Cameron’s comments come shortly after Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu, ruled out the possibility of an independent Palestinian state once again.

Palestinian ambassador to the UK, Husam Zomlot, told Times Radio that Cameron’s words were “the best shot in the arm for a two-state solution”.

“Lord Cameron’s announcement was important because recognition has got nothing to do with a final peace agreement,” he continued.

“Recognition is a Palestinian right. It’s our right. It’s a birth right, our right of self-determination.”

He added: “I think the [foreign] secretary, was very successfully rather painting the picture as it should be and providing a policy that could work.”

There has also been no significant negotiations between Israel and Palestinian territories since 2009, so these comments may pressure Israeli leaders to act.

How has Westminster responded?

The i newspaper reported that Cameron did not clear his speech from Monday with No.10 ahead of time.

But, the government downplayed the significance of his comments, saying it was a “long-standing policy” to seek a two-state solution.

The government claimed his new comments did not differ from Cameron’s remarks made in the Mail on Sunday at the weekend, either.

An insider also told POLITICO’s London Playbook that it was “bizarre” to say the foreign secretary was deviating from Rishi Sunak’s main approach.

Responding to questions about Cameron’s remarks, development minister Andrew Mitchell said: “The British government has always been clear that we intend to recognise a Palestinian state when the timing is right.”

But, the Conservative chair of the foreign affairs select committee, Alicia Kearns, said these comments were significant.

She told LBC’s Andrew Marr that this “fundamental change in UK position” is “very welcome from my perspective”.

However, she added that she intends to “tease out” whether this is a “posturing position” or not.

She speculated it could be an attempt to show Israel that, unless they reform their behaviours, “there are tools that we have available to us”.

Alternatively, Kearns said it could be “a genuine commitment towards a Palestinian state”, claiming that is “where we should be going.”

Meanwhile, former Tory cabinet minister Theresa Villiers said recognising such a state would effectively “reward” Palestinian militants Hamas.


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