This evening the House of Commons will vote on a private members resolution requesting that the UK Government recognise Palestine as a state.
On the surface this appears harmless enough. The two-state solution is widely recognised as the way forward out of the current impasse between Israel and the Palestinians. The government of Israel has expressly declared its support for a two-state solution, as has the mainstream of the British Jewish community through its representative body the Board of Deputies. Yet Israel's supporters including, but not limited to, the British Jewish community are alarmed. Why?
As often in these cases the devil lies in the detail. An amendment has been proposed to the motion urging that recognition comes as the result of successful negotiations between the parties. This amendment is widely regarded as vital to the promotion of those negotiations. At present the parties are far apart. President Abbas has - with admirable frankness - described the call for Palestinian statehood immediately, in the absence of successful negotiations, "as a way of internationalizing the struggle". It will for instance facilitate the bringing of prosecutions against Israeli politicians who travel abroad, when known terrorists can do so with impunity, and it will promote the campaign of boycotts and delegitimisation of the state of Israel, a goal opposed by all mainstream parties in this country.
Most seriously of all it risks extending legitimacy to one part of the Palestinian administration - Hamas - which is in control of Gaza and which has just been engaged in a conflict with Israel during which it fired over four thousand rockets indiscriminately at her. While no decent person can fail to be moved by the plight of the people of Gaza equally no fair minded person can fail to be outraged by the conduct of Hamas, which has been labelled as a terrorist organisation not only by the UK and the US but also by the UN, the EU, Japan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and many others.
Hamas, which is an offshoot of the Muslim brotherhood, is an avowedly Jihadist organisation. Its Charter is filled not merely with anti-Semitism of the crudest kind but also with bizarre conspiracy theories: the Jews and their allies (the Freemasons, the Rotary Clubs and other stooges) are responsible for most of the world's ills; not merely for the French and Russian revolutions but also the first and second World Wars and other misfortunes too numerous to listed.
It is becoming increasingly clear that the real struggle in the Middle East is not between Jew and Arab or Christian and Muslim or even Islam and the other faiths but rather between the ordinary peoples and regimes of the region. The vast majority of Muslims want simply to live in peace with their neighbours and see their own regimes take their place peacefully in the international community. At such a time, it is vital that we retain our moral clarity. Fundamentalist organisations like Hamas must be resisted not appeased.
On the ground in the Middle East we should be promoting confidence building measures, the resumption of peace talks based on the principles of mutual recognition and the abandonment of incendiary rhetoric so that the vital task of reconstructing Gaza's infrastructure, raising the living standards of its people and creating the conditions whereby they can live in peace with their neighbours can proceed apace.
Here in this country we should look to abandon gestures which provoke but achieve little and instead encourage increased dialogue between the followers of the Abrahamic faiths and the development of a consensus against antisemitism anti-Muslim sentiment and all other forms of prejudice.
The way forward will not be easy but there is no alternative to trying.