Commentary and opinion on national and regional politics by Seema Malhotra

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Will the vote for Palestinian statehood go ahead?

For more reasons than one, the world's eyes should be on the UN today. Whilst the Guardian writes that the UN vote on Palestian Statehood may be delayed, the last few months has brought into the international scene a new dynamism on the question of Palestine and Israel, and achieving a viable two state solution. At an event in July, I asked Tony Blair about the Quartet's progress in the Middle East, and his view on Palestinian Statehood. I was really impressed by the thoughtfulness of his answer. It suggested to me an honest commitment to a making a two state solution become a reality. My personal view is that we must see this happen in our lifetime; to leave it to the next generation would be a huge abdication of our responsibility. He said rightly that Israel had legitimate security concerns, and confidence these were being being addressed were vital. But also on the vote; that statehood would mean very little if the infrastructure of the state, institutions, development were not in place to make statehood or anything close to it a reality. So it was heartening to hear from someone who went on the Young Fabian visit to Israel and Palestine last week their view that real progress is being made, and that many similarities also exist in aspirations of both sides. It made me wonder whether the people are ahead of the politics - and politicians now needing to step up and deliver on the aspirations of ordinary families wanting to live at peace with their neighbours. Certainly opinion polls would suggest that. Whether or not the vote goes ahead today, a momentum has been built and this has been an impressive power move on behalf of Mahmoud Abbas - a move which has triggered a significant response and called for each nation to review its position and commitment to peace in the Middle East. There has been a line of argument recently (but not one I personally agree with) that the vote could lead to a raising of expectation in Palestine that could be counterproductive at this delicate stage. I was one of many I am sure today who was extremely proud of Douglas Alexander MP, Shadow Foreign Secretary, for his truly statemanly letter to William Hague, Foreign Secretary, laying out Labour's position backing the recognition of Palestinian statehood as part of continuing steps to achieve a comprehensive two state solution. Whether there is a vote, the expectation is now higher on international politicians including America's leaders to make sure we move forward. Our political leaders must not rest until we see addressed through meaningful negotiation the security of Israel, the security of Palestinian borders on 1967 boundaries and the prospects of a positive future for the region. Peace in the Middle East was an issue I campaigned on as a student. It would be sad and shocking if children being born today were set up to do the same in 18 years, because of action that international Governments failed to take today. Peace in Israel and Palestine can only have positive outcomes for the world as a whole. Let's not see another generation of progress wasted.