UK Palestine statehood vote: Symbol or stumble?

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It was a symbolic action, but symbols can be powerful.

On Monday the British House of Commons voted 274 to 12 to recommend that the UK recognise Palestine as a state alongside Israel (half the body's members were absent or abstained).

Labour MP Grahame Morris, who presented the motion, told the BBC it is the "right thing to do".

"There's a huge feeling in the country that this is the time," he said.

The action in the UK comes on the heels of a 3 October announcement by Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven that his would be the first major Western European nation to formally recognise a Palestine state.

In the US, where prospects of any similar recognition - either by President Barack Obama or the US Congress - are slim to none, reaction has been mixed.

The New York Times editorial board says the UK has sent a message to Israel and its allies.

"The vote is one more sign of the frustration many people in Europe feel about the failure to achieve an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement despite years of promises," the editors write.

media captionLabour MP Grahame Morris says recognising the state of Palestine is the "right thing to do" ahead of a vote in the Commons

John Cassidy writes in the New Yorker that while Israel's supporters may be quick to dismiss the UK vote as "animated by prejudice", a statement during the debate made by conservative MP Sir Richard Ottaway should be a wake-up call.

"Ottaway is a military veteran, and he represents an affluent constituency south of London," Cassidy writes. "He voted for the Iraq War and has long been regarded as a staunch ally of Israel."

Mr Ottaway said "Israel has slowly been drifting away from world public opinion".

"The annexation of 950 acres of the West Bank just a few months ago has outraged me more than anything else in my political life, " he said, "mainly because it makes me look a fool, and that is something that I resent."

In the Huffington Post, Arab American Institute president James Zogby writes that while the UK's action may generate an uproar among Israel's supporters in Washington, these politicians may find themselves increasingly isolated.

"This could have the salutary effect of producing a much needed American debate on Palestinian rights," he says.

Meanwhile, Commentary's Jonathan S Tobin dismisses what he calls a "farce" vote.

"This says a lot more about the willingness of Europeans to pressure and even demonise Israel than it does about their supposed support for peace," he writes.

There are two governments operating in the Palestinian territories, he writes. Which one do the UK MPs think should be recognised? "The weak, corrupt and undemocratic Palestinian Authority in the West Bank or the terrorist Hamas state in Gaza? Or both?"

(For reaction in the Israeli media, see the BBC Monitoring's quotes of the day, below.)


A socialist success story - Socialist Evo Morales was re-elected to serve a third term as president of Bolivia Tuesday after eight years of extraordinary socio-economic reforms, writes Ellie Mae O'Hagan for the Guardian.

According to a report by the Centre for Economic and Policy Research(CEPR), "Bolivia has grown much faster over the last eight years than in any period over the past three and a half decades."

O'Hagan says that Morales has made enemies in the White House, possibly because of his calls for the international legalisation of the coca leaf, which is chewed as part of Bolivian culture but can also be refined into cocaine.

"However Morales uses his third term, it's clear that what he's done already has been remarkable," she concludes. "He has defied the conventional wisdom that says left-wing policies damage economic growth, that working-class people can't run successful economies and that politics can't be transformative - and he's done all of this in the face of enormous political pressure from the IMF, the international business community and the US government."


A tragic legacy - Haiti's former leader Jean-Claude Duvalier is dead, but Duvalierism lives on, reports Amy Wilentz in the Nation.

"The corruption he and his father encouraged, and their political toolbox - authoritarianism, trumped up elections, distrust of free speech, corruption of the forces of order, and no justice - are the methods by which Haiti's ruler still controls the country," she writes.

The US continues to support Haitian President Michel Martelly, she says, despite his efforts to block real democracy.

"Only yesterday [US Ambassador to the UN] Samantha Power attacked the Haitian opposition for standing in the way of elections," she writes. "But the opposition has had good reasons for putting obstacles in Martelly's way, not least the concern that the elections he hopes to organise will not include all parties, and will be overseen by an electoral council that is neither honest nor objective."


History behind global ambitions - Chinese President Xi Jinping is appealing to political leaders throughout Europe and Asia to build the Silk Road Economic Belt and the Maritime Silk Road, a foreign-policy initiative aimed at boosting international cooperation and joint development throughout Eurasia, writes Indian MP Shashi Tharoor

"Xi has emphasized that the goal of the Silk Road economic initiative is to revive ancient ties of friendship in the contemporary globalised world," he writes for Project Syndicate. "But he undoubtedly has a domestic motive as well, rooted in the growing prosperity gap between eastern and western China."

Xi may face political resistance - especially with regard to the maritime route, Tharoor says. Memories of Imperial Japan's "Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere", built through conquest, linger.

"Might China be on a similar - albeit less openly aggressive - path?" he asks.


An endgame after the Islamic State - Michael Bell of Toronto's Globe and Mail wonders what Iraq and Syria will look like when and if the power of IS is broken by air and ground offensives.

"In the search for some kind of power balance that satisfies minorities and majorities alike, the Lebanese model of consociational power sharing - despite its flaws - may just offer a realistic way out, ensuring a relatively stable political order in the presently anarchic states of Iraq and Syria," he writes.

The alternatives are stark, Bell says. In the case of Syria, the allies are caught between radical Islam, a badly splintered moderate opposition and the Assad regime.

"The latter, however much we might be loath to admit it, did provide security and stability, for most who kept their heads down," he writes.

BBC Monitoring's quotes of the day

Israeli commentators react to the vote in the UK House of Commons to endorse recognition of a Palestinian state.

"The very fact that a major Western European nation's parliament has granted Palestine diplomatic recognition could result in a snowball effect - passage of the motion legitimates the position that Israel is to blame for the conflict." - Editorial in the Jerusalem Post.

"What we have here is a private proposal of backbenchers of the kind that generally a small number of MPs vote on it, and the participation of 286 MPs in the vote is almost unprecedented… The fact that so many MPs felt the need to participate in the discussion and vote, should light a red warning light in Israel." - Anshel Pfeffer in Ha'aretz.

"England, it seems, will never forgive a small group of Jewish freedom fighters, members of the pre state underground movements, who contributed with their courage and strong spirits to the shrinking of the empire on which the sun never set." - Haim Shain in Yisrael Hayom.‎

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