UK hesitates on Palestinian statehood vote

By Ian Dunt

The UK government is still refusing to clarify exactly how it will vote when Palestinians bid for statehood next week.

In a major move by the Palestinian Authority (PA) president Mahmoud Abbas will demand recognition of a fully-fledged Palestinian state, despite ferocious opposition from the US and Israel.

The US has said it will veto any attempt to secure Palestinian statehood in the security council, meaning the PA would be forced to appeal to the general assembly to offer it non-member state, rather than its current 'observer entity', status.

Speaking in the Commons today Alistair Burt, Foreign Office minister, refused to be drawn on the British government's response to the vote, despite a furious reaction from MPs.

Former Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell said there would be a "profound sense of disappointment" unless there was a positive approach to Palestinian statehood.

"He [Mr Burt] must be more positive than he's been so far today," Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn demanded.

Mr Burt responded: "My sense is the UN procedure is a very, very important event but there will be a day after and facts on the ground won't be different the day after."

Jack Straw, former foreign secretary, has thrown his weight behind the move, writing to all British MPs demanding they support the argument for Palestinian statehood now.

The British government says it will base its approach on the specific wording of the UN resolution next week, but Mr Burt's use of the 'facts on the ground' argument – which Washington has relied on extensively in recent months – suggests a negative response.