Palestinians protest to mark the anniversary of the Balfour Declaration on 1 November 2016
UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson declined the Labour Party’s offer to recognise a Palestinian state “now” insisting that “the moment is not yet right to play that card”.
Replying to questions about the Balfour Declaration in the House of Commons yesterday, Johnson said: “It won’t on its own end the occupation. It won’t on its own bring peace. It isn’t after all something you can do more than once.
“That card having been played that will be it. We judge that it is better to give every possible encouragement to both sides to seize the moment.”
Yesterday’s debate in the Commons saw the Shadow Foreign Secretary, Emily Thornberry, challenging Johnson to fulfil Britain’s pledge to the Palestinians made in the Balfour Declaration not to “prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine”, who at the time made up 95 per cent of the population.
In her comments at the Chamber about the Balfour Declaration, Thornberry insisted “there is no better way, no more symbolic way than for the UK to officially recognise the State of Palestine”.
The Labour MP for Islington South questioned Johnson about the timing concerning extending the UK’s recognition of a Palestinian state while mentioning that in 2011, former Foreign Secretary William Hague had said that “we [UK] reserve the right to recognise a Palestinian state at a moment of our choosing”.
In the six years since, humanitarian conditions in the occupied territories have become ever more desperate, said Thornberry. “Six years of unabated cycle of violence; six years at which the pace of settlement building and the displacement of Palestinians has increased,” she stressed.
The Labour MP enquired if the government still plans to recognise the State of Palestine saying “if not now, when? And if they have no such plans why is it the plans have changed?”
Johnson, who has previously admitted that the terms of the 1917 Balfour Declaration are “not fully realised” refused to endorse Labour’s proposal, insisting that it was “not the right time to recognise the State of Palestine”.