Documents to download

Recognition of the “State of Palestine”

Recognition is the act of one state formally or informally recognising an entity as a state. Recognition can also refer to the recognition of a government or representatives of a state as the legitimate or lawful representative of that state and its peoples.

At the United Nations, the Permanent Observer Mission of the State of Palestine to the United Nations lists the states that have recognised the State of Palestine. Currently, 139 of 193 UN Member States recognise this statehood.

In recent months, the UK has continued to reiterate its long-standing position that it would only recognise a State of Palestine at the right time in the peace process with Israel. In February 2021, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office said that the UK would recognise a Palestinian state at a time of the Government’s choosing, and when it best serves the objective of peace.

In September 2020, the Government said:

We are clear that we want to see the creation of a sovereign, independent and viable Palestinian state – living in peace and security, side by side with Israel. The UK will recognise a Palestinian state at a time when it best serves the objective of peace. Bilateral recognition in itself cannot end the occupation. Without a negotiated settlement the occupation and the problems that come with it will continue. We continue to work closely with international partners strongly advocating a two-state solution and encouraging a return to meaningful negotiations.

In October 2014, the House of Commons voted in favour of the following:

That this House believes that the Government should recognise the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel, as a contribution to securing a negotiated two state solution.

This vote was not binding on the Government.

Statehood as an aim of peace talks

A two-state solution for Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories was the objective of a peaceful settlement highlighted in the 1993 Oslo Accords (the Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements), and has been reiterated at a number of points since.

The two-state solution remains the most favoured approach to achieving peace, despite some incidents being criticised for potentially endangering this in recent years. For example, On 28 January 2020, the former US President Trump’s Administration published its peace plan for the Middle East which included controversial proposals to swap land between Israel and the Palestinians. This would have required Israel to annex land currently occupied by settlements in the West Bank, and was met with hostility by some.

Sanctions Debate

The most recent call for sanctions against Israel comes following 10 days of fighting involving airstrikes by Israeli forces and rocket attacks from Gaza.

The fighting took place from 10 May, to a ceasefire overnight on 20 to 21 May. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs for the Occupied Palestinian Territory reported that the escalation in hostilities killed 256 Palestinians (at least 129 of those civilians), including 66 children, and 10 Israelis (plus 3 foreign nationals), including 2 children. The fighting also caused 1,948 injuries in Palestinian territory, and 710 injuries in Israel.

At the peak of the hostilities, up to 113,000 people were displaced before the ceasefire.

On the 16 May, the UK expressed concern at the violence at the UN Security Council. The UK condemned the firing of rockets at civilian populations, calling them “acts of terrorism from Hamas and other terrorist groups”. The UK also expressed its support for Israel’s “legitimate right to self-defence, and the right to defend its citizens from attack.” In doing so, the UK also expressed concern over reports of civilian housing and other infrastructure being destroyed or damaged, and stated that “Israel’s actions must be proportionate and in line with International Humanitarian Law”.

The UK Government Minister for the Middle East and North Africa, James Cleverly, in response to an Urgent Question on 19 May, repeated the Government’s condemnation of the firing of rockets at Jerusalem and other locations within Israel. He also called upon Israel “to adhere to the principles of necessity and proportionality when defending its legitimate security interests.”

On sanctions, the UK Government currently lists Hamas and some individual leaders of Hamas on its sanctions list. Hamas is a Palestinian militant Islamist movement whose political wing is the governing authority in the Gaza Strip. Hamas’ military wing is proscribed as a terrorist organisation by the UK Government.

The UK Government has not expressed any intention to impose sanctions on Israel. While the UK has consistently considered Israel’s settlement activity to be illegal under international law, in line with the opinion of the International Court of Justice and the UN Security Council, the UK also supports Israel’s right to self-defence so long as this is proportionate and necessary.

The UK Sanctions Regime

Under the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2018, an appropriate Minister may adopt Regulations where they consider that doing so would be appropriate to comply with an international obligation, or for one of the purposes listed in the Act. Such purposes include promoting the resolution of armed conflict, the protection of civilians, national or international peace and security interests, or promoting compliance with international human rights or humanitarian law.

The Global Human Rights Sanctions Regulations 2020 also contains specific measures to counter activities which, if carried out by or on behalf of a State within the territory of that State, would amount to a serious violation of an individual’s human rights, namely their:

  • right to life
  • right not to be subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
  • right to be free from slavery, not to be held in servitude or required to perform forced or compulsory labour.

Documents to download

Related posts