UK's Failure to Back Vote on Palestine 'Is Historic Blunder'

Article excerpt

Byline: Peter Dominiczak Political Correspondent

THE Government was today accused of making a "historic misjudgment" after abstaining in the vote to recognise a Palestinian state.

The United Nations General Assembly in New York voted overwhelmingly to recognise Palestine as a non-member observer state despite opposition from Israel and the US.

Foreign Secretary William Hague was under pressure to back last night's vote but said Britain could only support the resolution if the Palestinians committed to an unconditional return to the negotiating table with Israel.

Mr Hague also urged the Palestinians to drop plans to try to sue Israel through the International Criminal Court over the occupied territories.

He was not given those assurances and abstained, saying the UK "will redouble our efforts to restart the peace process". But shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander said: "The British Government's decision to abstain is worse than a blunder. It is a historic misjudgment which will be interpreted as a sign not of influence but of irrelevance. The Palestinians' right to a state is not a gift to be delivered but a right to be acknowledged." The assembly voted 138-9 in favour, with 41 nations abstaining. Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas told the assembly the vote was the "last chance to save the two-state solution".

Israel's prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the vote "meaningless" and said that Mr Abbas's address had not been "the words of a man who wants peace".

Mr Hague said: "We believe that the prospects for a swift return to negotiations on a two-state solution -- the only way to create a Palestinian state on the ground -- would be greater if President Abbas had been able to give the assurances we suggested, and without which we were unable to vote in favour. …