British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has rejected Labour’s call for the UK to mark the Balfour Declaration’s centenary by officially recognising the state of Palestine.
The foreign secretary said the UK judges, alongside the French and other European allies, that “the moment is not yet right to play that card” of recognising Palestine.
He added in the Commons: “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.”
The 1917 Balfour Declaration was seen as the first significant declaration by a world power in favour of a Jewish “national home” at the expense of the Palestinians’ homeland Palestine.
Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry had urged Johnson to use the 100th anniversary of the declaration to reflect on Britain’s role in the region and ask whether there is more it could be doing to “bring about lasting peace and stability” in the Middle East.
Thornberry asked if the UK still has plans to recognise Palestine and to outline when it will do this.
She also described US president Donald Trump as being “utterly directionless,” adding: “The need for Britain to show leadership on this issue is ever more pressing.”
Johnson added: “We need the Palestinian Authority, with a clear mandate, to sit down and negotiate with the Israelis and do that deal that is there to be done, that everybody understands.
“We all know the shape of the future map, we all know how it could be done.
“What is needed now is political will and I can assure you and the House that the UK will be absolutely determined to encourage both sides to do that deal.”
Conservative former minister Sir Hugo Swire echoed Labour’s calls, telling Johnson: “A positive way to mark this important centenary would be for the UK to finally recognise a Palestinian.”