By Daniel Farber Ball
The British Parliament voted late at night on Oct. 13 to support a Palestinian state alongside Israel. The decision became official, when 274 members of Parliament stated “this House believes that the government should recognize the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel.” Only 12 MPs objected out of the 650 seats, and the remaining 364 MPs, who mostly form the ruling party, didn’t participate.
While this is a non-binding resolution that can’t force the British government to change its Middle East policy, officials in Jerusalem should be concerned. The ruling Conservative Party decided did not show up to object the vote, meanwhile the opposing Labour party fully supported it.
While the vote didn’t go unnoticed in Israel, only one major newspaper mentioned it on its cover, as seen on Velvetunderground.co.il . Maybe it was due to editorial decisions, or maybe due to the late hour of the vote, either way there was plenty of reaction online on the newspapers’ websites.
A paper supporting Netanyahu, “Yisral Hayom,” placed the story in a small box on page 5 of Tuesday’s paper. They stayed with the story the following day but framed it as an unjust global trend, and as columnist Dan Margalit wrote, that Israel should “Keep calm and carry on.” Another columnist Haim Shine called the resolution “hypocrisy” in his daily column that day.
The paper that did mention the vote on its front page was “Yediot Achoront.” This paper is considered closer to the political center in Israel, but according to some it holds an anti-Netanyahu bias and has a tendency to create spectacles. On its website, “Ynet,” the theme of concern was kept and maybe even amplified, with fingers pointed at the Israeli Prime Minister. This line was kept in the other “political center” newspaper, “Ma’ariv Hashavoa’a,” which separately presented comments from British officials and Israeli opposition.
On the left side of the media map, the liberal “Ha’aretz” took the British vote as an opportunity to push its left wing views. Without neglecting the fact the vote was only symbolic, reporter Anshel Pfeffer, drew lines between the vote to the historic 1917 “Belfour Declaration.” The non-binding declaration was in fact a letter, sent from the United Kingdom foreign Secretary James Balfur to Baron Rothschild addressing the Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland.
In the letter, Balfur says the British Government “views in favor” the establishment of a national home for the Jews in the land of Palestine. Pfeffer speculates if the Parliament vote might turn out to be the Palestinian “Balfur Declaration.” Meanwhile, columnist Ravit Hecht said the Israeli right wing is in a state of denial following the vote and similar international statements censuring Israel, and called the Israeli Prime Minister a liar. “Ha’aretz” also presented criticism against Netanyahu from all sides of Israeli politics.
And while the Israeli media joins in the Israeli political blame game, the Palestinians continue to look for more recognition. Jerusalem should devise a diplomatic plan sooner then later, or it might just find itself on the wrong side of global politics and diplomacy.