Some might argue that this has been a humiliating period for the UK in the Israel/Palestine conflict. Others might argue that it has seen the UK illustrate admirable flexibility and elasticity on the matter.

Today sees the United Nations moves to a vote on the diplomatic status of Palestine. In effect the Palestinian leadership is asking the UN general assembly to upgrade them from observer entity to observer state, with many of the trappings of diplomacy and immunity that that would bring.

It would essentially have the same status as the Vatican. Unsurprisingly the most vociferous opponent of such a move is Israel itself. Israel won statehood in 1948 amid the dwindling embers of the League of Nations and the brave green shoots of the evolving entity we now accept as the United Nations.

29 palestine2 r w Sitting on our hands over Palestinian UN bid?

By my reckoning, the UK has changed its position twice on this – at first it said it would not vote against the Palestinian position then that changed to Britain may abstain from the vote.

We might be ill-advised to hold our breath today as we await the raised hand of the British ambassador at the UN – the latest British position will be to abstain. As of now the hand will simply stay down. Britain, one of the bruised midwives of the Israeli state will say, in effect, that it has no view on what should happen to the Palestinian state that is envisaged for those displaced by the establishment of the State of Israel. And yet many millions of UK and other European nations’ tax revenues have gone into the funding and provision of the instruments of the very statehood that the Palestinians seek today. These ‘instruments’ include, police stations; training and uniforms for police; town halls; voting registers; polling booths; ballot boxes; and much more.

At the end of the last century I was in the West Bank as Israeli missiles and bombs destroyed many of these police stations and civic buildings. Still more EU funds have gone on rebuilding them.

So today represents a strange moment for the UK. Great Britain has contributed more, as one country, than almost any nation on earth toward bringing about the structures of a viable Palestinian state. Yet when the residents of that land go to the United Nations to seek international recognition of that state, the UK will be found sitting on its hands. Some might argue that financially we have walked to walk for Palestine, but can’t find our way to talking the talk.

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