Britain’s Foreign Secretary Signals Willingness to Recognize Palestinian State Sooner

Britain’s Foreign Secretary Signals Willingness to Recognize Palestinian State Sooner

David Cameron, Britain’s foreign secretary, has signaled that Britain is willing to move up conversations about formally recognizing a Palestinian state, saying that his country and other allies should show Palestinians “irreversible progress” toward that long-sought goal.

Mr. Cameron, speaking to the Conservative Middle East Council, an organization that promotes discussion about the region among the Conservative Party, said on Monday that showing progress toward a two-state solution was essential to negotiating peace, and called Israel’s security policies of the last three decades “a failure.”

The British government has long held the position that it would only recognize a Palestinian state at the “right time” in the peace process with Israel, and Mr. Cameron’s comments, in London, suggested that Britain may be aiming to do that sooner.

A top priority “is to give the Palestinian people a political horizon so that they can see that there is going to be irreversible progress to a two-state solution and crucially the establishment of a Palestinian state,” Mr. Cameron said, according to the BBC, which reported his remarks.

On Tuesday, a spokesman for the prime minister said that Mr. Cameron’s comments were not a departure from the government’s longstanding position about a Palestinian state.

“Our position has not changed on recognition of a Palestinian state: We would do so at a time that best serves the cause of peace,” the spokesman said. “The U.K. for its part, and I think along with its allies, continues to believe that a two-state solution protects the peace and security of both Israelis and Palestinians.”

The United States, Britain and other allies have been pushing for Israel to agree to conditions for the creation of a Palestinian state, although Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has remained defiant, calling such a plan “an existential danger to Israel.”

Mr. Cameron, who tried to put pressure on Mr. Netanyahu at a meeting in Israel last week, had tough words for Israel in his comments on Monday, saying that it was important to recognize the mistakes of recent years in order to find a path forward.

“If the last 30 years tell us anything, it is a story of failure,” he said. “Ultimately it is a story of failure for Israel because, yes, they had a growing economy; yes, they had rising living standards; yes, they invested in defense and security and walls and the rest of it; but they couldn’t provide what a state most wants, what every family wants, which is security.”

The Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it welcomed Mr. Cameron’s comments, calling international support for an eventual Palestinian state “a necessary strategic step to resolve the conflict and achieve security and stability in the Middle East and the world.”

The comments came hours before Mr. Cameron traveled to Oman on Tuesday for the first leg of his fourth visit to the Middle East since taking up the role of foreign secretary late last year. His trip will again focus on de-escalation of hostilities in the region, the foreign office said in a statement, with a focus on halting the ongoing attacks by the Houthi militia in the Red Sea.

Mr. Cameron also plans to push for an immediate pause to the fighting in Gaza to allow much-needed humanitarian aid into the enclave and for the release of hostages.

Britain’s foreign office also said it had been “alarmed” by a conference that some Israeli ministers joined over the weekend that called for Jewish settlements to be built in Gaza.

“The U.K.’s position is clear: Gaza is occupied Palestinian territory and will be part of the future Palestinian state,” the foreign office said. “Settlements are illegal. No Palestinian should be threatened with forcible displacement or relocation.”

Stephen Castle, Myra Noveck and Rawan Sheikh Ahmad contributed reporting.

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