Two months after resigning over the government’s “morally indefensible” stance on Gaza, Lady Warsi has called on MPs to lead by example and recognise the state of Palestine in a potentially historic vote on Monday.
In a withering critique of British foreign policy towards the Middle East, Warsi said the government had abdicated responsibility for driving the peace process and its diplomatic channels with Israel counted “for nothing”.
“There is a lack of political will and our moral compass is missing,” the former Foreign Office minister told the Observer. “There are no negotiations, there is no show in town. Somehow we have to breathe new life into these negotiations, and one of the ways we can do that is by recognising the state of Palestine.”
Monday’s motion is purely symbolic. Labour MPs have been told by the party whips to vote in favour of Palestinian statehood, although some, such as Louise Ellman, who is a member of the Labour Friends of Israel, argue that recognition should only follow direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
Most Liberal Democrats are likely to support the motion, along with significant numbers of Tories.
In her first interview following a self-imposed period of silence, Warsi said disquiet over the government’s approach to the Israel and Palestine issue was widespread and that far more needed to be done to pressure Israel towards a two-state solution.
Warsi resigned from the government in August over David Cameron’s refusal to take a tougher line on Israel. She said: “It’s not just former ministers, there are ministers in government of this view. The Foreign Office itself to the highest level feels our policy on this is wrong. Numerous officials from the Foreign Office have been in touch after my resignation, saying we absolutely agree with your position and the government is absolutely wrong.
“You’ve a small group of politicians who are keeping a close grip on this and who are not allowing public opinion, ministerial views, parliamentary views and the views of the people who work in this system.”
Other senior Conservative figures who are supporting calls for Palestine to be recognised as a state include the former minister for international development, Alan Duncan, the former Foreign Office minister Hugh Robertson, and Ken Clarke, the former lord chancellor and justice secretary.
The House of Commons debate comes after the leader of Sweden’s new centre-left government, Stefan Löfven, announced that his country would officially recognise Palestine, stating that “a two-state solution requires mutual recognition and a will to peaceful coexistence. Sweden will therefore recognise the state of Palestine.”
Warsi said the deteriorating situation after the Gaza crisis in the summer and the pace of settlement building by Israel meant the window of opportunity to recognise Palestine as a state might be no longer than a year.
“The settlement building continues apace, yet there are no consequences following settlement building. If the settlements are not stopped – and they will only be stopped if there are consequences – then the viability of a two-state solution is over,” she said.
Later this month, Warsi and Duncan hope to visit Gaza on a fact-finding mission. Duncan will speak on the Middle East at the Royal United Services Institute on Tuesday.
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