British Envoy to Israel: Palestine Vote Sign of 'Concerning' Shift in U.K. Public Opinion

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Matthew Gould.Credit: Tal Cohen

Britain's ambassador to Israel said Tuesday that the U.K. parliament's vote to recognize a Palestinian state shows the shifting public sentiment in Britain against Israel.

In an interview with Israel Radio, Matthew Gould told Israel Radio that the symbolic vote in the House of Commons reflects the view of Israel following the war in Gaza, which killed more than 2,100 Palestinians, the majority civilians, and more than 70 Israelis, the majority soldiers.

"I think it is right to be concerned about what it signifies in terms of the direction of public opinion," said Gould.

Gould confirmed Monday after the result that British policy on recognition remains unchanged, but warns that the issues raised by the Commons motion should not be dismissed out of hand.

“Separate from the narrow question of recognition, I am concerned in the long run about the shift in public opinion in the U.K. and beyond towards Israel,” says Gould. “Israel lost support after this summer’s conflict, and after the series of announcements on settlements. This Parliamentary vote is a sign of the way the wind is blowing, and will continue to blow without any progress towards peace.”

British Prime Minister David Cameron and other government leaders abstained from the vote Monday, which passed by a majority 274-12.

The vote, which followed a debate that lasted nearly five hours, has no practical significance since it does not oblige the British government to change its current policy of recognizing Palestine only after a peace deal is reached between Israel and the Palestinians. The vote passed thanks to the Labour Party's mobilization, as well as the Conservative Party's virtual absence from the vote.

Opposition leader and Labor Party Chairman Isaac Herzog on Tuesday called the U.K. parliament's decision to recognize the Palestinian state a "resounding failure" in the path set by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.

"This is another resounding failure for the school of Netanyahu and Lieberman. A cold wind is blowing toward Israel from every corner of the world, yet the prime minister and foreign minister refuse to face the facts, and are bringing a harsh diplomatic storm upon us.”