UK could recognize Palestinian state before any deal with Israel, says David Cameron

LONDON – The U.K. could officially recognize a Palestinian state without waiting for any Israeli-Palestinian talks on a two-state solution to bear fruit, Britain’s foreign secretary said.

David Cameron, who this week talked up U.K. recognition of a Palestinian state at the United Nations in a significant shift of British government policy, said no such move could come while Hamas remains in Gaza.

But he made clear that the U.K. could offer recognition without protracted talks between Israeli and Palestinian leaders on a two-state solution coming to a head. Such talks appear a distant prospect given staunch opposition from Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu to the idea as his country wages an assault on Gaza following deadly attacks by Hamas.

Speaking to reporters on a trip to Lebanon Thursday, Cameron said U.K. recognition of an independent Palestinian state “can’t come at the start of the process, but it doesn’t have to be the very end of the process.”

“It could be something that we consider as this process, as this advance to a solution, becomes more real,” Cameron said.

“What we need to do is give the Palestinian people a horizon towards a better future, the future of having a state of their own,” he said, adding that recognition of a Palestinian state is “absolutely vital for the long-term peace and security of the region.”

Cameron is back from a tour of the Middle East to try and push a five-point plan to quell the latest war between Israel and Hamas.

The U.K. is among those continuing to argue that a two-state solution is the only viable long-term solution to the conflict. But such a proposal faces fierce resistance from Netanyahu and members of his government. The Israeli prime minister has called for “full Israeli security control over the entire area in the west of Jordan,” a move he made clear is “contrary to a Palestinian state.”

The U.K. government has previously said only that it will “recognize a Palestinian state at a time when it best serves the objective of peace” and has rejected calls from British lawmakers to go further.