The UK could officially recognise a Palestinian state after a ceasefire in Gaza without waiting for the outcome of what could be years of talks between Israel and the Palestinians on a two-state solution, David Cameron has said.
Speaking during a visit on Thursday to Lebanon intended to tamp down regional tensions, the foreign secretary said no recognition could come while Hamas remained in Gaza, but that it could take place while Israeli negotiations with Palestinian leaders were continuing.
UK recognition of an independent state of Palestine, including in the United Nations, “can’t come at the start of the process, but it doesn’t have to be the very end of the process,” said Cameron, a former prime minister.
“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.”
That prospect is “absolutely vital for the long-term peace and security of the region”, he said.
Britain, the US and other western countries have supported the idea of an independent Palestine existing alongside Israel as a solution to the region’s most intractable conflict, but have said Palestinian independence should come as part of a negotiated settlement. There have been no substantive negotiations since 2009.
The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has repeatedly rejected the creation of an independent Palestinian state after the war, and has even boasted in recent weeks that he was instrumental in preventing Palestinian statehood.
A move by some of Israel’s key allies to recognise a Palestinian state without Israel’s buy-in could isolate Israel and put pressure on it to come to the table.
Cameron said the first step must be a “pause in the fighting” in Gaza that would eventually turn into “a permanent, sustainable ceasefire”.
He added that in order for the UK to recognise a Palestinian state, the leaders of Hamas would need to leave Gaza “because you can’t have a two-state solution with Gaza still controlled by the people responsible for 7 October”, referring to the deadly Hamas attack on Israel that triggered the war in Gaza.
Hamas has so far taken the position that its leaders would not leave the enclave as part of a ceasefire deal.
Cameron said the UK is also proposing a plan to de-escalate tensions on the Lebanon-Israel border, where the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah and Israeli forces have been trading fire near daily for the past four months, sparking fears of a wider war.
The plan would include Britain training Lebanese army forces to carry out more security work in the border region, he said.