EU parliament votes for principle of Palestinian statehood

December 18, 2014
Sarah Benton

Mohammed Saber/EPA

The European Parliament supports in principle recognition of Palestinian statehood and the two-state solution, and believes these should go hand in hand with the development of peace talks, which should be advanced.

European parliament votes to recognise Palestinian state

By Christian Oliver in Brussels and John Reed in Jerusalem, Financial Times
December 17, 2014

Israel was on the defensive on Wednesday as its conflict with the Palestinians was taken up by the international community, with the European parliament voting in favour of Palestinian statehood and signatories to the Geneva Convention condemning the expansion of settlements on occupied land.

The move came ahead of expected discussion of a resolution Israel opposes in favour of Palestinian statehood due to be tabled and discussed at the UN Security Council in New York.

At the European Parliament in Strasbourg a motion to recognise Palestinian statehood “in principle” won cross-party support on Wednesday, with 498 lawmakers voting in favour and 88 against.

The EU vote comes as the Palestinians, frustrated with a two-decade-old peace process that they say has collapsed, are instead turning to the international community, pressing the UN to establish a state within 1967 borders. A draft resolution is expected to be submitted, possibly as early as Wednesday evening.
Meanwhile in Switzerland the signatories to the Geneva Convention on Wednesday accused Israel of violating its responsibilities as an occupying power by building settlements in the occupied West Bank and in East Jerusalem.

Earlier in the day the European Court of Justice removed the militant Palestinian group Hamas from a blacklist of terrorist organisations over a legal technicality — although it added would retain a ban on funding the group for at least three months pending further appeals.

Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, responded furiously to the day’s developments. “Today we witnessed staggering examples of European hypocrisy. In Geneva they call for the investigation of Israel for war crimes, while in Luxemburg the European court removed Hamas from the list of terrorist organisations,” he said.

But European diplomats said Palestinian officials were disappointed by the wording of the motion and had wanted the parliament to recognise their state immediately. Instead, the European lawmakers argued that a two-state solution should be sought in the future.

Richard Howitt, a British socialist lawmaker, said the EU vote is a signal that European countries should back the Palestinian initiative at the UN.

“We know this is being discussed by EU foreign ministers and, if the expected debate takes place in the UN, we are issuing a clear signal that European countries should seek to give their support,” he said.

The EU vote carries political rather than legal weight but the 28-member bloc is Israel’s biggest trading partner and the Israeli government is sensitive to any potential commercial restrictions placed on its goods, particularly through the labelling of goods produced in settlements, which are illegal under international law.

Sentiment is shifting against Israel among some European politicians frustrated by the continued expansion of settlements on lands in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, where the Palestinians want to form their future state.

Sweden’s centre-left government recognised Palestine in October, and the parliaments of the UK, France, Spain and Ireland have all held symbolic but widely noted votes urging their governments to do the same. Luxembourg is expected to hold a similar vote on Wednesday.

The Israeli government is sharply critical of these votes and, along with the US, argues that unilateral measures will not result in agreement with the Palestinians on borders, security, the status of Jerusalem and other core issues, which they say can only be secured through negotiation.

Some Israeli officials have accused Europeans of hypocrisy, antisemitism or kowtowing to radical elements in their growing Muslim populations.

“The European countries that co-operate with the Palestinians are like people who hold up a lit match to someone holding a keg of dynamite,” Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s rightwing foreign minister said in remarks quoted by the newspaper Maariv. “They don’t help anyone, they are just acting based on their domestic political and social interests.”

At the UN Security Council, a draft resolution setting a two-year deadline for Israel to withdraw from occupied land has been amended by France to try to avoid a veto by the US, which has often blocked resolutions critical of Israel.

If the US exercises its veto, Palestinian officials say they will join the International Criminal Court, a move that would open Israel to potential war-crime prosecutions and lawsuits.

Israeli government officials warned that joining the ICC would prompt them to take retaliatory measures in return, including possibly withholding tax revenues from the Palestinian Authority, the governing body in Ramallah and one of the Palestinian territories’ biggest employers.

Commenting on the flurry of diplomacy, Mohammad Shtayyeh, a senior Palestinian official said: “This week is one of the most crucial weeks in the history of Palestine.”

EU parliament backs compromise resolution on Palestinian state

By Herb Keinon and Reuters, JPost
December 17, 2014

The European Union parliament adopted a resolution supporting Palestinian statehood in principle on Wednesday in a compromise motion that did not follow some European national legislatures in backing immediate recognition of a Palestinian state.

Following a deal among the main parties, the motion that was carried stated: “(The European Parliament) supports in principle recognition of Palestinian statehood and the two-state solution, and believes these should go hand in hand with the development of peace talks, which should be advanced.”

Social Democrat, left-wing and Green members of the European Parliament had initially put forward motions for a symbolic vote on Wednesday to call on the EU’s 28 members to recognize Palestine statehood now without conditions.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nachshon said Wednesday in response to the vote in the European Parliament that the solution to the Israel-Palestinian crisis will be found around the negotiating table, and not in one parliament or another.

Nachshon said that the Foreign Ministry noted that the parliament stipulated that recognition of a Palestinian state needed to come as the result of negotiations.

Nevertheless, he said, “the very debate about the issue harms the chances of re-starting negotiations.”

Israel’s position is that if the Palestinians know that they will get recognition even without negotiations and compromise, then what incentive will they have to negotiate or compromise.

The EU move follows Sweden’s decision in October to recognize Palestine and non-binding votes since then by parliaments in Britain, France and Ireland in favor of their recognition that demonstrated growing European impatience with the stalled peace process.

Some European countries have grown increasingly vocal in expressing frustration with Israel, which since the collapse of the latest US-sponsored talks in April has pressed on with building settlements in territory the Palestinians want for their future state.

However, the centre-right European People’s Party, the largest group in parliament, and the fourth largest group, the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, said recognition should only form part of a negotiated agreement with Israel.

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