21st Sep 2019

Polls show EU support for Palestinian bid

  • The UN plenary chamber in New York. The general assembly will be the first global-level meeting after the Arab Spring (Photo: tomdz)

A strong majority of people in three large EU countries - France, Germany and the UK - have said their governments should vote in favour of Palestine's UN bid.

The poll by YouGov and Ifop for pro-Palestinian NGO Avaaz showed that 69 percent of people in France, 71 percent in Germany and 59 percent in the UK want their leaders to take the step at this year's UN General Assembly, which starts in New York on Tuesday (13 September).

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The public endorsement comes amid EU disunity on the issue. France and the UK are expected to back the move but Germany was said to have flip-flopped at an EU ministers' meeting in Poland last week.

The Palestinian side is expected to ask the UN to upgrade its status from an "observer" to a "non-member state," putting it on a par with the Vatican.

The draft resolution will clearly say that a Yes vote does not oblige any UN country to recognise Palestine bilaterally and that Palestine will immediately return to talks with Israel, Israeli daily Haaretz reported on Monday. The formulation would see 20 out of 27 EU countries, including Germany and Italy, back the text, the newspaper said.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will give a speech in New York on 23 September but the vote is not likely before early October.

If Palestine gets its way, it could pave the way for it to join international bodies, like the International Criminal Court in The Hague, and launch law suits against Israel.

"This is just a step on a long road, and its goal is not to delegitimise or isolate anyone. Rather, it’s intended to delegitimise the occupation," senior Palestinian diplomat Saeb Erekat said on Sunday.

"If we win recognition, we don’t believe that the settlements will be automatically removed or that Israeli provocations and crimes would stop. The only difference is that Palestine will become a state that is occupied by another member of the UN. This means that the final-status negotiations would be only over working out a timetable for an Israeli withdrawal."

No matter what the result of the vote, it could increase tensions in the region.

Israel and the US have said they will freeze Palestinian tax income and aid if they go ahead, while Erekat has in the past predicted Arab Spring-type mass protests in the occupied territories and on Egypt's borders in the aftermath of the UN meeting.

Anti-Israeli feeling already boiled over in post-revolutionary Egypt when protesters attacked the Israeli embassy in Cairo on Friday, prompting its evacuation.

"We trust that this regrettable incident is an isolated event and that the authorities will take the necessary measures to normalise the situation," EU foreign relations chief Catherin Ashton, in Cairo on Monday for a meeting of the Arab League, said in a statement.

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