Thursday

20th Feb 2020

UN vote marks EU defeat for Israel

  • Abbas called the UN text "the birth certificate" of the state of Palestine (Photo: United Nations Photo)

Just one EU country - the Czech Republic - voted against Palestine's bid to become a UN "observer state" on Thursday (29 November).

Fourteen others - Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal, Spain and Sweden - voted in favour. The rest, including Germany, until now a firm ally of Israel, abstained.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or join as a group

The result highlighted the EU's lack of unity on the conflict.

But it also marked a drain in sympathy for Israel in Europe, with German officials saying earlier this week that their decision is a protest against Israeli settlement expansion.

Compared to a similar vote on Palestine's bid to join the UN's cultural agency, Unesco, 12 months ago, nine EU countries which abstained or voted No on Unesco changed their votes to Yes or abstained on the UN observer state decision.

Overall, Palestine won Thursday's vote by 138 to nine with 41 abstentions.

The other No votes came from Israel itself, Canada, the US and five minor countries - the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau and Panama.

The UN resolution fixes Palestine's borders on 1967 lines and says that Jerusalem is its capital in the face of Israeli settlement building and its competing claim to the holy city.

It also gives Palestine the right to file cases against Israel in the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

The vote came after ferocious speeches by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israel's UN ambassador Ron Prosor.

Abbas called the UN text "the birth certificate for the reality which is the state of Palestine."

He dubbed Israel an "apartheid system of colonial occupation" and he accused it of "racism ... ethnic cleansing ... war crimes ... barbarity ... murder."

Prosor called Abbas' UN bid a "march of folly."

Noting that his resolution did not recognise Israel as a "Jewish state" or guarantee its security, he said it "is so one-sided, it doesn't advance peace, it pushes it backwards."

The office of Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted on Abbas that "someone who wants peace does not talk in such a manner" and threatened to "act accordingly."

Meanwhile, several EU ambassadors took the floor in the UN chamber.

France described its Yes vote as "a choice of enlightenment and consistency."

Germany urged Israel and Palestine to resume peace talks and warned Palestine not to use its new ICC weapon - positions echoed by most EU speakers.

It said it liked Abbas' resolution because it called for a two-state solution, which "implicitly recognises Israel's right to exist."

There was a discrepancy between Italy and the UK.

The Italian ambassador said he voted Yes because Palestine promised Italy it would not use the ICC. The UK said it did not vote Yes because Palestine refused to make the promise.

Finland noted that: "Palestine now has institutions which pass the threshold of what constitutes a modern state."

Turkey and the US also spoke out.

Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu recalled his visit to Gaza amid the recent fighting.

He said he met a man who had lost his child and who wept on his shoulder, portraying him as a symbol of Palestine.

America's UN ambassador Susan Rice said: "Today's grand pronouncements will soon fade and the Palestinian people will wake up tomorrow and find that little has changed in their daily lives save that the prospects for a durable peace have receded."

Hamas appeals for talks with EU diplomats

The Prime Minister of Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, has appealed to the EU to take his political and militant group, Hamas, off its terrorist register.

Israeli PM 'disappointed' with Angela Merkel

A joint German-Israeli government meeting in Berlin on Thursday is likely to be the scene of more disagreements between Chancellor Merkel and PM Netanyahu as the two traditional allies are having increased difficulty finding common ground.

Israeli leader mocks EU 'dismay'

Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu has mocked EU "dismay" over his plan to split Palestine in three and take away its capital.

Israel vs. Palestine: one-nil?

Israel last month showed off its high-tech weapons by scoring a "goal" with bombs in a Gaza football field. But civilian deaths and settlement expansion have caused diplomatic defeats.

Opinion

Trump's 'plan' for Israel will go against EU values

As someone who has been personally targeted by Benjamin Netanyahu's incitement against Arabs and Palestinians, Christians, Muslims and Druze, I still believe that peace is possible. But Donald Trump's 'plan' will be a gift to Netanyahu's campaign.

China spy suspect worked for EU for 30 years

The former EU ambassador suspected by German prosecutors of spying for China was Gerhard Sabathil, according to EU officials speaking on condition of anonymity.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersScottish parliament seeks closer collaboration with the Nordic Council
  2. UNESDAFrom Linear to Circular – check out UNESDA's new blog
  3. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us