Thursday

8th Dec 2016

EU parliament to vote on Palestine statehood

The European Parliament will in Strasbourg on Thursday (27 November) add its voice to the debate on whether EU states should recognise Palestine.

The motion was initiated at the 11th hour by the left-wing Gue and S&D groups in the EU assembly.

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  • Israel is a divisive issue in the EU assembly, with groups split both internally and among each other (Photo: European Parliament)

It’s too early to say what the final text of the resolution will propose.

Gue’s draft text “urges all EU member states … to recognise the state of Palestine on the basis of the 1967 borders with Jerusalem as the capital”.

The Greens are likely to back Gue. But the liberal Alde group’s initial draft only calls for EU countries “to find a common EU position on this regard”.

The centre-right EPP and centre-left S&D factions - the two biggest ones - told EUobserver their texts are not yet ready.

Whatever it ends up saying, the MEPs’ motion will not be binding on EU countries.

But it comes amid a wave of pro-recognition sentiment in Europe.

Last month, Sweden became the first sitting EU state to formally recognise Palestine.

British, Irish, and Spanish MPs have urged their governments to follow suit.

One day after the EU parliament vote, French MPs will debate a similar resolution, with their vote due later on Friday or the following Tuesday (2 December).

The French draft motion, tabled by the ruling Socialist party, invites “the French government to recognise the Palestinian state with a view to obtaining a definitive solution" to the conflict.

Meanwhile, over 700 Israeli VIPs, artists, and professionals have sent a petition to MEPs asking them to support recognition.

Amid recent violence in Jerusalem, they warn the current “stalemate” will “lead to further confrontations”.

The signatories include former Israeli ambassadors, military officers, and MPs.

One of them, Michael Ben-Yair, Israel’s former attorney general, said in an op-ed for EUobserver that Israel's occupation of Palestine "is not only morally unjustifiable, it also undermines Israel’s security and endangers its existence”.

For their part, Israeli authorities say they are not occupying anything because Gaza and the West Bank are “terra nullius” or “no man’s land”.

They also say “unilateral” actions by EU countries harm prospects of a negotiated solution by hardening Palestinian negotiators.

Who cares?

One senior EU diplomat told this website the pro-recognition feeling reflects “frustration” that Israel is ignoring Europe on settlement expansion.

EU states have also brainstormed sanctions-type moves, such as recalling ambassadors.

But the diplomat said European pressure is unlikely to have much effect.

Britain, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain on Thursday urged Israel not to demolish the homes of Palestinians involved in recent Jerusalem attacks. But Israel is doing it anyway.

The EU is Palestine’s largest aid donor and Israel’s main trade partner.

The US is Israel’s security sponsor. But its last attempt to manage Israel-Palestine peace talks collapsed in April.

“We’re waiting to see if the Americans decide to re-engage”, the EU diplomat said.

He noted that former US presidents, such as Bill Clinton, left it until the last year of their second term before trying to get a Middle East breakthrough.

“That means we might be waiting [for US leader Barack Obama] until late 2015 or early 2016. The big question is what do we do if the Americans don’t re-engage? Do we just continue to keep paying the bill?”.

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