Thursday

23rd Nov 2017

Belgium in talks on joint EU recognition of Palestine

  • Settler graffiti on Palestinian home in Israeli-occupied Hebron (Photo: Rosie Gabrielle)

Belgium is on course to join a new group of EU countries calling for Palestine recognition.

Its federal parliament is expected to vote next week on a draft motion asking the Belgian government to do it at a future point when it sees fit. It is legally non-binding and doesn't mention a deadline.

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The initiative comes after four of the biggest parties - the N-VA, MR, CD&V, and VLD - agreed to back the project.

But for its part, the Belgian foreign ministry wants to wait for two developments.

It wants to see if a new French-Jordanian UN Security Council project to get an Israel-Palestine peace deal by 2016 bears fruit.

It also wants to see if a new EU Special Representative for the Middle East Peace Process, to be appointed shortly, can make an impact.

“We’ve had 20 years of the peace process with no outcome and there is a lot of frustration in Europe with the lack of good will in Israel. But the time hasn’t come to abandon it [the process] yet”, a Belgian diplomat told EUobserver.

He noted that Belgium is in talks with like-minded EU states who plan to jointly recognise Palestine if need be.

He said the likely recognisers include Britain, France, Ireland, and Spain - where parliaments also passed pro-recognition motions in the past six weeks.

He added that other potential recognisers include Austria, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, and Portugal, which voted Yes on Palestine’s UN “observer state” status in 2012.

“You can only recognise a country once. So we want to do it when it has the maximum impact … We don’t want to go it alone. We want to do it as part of a co-ordinated decision by the European Union or, at least, with as many [EU] partners as possible”.

Asked on Thursday (4 December) if the US would back EU recognition, Marie Harf, a State Department spokeswoman took the Israeli line, saying: “We believe the path forward here is direct negotiations between the two sides”.

But the EU and US do see eye to eye in other areas.

The EU last year blocked grants and loans to Israeli settler entities with Washington's tacit approval.

Israeli daily Haaretz on Thursday said the White House is working on similar measures to deter settlement expansion, with Harf declining to confirm or deny the report.

The Belgian diplomat added that EU recognition will only make a difference if the US, Israel’s security sponsor, tries to re-launch Arab-Israeli talks at the same time.

“What can you do? At the end of the day, any real peace will have to be made by the two sides, not by us".

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