Thursday

21st Mar 2019

EU parliament set to endorse Palestine recognition

  • Protester at EU parliament in Strasbourg during the 2014 Gaza war (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

The European Parliament is poised to vote Yes on a non-binding motion on Palestine recognition after three of its top groups agreed a draft text.

The draft, seen by EUobserver, says the EU assembly “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”.

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Negotiators from the centre-right EPP, the centre-left S&D, and the Liberal Alde group finalised the joint text on Tuesday (16 December) ahead of the vote on Wednesday.

They hold 488 out of 751 seats between them.

But some MEPs are likely to vote against the group line due to the nature of the dossier.

“It’s such a delicate issue that nothing is over until it’s over … people tend to vote on national lines as well as political lines, so the divisions are much bigger”, an EPP spokeswoman said.

The EPP, the biggest group, last month delayed the vote due to fear of bad timing.

It said an EU motion in the middle of Israeli elections could annoy right-wing voters and be counterproductive to peace.

The elections are in March. But the S&D group declined to wait any longer, parliament sources noted.

The EPP spokeswoman said the draft text is “worded in such a way as to try to accommodate everybody … it speaks of supporting recognition ‘in principle’, so it’s very general”.

An earlier draft by the far-left Gue group “urge[d] all EU member states … to recognise the state of Palestine on the basis of the 1967 borders with Jerusalem as the capital”.

But Gue is expected to co-sign the new text, which doesn’t make recognition conditional on a co-ordinated EU approach or on a final Israel-Palestine agreement.

The vote is non-binding on EU countries.

But the motion recalls that British, French, Irish, Portuguese, and Spanish MPs passed similar non-binding resolutions in the past two months. Belgium and Denmark are preparing to vote, while Sweden formally recognised Palestine in October.

The developments reflect frustration over Israeli settlement expansion and mass-killing of Palestinians in Gaza in summer.

The pressure also comes amid a French-led UN Security Council initiative.

France has drafted a UN resolution giving the two sides until the end of 2016 to reach a deal followed by Israeli forces’ withdrawal to 1967 lines.

Israeli media say Britain and Germany back France. But there is disagreement on the deadline and whether to designate Israel as a “Jewish state”.

For his part, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu has ruled out ending the occupation.

He said this week the civil war in Iraq and Syria means withdrawal would end up “bringing Islamic extremists to the suburbs of Tel Aviv and to the heart of Jerusalem. We will not allow this”.

Israeli groups from both sides lobbied MEPs in recent weeks.

Six right-wing NGOs (including two - Im Tirzu and the Legal Forum - which are against peace talks) emailed MEPs on Tuesday saying “premature” EU recognition “incentivises instability”.

“Irresponsible international involvement will facilitate the extreme elements within the Palestinian population, making it worth their while to continue with the cycle of terrorism”.

But over 800 former Israeli officials, artists, scientists, and professionals signed a petition telling MEPs that ongoing occupation will “lead to further confrontations with Palestinians”.

They said a Yes vote “will advance prospects for peace".

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