Thursday

8th Dec 2022

French MPs back Palestine recognition, get 2016 deadline

  • Fabius (r) promised to recognise Palestine by the end of 2016 if the latest UN initiative fails (Photo: state.gov)

The French parliament has voted in favour of a non-binding motion on recognising Palestine, with the French FM saying he’ll do it if there’s no peace by the end of 2016.

The resolution passed by 339 votes against 151 with 16 abstentions out of the 506 deputies who turned up on Tuesday (2 December) to cast their ballot.

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The text - tabled by the ruling Socialist Party’s Elisabeth Guigou, who chairs the foreign affairs committee - “invites the French government to recognise the state of Palestine with a view to bringing about a definitive settlement of the conflict”.

Most left-wing MPs backed the motion, but the majority of deputies in the centre-right UMP faction voted No.

The opposition UMP’s recently re-elected leader, former French president Nicolas Sarkozy, told parliament in a debate last Friday the initiative endangers Israel.

“I will not accept that the security of Israel be questioned … it’s the battle of my life”, he said.

Israel’s ambassador to France, Yossi Gal, added on Tuesday the Yes vote “diminishes possibilities of arriving at a [negotiated] solution” by “sending the wrong message to the leaders and the people of the region”.

But Palestine’s foreign minister, Riyad al-Malki, said the same day it “expresses the will of the French people, who support liberty and denounce the [Israeli] occupation”.

For his part, French foreign minister Laurent Fabius underlined in his speech on Friday that the vote will not have an immediate impact.

“Parliament can give its opinion, which it’s going to do, but under the terms of our constitution the executive - and it alone - assesses the political expediency”, he noted.

Fabius also voiced frustration with the “current deadlock … fatalism and inertia” in the Middle East Peace Process.

He said France is currently working with Arab states, led by Jordan, on a new United Nations Security Council resolution and is willing to host an international conference on the Arab-Israeli conflict.

The draft UN text, which is to be voted in late December or in January, demands that Israel ends its occupation by 2016 and retreats to 1967 borders.

“What, people will say, if those efforts fail? What if this final attempt at a negotiated solution doesn’t succeed? Well, France will have to shoulder its responsibilities by recognising the state of Palestine without delay. We’re ready for it”, Fabius said.

The French minister is to meet American secretary of state John Kerry in the margins of a Nato event in Brussels on Wednesday amid speculation on whether the US will veto the UN motion or abstain.

But a Kerry spokeswoman told press on Tuesday that “the US position is clear: We support Palestinian statehood, but believe it can only be achieved through direct negotiations between the parties”.

The French vote comes after Sweden last month became the first sitting EU country to recognise Palestine.

British, Irish, and Spanish MPs recently voted through similar non-binding motions on recognition. The European Parliament is to hold a symbolic vote later this month, while Danish MPs are to vote in January.

The French vote also came the same day that Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu dissolved the government and called snap elections due to infighting in his ruling coalition.

Israeli voters have swung to the right in recent years, with Netanyahu calling the French motion a “grave mistake”.

But his loss of support in Europe is likely to be an element in the upcoming campaign, Israeli media say.

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