The European Parliament voted on December 17 to support “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” – a redrafted compromise resolution worked out on the eve of the vote following division on an earlier one calling for recognition of a “Palestinian state”.
The compromise resolution, departing from an initial proposal that called for unconditional recognition of a “Palestinian state”, was drawn up by five political groups and approved by the European Parliament as a whole, by 498 votes to 88, with 111 abstentions.
The European Parliament reiterated “its strong support for the two-state solution on the basis of the 1967 borders, with Jerusalem as the capital of both states, with the secure State of Israel and an independent, democratic, contiguous and viable Palestinian State living side by side in peace and security on the basis of the right of self-determination and full respect of international law”. MEPs also condemn in the strongest terms all acts of terrorism or violence.
The resolution emphasised the importance of consolidating the authority of the Palestinian consensus government and urge all Palestinian factions, including Hamas, to end internal divisions.
It said that Israeli settlements are “illegal under international law”, and called on the EU to become a genuine facilitator in the Middle East peace process and asks the EU’s foreign policy chief to facilitate a common EU position to this end.
MEPs decided to launch a “Parliamentarians for Peace” initiative to bring together MEPs and members of Israeli and Palestinian Parliaments, to help advance an agenda for peace and to complement EU diplomatic efforts.
The Social Democrats, the European Left and the Greens had originally put forward a resolution for a symbolic non-binding vote on December 17 to call on the EU’s 28 members to recognise Palestine statehood unconditionally.
However, the center-right European People’s Party (EPP), the largest political group in the European parliament, and the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), said recognition of a Palestinian state should only form part of a negotiated agreement with Israel.
After talks on December 16, negotiators for the centre-left Socialists and Democrats (S&D), the EPP and ALDE, which together command a large majority in the European Parliament, agreed on a joint motion for the resolution.
The vote follows a lenghty debate in November which clearly showed a left-right split over the need to call now for recognition of Palestinian statehood, the European Jewish Press reported.
On December 12, the Portuguese parliament voted a non-binding motion calling on the government to recognise “Palestine”.
The motion was tabled jointly by the centre-right majority and the Socialist opposition party. It recommends the government ‘’recognise, in co-ordination with the European Union, the State of Palestine as an independent and sovereign state.”
A number of parliaments of other European countries – France, Britain, Spain and Ireland- have passed similar motions calling for the recognition of Palestinian statehood, the EJP reported.
Israel has slammed the votes, saying that recognition should only come after direct negotiations with the Palestinians.
On December 16, ahead of the European Parliament vote, the European Court of Justice announcement on removing Hamas from the EU list of terrorist organisations and a planned UN Security Council resolution on a “Palestinian state”, Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman said: “These efforts, when linked to other similar efforts that have already been or are about to be implemented, constitute a planned and organised campaign designed to impose a de-facto situation on Israel.
“This is a political attack with which we must deal in an astute and determined manner,” he said.
The State of Israel would not agree to Palestinian dictates. Any attempt by the Palestinians to make use of international entities to impose their desired solution on Israel will only deteriorate the situation in the region and is destined to fail, the Israeli foreign minister said.
“European countries that cooperate with the Palestinians on these initiatives are comparable to a person who brings a burning match to someone holding a powder keg in his hand,” Lieberman said.
“These countries help no one and are simply acting out of their own internal political and social interests, without caring about the results here in the Middle East. Israel will meet unilateral actions by the Palestinians with significant steps, both in the field and in the international arena,” he said.
The Palestinians said they will introduce a draft UN Security Council resolution setting a deadline for Israel’s withdrawal from the Palestinian territories, despite the US warning it would block the move, the Voice of America reported.
The Palestinian UN ambassador, Riyad Mansour, said the plan for a two-year timetable for an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord would be introduced on December 17 in a form that can be voted on.
US Secretary of State John Kerry met Monday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to develop a response.
In comments to reporters ahead of his meeting with chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat in London, Kerry said it is imperative to lower tensions so there is an opportunity to find a path toward genuine peace.
“We all understand the challenges that are presented by this conflict. We all understand that there are pent-up frustrations on both sides and they run deep. We all know the risk of escalation is constant and it’s real,” Kerry said.
Kerry said the United States has made “no determination” about any possible UN resolution regarding Palestinian statehood.
Following his talks with Erekat, Kerry met with Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby. The meetings came a day before Palestinian diplomats say their proposed resolution could be put before the Security Council.
The talks in London follow Kerry’s multi-stop effort Monday to assess the situation, which included talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Rome and the foreign ministers of France, Britain and Germany in Paris.
The proposal, circulated by Jordan, sets a two-year deadline for the end of Israeli occupation.
Another proposal being discussed by France, Britain and Germany would set a deadline only for the resolution of peace talks.
A Security Council resolution would need the approval of nine of the 15 members. Any of the five permanent Council members can veto a resolution. That group includes Britain, France, China, Russia and the United States, which has used the prospect of a veto to prevent previous Council action related to Israel.