‘European nations threaten to recognize Palestinian state’

‘We are not going to wait forever,’ says official quoted in WSJ, signaling to US that if peace talks do not resume, many will follow Sweden

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini (L) in Jerusalem on November 7, 2014 (Kobi Gideon/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini (L) in Jerusalem on November 7, 2014 (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Several European nations told US officials that they are seriously considering unilaterally recognizing Palestine as a state, as Sweden did last month, if peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians do not resume.

According to a report in the Wall Street Journal on Saturday, these countries include some of the US’s closest allies. The report did not specify which, however.

“We’re not going to wait forever,” a senior European official said, according to the report. “Other European countries are poised to follow Sweden.”

According to US officials cited in the report, US Secretary of State John Kerry met with Arab and Palestinian leaders to discuss the ongoing violence in Jerusalem and the deadlocked peace process.

On Friday, the European Union’s new foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini said there was a real “urgency” to pick up and advance the moribund peace process.

“The risk is that if we do not move forward on the political track, we will go back… again to violence,” she told reporters during her first official visit to Jerusalem.

“That’s why I see the urgency in moving forward,” she said, adding that Israel’s settlement activity was an “obstacle” to negotiations based on a two-state solution.

The Palestinians, for their part, are set to submit a draft resolution to the UN Security Council later this month calling for an Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines, a senior official said on Tuesday.

The text, which the Palestinians have been preparing for weeks, is expected to be vetoed by permanent member the United States.

But officials in Ramallah have said that will not deter them after round upon round of failed peace talks with Israel.

It is unclear how European states will vote.

“No other solution has been proposed by the United States” to achieve peace and the establishment of a Palestinian state, senior Palestine Liberation Organization official Wassel Abu Yusef told AFP.

Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians collapsed spectacularly in late April after a nine-month, US-brokered effort. The two sides have traded blame for the failure while the US has, unofficially, largely placed the blame on continued settlement activity and on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Last month, Sweden officially recognized the State of Palestine, making it the first major European Union member state to back Ramallah’s statehood bid in this way.

“It’s an important step that confirms the right of Palestinians to self-determination,” the country’s foreign minister, Margot Wallström, wrote Thursday in a newspaper article (Swedish link). “Sweden’s traditionally close ties with the State of Israel are now complemented by an equal relationship to the other party.”

The move led to a mini-diplomatic battle of words between Israel and Sweden, with Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman calling the move “unfortunate” and saying that the Swedish government “needs to understand that the Middle East is more complicated than self-assembly furniture from IKEA,” in a dig at the Swedish retail giant.

Sweden’s foreign minister retorted that she would “be happy to send [Liberman] a flat pack of IKEA furniture and he will also see that what you need to put that together is, first of all, a partner. And you also need to cooperate and you need a good manual and I think we have most of those elements.”

Also last month, London’s Parliament voted to urge the British government to recognize a Palestinian state.

On Tuesday, French Socialist lawmakers were also preparing to submit a motion to parliament asking the government to recognize Palestine as a state.

The Palestinian Authority estimates that 134 countries have now recognized Palestine as a state, although the number is disputed and several recognitions by what are now European Union member states date to the Soviet era.

Last week, Mogherini called for the creation of a Palestinian state within the five years of her term, and announced that the EU intends to play a more influential role in the Middle East than it has in the past.

“What’s important for me is not whether other countries, be they European or not, recognize Palestine,” she told the European press. “I’d be happy if, during my mandate, the Palestinian state existed.”

AFP contributed to this report.

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