European Parliament postpones Palestine recognition vote

Delay to December 18 due to disagreements about wording, but motion eventually expected to pass despite Israeli efforts

Raphael Ahren is a former diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas meets the European Union's new foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini in Ramallah on November 8, 2014. (Photo credit: STR/Flash90)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas meets the European Union's new foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini in Ramallah on November 8, 2014. (Photo credit: STR/Flash90)

The European Parliament postponed a planned vote on the recognition of a Palestinian state by three weeks as lawmakers failed to reach a consensus on the exact wording of the motion, sources in Israel and Europe said Tuesday.

The parliament was scheduled to debate and vote on the motion Thursday, but instead will discuss “Recognition of Palestine statehood,” proposed by the left-wing Gue and S&D groups, on Wednesday and vote on it December 18, according to European Union sources.

The request for the delay came from the European People’s Party, the parliament’s center-right bloc, the sources said.

On Wednesday, the plenary in Strasbourg will discuss the various aspects of a possible recognition of a Palestinian state, with the EU’s new foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini attending, the sources said.

Jerusalem embraced the parliament’s decision to delay the vote.

“We hope that the postponement of the vote to the December session will give European Parliament members ample time to rethink and reconsider, and to understand that support for the recognition of a Palestinian state is counterproductive as long as it does not come as a result of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Emmanuel Nahshon said Tuesday.

Israeli diplomats in Brussels, Strasbourg and Jerusalem indicated they were scrambling to use the additional three weeks to convince as many lawmakers as possible to oppose the motion.

Parliaments in Britain, Ireland and Spain have already passed differing non-binding motions urging their respective governments to recognize a Palestinian state. Sweden approved such a recognition last month. The parliaments of France, Denmark, Slovenia and other European countries are scheduled to vote on similar resolutions in the coming days.

The European Parliament postponed the vote for several reasons, Israeli sources suggested. For one, the various factions have yet to form their positions on the matter. While French Socialists, for instance, support recognition, the German Social Democrats likely oppose such a move.

Also, there are outstanding questions regarding the wording of the resolution. The original draft, submitted by the left-wing Gue group, “urges all EU member states … to recognise the state of Palestine on the basis of the 1967 borders with Jerusalem as the capital.”

The other groups that make up the European Parliament are currently drafting their own versions, which will be debated during Wednesday’s session. On December 18, the parliament will then vote on a text merged from the various drafts.

“The right-wing parties, who represent a majority in the European parliament, wanted a wording similar to the Spanish decision, which reads that recognition will be declared after Palestinians and Israelis reach a peace agreement,” senior Palestinian official Nabil Shaath told the Ma’an news agency on Tuesday. Such a wording would not grant the Palestinians self-determination, he lamented.

European lawmakers also apparently want to wait and see whether the individual member states will recognize the Palestinian state. While France’s Assemble Nationale is widely expected to overwhelmingly support the motion, put forward by the ruling Socialist Party, German and Dutch leaders have rejected unilateral recognition as premature.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Friday that “unilateral recognition of the Palestinian state won’t move us forward” toward the goal of a two-state solution.

Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders said last week the Netherlands would not recognize Palestinian statehood at this point because it would not help restart peace talks with Israel. “We find that is not correct to recognize the Palestinian state. It must be a part of negotiations. In that sense, it should be introduced at a strategic moment.”

An “overwhelming majority, including the Dutch government, believes that it does not contribute to the priority issue of restarting negotiations, if we all of a sudden go ahead [and recognize a Palestinian state] because Sweden also did it,” Koenders added.

Despite the delay, however, it is expected that the European Parliament will eventually pass a resolution calling for member state to recognize a Palestinian state.

Israel has been vehemently opposed to the current trend of European recognition of the “State of Palestine.”

Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Ron Prosor, on Monday launched a bitter attack against Europe for supporting unilateral Palestinian statehood. “Israel is tired of hollow promises from European leaders,” he told delegates the UN General Assembly during a discussion on the Palestinian question. “The Jewish people have a long memory. We will never ever forget that you failed us in the 1940s. You failed us in 1973. And you are failing us again today.”

Ron Prosor, permanent representative of Israel to the UN, addresses the Security Council. (photo credit: United Nations)
Ron Prosor, permanent representative of Israel to the UN, addresses the Security Council. (photo credit: United Nations)

Every European parliament voting to recognize a Palestinian state “is giving the Palestinians exactly what they want — statehood without peace,” he said. “By handing them a state on a silver platter, you are rewarding unilateral actions and taking away any incentive for the Palestinians to negotiate or compromise or renounce violence. You are sending the message that the Palestinian Authority can sit in a government with terrorists and incite violence against Israel without paying any price.”

In an usually harsh tirade, Prosor lambasted Sweden for having recognized a Palestinian state. “The Swedish government may host the Nobel Prize ceremony, but there is nothing noble about their cynical political campaign to appease the Arabs in order to get a seat on the Security Council,” he said. Stockholm has shown “no sense, no sensitivity and no sensibility. Just nonsense,” he said.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he is worried about the upcoming vote in the French parliament. “This is what is going to produce peace? To ask Israel to put the suburbs of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv in the hands of Islamic militants? This is irresponsible. It’s not conducive to peace,” he said in an interview to i24 News. “In fact, it hardens the Palestinian positions because it tells them, you get a state — which will be used to attack Israel — you don’t have to give anything. I think this is a terribly misguided position.”

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