French lawmakers prepare motion to recognize Palestine

Lawmakers’ proposal seeks to use recognition ‘as an instrument to obtain a final settlement of the conflict’

The French National Assembly in Paris (photo credit: CC BY-SA Richard Ying, Tangui Morlier/Wikimedia Commons)
The French National Assembly in Paris (photo credit: CC BY-SA Richard Ying, Tangui Morlier/Wikimedia Commons)

French Socialist lawmakers are preparing to submit a motion to parliament asking the government to recognize Palestine as a state, sources said Tuesday, weeks after British MPs passed a similar vote.

The planned move follows the collapse of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority and this year’s conflict between Hamas and Israel in which more than 2,000 Palestinians — half of them gunmen, Israel says — and dozens of Israelis were killed.

“The (lower house National) Assembly asks the French government to use recognition of the state of Palestine as an instrument to obtain a final settlement of the conflict,” reads the provisional motion seen by AFP.

A meeting on the lawmakers’ proposal is due Wednesday with Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and Socialist senators who are also planning a similar initiative.

Fabius himself acknowledged last month that Paris would eventually have to recognize Palestine as a state, but wanted to choose the best moment to do so for the move to have a real impact.

The lower house vote could take place within weeks, and while it is unlikely to change government policy immediately, it would be highly symbolic after a similar move by British MPs last month.

The British lawmakers voted overwhelmingly on October 13 in favor of a non-binding motion to “recognize the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel as a contribution to securing a negotiated two-state solution.”

The vote, which Israel warned risked undermining prospects for peace, came after the Swedish government announced it would recognize a Palestinian state — the first EU member in western Europe to do so.

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.

The European Union’s new foreign policy chief on Tuesday 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,” Federica Mogherini told the European press. “I’d be happy if, during my mandate, the Palestinian state existed.”

On November 1, Mogherini succeeded Catherine Ashton as the union’s high representative for foreign affairs and security policy.

This weekend, she is scheduled to arrive in Israel and the Palestinian territories for her first official visit. During her two-day trip, she will meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, President Reuven Rivlin, opposition leader Isaac Herzog and the chief peace negotiator, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni. She is also expected to travel to Ramallah and the Gaza Strip, where she will meet with senior Palestinian officials.

“I want to forge a strategy, a vision and a common policy but I know the limits of this exercise: the question of recognition of a state is the competence of the member states,” she told reporters.

“But I surely intend to use the union’s political potential in this region. That’s why my first visit will be to Israel and Palestine at the end of this week. European action can be decisive during this important moment, probably the most difficult the region has ever seen.”

Europe cannot eternally be a payer without playing a political role, Mogherini said. Therefore, the EU intends to adopt a broad regional approach to the Middle East, seeing a possible solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a wider reconciliation of the Arab world with the Jewish state, she said.

“It will, in fact, be difficult to guarantee the security for this country [Israel] without a broader framework involving Arab countries. And an overall agreement of this kind would facilitate the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian issue,” she said.

So far, relatively little is known about Mogherini’s positions on the Middle East, but officials in Jerusalem are cautiously optimistic.

“She’s open and seems ready to listen to our positions,” a senior Israeli official told The Times of Israel last week, speaking on condition of anonymity. “We’re really hoping that she will have an open mind and try to represent a more balanced approached within the EU.”

Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.

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