Israel warns EU vote on Palestine is damaging to peace

Foreign Ministry says solution to the conflict is to be found at the negotiating table

Illustrative: Members of the EU Parliament take part in a voting session, on December 17, 2014, at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France. (AFP/Frederick Florin)
Illustrative: Members of the EU Parliament take part in a voting session, on December 17, 2014, at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France. (AFP/Frederick Florin)

Israel rejected on Wednesday a European Parliament vote to recognize a Palestinian state as misguided and damaging to hopes of restarting negotiations that, it said, are the real solution to the conflict.

“Israel again stresses that the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is to be found around the table of direct negotiations between the sides and not in decisions by this or that parliament,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement hours after the EU vote.

The ministry noted that the European vote tied recognition of a Palestinian state to negotiating a peace agreement, but warned that even the debate on recognizing Palestine “damages the chances for renewing diplomacy.”

The European Parliament overwhelmingly backed the recognition of a Palestinian state “in principle” following a series of votes on the issue in EU nations.

The motion was a watered-down version of a resolution that had urged EU member states to recognize a Palestinian state unconditionally.

The final resolution accepts “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.”

Lawmakers approved the motion by 498 votes to 88 with 111 abstentions.

The resolution also urged Fatah and Hamas “to end internal divisions” and highlighted “the importance of consolidating the authority of the Palestinian consensus government.”

The vote came hours after a European court ordered the EU to drop the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas from its terrorism blacklist on technical grounds.

The socialist, greens and radical left groups in the European Parliament had wanted an outright call for the recognition of Palestinian statehood. But the center-right European People’s Party of European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker, the leading group in parliament, forced them into a compromise motion linking it to peace talks.

“There is no immediate unconditional recognition (of statehood),” EPP chief Manfred Weber said.

His socialist counterpart Gianni Pittella, however, insisted it was a “historic decision” and a “victory for the whole parliament.”

Several European parliaments have passed motions urging their governments to recognize a Palestinian state in recent weeks in a bid to pressure Israel to relaunch the moribund peace process.

France, Britain, Spain, Ireland and Portugal have all passed votes to that end.

Sweden has gone even further, officially recognizing Palestine as a state.

Jerusalem has maintained that recognition should only come once bilateral negotiations produce a two-state solution.

The motions, including Wednesday’s EU vote, are largely symbolic in nature and intended to put pressure on both sides to renew peace negotiations, which stalled in April after a nine-month, US-brokered effort.

The Palestinian Authority estimates that 135 countries have now recognized Palestine as a state, although that number is disputed.

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