Key European body to vote on condemning Trump’s Jerusalem recognition
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Key European body to vote on condemning Trump’s Jerusalem recognition

Palestinians said to push draft stating US’s position as a peace broker ‘undermined’ by move, calling for greater EU role in talks

Dov Lieber is The Times of Israel's Arab affairs correspondent.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (L) is welcomed by Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel upon his arrival for a bilateral meeting in Brussels, on January 23, 2018 (AFP PHOTO / BELGA / ERIC LALMAND)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (L) is welcomed by Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel upon his arrival for a bilateral meeting in Brussels, on January 23, 2018 (AFP PHOTO / BELGA / ERIC LALMAND)

The leading European human rights assembly on Tuesday was set to discuss a resolution that would condemn the American decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and call for an increased European role in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, an Israeli official told the Times of Israel.

The resolution, which will be voted on in the Council of Europe on Thursday, was advanced by the Palestinians, Israel’s Hadashot TV news reported Monday.

“The role of the USA as a serious broker in the peace process was undoubtedly undermined by the declaration of its President on Jerusalem,” the draft resolution states.

“Europe should increase its role in the peace process, alongside the USA,” it reads, adding that the US “should still have an important role to play based on a renewed attitude of neutrality in this process.”

US President Donald Trump holds up a signed memorandum after he delivered a statement on Jerusalem from the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on December 6, 2017, as US Vice President Mike Pence looks on. (Saul Loeb/AFP)

The draft  advocates for an increased European role in the peace process alongside with the US and adds that “decisive” action should be taken by the international community, including the Council of Europe, to create conditions for relaunching the peace process.

It also says the council believes the peace process “no longer seems to be a priority for the USA, for Europe and for some Arab States.”

Israelis and Palestinians have not sat together at the negotiating table since US-backed talks fell apart in 2014.

The draft condemns continued construction in Israeli settlements in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem, arguing that such activity is “undermining the feasibility of the two-state solution.”

It also condemns the failure of rival Palestinian factions Fatah, which dominates the Palestinian Authority, and Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, to reconcile. It says the lack of reconciliation harms the “credibility” of the Palestinians in negotiations.

Hamas’s new deputy leader Salah al-Arouri (seated L) and Fatah’s Azzam al-Ahmad (seated R) sign a reconciliation deal in Cairo on October 12, 2017, as the two rival Palestinian movements work to end their decade-long split following negotiations overseen by Egypt. (AFP Photo/Khaled Desouki)

The Council of Europe contains 47 European states, including 27 EU member states. Israel has an observer delegation in the council, while the Palestinians have a “partner for democracy delegation.”

“There is once again a proposal in which the Palestinians and the European left are trying to drag Europe into extreme unilateral positions that have never promoted nor will ever promote peace or anything positive, just hypocrisy and illusions,” Israel’s ambassador to the European Council, Carmel Shama-Hacohen, told Hadashot.

“Whoever views President Trump’s declaration and construction in Judea and Samaria as obstacles to peace while not seeing the financing of terrorism by the Palestinian Authority, incitement in the education system and the raising and digging of terror infrastructures as the fundamental problems, and ignores their existence, is detached from reality and is the last person who can preach morality to the US and Israel,” he added.

The report said there have been diplomatic efforts to soften the language of the draft resolution.

Following the US decision in December to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the Palestinian leadership declared that Washington could no longer fulfill the historic and central role in the peace process it has held for over two decades.

Instead, Abbas is now seeking a new international framework through which the Palestinians can win an independent state. The main players in that arena, from his point of view, are the EU, the UN, Russia and China.

On Monday, European Union Foreign Policy chief Federica Mogherini said Brussels was ready to take a “central role,” alongside the United States, expanding the international role in mediating between Israel and the Palestinians.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (L) is welcomed by EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini prior to attend a EU foreign affairs council at the European Council in Brussels, January 22, 2018. (EMMANUEL DUNAND / AFP)

“We affirmed our conviction that the framework has to be multilateral. We will continue working within the Quartet, which includes the US, Russia and the UN, enlarging this to a few Arab countries, and possibly Norway,” she told reporters after meeting with Abbas in Brussels on Monday.

“The Palestinian president was perfectly fine with this idea of not having the United States as the only interlocutor for the peace process, but of having a multilateral framework in which the European Union has a central role that is together with others, including our partners in the Quartet, including the United States,” she added.

Abbas, in his remarks on Monday, asked EU states to “swiftly” recognize the state of Palestine, arguing it would help Palestinians hold out their hopes for peace.

In an interview with AFP on Sunday in Brussels, PA Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki said the EU recognizing the state of Palestine would be “a way to respond” to Trump’s declaration of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital.

But diplomats and officials in Brussels said Monday that recognition for Palestine is not on the cards — the EU leaves recognition in the hands of individual members — and the best Abbas can hope for is progress toward an “association agreement” with the bloc.

Raphael Ahren and AFP contributed to this report.

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