Slovenia’s expected recognition of Palestine frozen indefinitely

Opponent of the move receives death threats; parliament postpones vote until after upcoming elections

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

Slovenian Prime Minister Miro Cerar arrives for an EU summit at the Europa building in Brussels on December 14, 2017 (AP Photo/ Olivier Matthys)
Slovenian Prime Minister Miro Cerar arrives for an EU summit at the Europa building in Brussels on December 14, 2017 (AP Photo/ Olivier Matthys)

Slovenia’s expected recognition of Palestinian statehood has been postponed until after the upcoming general elections, and may not happen at all.

In recent days, the issue has been the subject of heated debated in the Central European country’s parliament. One prominent opponent of the move received death threats.

Last week, Slovenia’s National Assembly postponed a vote on the recognition of an independent Palestinian state on procedural grounds, after several lawmakers withdrew their support for the debate, which was scheduled to precede the vote.

The government in Ljubljana appeared to be generally in favor of recognizing Palestine, but was unable to muster a required majority in the National Assembly’s Foreign Affairs Committee and decided to leave the issue for the new government to be installed after the next parliamentary elections next month.

Snap elections were called after Prime Minister Miro Cerar suddenly resigned in mid-March.

The chair of the parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, Jožef Horvat, last week decided not hold the vote on the matter because the outgoing government would not formulate a position on it.

Horvat last week said he received an email with death threats from pro-Palestinian activists who accused him of obstructing the recognition of Palestinian statehood. According to local media, the police investigated the matter and deemed the threat “serious.”

The issue of recognizing Palestinian statehood has been pending in the country’s parliament since 2014, and was supposed to be brought to a vote in parliament in the early months of 2018.

Unlike many other Western democracies, it is Slovenia’s legislative branch, not its executive, which has the last word on foreign policy matters such as recognizing states.

Following the US administration’s December 6 recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Slovenia’s left-wing lawmakers sought to advance the recognition of Palestinian statehood.

Ljubljana voted in favor of a UN General Assembly vote declaring the US recognition null and void and fast-tracked the process of recognizing Palestine.

At the time, Slovenian Parliament Speaker Milan Brglez said Slovenia’s recognition of a Palestinian state was “not in doubt,” but just a question of timing.

Borut Pahor speaks at the Slovenian parliament in Ljubljana, Friday, November 7, 2008. (AP Photo/Matej Leskovsek)

However, President Borut Pahor later said he would only back the recognition of Palestine “in circumstances that would contribute to the solution of its bilateral issues with Israel but not to the worsening of relations.” Those circumstances were currently “not in place,” his office said in a statement.

Over recent weeks, the issue was fiercely debated in the parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee. While some leftist politicians argued in favor of the move, Foreign Ministry officials reportedly argued it would do little to advance the Palestinian cause but could severely damage Slovenia’s ties with Israel and the US.

The lawmakers agreed to wait for the government’s official position on the matter before voting on it, but it was never formulated due to the the prime minister’s resignation.

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