EU backs Palestine: next stop is the UN

European nations support statehood as diplomats prepare Security Council resolution setting a two-year timeframe.
Members of the European Parliament vote on recognition of Palestine statehood in Strasbourg, France, on December 17, 2014. Patrick Seeger / EPA
Members of the European Parliament vote on recognition of Palestine statehood in Strasbourg, France, on December 17, 2014. Patrick Seeger / EPA

New York // European nations dealt a double diplomatic blow to Israel yesterday as Palestinians prepared to submit a resolution to the UN Security Council to rally international support for statehood.

The European Parliament adopted a resolution supporting statehood for Palestine, although it stopped short of recognising a Palestinian state.

In Geneva, in a stinging rebuke to Israel’s settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the international community said it breached Israel’s responsibilities as an occupying power.

The declaration adopted by the conference of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which governs the rules of war and military occupation, emphasised a prohibition on colonising occupied land and insisted that international humanitarian law be obeyed in areas affected by the conflict between Israel and Palestinians. It called for “all serious violations” to be investigated and those responsible for breaches to be brought to justice.

“This is a signal and we can hope that words count,” said the Swiss ambassador Paul Fivat, who chaired the meeting.

Palestinians were last night preparing to submit an Arab-backed draft resolution to the UN Security Council that would set a two-year deadline for the recognition of a Palestinian state by Israel. The original Palestinian text also called for a complete withdrawal of Israeli forces from the territories occupied since 1967, without land swaps, by November 2016.

The draft had little chance of passing a vote and may have been intended to pressure the US to agree to a more moderate position.

Such a compromise resolution was drafted by France, which has taken the lead in mediating between the Palestinians and international community as Ramallah pushes for an accelerated path to statehood via the UN after the collapse of a US-brokered peace process.

The Palestinian move capitalised on the role of European countries who have taken the lead in pushing for international peace talks after repeated US failures.

The French version would force the immediate resumption of peace talks that would include European and key Arab countries, rather than just the US, which is perceived to have been biased towards Israel.

It would also set a two-year timeframe for a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. The French draft does not set a deadline for Israel’s withdrawal, and does not include the US-backed Israeli demand that the Palestinians recognise Israel as a Jewish state.

The Palestinian draft was being submitted by Jordan, a non-permanent council member, with “French ideas incorporated in the text”, according to an Arab diplomat at the UN.

The Palestinian foreign minister, Riyad Al Malki, said the draft “could be put to a vote 24 hours after” it was submitted. It is likely that a vote will be delayed so that the Europeans, Palestinians and Arab countries can continue to try and bridge their differences with Washington.

The US would be likely to veto any resolution that imposes a deadline on Israel, even a deadline for talks rather than withdrawal, and that is put to a vote before Israeli elections in March.

After a whirlwind three-day trip to Europe to discuss the issue with officials from all sides, Mr Kerry said on Tuesday that nothing must be done that “might be perceived as interfering” with the Israeli polls, or that might embolden right-wing hardliners in Israel.

The US opposition to an immediate resolution is an effort to reduce the growing pressure on its close ally Israel, analysts said, and Washington might then use the extra time to negotiate a resolution with fewer conditions that it would either support or not veto.

The Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas told the UN General Assembly in September that he would seek an accelerated path to statehood at the UN.

European countries led by France stepped in to bridge the differences with their own draft resolution.

“France’s goal remains to bring the international community together to support the peace process and to reach a consensus resolution in the council,” a spokesman for the French mission said.

European diplomats on the Security Council say the US has yet to negotiate over the compromise draft.

In parallel to the moves at the UN, European diplomats were engaged in discussions on how to “make life less troublesome for Hamas” so that the Islamist group that controls Gaza would not actively oppose the Palestinian Authority’s UN strategy, said Ziad Asali, president of the American Task Force on Palestine.

The second-highest EU court ordered the union to remove Hamas from its list of terrorist organisations on Wednesday. Although the EU protested and said it might appeal, the court decision could make the US and Israelis more intransigent on a resolution.

The European Parliament vote yesterday to adopt a resolution supporting the principle of Palestinian statehood follows Sweden’s decision in October to recognise Palestine as well as non-binding parliamentary votes in the UK, Ireland and France in support of recognition.

* With additional reporting from Associated Press and Aggence France-Presse

Published: December 18, 2014 04:00 AM


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