European Parliament urges EU foreign ministers to support Palestinian statehood

The resolution passed with 498 votes. Only 88 parliamentarians voted against it out of the body’s 751 members.

December 18, 2014 05:34
4 minute read.
idf bulldozer

A protester holds a Palestinian flag in front of an IDF bulldozer in the West Bank [File]. (photo credit: REUTERS)

A European Parliament resolution to recognize “Palestine” as a state only in principle was approved in Strasbourg on Wednesday to resounding applause, as politicians sent what they hope is a strong message to their foreign ministers to take a real stand on this issue at the UN, particularly in the Security Council.

Left-wing European lawmakers had originally wanted the nonbinding resolution to call on the European Union’s 28 member states to immediately recognize “Palestine,” just as national legislatures had done in Great Britain, France, Spain, and Ireland.

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But at the last minute, left-wing lawmakers agreed to a compromise that links the recognition with the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, which broke down in April.

The resolution, which passed with 498 votes, states that the European Parliament “supports, 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.” Only 88 parliamentarians voted against it out of the body’s 751 members.

After the vote, a British member of the European Parliament from the Labor Party, Richard Howitt, said he hoped it would help European foreign ministers and the EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini to take steps to recognize “Palestine” as a state.

“The strength of the vote today will send a signal to EU foreign ministers that they should do everything possible to seek wording in the UN that will enable them to vote yes [for the state of ‘Palestine’],” he said. The resolution, he said, builds on what the parliaments of member states have done, but “it puts a specific European imprint on that because we call for a European common position.”

However, conservatives and centrists said recognition should only form part of a negotiated agreement with Israel.

“With this vote, the European Parliament has clearly rejected an unconditional recognition separate from the peace negotiations,” said Elmar Brok, a German conservative who chairs the parliament’s foreign affairs committee.

In Jerusalem, Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nachshon said Wednesday that Israel opposes this vote, as it opposed the ones in European national legislatures.

The solution to the Israel-Palestinian crisis will be found around the negotiating table, and not in one parliament or another, Nachshon said.

Nevertheless, he said, “the very debate about the issue harms the chances of restarting negotiations.”

Israel’s position is that if the Palestinians know that they will get recognition even without negotiations and compromise, then what incentive will they have to negotiate or compromise? A number of opponents of the resolution attempted to prevent the vote from moving forward by noting that the EU does not have the power to recognize “Palestine” as a step. Among them was a British member of the European Parliament, James Carver, whom supporters of the resolution tried to shout down when he stood in the plenum.

“I am a longtime supporter of recognition for another Islamic country – that is, Somaliland,” Carver said in the plenary. He was referring to an autonomous region of Somalia that has sought self-determination for over 50 years.

At first a European Parliament vice president who chaired the session, Antonio Tajani of Italy, attempted to stop Carver from speaking, but then let him continue.

Carver said he had written the EU Commission in September to ask whether the European Union could recognize Somaliland.

“The commission replied on October 4 that the EU does not have the competency to recognize states, only individual member states do, as indeed Sweden has [with respect to Palestine]. So Mr.

President, I ask you as president of this parliament to rule on inadmissibility,” said Carver.

Tajani dismissed Carver’s bid to halt a vote on the resolution.

After the resolution passed, Nigel Farage, who heads the UK Independence Party, attacked the parliament for approving the resolution.

“You call yourselves a parliament, and if you are a parliament then presumably you believe in rules and the rule of law,” he said, as he reiterated what Carver had said – that the resolution on Palestine was outside the parliament’s purview and indeed that of the EU.

So parliamentary views on Palestinian statehood is irrelevant, Farage said.

Palestinians welcomed the EU vote, even though it linked statehood recognition with negotiations.

PLO Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi, said: “This vote constitutes an important contribution to peace, and we express our deep appreciation to all those who worked to ensure the success of today’s overwhelming vote.”

She added, “We call on all parliaments and governments worldwide to officially recognize an independent Palestine on 1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital, and to support our current and future multilateral efforts of holding Israel accountable. It is high time to translate the will of the Palestinian people into action before the entire region is plunged into further instability, violence, and chaos.”

Herb Keinon and Reuters contributed to this report.

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