The Foreign Ministry put out a caustic statement on Wednesday, saying that rather than voting on Tuesday to recognize a Palestinian state, the Spanish parliament would have been much better off had it condemned the Palestinian terrorist attack on a Jerusalem synagogue earlier in the day.
The ministry was responding to a decision by the lower house of Spain’s parliament that overwhelmingly passed a nonbinding motion calling on Madrid to “recognize Palestine as a state.” This move, which took place on the same day as the Har Nof attack, followed similar motions passed recently in British and Irish parliaments.
“The Spanish parliament’s declaration only pushes away further the chances of reaching an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, because it encourages the Palestinians to take extreme positions,” the Foreign Ministry said. “It would have been better had the Spanish parliament seen fit to denounce the abominable massacre in a Jerusalem synagogue carried out by Palestinians who were incited.”
Spanish Ambassador Fernando Carderera Soler, in an Israel Radio interview, acknowledged that the timing of the vote came at “a very bad moment.” But, he said, “a terrorist attack is a terrorist attack, it cannot affect your life, and life has to go on, and so [it] is also with the parliament.”
The ambassador took issue with the Foreign Ministry statement, saying the motion’s text was “balanced” and “very positive for all parties, including Israel.”
“It doesn’t worsen the situation, and this is not what the Spanish parliamentarians want to do, the Spanish parliamentarians want to provide an incentive for negotiations,” he said.
Asked how Madrid would respond were the Knesset to pass a resolution backing Basque or Catalonian independence, the ambassador said the Knesset would have “no ground whatsoever” to get involved in those issues, “not historically, legally, politically or economically.”
Following Tuesday’s vote, Spanish Foreign Minister José García-Margallo expressed “satisfaction that all [political parties] have decided to vote for this declaration.”
He added that just as Spanish politicians must arrive at accords in the parliament, “so too we have to arrive at accords in the European Union if we want a foreign policy that’s common and truly continental.”
The position of the Spanish government has been to seek recognition of Palestinian statehood as the end result of bilateral negotiations, rather than unilaterally recognizing it outside such a process.
Spain’s position takes on an increased significance heading into 2015, when it is to assume a twoyear temporary position on the United Nations Security Council, a body whose support is necessary for Palestinians to become a UN member state. Spain is replacing Luxembourg on the council.
Margallo said Monday before the vote that “the worst service we can give to the cause of peace in the Middle East is for each country to continue advancing national, isolated solutions and not a joint solution.”
The bill’s main proponent, former Spanish foreign minster Trinidad Jiménez, opened Tuesday’s legislative session by restating her “conviction that the solution to the conflict in the Middle East depends on the coexistence of two states.”
She said because “negotiations have been cut off again and again,” it is necessary to “take another step forward” towards Palestinian statehood and regional peace.
“It’s not against Israel, and it’s not against Palestine,” she said Monday in an interview with The Jerusalem Post. “It’s only to push parties to negotiate, to sit down.”
Spain’s Congress of Deputies passed the motion after the largest opposition party, the Spanish Socialist Workers Party, led by Jiménez, rejected an amendment from other opposition groups to fix a time line for the recognition of “Palestine,” Spanish newspaper El País reported.
But the more significant compromise was between the opposition and the ruling Popular Party, which added a paragraph promoting an international solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that “takes fully into account the legitimate worries, interests and aspirations of the State of Israel,” the newspaper reported.
The motion passed with 319 votes in favor, two opposed and a single abstention.
The motion is set apart from the ones taken in the Irish and British parliaments by stipulating that Spain’s recognition of a Palestinian state must be the result of talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
That stipulation emerged from negotiations between the Popular Party, which insisted on it, and Socialist Workers’ Party, whose original draft motion on recognizing a Palestinian state made no mention of such a condition. Another poignant change to the original draft was the dropping of the word “contiguous” from a line that describes the future Palestinian state as “a sovereign, democratic and independent state.”
Behind the scenes, ACOM, a small lobbying group that supports Israel and is run from Madrid by Jews and non-Jews, was working around the clock to convince the Popular Party to insist on the changes to the original motion.
“We were sweating blood to get this done, and I still can’t believe we pulled off this achievement,” said Daniel Fernandez of ACOM, who had 20 meetings this past month with lawmakers and politicians over the issue.
Some in the opposition took positions during Tuesday’s session that went further than the resolution.
Basque politician Rafael Larreina took the podium wearing a red, white and green scarf that said “Palestine” in English. He condemned the recent violence in Israel, including a terrorist attack that killed five in Jerusalem and the hanging death of a Palestinian bus driver that Israel Police ruled a suicide, saying those events “lead to the conclusion that it’s urgent” to recognize a Palestinian state.
Addressing a gallery of diplomats from the Arab world, Communist politician Joan Josep Nuet said Israel, “invades Palestinian land and kills its people,” and called for the urgent recognition of a Palestinian state with “a capital that is called Jerusalem.”
Referring to the French parliament’s November 28 vote on Palestinian statehood, he said “the news tomorrow will be that we urge the government of Spain to recognize the state of Palestine, like Sweden has done as well, just like France will do next week, and how other European countries will possibly do following our example.”JTA contributed to this report.