European Union flags.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
A vote by the European Parliament in Strasbourg over whether to recognize a Palestinian state was postponed Tuesday from later this week to mid-December.
Israeli diplomatic officials said the move was pushed off from Thursday for three reasons: Emerging difficulties between the various parties regarding the language of the resolution; opposition by some members of the parties – especially from Germany – to the resolution; and intensive work by Israeli diplomats in Brussels to postpone the vote, hoping to gain more time to change minds.
The vote in the European Parliament will follow the Swedish government’s recent recognition of “Palestine,” as well as nonbinding resolutions on the matter that have passed in the British, Irish and Spanish parliaments.
A similar vote is scheduled to come before the French parliament on Tuesday, but unlike in the other parliaments, Israeli officials said that there the resolution is likely to come up against a substantial minority voting against. Israel’s representatives in Paris have been working with both the government and opposition parties to mobilize opposition to the resolution.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday the French parliament would be making a “grave mistake” with recognition.
“Do they have nothing better to do at a time of beheadings across the Middle East, including that of a French citizen?” he said. “The State of Israel is the homeland of the Jewish people, the only state that we have, and the Palestinians demanding a state do not want to recognize the right to have a state for the Jewish people.”
On Tuesday, after a meeting with visiting Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka in Jerusalem during the two countries’ annual government- to-government talks, Netanyahu said that Israel’s need to be recognized as a Jewish state by the Palestinians, as well as the necessity for “solid security arrangements on the ground, which are so essential for peace,” are “not addressed by the European countries that unilaterally give recognition to a Palestinian state.”
Such a move, he continued, represents a “big mistake for peace. It encourages the Palestinians to harden their positions, not to compromise on mutual recognition, not to compromise on the things that are needed to achieve genuine security. I think these European positions actually push peace away, and I believe that they make reaching a solution much harder.”
Netanyahu discussed this with Sobotka, and said he “appreciated the fact” that the Czech leader said that “what is needed is a negotiated arrangement, and not unilateral actions.”
The European Parliament, meanwhile, is scheduled to debate the idea of recognition on Wednesday without a resolution on the table, and then vote on an agreed-upon resolution during the parliament’s plenary session from December 15 to December 18.
The Socialists and Democrats Group and the Unified European Left Party are behind the move to bring Palestinian statehood to a vote.
While Israeli officials said that a EU Parliament resolution would be simply symbolic, and have no true substantive impact, they acknowledge that the European legislative body does reflect public opinion, and that public opinion is something that individual European governments do obviously take into consideration.