What elections? Europe presses ahead on Palestine question as Israel prepares for poll

While Israel will be slammed in Geneva, matters could be much worse at the European Parliament, where a resolution will be voted on that calls for negotiations leading to a two-state solution.

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December 17, 2014 06:36
4 minute read.
Laurent Fabius

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius . (photo credit: REUTERS)

The European Parliament in Brussels, the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg and signatories to the Fourth Geneva Convention meeting in Geneva will take up various aspects of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on Wednesday as the world shows it will not wait until after the Israeli election to deal with the issue.

While Israel will be slammed at the meeting in Geneva, matters could be much worse at the European Parliament, where a resolution will be voted on that does not call for the recognition of a Palestinian state, but rather for negotiations leading to a two-state solution.

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In Luxembourg, the European Court of Justice is expected to ask the European governments to provide it with additional evidence to support having Hamas on the EU’s list of terrorist organizations, where it has been since 2003.

In France, meanwhile, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said after meeting with an Arab League delegation and separately with former president Shimon Peres that there was an urgency to find a way to bring the conflict to an end.

France, he said, remained committed to bringing a proposal to the UN Security Council that would spell out the parameters of an agreement and set a two-year time frame to complete negotiations based on those guidelines.

Peres met with Fabius and tried to convince him – apparently without success – to drop the proposal for three months until after Israel’s election.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussed the proposal with French President François Hollande last week and made it clear that Israel was adamantly opposed. He told reporters in Rome on Monday this was a negative move that, rather than moving negotiations forward, would set them back. Fabius has made clear that if no agreement was reached within two years, a Palestinian state should be recognized anyway.

The French proposal is different from the Palestinian resolution that is expected to be brought to the Security Council by Jordan in the coming days, because that resolution calls for an Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines within two years.

Regarding the special meeting of the High Contracting Parties of the Fourth Geneva Convention, Jerusalem is expecting the meeting – only the third time the signatories have met since 1949, and each time only to deal with Israel – will be unabashedly one-sided against Israel.

Jerusalem’s efforts to get Western democracies to boycott the meeting have largely failed, as only the US, Canada and Australia have said they will do so. Rwanda also has said it will boycott the meeting, but efforts to get European countries to do the same were not successful.

“Think about the absurdity,” one official said. “The Geneva Convention, which is supposed to deal with war crimes, did not meet about [Syrian President Bashar] Assad, [Libya’s former leader Muammar] Gaddafi, or Boko Haram, but only about Israel. This is a blatant politicization of the process.

It is a pity that the Swiss allowed this to happen.”

Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nachshon said that while there was no operational significance to the meeting, which is expected to last only three hours, it still is a “very negative” development and characterized the calling of the meeting as a “fashion” sweeping Europe to “single out Israel.”

In Luxembourg, meanwhile, following a ruling earlier this year that more evidence was needed to keep Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tigers on the EU’s terrorist list, the European Court of Justice was asked to determine whether the same might not be true regarding Hamas and is scheduled to render such a decision on Wednesday.

Nachshon said it was unlikely that the court would decide to take the organization off the terrorist list, but rather would ask for more evidence to keep it on. He said there was no support among the EU states to take Hamas off the list, and that two central countries – which he would not name – already were building up a stronger dossier of evidence of Hamas terrorism to take to the court.

One diplomatic official said the whole discussion was “absurd in the extreme.”

“It was just last month that you had the vicious, brutal attack at the Har Nof synagogue [in Jerusalem] that received wall-to-wall condemnation around the world,” he said. “Hamas openly celebrated the atrocity and called for more such attacks. Hamas has proven that it remains a hardcore terrorist organization.”

In the European Parliament, meanwhile, EU lawmakers agreed on a proposal dealing with the Middle East that stopped short of urging EU members to recognize a Palestinian state.

Social Democrat, left-wing and Green members of the European Parliament had put forward motions for a symbolic vote on Wednesday to call on the EU’s 28 members to recognize Palestine statehood without conditions, following similar moves taken recently in some European legislatures.

However, the center-right European People’s Party, the largest group in the parliament, and the fourth-largest group, the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, said recognition should only form part of a negotiated agreement with Israel.

As a result, the following text will be brought to a vote on Wednesday: “[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.”

One diplomatic official said this text was much more nuanced, and as a result much less objectionable, than some of the texts that have recently passed parliaments in Ireland, France, Portugal and Britain. In addition to all the other diplomatic developments taking place on Wednesday, Luxembourg’s parliament also is expected to vote on a resolution calling for the recognition of “Palestine.”

Reuters contributed to this report.


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