French parliament votes in favor of symbolic motion to recognize 'Palestine'

Motion, which echoes similar votes in Britain, Spain and Ireland, received the backing of 339 lawmakers with 151 voting against.

Paris, France. (photo credit: REUTERS)
Paris, France.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The French Parliament’s nonbinding resolution Tuesday calling for the recognition of a Palestinian state will only move the possibility of reaching agreement further away, Israel said Tuesday in a response to the latest European parliament to come out in favor of recognizing “Palestine.”
“Resolutions like these only make the Palestinian positions more extreme and send the wrong message to the leaders and peoples of the region,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nachshon said. “A solution to the conflict will only be achieved through direct negotiations between the two sides and not through unilateral actions by one of the parties or by a third party.”
French lawmakers on Tuesday urged their government to recognize “Palestine,” a symbolic move that will not immediately affect France’s diplomatic stance but demonstrates growing European impatience with a stalled peace process.
While most developing countries recognize “Palestine” as a state, most Western European countries do not, supporting the Israeli and US position that an independent Palestinian state should emerge from direct negotiations.
The vote in France’s National Assembly followed similar nonbinding resolutions that recently passed the British and Spanish parliaments and the Irish senate. Israel’s response was not tempered by the fact that there was some opposition to the move in the French parliament, contrary to the situation in the other parliaments.
The resolution in France’s National Assembly passed by a vote of 339 to 151. In Britain a similar resolution passed by a 274-12 vote; in Spain by a vote of 319-2 with one abstention; and in the 60-person upper house of the Irish parliament the motion passed without a vote.
The current wave of parliamentary moves began in October after the Swedish government became the most significant country in Western Europe to recognize a Palestinian state.
The French text, proposed by the ruling Socialists and backed by leftwing parties and some conservatives, asked the government to “use the recognition of a Palestinian state with the aim of resolving the conflict definitively.”
Neither Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius nor Prime Minister Manuel Valls attended the vote in parliament.
The government has said it will not be bound by the result.
“We don’t want a symbolic recognition that will only lead to a virtual state,” European Affairs Minister Harlem Desir told lawmakers in reaction to the vote. “We want a Palestinian state that is real so we want to give a chance to negotiations.”
Former president Nicolas Sarkozy, who on Saturday won the leadership of his UMP party and is mounting a comeback bid, came out last week against the move.
The vote in Paris has raised domestic political pressure on France to be more active on the issue. A recent poll showed more than 60 percent of French people supported a Palestinian state.
Right-wing lawmakers criticized the Socialist majority for backing “Palestine” recognition to win back support from Muslim voters who were dismayed by a gay marriage law passed last year and President Francois Hollande’s apparent support for Israel’s intervention in Gaza.
“It will add fuel to the fire in a region that doesn’t need that at all,” said Christian Jacob, leader of the conservative UMP party.
France has the largest Muslim population in Europe, as well as a much smaller Jewish population that is also the most populous Jewish community in Europe.
Lawmaker Meyer Habib, who represents French citizens living in Israel, Turkey, Italy, Greece, the Vatican, San Marino and Malta, slammed the resolution.
“Although this was expected, the results of today’s vote are disappointing and saddening,” he said. “It is sad to see today how France chose the wrong partner today, and I am concerned there will be ramifications in its ties with Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East.”
The Palestinians, meanwhile applauded the move, with PLO Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi saying that “statehood and self-determination are not dependent on the approval of the occupying power or on negotiations; it is an inherent and legal right for the Palestinian people to exercise sovereignty on our own land.”
Ashrawi said that “if members of the international community are serious about the creation of the independent Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital, they must undertake serious and concrete measures to end the occupation and to recognize the State of Palestine.”
Meanwhile, in a related development, Jordan said on Tuesday it plans to begin talks with United Nations Security Council members on Palestinian and European proposals for a draft resolution setting a deadline for Israel-Palestinian negotiations.
Jordan circulated a Palestinian-drafted resolution to the 15-member council last month calling for Israeli “occupation” of Palestinian territory to end by November 2016. Some Western council diplomats described the text as “unbalanced.”
France, Britain and Germany are also drafting a resolution that Fabius said would propose concluding peace talks in two years. Other parameters for ending the conflict also would be set, diplomats said.
“We will be sitting together and seeing...the possibilities of working with everybody to get as close as possible to a unified text that will be for the interests of everybody,” said Jordan’s UN Ambassador Dina Kawar.
“We’re going to try to make it before Christmas. If not, it will be in January,” Kawar told reporters. “We really want to get everybody on board and that’s our intention.”
The Palestinian draft is unlikely to gain the support of the US, which has a veto on the council. It is not clear whether Washington will be prepared to engage in formal negotiations on the Palestinian or European texts or if the United States will produce its own proposal.
French Foreign ministry spokesman Romain Nadal said on Tuesday there was “no rush” to adopt a resolution.
In a related development, despite the election fever in Israel, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman is scheduled to travel to Basel on Wednesday to attend a conference of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and from there to depart to Washington to take part in the annual Saban Forum.
In Basel, Liberman is set to meet his counterparts from the Netherlands, Lithuania, Thailand, Bulgaria, Italy, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Belarus.