EU split over UN recognition of Palestinian state

German Chancellor Angela Merkel will urge PA President Mahmoud Abbas not to seek unilateral recognition, 'Der Spiegel' reports.

Angela Merkel 521 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Angela Merkel 521
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Differences in Europe over a possible Palestinian move to get the UN to recognize an independent state in September are emerging, as Der Spiegel reported on Friday that German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who invited PA President Mahmoud Abbas to Berlin next month, will urge him not to seek unilateral recognition.
This report comes just days after France’s ambassador to the UN said during a Security Council debate on the Middle East that “recognition of the state of Palestine is one of the options which France is considering, with its European partners, with a view to creating a political horizon for relaunching the peace process.”
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A British spokesman was quoted by AFP regarding that meeting as saying that “nothing is off the table with regard to recognition in September.”
The US has made clear that it is opposed to such a move.
Europe is turning into the major battleground over the issue, since – according to Israeli officials – the Palestinians know that for a resolution in the UN General Assembly to have any significance, it would have to be backed not only by the Islamic and developing countries that regularly give it an automatic majority in the Assembly, but also by the moral authority of the world’s democratic countries. Since the US has made its position clear, the focus is now on the EU.
It is not known whether the EU will take a unified position on this matter. In the past, for instance when the General Assembly voted to adopt the Goldstone Commission report in 2009, some of the 27 EU countries – the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland and Slovakia – voted for Israel against the report; some abstained; and some – Cyprus, Ireland, Malta, Portugal and Slovenia – voted against Israel.
Israel has been lobbying hard against a General Assembly resolution on Palestinian statehood, arguing that it would give the Palestinians a prize for refusing to return to the negotiations; and that instead of creating a “political horizon” that would lure the Palestinians back to talks, such a move would harden them in their position that the international community would eventually “deliver” Israel.
Berlin announced on Saturday that Merkel had invited Abbas to a meeting on May 5, although the German government declined to specify the meeting’s agenda. Der Spiegel, however, said Merkel would advise Abbas against lobbying the General Assembly to bypass direct Israel-Palestinian talks and recognize a state in September.
Merkel came out against a UN resolution recognizing an independent Palestinian state earlier this month after meeting with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in Berlin. “The Federal Republic of Germany is championing a two-state solution...
Any kind of unilateral recognition does not promote this goal. This will be our position in September,” she said following the meeting.
Turkey, meanwhile, had come out as expected for a UN declaration on Palestinian statehood. Turkey Today’s Zaman website reported on Saturday that at Thursday’s Mideast debate in the Security Council, Ankara’s ambassador to the UN, Ertugrul Apakan, said that the Palestinian Authority, though its statebuilding efforts, “has proven to all the skeptics that they deserve to attain their decades-long target of internationally recognized statehood, even though they continue to suffer under occupation.”
If Palestinians prove objectively ready to move from current observer status at the UN into full statehood, the international community “must not turn a blind eye to their just and legitimate appeal,” Apakan was quoted as saying, adding that “the time has come to show solidarity with the Palestinians and help them to live in peace and dignity.”
In a related development, Home Front Defense Minister Matan Vilna’i called on Netanyahu on Saturday to work toward the creation of a Palestinian state.
“The prime minister needs to behave like [his predecessor] Menachem Begin, who went against the opinions of many in his party, and to [work toward] establishing a Palestinian state alongside the State of Israel,” Vilna’i said at an event in Holon. “We cannot arrive at a point where a Palestinian state is declared unilaterally. Therefore, the government must find a solution through dialogue, in which we are guaranteed security and they are guaranteed a state.”
Vilna’i also addressed a demonstration that took place on Thursday in front of Tel Aviv’s Independence Hall, in which nearly two dozen Israel Prize winners expressed support for the creation of a Palestinians state and were met with calls of “traitor” from counter-protesters.
“We have a difficult debate in Israeli society on the subject of peace,” Vilna’i said. “The demonstration by leftist organizations at Independence Hall in Tel Aviv expressed one of the opinions in that debate.”
Those blocking the creation of a Palestinian state are Hamas members, Vilna’i said. “Hamas erred when it conquered the Gaza Strip and turned it into a terrorist base both above and below ground.”
Instead of the Palestinians arguing that they were capable of managing a state, Hamas in Gaza was turning the Palestinians back to terrorism, he said. The Palestinian leadership’s job, Vilna’i declared, “is to fight Hamas and to win that fight.
“Hamas is an organization that doesn’t understand any language other than the language of war,” he said.
Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.