EU lawmakers stop short of joint Palestine motion

Palestinians demonstrate against the war in Gaza. Brussels, July 2014. [Joel Schalit]

EU lawmakers stopped short on Tuesday (16 December) of proposing a joint motion urging EU members to recognise a state of Palestine, settling instead on a compromise resolution that peace talks should progress.

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 recognise Palestine statehood without conditions.

This follows Sweden’s decision in October to recognise Palestine and non-binding votes since then by parliaments in Britain, France, Ireland and Spain in favour of recognition that demonstrated growing European impatience with the stalled peace process.

>> Read: EU Parliament to vote on recognising Palestinian state in December

Some European countries have grown increasingly vocal in expressing frustration with Israel, which since the collapse of the latest U.S.-sponsored talks in April has pressed on with building settlements in territory the Palestinians want for their future state.

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

After talks on Tuesday, negotiators for the centre-left Socialists and Democrats, the EPP and ALDE, which together command a large majority in parliament, agreed on the following text:

“(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.”

Voting on the non-binding resolution will take place shortly after midday on Wednesday in Strasbourg.

The state of Israel was created in 1948, replacing the British Mandate for Palestine after a conflict that resulted in the flight of at least 750,000 Palestinians.

19 years later, the refugee crisis was exacerbated by Isreal's invasion and occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip during the Six-Day War in 1967. Israel then annexed East Jerusalem and began constructing colonies in the West Bank, which are now home to 500,000 Israeli Jews.

The EU first intervened in the conflict in 1980 by recognising Palestine's right to self-determination in the Declaration of Venice. In 1986 the EU went further by enacting a regulation that allowed Palestinians in the occupied territories to export products to Europe under the label "Made in the West Bank and Gaza".

The EU deepened its involvement in the peace process with the Oslo Accords in 1993, offering financial support to the embryonic Palestinian authorities, and maintains that any peace settlement must respect the original borders from 1967, which would allow the Palestinians to establish their capital in East Jerusalem. This position has provoked strong opposition from Israel.

In December 2010, 26 former EU leaders, including Javier Solana and Helmut Schmidt, called for a boycott and sanctions against Israel, in response to its continued policy of colonisation.

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