EU: Watering Down the Bid for Palestinian Statehood

Related: ▣ FAQ ▣ Palestine Statehood Bid | Category Statehood

Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad (L) looks at The Office of the Quartet Representative Tony Blair, during a meeting at the United Nations headquarters in New York September 18, 2011. (Photo: AFP – Emmanuel Dunand)

By: Houssam Kanafani | Al Akhbar | September 22, 2011

The European Union (EU) is struggling to come up with a clear and unified position regarding the Palestinian bid for statehood at the UN. But the likely outcome is an appeal to Palestinians that they accept a token recognition at the General Assembly.

They are concerned that if the Palestinian Authority goes to the Security Council to get recognition, the Europeans will not speak with one voice and appear divided over the issue.

Some countries, like Spain, have already announced their intention to recognize the new state but maybe reconsidering, while others, such as Germany and Italy, are opposed. So they have worked out a compromise whereby they will encourage the Palestinians to limit their bid to a General Assembly vote, and avoid the Security Council altogether.

Even at this late date, just days before the General Assembly convenes, some European countries have not declared a final position on the issue. For instance, it is still unclear which way France and Britain, both permanent members of the Security Council, will vote. Media reports indicate that the US is exerting intense pressure on Britain to oppose Palestinian statehood if it reaches the Security Council.

European countries argue that the Palestinian bid would have better chances of success if directed to the General Assembly, where they can support it. The problem with this position is that the General Assembly cannot grant the Palestinians statehood. It can only elevate the status of the their mission at the UN from a ‘monitoring committee’ to a ‘monitoring state,’ similar to the Vatican. This would allow the Palestinians to gain access to important international bodies affiliated with the UN, such as the World Bank, IMF, International Criminal Court, and International Court of Justice.President Nicholas Sarkozy is said to have personally presented the European compromise initiative to the Palestinian leadership. Spain, which initially supported recognition, reconsidered in light of the compromise. In a statement two weeks ago, Spanish Foreign Minister Trinidad Jiménez said that “we should give the Palestinians hope that their state can become reality.” This probably means that Spain will support a ‘monitoring state’ bid in the General Assembly but not full statehood, a clear indication of a retreat from its previous position.

The PA has indirectly rejected the European initiative, with Mahmoud Abbas still insisting that he will take his bid to the Security Council. The PA’s decision is quite surprising, because without European support, Abbas cannot possibly win the 9 (out of 12 votes) necessary to get Security Council approval. In any case, the European position is moot if the US resorts to a veto as it has already declared.

If Abbas’s intention is to embarrass Washington by forcing it to veto Palestinian statehood in such a public manner, then he is miscalculating. Washington did not hesitate to use its veto against criminalizing settlement building in the occupied West Bank a few months ago only.

The question is, given that the Palestinian bid is bound to fail in the Security Council, will the Europeans stand by their initiative and support the Palestinians in the General Assembly?

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.


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