News / Middle East

EU Divided on Palestinian State UN Recognition

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, addresses the 66th session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters Sept. 21, 2011.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy, addresses the 66th session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters Sept. 21, 2011.

As diplomats scramble to avert a Palestinian request for full United Nations recognition this week, the European Union remains deeply divided on the issue. Analysts say the differences may undermine Europe's efforts to play a meaningful role in the Middle East peace process.

Related video report by Henry Ridgwell

Palestinian Statehood Bid Breakdown

    The Process

  • Palestinians say they are seeking U.N. recognition after years of negotiations with Israel failed to deliver an independent state.
  • It is not clear if Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will seek U.N. Security Council approval of U.N. member status for an independent Palestine, or instead seek "non-member status" within the world body.
  • The mechanism for recognizing statehood at the United Nations is specific.
  • First, a resolution declaring a State of Palestine as a full U.N. member is introduced. Then the resolution is sent to the Security Council, which studies it and takes a vote on sending the measure to the full General Assembly. It takes two thirds of the U.N.'s membership to approve voting-state status.
  • Achieving non-member status requires only a simple majority vote in the 193-member General Assembly. Palestinians currently hold observer status at the world body.
  • Non-voting U.N. membership would provide Palestinians with a status upgrade that would allow them to petition U.N. committees and entities such as the International Court of Justice.

    Why the Palestinian bid?

  • President Abbas backed out of U.S.-led peace talks last year in protest against Israel's decision to end a freeze in settlement building on land the Palestinians want for a future state. Palestinians say because the peace process has failed, they will unilaterally seek to establish a state. Abbas said the Palestinians are the only people in the world who remain under occupation.

    Why the Israelis oppose the move?

  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the Palestinians' plan to seek statehood recognition at the United Nations is "futile," and that only direct negotiations can lead to a peace agreement.
  • Netanyahu has accused the Palestinians of "consistently evading" negotiations. He called on the Palestinian Authority "to abandon unilateral steps" and said it would then "find Israel to be a genuine partner" for peace.
  • Israel leaders say that by bypassing talks and going to the U.N., the Palestinians are violating previous agreements, and that could result in Israeli sanctions.

    Why the U.S. promises to veto?

  • The Obama administration opposes the Palestinian move and says it will not help to bring Palestinians and Israelis back to the negotiating table. President Obama has called the proposal a "distraction" to attaining Mideast peace that he says can only be addressed through negotiations.
  • The U.S., one of five veto-wielding members of the U.N. Security Council, says it will veto a Palestinian membership bid in the Council if it comes to a vote.

As a member of the so-called Quartet of Middle East peace mediators, the European Union is a key player in current efforts to head off a statehood bid by Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas. Two EU members, France and Britain, sit on the United Nations Security Council - the body that might vote on such an application.

The United States and Israel are strongly opposed to such a bid. The U.S. Congress has threatened to cut assistance to the Palestinians. But as the deadline looms ahead of Mr. Abbas' address before the U.N. on Friday, the EU has yet to clarify its position.

Addressing the U.N. General Assembly Wednesday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said the Palestinian claim for a state is legitimate - but he cautioned against the push for recognition now as a full U.N. member.  He also said that a veto in the Security Council could spark a cycle of violence in the Middle East.  He instead proposed an interim stage of offering the Palestinians a U.N. status of observer state.

Vivien Pertusot, head of the Brussels office for the French Institute of International Relations, is not surprised at the divisions among EU members.  "At this stage - and I don't think that it's going to happen - there is no EU common position. There are some strong divisions among the member states," Pertusot said.

Pertusot divides the EU's 27 members into four camps. Those favoring a Palestinian statehood bid include Spain, Sweden and Luxembourg. Germany, Italy and Czech Republic count among those against. There is also the "wait-and-see" camp. And the "uncertain camp" - which includes Britain and France.

In an interview on France 24 news channel, the Palestinian representative to the EU, Leila Shahid, said the EU divisions are reflected in other aspects of its foreign policy.

Shahid noted Europe also failed to adopt a common position on recognizing Kosovo and on the NATO air campaign in Libya. Still, she urged the EU to speak with a common voice at the U.N.

Those pushing for a European "yes" to Palestinian recognition at the U.N. offer a number of arguments, including that it would keep alive a two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinians.  By voting against, they argue, the Europeans may be accused of hypocrisy - for supporting popular Arab Spring uprisings but not Palestinian aspirations.  But others reject a unilateral declaration without a negotiated settlement first between the Israelis and Palestinians.

Rene Prange, a member of the nongovernmental group France Palestine Solidarite, believes France and other EU members are also concerned about damaging their relationship with Washington.

"I think they would like to have [a] Palestinian [state]…recognized but on the other hand, they don't want to have a struggle with the United States and on top of that the European Union doesn't speak as a single body," Prange said.

Still, if it comes to a vote, the French Institute's Pertusot believes France and Britain may well back a Palestinian statehood bid at the Security Council - with an important caveat.

"They're not going to support any kind of resolution. So it all depends on the wording of the resolution," Pertusot said.

Pertusot believes the EU's problem is partly a public relations one.  "What the EU hasn't been doing enough is to explain that the resolution is just one step and the peace process is going to continue after the resolution and that's where the EU can play a significant role," Pertusot said.

The European public appears more united. Two recent polls show the majority of Europeans favoring Palestinian statehood. One of the polls, by the BBC, also finds 45 percent of Americans favoring a statehood bid at the United Nations, compared to 36 percent against.

You May Like

HRW: Egypt's Trial of Morsi ‘Badly Flawed’

Human Rights Watch says former Egypt leader's detention without charge for more than three weeks after his removal from office violated Egyptian law; government rejects criticism More

Photogallery Lancet Report Calls for Major Investment in Surgery

In its report published by The Lancet, panel of experts says people are dying from conditions easily treated in the operating room such as hernia, appendicitis, obstructed labor, and serious fractures More

Music Industry Under Sway of Digital Revolution

Millions of people in every corner of the Earth now can enjoy a vast variety and quantity of music in a way that has never before been possible More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs