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Palestine and the EU: EU "In Principle" Recognition of Palestinian Statehood

The European Parliament voted in favor of “in principle” recognition of a Palestinian state on December 17, 2014.   During a session on December 16 the topic was hotly debated with input from EU members spanning the European continent, and the resolution was adopted by a vote of 498 in favor and 88 against.  This measure expresses the European Union's support for a two state resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the basis of the pre-1967 borders, with free and independent Israeli and Palestinian states side-by-side.   

According to the official EU Parliament press release, “[the 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.”  Similar to measures adopted by individual EU members Britain, Spain, and Sweden earlier in 2014, this did not have any immediate effect on policy, was non-binding, and was meant merely as a symbolic vote to encourage efforts to find a solution.  So far Sweden is the only member of the European Union that officially recognizes Palestine as a state; measures adopted by other European Union members earlier in 2014 were simply measures passed by legislatures encouraging their governments to recognize the state of Palestine. 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said about these recognitions of Palestinian statehood that "attempts by the Palestinians and by several European countries to force conditions on Israel will only lead to a deterioration in the regional situation and will endanger Israel."  Included in this resolution as well is the EU Parliament's official opinion that the current and ongoing Israeli settlements are illegal and should be stopped immediately if peace is to be achieved. 

The day after this vote was announced, the General Court of the European Union released their ruling that removed the Hamas organization from a European designated list of terror organizations.  This ruling was based on the fact that Hamas's terror designation was "not [based] on acts examined and confirmed in decisions of competent authorities," but instead based on "factual imputations derived from the press and the internet."  In response to the removal of Hamas from the European Union's list of terror organizations, the United States urged the European Union to keep its sanctions against Hamas in place.  Department of State Spokesperson Jen Psaki stated in a press conference on December 18 that "We believe that the EU should maintain its terrorism sanctions on Hamas."  She informed reporters at the press conference that "The US position on Hamas has not changed; Hamas is a designated foreign terrorist organization...  Hamas continues to engage in terrorist activity... It fired thousands of rockets into Israeli civilian areas and attempted to infiltrate Israel through tunnels that extended into Israel." 

This vote came just days prior to a Palestinian attempt to end the Israeli occupation by 2017 by a vote at the UN Security Council.   Frustrated with the peace process after 20 years of negotiations, the Palestinian officials decided to take their case to the UN.  Palestinian officials spent weeks in late 2014 lobbying members of the UN Security Council trying to win their support for a Palestinian statehood resolution , but the United States threatened to veto any attempt at a vote for statehood brought by the Palestinians. A one-year timeline for negotiations to restart was set in the resolution, which is aimed at a full Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza.  This resolution was presented to the Security Council by Jordan on behalf of the Palestinians on December 17.  To read the full text of the resolution, click here

After this resolution was submitted it was read by the Security Council members, and in a press conference on December 18 Department of State Spokesperson Jen Psaki stated that the resolution " is not something we would support," and added that "we think others feel the same and are calling for further consultations".  Psaki said that the issues that they have with the resolution include that the US does not support the decision of a deadline for the withdrawal of Israeli security forces, and they feel that the resolution might prejudge the outcomes of the negotiations. 

The statehood resolution needed nine yes votes out of the fifteen Security Council members in order to pass, but only recieved eight votes after Nigeria abstained from voting at the last minute. The Palestinian Authority announced it's plans to resubmit the statehood resolution after the Israeli elections, due to take place on March 17, 2015.  The Palestinian Authority has not yet decided on which day they will resubmit the resolution.

Sources: European Parliament, RT (December 18 2014), New York Times (December 18 2014), Department of State (December 18 2014), Yahoo (December 19 2014)