Europe Mulls Recognition of Palestinian State

France and Spain are laying the political groundwork for the European Union to recognize a Palestinian state — possibly as early as October 2011 — even if negotiations for a permanent settlement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority are not concluded.

The initiative is being spearheaded by French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and his Spanish counterpart Miguel Ángel Moratinos, whose country currently holds the six-month rotating presidency of the European Union.

Palestinian Authority leaders Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad have repeatedly said they intend to unilaterally declare Palestinian independence before the end of 2011, with or without a peace deal. Abbas and Fayyad have been visiting European capitals in recent months to drum up political and financial support for Palestinian statehood.

Kouchner and Moratinos laid out their vision for Europe’s role in creating a Palestinian state in a recent opinion article titled “A Palestinian State: When?” The article, which was published in French by the center-left newspaper Le Monde, reminds readers that the European Union is the biggest single provider of financial aid to the Palestinians. Often described as a “payer but not a player” in the Middle East, the authors argue that the European Union must work more aggressively in bringing about Palestinian statehood.

The authors argue that time is of the essence and that the European Union “must not confine itself to the … outlines of the final settlement” and “should collectively recognize the Palestinian State.… There is no more time to lose. Europe must pave the way.” The authors say the upcoming twentieth anniversary of the Madrid peace conference, which was convened in October 1991, would be a good moment to recognize Palestinian independence.

In an earlier interview with the Paris-based Journal du Dimanche, Kouchner said: “The issue currently before us is the building of a reality. France is training Palestinian police and businesses are being created in the West Bank.... It follows that one can envision the proclamation soon of a Palestinian state, and its immediate recognition by the international community, even before negotiating its borders.”

Kouchner added: “If by mid-2011, the political process has not ended the [Israeli] occupation, I would bet that the developed state of Palestinian infrastructure and institutions will be such that the pressure will force Israel to give up its occupation.”

Moratinos has said that Madrid sees the foundation of a Palestinian state as one of its main priorities under its six-month leadership of the EU. “We in the international community are all defending the two-state solution. Why should we wait for a Palestinian state? We have Israel as a state, we want its neighbour, the Palestinians, to have the same status,” Moratinos said. “My idea, and my dream, and my engagement, is to work for having in 2010, finally, a Palestinian state that could live in peace and security with Israel,” he said.

It remains to be seen how Spain’s current EU presidency will affect the EU’s relations with Israel. The government of Socialist Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero (as well as the previous EU rotating presidency, which was held by Sweden) has often raised eyebrows over its consistently antagonistic approach toward the Jewish state.

During the Swedish EU presidency (July 1, 2009 to December 31, 2009) the EU adopted a resolution that for the first time explicitly called for Jerusalem to become the future capital of both a Palestinian state and Israel. Backing away only slightly from a more controversial Swedish proposal to officially call for the division of Jerusalem, the EU declared: “If there is to be a genuine peace, a way must be found through negotiations to resolve the status of Jerusalem as the future capital of two states.”

The original proposal drafted by Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, well-known for his pro-Palestinian leanings, had called for the creation of a “State of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital.” That proposal had the backing of the Zapatero government. Israeli officials, angry over EU efforts to prejudge the outcome of issues reserved for permanent status negotiations, persuaded French diplomats to remove the offending text, as well as other references to a Palestinian state that would comprise “the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza.”

The Palestinians claim all of the West Bank and east Jerusalem — areas captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war — as part of their future state. The Palestinians have demanded that Israel halt all settlement construction in the two areas before peace talks can resume. But Israel has always maintained that Jerusalem will remain its undivided capital, regardless of any future peace settlement with the Palestinians. This has been the declared policy of all Israeli governments, both left and right.

In July 2009, then-EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana gave a speech to the Ditchley Foundation in London in which he said that Israel and the Palestinian Authority should be given a deadline by which to conclude negotiations for a two-state solution. If a final status agreement is not reached by that time, Solana recommended that one be imposed by the United Nations, whether Israel agrees to it or not.

“After a fixed deadline, a UN Security Council resolution should proclaim the adoption of the two-state solution,” Solana said. “It would accept the Palestinian state as a full member of the UN, and set a calendar for implementation. It would mandate the resolution of other remaining territorial disputes and legitimize the end of claims.”

Solana added that the UN-imposed two-state solution should include resolution of issues such as control over Jerusalem, as well as border definitions, security arrangements and the “right of return” by millions of foreign descendants of Arab refugees who abandoned their homes during the 1948 war.

In March 2010, the new EU foreign policy chief, Lady Catherine Ashton, used a visit to Gaza to increase EU pressure on Israel. “Recent Israeli decisions to build new housing units in East Jerusalem have endangered and undermined the tentative agreement to begin proximity talks,” she said. She also criticized the three-year-old blockade of the Gaza Strip and the recent Israeli decision to include Islamic religious sites in occupied territories on a list of Israeli heritage sites, describing both moves as “counter-productive.” Ashton also said the EU is ready to provide the Palestinians with more money.

Meanwhile, a group of British lawmakers have asked the government to halt arms sales to Israel after a report published by the House of Commons Committee on Arms Export Controls stated: “It is regrettable that arms exports to Israel were almost certainly used by Israel during Operation Cast Lead.” The report also says that arms exports to Israel should never be used in the “occupied Palestinian territories, as this violates the policy of the United Kingdom.”

Anglo-Israeli relations hit a new low in March after the British government expelled an Israeli diplomat over the use of forged UK passports in the January killing of a Hamas official in a hotel in Dubai. British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said Israel’s behaviour was “intolerable.”

Israeli government officials are concerned about the steady deterioration in Israel-EU relations. According to the Tel Aviv-based newspaper Haaretz, Foreign Ministry Director-General Yossi Gal recently held a conference call with seven of Israel’s ambassadors to European capitals. The envoys said they expected European governments to seize on the current crisis in Israel’s relations with the United States and go even further in condemning Israel and promoting diplomatic initiatives detrimental to Israel.

In fact, Israeli officials believe that US President Barack Obama, in pursuing a more antagonistic policy toward Israel, is not only imitating the European approach to the Middle East, but is actually coordinating policy with European governments. According to Haaretz, the White House and State Department have been in contact with Israel’s European allies, including Germany, in an effort to isolate Israel and increase the political pressure on Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

But increased American and European pressure on Israel may end up encouraging the Palestinians to toughen their stance and thus undermine the prospects for a negotiated settlement. Indeed, many analysts believe the recent moves by the EU are an effort to pre-empt any possible resumption of Middle East peace talks by helping the Palestinians improve their negotiating position vis-à-vis Israel.

This is already happening. For example, senior officials in Fatah, which governs the West Bank, have recently reversed a negotiations-only approach and have called for increased Palestinian protests against Israel.

In the meantime, the Palestinian Authority is using European money to implement an ambitious program to reform the Palestinian government and security forces, build up Palestinian institutions and develop the economy. The EU is praising the reforms, but Israel suspects the plan to build up the institutions and infrastructure of a viable state may be a precursor to a unilateral declaration of independence.


Soeren Kern is Senior Fellow for Transatlantic Relations at the Madrid-based Grupo de Estudios Estratégicos / Strategic Studies Group.


Israeli Imperfections in separation

In war, truth is the first casualty. The Israeli occupation in the Palestinian territories can no longer be considered a temporary aberration, as Israel's control over Palestinian life, society, space and land has acquired more sophisticated and enduring forms. After the 1967 war Israel assumed responsibility for the occupied residents, education, health-care, welfare and the financial and legal systems. Simultaneously it began expropriating Palestinian land and water, the most important natural resources in the region. Two weeks after the war East Jerusalem was annexed, and in September 1967, the first Jewish settlement was built in the West Bank. Since the eruption of the Second Intifada Israelis have killed almost twice as many Palestinians as they killed in the preceding 34 years. This increase of violence has its reasons in the principles of Israeli policies. The major difference between colonisation and separation is that, under the first principle there is an effort to manage the population and its resources, even though the two are separated. But with the adoption of the separation principle Israel looses all interest in the lives of the Palestinian inhabitants and focuses only on the occupied resources. Because there was never an intention of fully integrating the Palestinian inhabitants and making them part of the Israeli citizenry, discipline was never employed to incorporate the Palestinian inhabitants into Israeli society, but rather to constitute them as non-national subjects. In other words, the goal, as Moshe Dayan once put it, was to render the occupation invisible. The fact that not one Israeli soldier has been tried for these killings and that they are part of an overt policy suggests that some of the occupied inhabitants have been reduced to what Giorgio Agamben has called homo sacer, people who can be killed without it being considered a crime. We all know that History is full of them. Ghettos are areas institutionalised by the controlling state, since they are within its legal sphere of influence, and serve as repositories for unwanted and marginalised populations. Frontiers, on the other hand, are distinguished from the controlling state by clear boundaries, and are only thinly institutionalised arenas. The different institutional settings determine the kind of violence employed. Whereas ghettos are characterised by ethnic policing, mass incarceration and ongoing harassment, frontiers are more prone to brutal and lawless violence. The Occupied Territories are Israel’s ghetto, while Lebanon is its frontier. Israel’s use of more lethal violence is not the result of an isolated tactic, nor can it be explained as a response to a more violent resistance. Rather, the different repertoires of violence reflect the transformation from the colonial to the separation principle.

Mulling # 6

@ K A

Thank you for the clarity of your positions.

I disagree on points 1, 3, and certainly 4.

Regarding point 2, calling the UN "flawed" is like calling Kappert "imperfect", or calling Saddam "not always reasonable".  It is an act of self-delusion and moral abdication.   To equate the UN with "international law", or treat it as the 'source' of such law, is the same; it is an affront to any decent concept of "law". 

As to point 5, you did indeed use quotation marks, but you also used the concept of "social justice" as an argument to justify particular selectivity by "Dhimmi Lords".

Europe Mulls 5

Marc Huybrechts:


1.  So Israel is annexing land in order to pressure the Palestinians to accept a two-state solution?  If so, it isn’t working.  But it isn’t so. 


2.  The UN is certainly flawed, but that does not mean that the settlements are legal under international law. 


3.  Both regions attempted to secede from Georgia upon the dissolution of the Soviet Union.  Until Georgia’s march to folly, both were to a large degree de facto independent, and both have strong ties to Moscow and other Caucasian peoples within Russia e.g. North Ossetia.  “Pro-Georgians”?  You mean ethnic Georgians.  Russia did not invade Georgia in order to annex territory.  On the contrary it returned Abkhazia and South Ossetia to their former de facto independence and enabled them to attempt to make it de jure by declaring independence.  You forget the role that Abkhaz and South Ossetian paramilitaries played during the war. 


4.  The Israeli settlers movement is not a bulwark against Islam.  Islam is in Europe, and a war will be fought in European towns and cities.  Neither US-led operations in Afghanistan and Iraq nor resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can prevent it.  However, as regards the latter, I disagree that Israel is a “natural ally”.  Moreover, the Israeli settlers are acting in their own interests, not those of Western civilization.  Unless Israel is prepared to commit the IDF to house-to-house fighting or street battles in the inner cities of Berlin and the banlieue’s of Paris, it will not have a decisive role in the looming struggle.


5.  I put “social justice” in quotations because of my personal distaste for the term.  I was explaining others’ motivations not my own personal opinions. 



Disputed territories

Assuming the Arabs and their non-Arab cheerleaders in the EU are not being disingenuous here ( they are talking about the establishment of an all-inclusive, multi-ethnic, religiously tolerant Palestnian State, similar to the one they claim Israel currently is not, right?) I see no earthly reason why the so-called illegal settlements in the so-called occupied territories can not and should not remain and remain in Jewish hands to boot. When the new Palestinian State becomes a reality the Jewish families currently domiciled in these dwellings would simply change their citizen status and become Palestinian citizens, or choose the only other option available to them which would be to sell up and emigrate, in all likelihood to to the closest neighbouring country to their own, which would be Israel.

Europe mulls # 4

@ Kapitein Andre

1) You seem to misunderstand the totalitarian mind.  The only thing that wil make the Arabs 'settle' is the threat of further loss. The pressure from Dhimmi Lords on Israel will do the opposite.

2) I categorically reject your use of the term "illegal". If you want to play the silly UN games, that is on your head. (They just put the Islamic Republic of Iran on the Committee dealing with the role of women.)   Israel has been repeatedly attacked by its neighbors, including from the West Bank.  As long as there is no peace treaty, there can be nothing "illegal" about any Israeli presence on the West Bank (nor the Gaza for that matter).

3) As to Abhkazia and Ossetia, you are again making rather strong assumptions about an undemocratic environment. How do you know about the true feelings of these people? They have never lived in a 'free' and democratic country. Meanwhile, the pro-Georgians have all been nicely cleaned-out. Perhaps the Flemish on the whole would also prefer "autonomy" - real autonomy, as opposed to the fake-one in Putistan - within a greater Netherlands (which amounts to a partial restoration of the former 17 Provinces). That wouldn't justify a Dutch invasion of Belgium, would it?

4) The relevance of Tibetans and white South Africans? That specific comment, as you well know, pertained to the issue of the selectivity of the pressure from "Dhimmi Lords", not to the specific issue of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Your mistake is to fall for the naive-left Western belief that security can be gained by weakening 'natural' western allies and not by opposing totalitarian enemies of the West. It is a pipe dream. It is wishfull thinking, or head-in-the-sand. It was so in the past, and will be so in the future.

5) I am truly shocked by your selective application of the term "social justice". But it is what the Western left has been doing for a long time.

6) The term Dhimmi Lords? The credit goes to KO, not to be confused with KA.

Europe mulls 3

Marc Huybrechts:


Soeren Kern was clearly concerned about the “prospects for a negotiated settlement” being undermined.  Intransigence on both sides will do this, but whereas Western pressure on Israel “may” cause the Palestinians to be less agreeable, Israel’s continuation of illegal settlements in East Jerusalem has certainly made them so.  These settlements are not intended to and will not force the Palestinians to “reach a satisfactory settlement”.  In fact, there will be no peace until they are “undone”. 


The Abkhaz and South Ossetians prefer autonomy within the Russian Federation than annexation by Georgia or full independence.  What do the Tibetans or white South Africans have to do with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? 


This conflict is an issue of national security for the West, and for Europe, it ranks above Afghanistan or Iraq.  Moreover, it is also one of economic security, given the West’s dependence on Arab oil.  Rhodesia, South Africa and Tibet were and are about “social justice”, although China’s growing economic power is silencing critics…


“Dhimmi Lords”?  Another regrettable instance of the encroachment of Arabic into English since 2001. 


Colonialism # 2

After 4 historical attempts of trying to invade Israel and trying to wipe it from the map, and after permanent attempts at terrorism against Israel, one would think that an observing mind could see an Arab pattern of attempted "settlement".  Not so, because there must be an open 'mind' present to be able to see the pattern.  


Israel's pattern is clear. Marcfrans' pattern is also clear. Historical attempts, well said.

EU and Palestinian state.

This is a level of arrogance that is amazing and astounding.

With Spain teetering on the brink of a total financial mess and France attempting to crush burka wearers one would think they would both be so busy keeping their own houses in order it would leave little time to meddle in the affairs of others.

Just one simple question: after grandly proclaiming a new Palestinian State, just what might either country or indeed the EU do to implement i.e. make real on the ground, their empty rhetoric?

Keep your mulling to just that - useless mulling and maybe you'll feel better.


@ Mr. Nelson: Permit me to remind you that finding a scapegoat is the default position for responding to internal social conflicts. Actually solving problems is too difficult. If there weren't important constituencies for the problems, they would have been solved earlier at a reasonable cost. An external scapegoat is the cheapest distraction from real problems. The Arabs have enjoyed that distraction ever since they became important under Mohamed. The Germans destroyed themselves with their internal scapegoating, more's the pity. Israel is both external, relatively cost-free, and highly resonant culturally--really, if it did not exist it would be necessary to invent it.

Europe mulls # 2

@ K A

The comparison is not valid.

Obviously, pressure by the "Dhimmi Lords" on Israel WILL toughen the stand of the Arabs.  Just like pressure by the same Dhimmi Lords on Arabs WOULD toughen the stand of Israel.  A more interesting question is why the Dhimmi Lords even want to be involved in dispensing 'pressure' in this case?  Are they extending pressure on Putin to prevent the de facto  'integration' of Abkhazia into Russia?  Are they putting pressure on China to prevent the integration of Tibet into China?  Dont' tell me that they care about the fate of the Israelis, nor do they give a hoot about the fate of Tibetans or 'white' South Africans. In the latter case also, their "pressure" was synchronized on 1 party.

Naturally, both parties to the Arab-Israeli conflict, Arabs and Israelis, are putting pressure on each other. What do you expect? They are in conflict! Some of the pressure tools of the Arabs are: terrorism, leftist (and in some cases antisemitic and/or naivevely-appeasing) Western governments, the UN cabal, etc... Israel's policy of "settlements" has been its strongest weapon of pressure in order to get Arab cooperation to reach a satisfactory settlement. Anybody with brains must realise that the Arabs will never 'settle' as long as they think that Israel's settlements can be undone by the "Dhimmi Lords" and/or by other external or international 'means'.

colonialism, if not worse

That's great: "Israel's policy of "settlements" has been its strongest weapon of pressure in order to get Arab cooperation to reach a satisfactory settlement." I think the Germans tried this in Poland and Ukraine, somewhere, somehow in the 20th century.

RE: Europe Mulls...

Kern: "But increased American and European pressure on Israel may end up encouraging the Palestinians to toughen their stance and thus undermine the prospects for a negotiated settlement."


Is that not what Israel is doing by proceeding with its illegal settlements - bolstering its bargaining position?  Moreover, since when has a lack of pressure on Israel improved negotiations?

Dhimmi lords

Europe's dhimmi rulers are engaged in an unseemly competition with America's rulers to offer tribute to the Arabs in the form of sacrificing Israel.  Perhaps M. Kouchner should offer old Septimania to the Palestinians instead.  Or a suitable spot in Uganda or Madagascar. 

In the proxy wars between liberalism and tyranny, it is pitiful to see Westerners siding with tyranny, for what else would replace the Israeli state?  The Palestinians will be no better off under Palestinian tyranny, just as South African blacks are no better off under ANC tyranny, except for a temporary gratification of resentment.  The best solution is probably expulsion of the Palestinian Moslems, since negotiations are obviously a dead-end--just as Spain expelled the Spanish Moslems in 1492.