On 23 September, the Palestinian Authority (PA) will ask the United Nations to recognize a Palestinian State. The U.N. Security Council would be able to recognize such a state but the U.S. has already made it clear that it will veto the move. Russia, China, France and the UK will probably be in favour, but that won't be enough). So it would be up to the General Assembly but the General Assembly would only be able to upgrade Palestine's current status of observer to that of a non-member state. Either way, the EU position on Palestine's bid will be critical.

The meeting of European Foreign Ministers in Poland on 2-3 September made clear that there wil not be a united EU vote. The split within the EU is well-known one: Germany, the Netehrlands and Italy seems to oppose the Palestinian move, while France, Belgium, Ireland, Malta, Portugal, Spain and Sweden seem more sympathetic. In between are some countries whose position is not yet clear. Of course, none of the likely 'No' voters opposes Palestinian statehood as such, rather their position stems from Israeli and US opposition.

The need for a unified position is more urgent than ever before and here is why:

  • In the wake of the Arab Spring, more and more Europeans see the recognition of the Palestinian state as a reflection of their own commitment to the values of self-determination and freedom;
  • The EU risks discrediting itself as a political actor in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict if it fails to formulate a united position;
  • Two decades of EU diplomacy and billions of euros in aid have made the EU the biggest donor and a critical player in the building of the Palestinian state. The EU has supported virtually every aspect of the Palestinian institution-building project since the 1993 Oslo Accords.

It is hard to see the Palestinian UN bid for a state, as anything other than a natural culmination of two decades of institution-and state-buildig in the Palestinian territories.

Many people in the Middle East would certainly find it ironic if EU Member States were unable to unite to recognize the Palestinian state they themselves have been instrumental in building.

So if EU wants to maintain its credibility in the Middle East it should speak with one voice for the Palestinian request while at the same time recognize Isareli concerns.




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