EU Recognition of Palestinian Statehood is Remote but Possible - Former Israeli Ambassador

© AP Photo / Craig RuttleThe Palestinian flag flies in the wind after a Rose Garden ceremony at the United Nations headquarters
The Palestinian flag flies in the wind after a Rose Garden ceremony at the United Nations headquarters - Sputnik International
Luxembourg's Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn is advancing an initiative calling for the European Union to recognise a Palestinian state, Israel's Channel 13 reported.

According to media reports, Jean Asselborn, the foreign minister of Luxembourg, has sent a letter to the 27 foreign ministers of the bloc urging them to hold a discussion on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and its resolution as soon as possible.

The meeting between foreign ministers is expected to take place as early as January.

But Gideon Meir, Israel's former ambassador to Italy, says the move is nothing new and that similar initiatives took place in the past.

In 2014, for example, the European Parliament voted in favour of a non-binding resolution calling for the recognition of the state of Palestine. Just like many others, this one too was purely declarative and non-binding.

Complicated Relations

Israel enjoys strong economic and cultural relations with each of the 28 European countries that make up the EU and the European Union itself.

In 2017 alone, Israel's total trade with the EU amounted to approximately $40 billion.

That, however, didn't stop the union from pursuing an anti-Israel agenda.

"Israel might have an excellent bilateral relationship with every European country individually but when it comes to the EU level, we often feel that the atmosphere turns anti-Israel and very pro-Palestinian", said Meir.

The reason for the collision the former ambassador believes is the Israeli government's hawkish policies towards Palestinians, its expansion activity in the West Bank, and the constant urge of the Israeli government to bite off more territories from the Palestinians - something that the EU strongly condemns.

Last month, the Israeli government announced it would build a new Jewish neighbourhood in Hebron, one of the key Palestinian cities in the West Bank, with a predominately Arab population.

Earlier this year, amid his pre-election campaign, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed he would annex the Jordan Valley, which makes up some 30 percent of the West Bank's total territory.

Anti-Israel Bias

The EU's hostility towards Israel has nothing to do with the country's government, believes Meir.

"The Europeans have been supportive of the Palestinians regardless of who was in the prime minister's chair in Jerusalem", he stated.

Such was the case with former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who withdrew Israeli forces from Gaza and evacuated some 8,000 Jewish settlers, and such was the case with former premier Ehud Olmert, who in 2008, offered a series of concessions - including turning Jerusalem into an international city - but was rejected by the Palestinian leadership.

No Fear

Yet, Meir believes Israel should not worry. For an EU decision to be binding, it must first be accepted by the country's foreign ministers and then by the heads of state, he explained, adding that a unanimous decision is hampered by a split within the bloc.

"A number of East European countries - that have some of the most nationalistic governments - have been supportive of Israel. Prime Minister Netanyahu uses this card to split the EU making it difficult for the bloc to pass anti-Israel resolutions".

Nevertheless, the former diplomat says he won't be surprised if one day the EU recognises a Palestinian state. But that would not bring the Palestinians even one inch closer to their ultimate goal of independence.

"Unilateral recognition won't solve anything. Quite the opposite is true: it will make the Palestinians even more irrelevant in the eyes of the Israelis", stressed the former diplomat.

For a breakthrough to be achieved, Meir believes, the Palestinians will need to sit down for talks with Israel.

"So far, they missed every opportunity to do so in the past", he said, adding that Israel's right-wing government is similarly to blame for the situation, exerting little to no effort in establishing peace with its Palestinian neighbours.

"As a strong country, we should be the ones initiating and pushing for the talks because there is a people there that's seeking self-determination", he summed up.

The EU has never recognised Israel's control over the West Bank and the Golan Heights, captured from Jordan and Syria respectively during the 1967 Six-Day War, with Brussels pushing for the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

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