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Wild Card Part VII: EU sets the ground for recognition of Palestine (updated)

EU foreign ministers issue a statement regarded by most in the media as weak and good for Israel. I beg to differ

Javier Solana. Didn't get his sanctions (photo by Flickr/Utrikesdepartementets bildarkiv)

The EU yesterday stopped short of recognising a Palestinian state, saying it would do so at “the appropriate time”. At a meeting in Brussels, the ministers reiterated that negotiations are still the way to go.

Israeli officials in Jerusalem must have been extremely happy with this, despite the little slap on the wrist the statement gave concerning the “illegal settlements”. More importantly, the statement didn’t call for sanctions on Israel, even though former EU officials, such as former EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, recommended punishing Israel for continued construction in the West Bank.

Wild Card supporters (who call for U.S. endorsement of Palestinian unilateralism) might be disconcerted as well. But a closer look at the statement shows that in fact, the vague wording could be spun in an entirely different direction very easily.

As the AFP reports:

The EU statement expresses “regret” at Israel’s rejection of a new freeze, describing settlements as “illegal” and “an obstacle to peace.”

It underlines EU support for “a negotiated solution” between the two sides “within the 12 months set by the Quartet” of international mediators.

It also welcomes a recent World Bank assessment that the Palestinian Authority “is well positioned for the establishment of a State at any point in the near future” and goes on to say that the EU “reiterates its readiness, when appropriate, to recognise a Palestinian state.”

Notice how the statement underlines the fact that the time limit is the 12 months set by the Quartet, which end in August 2011 – when Palestinian PM Salam Fayyad is touted to declare independence. The media and AFP itself say this is not an ultimatum. True, it isn’t. But it’s definitely a signal as to when their currently cold attitude towards Palestinian unilateralism might change.

It’s a bit too soon for Europe to join the over 100 countries who have already recognized Palestine. But if the wave of recognition gains momentum, particularly after Brazil and Argentina joining the group last week, the EU will have an easier time to change its mind.

And if the EU joins, President Barack Obama will find it very difficult to avoid playing the Wild Card.

UPDATE

Roi Maor has sent me this comparison between the EU statement released last night and the statement released almost exactly one year ago. This table shows very well how the EU is losing patience and is gearing towards recognizing a Palestinian state.

EU Council, 13 December 2010 EU Council, 8 December 2009

Urgency

The EU believes that urgent progress is needed towards a two state solution The legitimacy of the State of Israel and the right of Palestinians to achieve statehood must never be called into question. The EU affirms its readiness to contribute to a negotiated solution on all final status issues within the 12 months set by the Quartet… The EU underlines the urgency of finding a negotiated solution and urges the parties to refrain from actions that undermine the prospects of peace…. The Council of the European Union is seriously concerned about the lack of progress in the Middle East peace process. The European Union calls for the urgent resumption of negotiations that will lead, within an agreed time-frame, to a two-state solution

Settlement Freeze

The EU notes with regret that Israel has not extended the moratorium … Our views on settlements, including in East Jerusalem, are clear: they are illegal under international law and an obstacle to peace. We reiterate our views on the status of Jerusalem and repeat our call for all parties to refrain from provocative unilateral actions and violence.

.. the Council takes positive note of the recent decision of … Israel on a partial and temporary settlement freeze as a first step in the right direction … The Council reiterates that settlements, the separation barrier where built on occupied land, demolition of homes and evictions are illegal under international law, constitute an obstacle to peace and threaten to make a two-state solution impossible

Palestinian State

The EU commends the work of the Palestinian Authority in building the institutions of the future State of Palestine … the Council reiterates its readiness, when appropriate, to recognize a Palestinian state. We welcome the World Bank’s assessment that “if the Palestinian Authority maintains its current performance in institution building and delivery of public services, it is well positioned for the establishment of a State at any point in the near future”.

the Council also reiterates its support for negotiations leading to Palestinian statehood, all efforts and steps to that end and its readiness, when appropriate, to recognise a Palestinian state.

The full texts of the statements:

http://www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cms_data/docs/pressdata/EN/foraff/118448.pdf

http://www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cms_data/docs/pressdata/EN/foraff/111833.pdf

——————–

The Wild Card campaign

Part I The first essay where Obama is called upon to use the Wild Card and endorse Palestinian unilateralism
Part II French FM and President Abbas hint towards a future Palestinian state
Part III Egyptian FM joins the party
Part IV The NYTimes puts the Wild Card on the agenda
Part V Right wingers get nervous about unilateralism
Part VI Peace talks die, a call for Obama to think again about the Wild Card

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