Palestinians Win Support From Spain, Switzerland, Denmark for UN Vote

France on Tuesday became the first European state to come out in favor; Israel has decided not to back down from its efforts to halt resolution.

Spain has decided to vote in favor of recognizing a Palestinian state at the United Nations at the General Assembly, Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo said Wednesday.

Garcia-Margallo told members of parliament that Spain believes supporting the Palestinians at the UN is the best way to advance toward peace in the Middle East.

France on Tuesday became the first major European country to come out in favor of UN recognition, a move seen as a setback for Israel.

On Wednesday, Switzerland and Denmark followed suit, announcing their decisions to back the upgrade.

"The decision to support the resolution is in accordance with Switzerland's policy to seek a negotiated, just, and durable peace between Israel and an independent and viable Palestinian state within secure and internationally recognized borders," the Swiss Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The Swiss decision followed a visit to Berne by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in November as the country hesitated between voting in favor of the resolution or abstaining.

The assembly is expected to vote Thursday on a resolution raising their status at the United Nations from an observer to a non-member observer state, a move they believe is an important step toward a two-state solution with Israel.

The United States on Tuesday reiterated its opposition to the Palestinian bid, calling it a "mistake".

"There's no question in our mind that the Palestinians understand our position on this," said U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland. "We share the concern that we have not been able to move forward. It is in that spirit that we have been encouraging President Abbas to come to the negotiating table with the Israelis without preconditions. That's the way to take this forward, not in the GA."

Australia, meanwhile, has decided to abstain from the vote. Prime Minister Julia Gillard, a staunch ally of Israel, suffered a stinging political setback after being forced by her own cabinet ministers to backtrack from an earlier decision to oppose the Palestinian bid.

The Netherlands and Italy, which were expected to vote against the move, will also probably abstain. Israel's Foreign Ministry now expects at least 15 of the 27 EU member states to vote in favor of the Palestinians. Only Germany and the Czech Republic are expected to vote against.

The British government initially put significant pressure on the Palestinians to postpone the vote and even announced that it would not support the move, but is now likely to vote in favor, particularly in the wake of Operation Pillar of Defense in Gaza, which in British eyes strengthened Hamas. The United Kingdom has made it clear to the Palestinians that it will support their measure in the United Nations if they guarantee that they will not seek to file criminal charges against Israeli officials with the ICC.

After long weeks of Israel viewing the Palestinian bid in the United Nations as a grave threat, the Prime Minister's Office and Foreign Ministry now have to back down. Sources associated with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman are trying to belittle the event in the United Nations and describe it as merely a technical and procedural vote or as a symbolic Palestinian victory devoid of diplomatic significance.

The Foreign Ministry now estimates that at least 150 UN member states will support the Palestinians receiving observer status, including most of the EU member countries. A senior source in the Foreign Ministry said that recent days, when it became apparent that Abbas had no intention of backing down, have seen diplomatic erosion in favor of the Palestinians among the European countries on which Israel focused its diplomatic efforts.

AP
Reuters