A group of European Union member countries led by Luxembourg is planning to put forward an initiative at a meeting on Monday of European Union foreign ministers to accord joint EU recognition of a Palestinian state. The move is in response to U.S. President Donald Trump’s plan for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn has already discussed the initiative with the foreign ministers of Ireland, France, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Finland, Sweden, Malta and Slovenia.
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The Palestinian Authority has rejected the Trump plan out of hand and the new EU foreign policy chief, Josep Borell, has said that the plan throws into question “the 1967 border, as agreed by both parties, with a State of Israel and an independent, viable state of Palestine, living side-by-side in peace, security and mutual recognition.”
Although there are individual member states that recognize the Palestinian state, the European Union as a whole does not. It has taken the position that the issue of Palestinian statehood should be settled through negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians towards a two-state solution.
Sweden recognized the Palestinian state in 2014 and Malta also has diplomatic relations. Cyprus, which joined the EU in 2004, recognized Palestine in 1988, but it is not a party to the current initiative due to the close ties that it developed with Israel since.
In the wake of the initiative, Israel has conveyed messages to the countries sponsoring it that “this is not the time for unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state,” because it would prevent “a possibility of direct negotiations between the sides for a permanent agreement.” Israel is now trying to convince the Europeans to give the American peace initiative a chance.
Haaretz has reported that on Monday the EU foreign ministers would be discussing action protesting the Trump plan. Israeli ambassadors in Europe have been asked to apply pressure on the foreign ministries in the countries to which they are posted to refrain from rejecting the plan entirely and from harsh criticism of it. In the past, Eastern European members of the EU, led by Hungary, have headed off a number of anti-Israel initiatives. Israel hopes that the same thing ultimately happens this time as well.
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According to sources with knowledge of the current discussions, Israeli representatives are saying that Israel is prepared to renew negotiations with the Palestinians and that EU opposition to the Trump plan would only encourage Palestinian rejectionism. Israel’s representatives are also saying that it is not logical for the EU to adopt a tougher stance than that of several Arab countries to the Trump plan.
After the plan was released last month, the EU issued a terse announcement that the plan would “be examined.” Last week, however, following Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s declarations about Israeli moves to annex territory in the West Bank, Borell, the EU foreign affairs chief, expressed further reservations about the plan. On a visit to Jordan, he made it clear that the European Union was committed to the two-state solution and international law, and added that the plan “challenges many of the consensual decisions on the international level.”
The Israeli effort to respond to the European position on the Trump plan was hampered over the weekend by a labor dispute by Foreign Ministry employees who are seeking to prevent one-third cuts in ministry employees’ salaries. Over the weekend, ambassadors curtailed their work on the peace plan issue and refused to comply with some directives from the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem regarding the EU foreign ministers’ meeting.