EU Foreign Ministers Defer Response to Trump Peace Plan Until After Israeli Election

Several member countries may push for recognition of a Palestinian state even if it isn't backed by a joint EU decision

Noa Landau
Noa Landau
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European Union Foreign Affairs chief Josep Borrell gives a press conference during the EU Foreign Affairs ministers' meeting, Brussels, February 17, 2020
European Union Foreign Affairs chief Josep Borrell gives a press conference during the EU Foreign Affairs ministers' meeting, Brussels, February 17, 2020Credit: AFP
Noa Landau
Noa Landau

The European Union will not pass any official resolutions on U.S. President Donald Trump's peace plan for Israel and the Palestinians until "after Israeli elections," foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said on Monday, after a meeting of the organization's foreign ministers in Brussels.

"We had an exchange of views about the Middle East peace process following the presentation of the U.S. proposal," Borrell stated. "We briefly discussed how best to relaunch a political process that is acceptable to both parties and how best to defend the internationally agreed parameters, equal rights and international law."

LISTEN: The only way Bibi can stay out of jailCredit: Haaretz Weekly Ep. 62

Borell added that several foreign ministers had requested the issue to be added on the agenda of their March meeting "with a specific discussion and some resolutions."

"We’ll do it. After Israeli elections," Borrell said.

Luxembourg FM Jean Asselborn (L), German FM Heiko Maas (C) and European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell (R) talk during a EU Foreign Ministers meeting, Brussels, February 17, 2020Credit: AFP

On Sunday, Haaretz reported that a group of EU member states, led by Luxembourg, was planning to put forward an initiative at Monday's meeting to give joint EU recognition of a Palestinian state in response to the Trump plan. Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn discussed the initiative with the foreign ministers of Ireland, France, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Finland, Sweden, Malta and Slovenia.

The representatives of these countries expressed a clear stance on the subject at Monday's meeting, and there is concern in Israel that some could push for recognition of a Palestinian state on their own, even if the European Union as a whole doesn’t decide to do so.

The Palestinian Authority has rejected the Trump plan out of hand and Borrell 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.”

Sweden recognized the Palestinian state in 2014 and Malta also has diplomatic relations with the Palestinians. 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.

The EU itself does not recognize an independent Palestinian state. 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.

According to sources with knowledge of the current discussions, Israel is prepared to renew negotiations with the Palestinians and 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 blueprint would “be examined.” However, following Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s declarations about Israeli moves to annex territory in the West Bank, Borrell 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.”

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