Sunday, December 02, 2012

why did israel lose europe's support in the U.N.?

ha'aretz | "We lost Europe," said a senior Foreign Ministry official. The erosion of Israeli support and shift to the Palestinians started a few days ago in France. President Francois Hollande's words at a press conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Paris a month ago, in which he expressed doubts about the Palestinian move in the UN, disappeared as if he never spoke them.

Despite previous declarations, France announced that instead of abstaining, it would vote in favor of recognizing Palestine as a non-member state - an observer state without full membership in the United Nations.

Sixteen members of the European Union have announced their support for the Palestinian move: Spain, Cyprus, Portugal, Luxembourg, Finland, Denmark, Austria, Malta, Ireland, Italy, Slovenia, Belgium, Sweden, Germany and Greece all joined France in the past few days. Norway and Switzerland, which are not members of the European Union, also announced their support for the Palestinian request.

The UN General Assembly resolution recognizes Palestine within the 1967 borders as a non-member observer state. One hundred and thirty eight countries voted in favor of the resolution. Israel suffered a humiliating political defeat and found itself isolated along with the United States, Canada, Micronesia, the Marshall Islands and, at best, the Czech Republic and Germany. Britain, which only a few days ago led the attempt to pressure Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to withdraw his resolution, also changed its position.

The British promised they would abstain or vote against, but changed their stance and notified Israel they are leaning toward supporting the Palestinian request in the vote, if the Palestinians provide the British with a number of guarantees to restart the peace negotiations without any preconditions - as well as a Palestinian promise not to petition the International Criminal Court in The Hague against Israel. Israel hoped the British would not receive such guarantees - and abstain.

But the hardest blow came from Berlin. In Jerusalem, Germany was considered a certainty to vote against the UN resolution, and the German decision not to oppose the Palestinian bid but rather to abstain shocked the top brass at the Foreign Ministry and Prime Minister's office. A top German official who took part in discussions in Berlin, however, stressed that the writing was on the wall.

The senior German official, who has requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, told Haaretz that Germany has been trying to help Israel on the Palestinian issue for a long time but Israel has not taken the necessary steps to advance the peace process. "The Israelis," he said, "did not respond in any way to our request to make a gesture on settlements."


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