By Tom Moerenhout:
The game of diplomacy has come at full speed. The 1967 borders and the recognition of Palestine as a full member of the United Nations in September are at its center. A third intifada lies undeniably within the game’s gamble.
Kicked off by US President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the world is witnessing first hand either the unfolding of a historic moment, or the beginning of a new violent conflict. Or both.
Despite their powerful status at the diplomatic level, the US and Israel only have two votes among 192 in the UN General Assembly. The European Union has 27. Eyes and lobby are already turning towards European countries. What will be Europe’s move?
The recent EU-US crack
Recent exchanges have pointed to a EU-US divide on UN recognition. While calling each other David and Barack, Cameron avoided what Obama said about UN recognition in September. Instead the the UK Prime Minister congratulated the president on his visionary speech setting the 1967 borders as the basis of negotiations.
While last week Obama publicly announced that the US would make the argument against UN recognition “in our various meetings around the world,” it is crystal clear that with regards to this particular foreign policy issue, the influence of the United States in Europe is waning.
Cameron’s ignoring was a polite way of avoiding a second humiliation of the US president in one week.
Also in other European countries, the path of recognition seems already chosen. France openly announced it sees reconciliation of the Palestinian factions as a potential positive step in the peace process. On numerous recent occasions it also expressed support to President Mahmoud Abbas, and reiterated the importance of the 1967 borders.
Similarly, German political factions have been seriously debating on Germany’s approach. While still constrained by their past, many factions — including the strong, growing Greens — are debating to take a stance based on international law towards the conflict, for the sake of Israelis, Jews and Palestinians.
This recent crack is not so recent. For decades the EU and the US have envisioned a different strategy for the achievement of an Arab-Israeli peace. The EU has always wanted a short peace process based on the 1967 borders, rather than an incremental multi-step process as was envisioned by the United States.
The US, though, never accepted EU proposals or genuine political involvement, even not within the “multilateral” Quartet.
UN recognition however, is something different. For several reasons, it is very likely that European countries will in fact recognize Palestine.
First, the EU is tired of paying for an ineffective peace-process. The EU, including the Member States, is the largest aid donor to the Palestinians.
Second, the EU realizes it needs to make tough decisions for its own economic and political security, and to consolidate the Arab Spring. Not recognizing Palestine would feed extremism and put a serious constraint on the development of this historic turn-around.
Third, the EU has always chosen a more international law based policy towards the conflict. The World Court and UN resolutions recognize the 1967 borders as the borders of a future Palestinian state.
And fourth, the EU has no lobby group like AIPAC, which deliberately reshapes foreign policies against the Union’s and Israel’s own interests.
The push for European recognition
Perhaps the most important push on Europe’s recognition in September follows from the Arab Spring revolutions themselves. On three fronts European countries are pushed to recognize.
First, non-violent youth mobilization in Palestine is growing very fast and is challenging the status quo in a more efficient way than any other. Like those in the Spring revolutions, youth movements are gaining quick support from many European citizens and organizations.
Second, European organizations have recently started a popular campaign to gather one million signatures to call for European countries to recognize Palestine in September.
And third, prominent members of Israeli society itself, such as former Knesset Speaker Burg and Nobel Laureate Kahneman, are calling on European countries to recognize the state, as they believe the Israeli regime is not ready for serious peace negotiations.
President Obama promised a state in September, and is facilitating a third intifada instead. The US-led peace process has come to a dead end, recognized by many Israelis and crystallized by the resignation of George Mitchell.
Most European groups are of the opinion that only UN recognition or a political move forward by the EU – like the recently announced Paris peace conference – can support non-violent progressive movements in both Israel and Palestine to come to a peaceful conclusion of a century-old conflict.
Tom Moerenhout is a European foreign policy research analyst