October 13, 2014; New York Times
Support for Israel in Europe is eroding after the Gaza attacks and the breaking down of peace talks. On Monday night, in a vote of 274 to 12, the British Parliament passed a nonbinding resolution to give diplomatic recognition to a Palestinian state.
The vote, largely symbolic, is considered to be one more indication of growing disapproval of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s hardline stance toward the Palestinians. More than 100 countries already recognize the state of Palestine, but these do not include the United States, the European Union, or most of its member countries.
Conservative lawmaker Sir Richard Ottaway, chairman of the House of Commons foreign affairs committee, said that although in the past he “stood by Israel through thick and thin, through the good years and the bad,” he now realized “looking back over the past 20 years…Israel has been slowly drifting away from world public opinion.”
“Under normal circumstances,” he said, speaking of the vote, “I would oppose the motion tonight; but such is my anger over Israel’s behavior in recent months that I will not oppose the motion. I have to say to the government of Israel that if they are losing people like me, they will be losing a lot of people.”
Earlier this month, in a groundbreaking move, Sweden’s new prime minister, Stefan Löfven, pledged in his inaugural address to recognize a Palestinian State, declaring, “The conflict between Israel and Palestine can only be solved with a two-state solution, negotiated in accordance with international law.”
This, Löfven said, “requires mutual recognition and a will to peaceful coexistence,” so “Sweden will therefore recognize the state of Palestine.”
Paul Hirschson, a spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, said that the resolution and other similar political statements will make Israel’s negotiations with the Palestinians more difficult. “Europe is in a way playing to the Arab world. Europe is in terrible economic condition, and they have to trade with the Arab world.”
Meanwhile, Romain Nadal, the French Foreign Ministry spokesman, said on Monday that the latest conflict in Gaza has been “a triggering factor” and France “will have to recognize Palestine.” He added, “We haven’t set any deadline nor date yet. We will do it when the time comes.”
The European Union has condemned Israel’s decision to expand settlements and has pledged 450 million euros, or about $568 million, for the reconstruction of Gaza.
“The problem is that we are drastically losing public opinion,” Avi Primor, director of European studies at Tel Aviv University and former Israeli ambassador to the European Union, told Israel Radio on Monday. “This has been going on for many years, and became particularly serious after the talks failed between us and the Palestinians after nine months of negotiations under Kerry, and even more so after Operation Protective Edge.”
Martin Linton, a former Labour Party lawmaker in Britain, says that sentiments in Parliament have shifted and, even so, were still catching up with public opinion.British lawmakers received around 53,000 emails from voters supporting recognition in the past week through the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign website, he said.—Ruth McCambridge