France’s Assemblée Nationale followed the lead of the House of Commons this week by passing a motion to recognise the state of Palestine by 339 votes to 151 – on the same day as Israel’s coalition government collapsed, plunging the country into a three-month election campaign.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius also took the initiative that the UK Government failed to take by announcing that he will recognise Palestine in November 2016 at the latest if an Israel-Palestine agreement has not been reached by then.
“An international conference would be organised – France is prepared to take the initiative on this – and in these talks, recognition would be an instrument ….for the definitive resolution of the conflict,” Fabius said.
“If these efforts fail, if this last attempt at a negotiated settlement does not work, then France will have to do its duty and recognise the state of Palestine without delay.”
The motion to the Assemblée Nationale was tabled by Elisabeth Guigou from the French Socialist Party who said: “If we do not act now, there is a risk of entering into an irreversible cycle of violence and transforming this territorial conflict into a regional conflict.”
The French are also working with the Jordanians to draft a resolution for the United Nations Security Council to call for a resolution of the conflict within two years – by the end of 2016 – that can win the required 9-6 majority in the 15-seat council and may even persuade the US to refrain from using its veto.
According to reports in the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz on Thursday US President Obama’s administration has held classified discussions on the possibility of taking active measures – rather than the usual verbal protests – to stop Israel from continuing to build settlements in East Jerusalem.
This follows the White House warnings after Netanyahu visited President Obama in October that by building settlements in East Jerusalem, Israel risks losing support of “even its closest allies” and “poisons the atmosphere”.
Jordan’s UN Ambassador Dina Kawar said Jordan will push for a UN Security Council vote inn December. Kawar told reporters, “We’re going to try to make it before Christmas. If not, it will be in January.”
Meanwhile senior Palestinian politicians say that the result of the Israeli election on March 17 – important as it is for the Israelis – will make “no serious difference” to the chances of a resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict.
Only one Israeli party – apart from the three small parties that represent the Israeli Arabs – calls for an immediate end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and that party – Meretz – has only six seats at present in the 120-member Knesset.
The Israeli Arab parties hold another 13 seats, but even if all these parties won twice as many seats they would still be outnumbered three or four to one by parties that support continued occupation and in some cases annexation of the West Bank.
After nine years as prime minister Netanyahu’s approval rating has dived from 77% in early August to 38% last week and Haaretz has described his government as ‘one of the worst in Israel’s history. If he wins again, Israel’s future is in danger.’
His party, Likud, has now only 18 of the 120 seats, but despite all this the universal expectation is that he will be re-elected.
The only faint hope of his opponents is that Israeli voters will step back from the brink when they realise how much a new Netanyahu government would risk in lost support from their main backer, the US, and from European countries like Britain.