28 November 2012
Germany will not back Palestinian bid for non-members status at General Assembly; Switzerland, Denmark join France in supporting Palestine's move; UK to abstain unless Palestine promises to restart peace talks, avoid ICC.
Lines were drawn in Europe on Wednesday as the Union failed to agree on a unified approach to a Palestinian bid for a diplomatic upgrade at the United Nations. Germany declared that it would not back the PA's bid, while Switzerland and Denmark joined a growing list of European countries that do support it.
Britain announced it would support the Palestinian moves only if it received assurances that the PA would return to peace talks and would not seek to prosecute Israelis through the International Criminal Court.
With overwhelming support from the developing world, the Palestinians appear certain to earn approval in the 193-member UN General Assembly for a status upgrade to "observer state" on Thursday.
Israel and its main ally the United States oppose the move, which would implicitly recognize Palestinian statehood.
"We are assessing the situation and want as much agreement as possible with our European partners... But it is certain that Germany will not vote for such a resolution," spokesman Steffen Seibert told a news conference.
France said on Tuesday it would vote in favor of non-member status and Switzerland and Denmark have now followed suit.
"The decision to support the resolution is in accordance with Switzerland's policy to seek a negotiated, just, and durable peace between Israel and an independent and viable Palestinian state within secure and internationally recognized borders," the Swiss Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
The Swiss decision followed a visit to Berne by PA President Mahmoud Abbas this month as the country hesitated between voting in favor of the resolution or abstaining.
A positive vote would make it possible to "revitalize the concept of a two-state solution by placing Israel and Palestine on an equal footing in future peace negotiations", the Swiss ministry said.
Abbas had reiterated his commitment to relaunch the peace process immediately following the UN vote, it said.
In Copenhagen, the Danish foreign minister said Denmark would also vote "yes."
"It is a moderate text which clearly highlights the need for peace negotiations and negotiations for a two-state solution that can secure Palestinians a safe and sustainable state side by side with Israel," minister Villy Sovndal said.
Britain, which has been cool on the idea, said Wednesday that it would abstain from the vote unless the Palestinians promised to meet its conditions, according to the BBC. "Up until the time of the vote itself we will remain open to voting in favor of the resolution if we see public assurances by the Palestinians," Foreign Secretary William Hague told parliament.
Europeans seeking to bolster "moderates"
European countries are eager to bolster moderates such as Abbas after an eight-day conflict this month between Israel and Gaza-based Islamists estranged from more moderate West Bank compatriots and opposed to Israel's very existence.
Israel and the United States have mooted withholding aid and tax revenue that the Palestinian government in the West Bank needs to survive. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has also viewed options that include bringing down Abbas. Naftali Bennett, who heads the right-wing Habayit Hayehudi party, said Wednesday that Israel should "pursue a unilateral strategy in annexing settlements in the West Bank" in response to the PA bid.
A senior diplomatic source on Tuesday, however, said that Israel will take a “low-profile” approach to the Palestinian bid, so as not to divert attention from the Palestinian Authority’s violation of international agreements.
The change in the PA's status would likely allow the Palestinian territories to access bodies like the International Criminal Court, which prosecutes people for genocide, war crimes and other human rights violations.
The Palestinian UN observer, Riyad Mansour, said the Palestinians would not rush to sign up to the ICC if they win the UN status upgrade. But seeking action against Israel in the court would remain an option, he told a news conference at the United Nations on Tuesday. In addition, the PA indicated on Wednesday it would take Israel to the ICC if it uncovers evidence Israel assassinated former PLO chairman Yasser Arafat, according to Palestinian news agency Ma'an.
The United States has suggested aid for the Palestinians - and possibly some funding for the United Nations - could also be at risk if the Palestinians win the UN upgrade. Israel has said it may cancel the Paris Protocol, an economic accord it maintains with the cash-strapped Palestinian Authority.