(MENAFN - Kuwait News Agency (KUNA)) The European Parliament last Wednesday overwhelmingly adopted a compromise resolution which supports in principle recognition of Palestine statehood and the two state solution and believes these should go hand in hand with the development of peace talks. The Parliament approved the resolution by 498 votes to 88 with 111 abstentions.
Although the vote is merely symbolic and non-binding on EU member states, it does send a strong political message to the world that Europe is now changing its position on the Palestine question and is fed up with the Israeli intransigence and illegal expansion of Jewish settlements which have brought the peace talks to a virtual standstill.
As the Austrian daily Die Press commented, "a Palestinian state won't become a reality through pathetic resolutions but through tough compromises on where the borders lie and on the exchange of territory, the dismantling of settlements, the return of Palestinian refugees and a peace agreement." Analysts note that he European Parliament represents the people of the 28-member bloc and the vote does reflect a big leap forward in the European public opinion about the Palestine question.
The public mood in Europe began changing after the Israeli military assault in Gaza last summer which left over 2000 Gazans, mostly civilians and many children dead, and thousands injured .
The outraged public mood reflected by demonstrations and marches in European capitals put the European legislators and governments under strong pressure to take practical steps to resolve the Palestine questions.
Since then the momentum to recognise a Palestinian state has been gaining ground in the European Union.
Spanish MEP, Josep-Maria Terricabras commented, that the "vote is of huge symbolic importance, with the European Parliament supporting the recognition of Palestinian statehood, in principle." "Several Parliaments in Europe have now supported the recognition of Palestine. The momentum towards statehood is growing and cannot be stopped. In the long run, this will be of benefit to both Israel and Palestine, and for peace in the wider region," he added.
Sweden has become the first EU state to recognize Palestine and parliament of France, Ireland, Spain and the UK" have also voted in favour of the recognition. Other EU countries expected to recognize Palestine are Austria, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, and Portugal The leader of the Group of Socialist and Democrats in the European Parliament Gianni Pittella praised the vote as a "historic decision" and a "victory for the whole parliament".
British MEP Sajjad Karim commented that "the tide is turning as the global community is starting to speak loud and clear for their support for a Palestinian state." "We have now reached critical mass, with Sweden officially recognising a Palestinian State and Parliaments around the world also voting in favour of recognition. Now is the time for the EU to recognise Palestine," he said. The appointment of a new EU High Representative Federica Mogherini of Italy has added to the impetus towards enhanced European engagement on Palestine.
Mogherini was reported saying that she would be "happy if the state of Palestine existed within her term in office".
The Parliament resolution, however, was watered down due to the opposition by the biggest political party in, the conservative European PeopleØ¢'s Party which is of the view that recognition of Palestinian statehood is not an alternative to either a two-state solution or to peace talks to achieve it.
"With this vote, the European Parliament has clearly rejected an unconditional recognition separate from the peace negotiations", said the EPP.
Moreover, analysts are wondering if it was a mere coincidence or intentional that just a few hours before the vote on Wednesday, an EU court in Luxembourg ruled that the Hamas must be removed from the EU's terrorism blacklist. The same day a meeting of signatories to the Geneva conventions warned that Israel must respect international humanitarian law in the occupied Palestinian territories.
Observers consider last week's developments on Palestine in Europe a major defeat for Israeli diplomacy that will lead to further international isolation of Tel Aviv.
The British daily the Guardian commented that "Israel has been hammered by a series of diplomatic rebuffs across Europe after the European parliament voted overwhelmingly for qualified recognition of the Palestinian state."