In Wake of Trump Peace Plan, EU Countries Pushing for Recognition of State of Palestine

A group of European Union member countries led by Luxembourg is planning to put forward an initiative at a meeting on Monday of European Union foreign ministers to accord joint EU recognition of a Palestinian state. The move is in response to U.S. President Donald Trump’s plan for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn has already discussed the initiative with the foreign ministers of Ireland, France, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Finland, Sweden, Malta and Slovenia.

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The Palestinian Authority has rejected the Trump plan out of hand and the new EU foreign policy chief, Josep Borell, has said that the plan throws into question “the 1967 border, as agreed by both parties, with a State of Israel and an independent, viable state of Palestine, living side-by-side in peace, security and mutual recognition.”

Although there are individual member states that recognize the Palestinian state, the European Union as a whole does not. It has taken the position that the issue of Palestinian statehood should be settled through negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians towards a two-state solution.

Sweden recognized the Palestinian state in 2014 and Malta also has diplomatic relations. Cyprus, which joined the EU in 2004, recognized Palestine in 1988, but it is not a party to the current initiative due to the close ties that it developed with Israel since.

Luxembourg’s foreign minister, Jean AsselbornAFP

In the wake of the initiative, Israel has conveyed messages to the countries sponsoring it that “this is not the time for unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state,” because it would prevent “a possibility of direct negotiations between the sides for a permanent agreement.” Israel is now trying to convince the Europeans to give the American peace initiative a chance.

Haaretz has reported that on Monday the EU foreign ministers would be discussing action protesting the Trump plan. Israeli ambassadors in Europe have been asked to apply pressure on the foreign ministries in the countries to which they are posted to refrain from rejecting the plan entirely and from harsh criticism of it. In the past, Eastern European members of the EU, led by Hungary, have headed off a number of anti-Israel initiatives. Israel hopes that the same thing ultimately happens this time as well.