A European "Maybe" for Palestine

By Ana Palacio
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To be sure, approval of the Palestinian bid carries significant risks. It could, for example, provoke the Israelis to dig in their heels, on the grounds that it is part of an effort to delegitimize the Zionist cause. It could create a rift between Europe and the U.S., which hopes to avoid isolation in the vote. And observer-state status contradicts the reality on the ground, in which the Palestinian Authority does not actually control the territories claimed.

But, from a European perspective, the arguments in favor of Palestine's bid carry greater weight than the arguments against it. First and foremost, blocking Palestine's access to the ICC would contradict European values and undermine the EU's hard-fought and widely acknowledged role as a defender of international law and multilateral institutions.

Moreover, against the background of a stalled peace process, a positive vote could be a game-changer, advancing the EU's efforts to support negotiations and a comprehensive solution. It would also provide a much-needed political context for Palestine's state-building efforts, which Europe has actively championed. Indeed, beyond official European aid totaling more than €1 billion ($1.3 billion) annually, the EU has invested heavily in institutional development in Palestine.

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The EU has always supported a two-state solution, despite the challenging demographic reality, not to mention the need to preserve the Jewish state's identity. Granting observer-state status to Palestine would take off the table the prospect of a "one-state" solution, which has recently gained momentum among experts.

But these sound reasons for supporting Palestine's bid probably will not prevent the EU from delivering a split vote, the reverberations of which will not only echo throughout the Arab world, inviting accusations of hypocrisy, but will also hinder European efforts to reset relations with countries in the Middle East and North Africa.

A split vote thus undermines European interests, delivering an unequivocal blow to European foreign policy in a challenging geopolitical environment. Indeed, Europe's divided stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict exemplifies its poor record of achieving foreign policy consensus. Europe thus will lose a crucial opportunity to transform its own status from the widely resented source of global financial troubles to a powerful force for peace.

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Ana Palacio, a former Spanish foreign minister and former Senior Vice President of the World Bank, is a member of the Spanish Council of State.

(AP Photo)


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