French MPs vote in favor of recognizing Palestinian state
Motion initiated by ruling Socialist party passes with 339 votes in favor, 151 against
French lawmakers voted in favor of recognizing Palestine as a state Tuesday, following similar moves in Britain and Spain that reflect growing European frustration with the stalled Middle East peace process.
The highly symbolic vote in the lower house National Assembly calling for the government to recognize a Palestinian state passed with 339 in favor and 151 against. While it is not binding on French policy, it is likely to anger Israel, whose Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned it would be a “grave mistake.”
The text of the motion invites Paris to recognize the state of Palestine “as an instrument to gain a definitive resolution of the conflict” and passed comfortably with the support of the ruling Socialists.
Palestinians are seeking to achieve statehood in Gaza and the West Bank with East Jerusalem as the capital. With little progress on reaching a settlement, they have been lobbying foreign powers for international recognition.
During a debate on the issue on Friday, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius stressed that Paris would recognize Palestine if diplomatic efforts failed again and urged a resolution to the Middle East conflict within two years.
France is spearheading a drive at the United Nations to unfreeze the moribund peace process and the Palestinian envoy to the UN said earlier Tuesday a draft resolution could be submitted to the Security Council by mid-December.
Riyad Mansour told AFP the text was set to lay out a time frame for negotiations on a final peace deal and possibly a deadline for Palestinian statehood.
It would also pave the way for a last-ditch international conference that France has offered to host.
French lawmakers divided
“If these efforts fail. If this last attempt at a negotiated settlement does not work, then France will have to do its duty and recognize the state of Palestine without delay and we are ready to do that,” Fabius told MPs on Friday.
The French vote comes hot on the heels of a near unanimous vote in favor of recognizing Palestine in the British and Spanish parliaments, as Europeans seek alternative ways to push forward efforts towards peace.
Sweden’s government went even further, officially recognizing Palestine as a state in a controversial move that prompted Israel to recall its ambassador.
However, lawmakers in Paris are more divided on the issue than their British and Spanish counterparts, reflecting the sensitivity of the debate in France, which is home to Europe’s largest Jewish and Muslim communities.
The main center-right opposition party, the UMP, was largely expected to vote against the motion.
Senior UMP lawmaker Laurent Wauquiez told French television ahead of the vote that it would have “no impact”, adding: “For me, it’s the president of the Republic who defines France’s foreign policy.”
France was the scene of several pro-Palestinian demonstrations during this summer’s 50-day offensive by the Israeli army in Gaza that killed more than 2,000 Palestinians and dozens of Israelis.
The Palestinian Authority estimates that 135 countries have now recognized Palestine as a state, although that number is disputed and several recognitions by EU member states date back to the Soviet era.