Rhein on Energy and Climate

The Palestinians will try again to improve their international status. After having obtained observer status at the UNESCO they ask to be granted observer status in the UN General Assembly. This will help them inter alia to sue Israel in case of human rights violations,

Israel is furious at this new initiative. It has called its ambassadors accredited in Europe to a special meeting in Vienna to prepare them for a concerted lobbying in European capitals. Its foreign minister has indicated the reprisals that Israel might take if the Palestinians were to succeed: cutting electricity, withholding the customs duties and VAT taxes that Israel collects for the Palestinian Authority and flooding the Occupied Territories with more settlements.

The US Administration shares the Israeli objections against a Palestinian observer status in the UNGA. It insists that the two sides should sort out their differences at the negotiation table and not at the UN and threatens to suspend its financial assistance to the Palestinian Authority, which is crucial for maintaining law&order, education and health in the occupied territories.

The EU continues to be split on the issue. Almost one half of member states seems to be in favour, one third tends for abstention and the rest, among which Germany,would prefer to takes sides for Israel.

EU foreign ministers will define their line November 19th . Behind the scenes, intensive discussions have been going with the Palestinians on the formulation of the draft resolution. It should be possible to agree on the necessary compromises that would enable the majority of EU member states to support the Palestinian and a minority abstaining.

Whatever the final EU position, it will not have an impact on the outcome of the vote in the UN General Assembly: The Palestinians will obtain their observer status, thanks to the support from developing and emerging countries that will obtain the necessary simple majority of UN member States.

This shows the loss of influence in international affairs that Europe has suffered in the last 30 and which makes common approaches in the future an absolute necessity.

The EU should seize this occasion to call once again for direct negotiations between the two sides and declare its willingness to assume a role of facilitator, jointly with any other interested parties. By the same token, it should “advise “Israel and USA to abstain from any “retaliatory action” against a legitimate Palestinian move, born from despair about the situation the ground.

Eberhard Rhein, Brussels.

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