European countries divided ahead of Palestinian statehood bid

David Lee Miller reports from Jerusalem


On Thursday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas plans to ask the U.N. General Assembly to recognize Palestine in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem, areas Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war. Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, but still controls most access.

The Palestinians expect some two-thirds of the General Assembly's 193 members will accept Palestine as a non-member observer state. 

The vote will not change the situation on the ground, yet the Palestinians still say it is significant.

The United States and Israel are strongly opposed, saying they fear it will only slow progress toward a peace deal.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has been lobbying Western countries, particularly in Europe, in hopes of presenting a broad international consensus against Israel. The international boost will also help him in his rivalry with Hamas, which gained popularity with Palestinians after battling Israel during eight days of fighting earlier this month.

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Two-thirds of U.N. member nations have already recognized the state of Palestine.


-- FRANCE: Yes. Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius made the announcement before parliament. "In any case, it's only through negotiations -- that we ask for without conditions and immediately between the two sides -- that we will be able to reach the realization of a Palestinian state," Fabius said Tuesday.

-- CHINA: Yes. The foreign minister reaffirmed support for Palestinian aspirations at the U.N. during a meeting last Friday with a Palestinian envoy.

-- SPAIN, NORWAY, DENMARK and SWITZERLAND: All announced Wednesday they would vote yes. The Swiss government called a change in status "both constructive and pragmatic."

--AUSTRIA: Yes. Martin Weiss, the foreign ministry spokesman, said Austria decided to vote for the resolution after it became clear there would be no common EU position.

--INDIA: Yes.

--GREECE: Yes.

--IRELAND: Yes. Ireland, which has long sympathized with the Palestinians, said it also would vote in favor of progressing the Palestinian Authority's claims to statehood. "The government hopes very much that this measured advance at the United Nations will encourage the Palestinian people that they are slowly coming towards their goal, and that their commitment to a political path and a negotiated settlement with Israel can bear fruit," government minister Shane McEntee told lawmakers in Ireland's parliament.

-- RUSSIA: Probably yes. It supported Palestinian membership in the U.N. cultural agency, UNESCO. The Russian Foreign Ministry said it "believes that the Palestinians have the right for such a move" but it added "we hope that the Palestinian leadership has well calculated possible consequences of such action."


-- UNITED STATES: Opposed.

--CANADA. Opposed. Canada is a staunch ally of Israel. Rick Roth, a spokesman for Canada's foreign minister, said any two-state solution must be negotiated and mutually agreed upon by both states. Roth said any unilateral action is ultimately unhelpful.

--GERMANY: No or abstain. It's "very certain that Germany will not vote for such a resolution," said Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman, Steffen Seibert. Officials aren't saying whether that will translate into a no vote or an abstention.

--NETHERLANDS: Probably no. "Lasting peace in the region can only be reached if Israel and the Palestinians return to the negotiating table to reach a final agreement over a two-state solution," according to a letter the foreign minister sent to parliament this week.

-- BRITAIN: Possibly abstain. The foreign secretary said Britain could support the measure only if there were a clear commitment by the Palestinians to return immediately and unconditionally to negotiations with Israel. "While there is no question of the United Kingdom voting against the resolution, in order to vote for it we would need certain assurances or amendments," said William Hague.

-- AUSTRALIA: Abstain, according to Prime Minister Julia Gillard. Her government is divided on the issue, but Gillard told Parliament "bipartisan policy across the major parties in this parliament to support Israel, to support peace in the Middle East, to support two states in the Middle East."