A lasting peace between Israel and Palestine remains a priority for the European Union. In September 2015 MEPs called for a fresh EU approach to the Israel-Palestine conflict and for the resumption of credible peace efforts without delay. They also stressed the importance of preserving the viability of the two-state solution. In December 2014 MEPs voted overwhelmingly in support of the "in principle recognition of Palestinian statehood".
The Israeli-Palestinian peace process is at a critical juncture and the EU and its member states should recognise Palestinian statehood, according to members of Parliament’s Palestine delegation. Led by delegation chair Neoklis Sylikiotis, the five members visited Jerusalem and the West Bank on 20-24 February. In addition MEPs discussed the Israeli government’s recent decision to retroactively legalise settlements illegally built on Palestinian land during a plenary debate on 14 February,
“It is time for our people to live in freedom, without walls and checkpoints”, urged President of the Palestinian National Authority Mahmoud Abbas in his address to MEPs on Thursday. He conveyed his people’s gratitude to the European Parliament for recognising a State of Palestine and criticised Israel for pursuing its occupation of Palestinian territories.
“The elected Israeli leadership has been and is in support of two states for two peoples solution”, President of the State of Israel Reuven Rivlin, told MEPs on Wednesday. However “at this time, a permanent agreement for peace between us and Palestinians cannot be achieved”, he added, calling on EU to help build trust between the parties.
From Syrian refugees on their way to being resettled to Europe to Palestine refugees who have been living in camps for years: members from the civil liberties committee delegation got to speak to many different people during their fact-finding mission to Lebanon on 19-22 September. They were there to assess the situation to help prepare future rules on the resettlement of refugees. They also spoke to representatives of local NGOs and large international organisations.
The situation continues to be dire for Palestinians: 95% of Palestine refugees in Syria are dependent on humanitarian aid and 65% of young Gazans are unemployed. Pierre Krähenbühl, head of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), discussed their plight with Parliament's foreign affairs and development committees on 13 June, calling on the international community to work towards a credible political solution for the problems of the Middle East.
The hostilities in the Middle East also affect the five million Palestine refugees living throughout Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and the Palestinian Territories, with a risk of radicalisation as the region becomes more unstable. Pierre Krähenbühl, the commissioner-general of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), issued the warning when he addressed the EP's foreign affairs committee on 2 March. He also said the EU had a crucial role to play.
Adopted Parliament resolutions
Parliament called on Thursday for a fresh EU approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The EU must fulfil its responsibilities as an influential player and take a bold and comprehensive peace initiative for the region, MEPs said, regretting the lack of a comprehensive and coherent vision of the EU's engagement in the Middle East Peace Process, despite its ambitions there.
Following the Paris attacks the secretary-general of the Arab League has urged greater cooperation between it and the EU to counter extremism. Addressing Parliament's foreign affairs committee on 20 January Nabil El Araby said "the problems we face now are of universal character and are not confined to one place." He outlined how the Arab world looks upon Europe and said that "the European Union has been to the forefront of all just causes."
The European Parliament supports "in principle recognition of Palestinian statehood and the two state solution, and believes these should go hand in hand with the development of peace talks, which should be advanced", it says in a resolution passed on Wednesday. To support EU diplomatic efforts in the Middle East peace process, it also decided to launch a “Parliamentarians for Peace” initiative to bring together MEPs and MPs from the Israeli and Palestinian parliaments.
Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas visited the European Parliament in Brussels on 12 February where he was welcomed by EP President Martin Schulz. They had a meeting during which they discussed developments affecting the Middle East peace process.
MEPs from across the political spectrum condemned the recent wave of violence in Gaza and Israel during a debate on Wednesday evening and urged all parties to immediately agree to a ceasefire. They vote today on a resolution on the escalation of violence between Israel and Palestine.
Sweden recently became the first EU country in Western Europe to recognise Palestine as a state. Today MEPs will vote on a resolution calling for Palestine to be recognised as a state. Would such a move help defuse violence in the region? We discussed it with Martina Anderson (GUE/NGL, UK), chair of the delegation for relations with the Palestinian Legislative Council, and Fulvio Martusciello (EPP, Italy), chair of the delegation for relations with Israel.