The Middle East Channel

News Brief: EU Shelves Recognizing Palestinian State

EU Shelves Recognizing Palestinian StateForeign Ministers from the European Union have decided they would recognize an independent Palestinian state “when appropriate,” in response to a call from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to recognize the state based on the 1967 borders. The EU foreign affairs council “reiterates its readiness, when appropriate, to recognize a Palestinian state,” ...

EU Shelves Recognizing Palestinian State
Foreign Ministers from the European Union have decided they would recognize an independent Palestinian state “when appropriate,” in response to a call from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to recognize the state based on the 1967 borders. The EU foreign affairs council “reiterates its readiness, when appropriate, to recognize a Palestinian state,” according to a statement. “Urgent progress is needed toward a two state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” Brazil and Argentina, along with a growing number of countries, recently recognized the state of Palestine. Direct talks collapsed at the end of September when a freeze on Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank expired. Palestinians have said they refused to partake in direct negotiations without such a settlement halt. The EU ministers said in their statement they were disappointed that Israel did not extend the settlement freeze. “Our views on settlements, including East Jerusalem, are clear: they are illegal under international law and an obstacle to peace.”

  • Israel refuses entry to Palestinian firefighters being honored for their fire assistance.
  • Amnesty International has condemned the EU and Libya over migrant worker treatment.
  • Jordan’s King Abdullah receives an invitation to meet Ahmadinejad.
  • Kuwait shuts down its Al Jazeera office.
  • Iran says the firing of its Foreign Minister won’t affect Iranian policy.

Daily Snapshot
 

A Lebanese forest ranger observes the sunset from the cedar trees reserve of Baruk in the Shouf mountains, southeast of Beirut, following a snow storm and cold wave which hit the east Mediterranean country after several months of drought (JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images).

Arguments & Analysis
‘A U.N. plan for Israel’ (Robert Wright, New York Times)
The recent withdrawal of an American offer of inducements to Israel in exchange for a temporary settlement freeze is a good time to re-examine the Obama administration’s policy. Secretary of State Clinton’s speech on Friday acknowledged that as much was clear, but has hardly proposed anything bold to get to a new place. But there is an option: U.N. recognition of Palestinian statehood. The bottom line: “Every day, settlement construction – especially in East Jerusalem – makes it harder to imagine two-state borders that would leave Palestinians with the minimal dignity necessary for lasting peace. As chances of a deal shrink, international impatience grows. This month Brazil and Argentina recognized a Palestinian state with 1967 borders. By comparison, a United Nations solution looks Israel-friendly. Borders could be drawn to accommodate some of the thickest Israeli settlements along the 1967 lines (while giving the new Palestinian state land in exchange). But perhaps the biggest advantage is the political cover this approach would give President Obama…By contrast, the current path involves Obama taking political heat every time he tries to move Netanyahu a few inches toward the goal line. And there are 97 yards to go.”

‘Clear gold: water as a strategic resource in the Middle East’ (Jon Alterman & Michael Dziuban, Center for Strategic & Int’l Studies)
“The real wild card for political and social unrest in the Middle East over the next 20 years is not war, terrorism, or revolution-it is water. Conventional security threats dominate public debate and government thinking, but water is the true game-changer in Middle Eastern politics.” So says a new report (pdf) put out by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Yet this problem over water is not primarily an issue of interstate competition for access to above ground basins, rivers, etc., but rather a groundwater issue that will largely affect internal political developments. For years, agricultural policies in much of the Middle East have spawned a deeply unsustainable model that has promised unending water supply while doing nothing to curb demand. Without a serious shift in policy, the consequences will be dire.

‘Egypt faces a legitimacy crisis following flawed elections’ (Amr Hamzaway, The Daily Star)While no one expected Egypt’s recent parliamentary elections to be a hallmark of free and fair, the results were even more depressing than the last time Egyptians went to the polls. “For the next five years, Egyptians will have an NDP-dominated People’s Assembly. The NDP won over 90 percent of the seats, with opposition and independents’ share declining from 24 percent in the 2005-2010 Parliament to less than 10 percent today. Despite its relatively strong numbers in the last Parliament, the opposition was still unable to stop the NDP from pushing through its constitutional amendments and legislative action agenda, and was ineffective in its watchdog role and repeated attempts to hold the executive branch accountable. One would assume, then, that the ruling party’s almost absolute monopoly of the legislative process in the new People’s Assembly will mean the opposition, with very little representation in Parliament, will enjoy an even more flimsy oversight role.” This particularly egregious state of affairs might please the ruling party, but even they are likely to feel a crisis of legitimacy as Presidential elections take place in 2011 — especially amidst Hosni Mubarak’s reported ill health and the coming battle for succession.

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