The lower house of the French parliament has voted overwhelmingly to “invite” Paris to recognise Palestine as an independent state.
Like a similar resolution by the House of Commons in October, the vote is advisory rather than binding. It is, however, part of a pattern of growing European support for recognition of a Palestinian state in the face of public opposition to Israel’s policies in Gaza, East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
The national assembly voted by 339 to 151 to ask the French government to recognise Palestine. Most Socialists, greens and other left-wing supporters of the French government voted in favour. The right and centre-right divided between voting against and boycotting the resolution as an intrusion into presidential powers over foreign policy.
The Spanish parliament has also voted to recognise Palestine. Sweden has gone even further, announcing that the government planned to move towards official recognition.
Israel had lobbied publicly and privately against the French parliament resolution, framed by the former justice minister, Elisabeth Guigou, now chairman of the national assembly foreign affairs committee.
Before a parliamentary debate on the resolution last week, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked: “Is (this) what France should do in this moment when some people behead people across the Middle East, including a French citizen?”
His comments infuriated many left-wing French parliamentarians who accused Mr Netanyahu of deliberately blurring the distinction between the Hamas, the militant group that runs Gaza, and Isis.
Officially, the French government, like other EU states, is committed to a revived peace process leading to Israeli and United Nations recognition of Palestine as an independent country. The French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, has hinted that France might take a unilateral decision of peace talks fail or are indefinitely postponed.
“From the moment that negotiation become impossible or reaches no conclusion France will obviously have to face up to its responsibilities,” he said earlier this year.
During the national assembly debate on Friday, Mr Fabius said that Paris was working with its partners at the UN “to adopt a Security Council resolution to relaunch and conclude talks.”
“A deadline of two years is the one most often mentioned. The French government broadly agrees with this figure,” Mr Fabius said.
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