Efforts to secure unilateral recognition of an independent Palestinian state suffered serious setbacks in Europe last week, despite warnings by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that, following Sweden's decision, far more countries were likely to recognize "Palestine" with or without the agreement of Israel.
On Wednesday, former, and possibly future, French president Nicolas Sarkozy urged members of his UMP party to vote against an upcoming motion in France's National Assembly demanding Paris follow Stockholm's example regarding a Palestinian state.
Similar motions recently passed in Britain, Ireland and Spain.
But Sarkozy, who reiterated that he was still in favor of the creation of a Palestinian state, was level-headed about what unilateral recognition would mean.
"I will fight for the Palestinians to have their state. But unilateral recognition a few days after a deadly attack and when there is no peace process? No!" he was quoted as saying by French media.
A similar opinion was recently expressed by new Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders, a long-time and harsh critic of Israel's "settlement enterprise."
Israel's antagonists were certain that Koender would champion their cause. But in a surprising statement issued shortly after his appointment, the new foreign minister said: "The overwhelming majority, including the Dutch government, believes that it does not contribute to the priority issue of restarting negotiations if we all of a sudden go ahead [and recognize a Palestinian state] because Sweden also did it."
On a continent-wide level, a European Union Parliament vote on recognizing "Palestine" that was scheduled for last Thursday was postponed until mid-December following petitions to alter the resolution's wording.
The parliament's leading center-right party, the European People's Party, insisted that while it was in favor of a Palestinian state, recognition of such an entity must be conditioned on the successful conclusion of a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
These European leaders appeared to have heeded Israel's warnings that unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state would hand the Palestinian Authority all it demanded without the need for compromise or reciprocity, thereby effectively killing the peace process.
PHOTO: Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas with then-French President Nicolas Sarkozy at a press conference in Ramallah in 2009. [Flash90]