In a US election year, Europeans were unable to get Americans to refocus efforts on the peace process and they went their separate ways at the UN.
With a US presidential election looming, the emphasis in Washington in 2012 was on damage control rather than new initiatives. As a result, there was no meaningful transatlantic interaction on the Middle East Peace Process during the year and the so-called Quartet was at best marginal and at worst an excuse for inaction.
Washington pressured EU member states to support its opposition to the Palestinian bid to upgrade its status at the UN. The US said in a private memorandum to EU member states in late September that such an upgrade would be “extremely counterproductive” and threatened “negative consequences” for the Palestinians, but US pressure subsided as a result ofIsraeli intransigence. In the vote in the UNGA in November, Europeans were divided: the Czech Republic voted alongside the US and seven other countries against granting the non-member state status; 14 other EU member states voted in favour (Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal, Spain, and Sweden); and the remaining 12 member states, including Germany, abstained. In the vote on Palestinian admission to UNESCO a year before, by contrast, five EU member states voted against admission, 11 voted in favour, and 11 abstained.
Europeans were thus more united in 2012 than a year earlier in spite of US pressure, but they are not yet voting as one. They still also disagree on other issues such as the recognition of Hezbollah as a terrorist group – a cause pushed by the US and Israel, especially after the bombing in Bulgaria in July that killed five Israeli tourists and a local bus driver, and was widely attributed to the Lebanese group (although the official investigation has yet to be published). However, there was better European and transatlantic alignment during the hostilities in Gaza in November. The EU and the US defended Israel’s right to self-defence against rocket attacks by Hamas and other entities, while urging proportionality in the response and pushing both against a ground incursion by Israel and for a ceasefire that involved indirect negotiations (largely Egyptian-mediated) with Hamas.
|Leaders: France - Germany|