The Arab Awakening made an Israeli–Palestinian deal more essential but also more elusive. Europeans were too divided and indecisive to take the initiative.
Although the EU argued that the Arab Awakening made a resolution of the conflict more urgent and vital, it failed to match this rhetoric with new political resolve. The four EU members of the UNSC in 2011 (France, Germany, Portugal and the UK) all supported a resolution on settlements in February and issued a statement on settler violence among other things in December. The E3 intensified their co-ordination on the Middle East peace process, issuing broad parameters for a two-state deal in February, which were later adopted by the EU. But after the PLO declared its intention to apply for statehood at the UN in September, Europeans were too divided and indecisive to play a defining role in the diplomacy. The PLO added to the uncertainty by choosing to seek full UN membership through the UNSC, which meant the application got stuck in a committee and there was no vote at the UNGA, so European unity and adherence to previous declarations was not tested. Member states split three ways on the less consequential – and somewhat last-minute – Palestinian application for UNESCO membership in October (11 voted in favour, 5 against and 11 abstained).
Thus, although Europeans invested much time and diplomatic energy on the peace process in 2011 – including frequent visits by Catherine Ashton and interventions with the Israeli government to prevent additional escalation of problems in East Jerusalem, to get PA tax monies released and defend the rights of imprisoned non-violent Palestinian activists – they were unable to advance an agenda of their own. Barack Obama’s 19 May speech seemed to be at least in part prompted by European suggestions on advancing border and security parameters but could not be translated into a plan of action or even an agreed Quartet statement. Europeans had little impact on the approval and construction of new Israeli settlements, human rights violations in the Occupied Territories and occasional flare-ups between Gaza and Israel.