Europeans were divided among themselves and failed to take advantage of their pivotal position on the question of Palestinian statehood at the UN to move the US in a constructive direction.
2011 was a disastrous year for the US in its dealings with the Middle East peace process. But although the EU is represented in the Quartet and Europeans collectively contribute an average of €1 billion per year to the Palestinians, Europeans were divided among themselves and therefore failed to take advantage of their pivotal position on the question of Palestinian statehood at the UN to influence the US. As a result, 2011 was a bad year for them as well. Paradoxically, it started with a rare demonstration of European unity on this issue in February when France, Germany, Portugal and the UK lined up in a UNSC vote condemning Israeli settlements. Nevertheless, the US vetoed the text. The speech by Barack Obama on 19 May was largely addressed to Europeans, who were seen as holding the key to the September vote at the UN on Palestinian statehood. It enunciated the parameters for a settlement, including the ultimate recognition of a sovereign and contiguous state of Palestine based on 1967 borders with agreed land swaps. Europeans reacted positively, as this coincided with their own position.
However, while they supported Obama’s efforts to restart direct negotiations, and added their own initiatives to this effect, they made no promise about the September vote. In July, High Representative Catherine Ashton, together with Russia and the UN, refused a draft introduced by the US at a Quartet meeting, as it was perceived to be unacceptable to both their own positions and the Palestinians. In the run-up to the September UNGA meeting, Europeans failed to come up with a united and constructive alternative to the Palestinian demarche or the announced American veto, and influenced neither of them. They did contribute to the Quartet position laying out a timeline for negotiations, but this went nowhere. At UNESCO in October, Europeans split three ways, with little or no advance warning to Washington. Some supported Palestinian membership, others opposed it, while others abstained.