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Europeans bolster Palestinian bid at the UN (+video)

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The last-minute tide of international support, particularly from European countries, may have derived in part from concern that Palestinians would walk away from last week’s Gaza conflict with the impression that missiles, not diplomacy, are the way to get Israeli concessions. As part of the Nov. 21 cease-fire agreement, Israel agreed in principle to opening the crossings into Gaza, potentially easing the restrictions on goods and freedom of movement that Israel imposed when Hamas won elections in 2006.

“The cease-fire definitely strengthened Hamas. It looks as if the Hamas managed to get concessions on the siege and this was through missiles … while [Abbas] is sitting aside quietly,” says veteran Israeli diplomat Alon Liel, now retired. “So it’s definitely the wish of Europeans to show that through diplomacy you can also gain achievements, not only through missiles.”

This line of reasoning also provided a “wonderful excuse” for European countries, which have traditionally backed Palestinian statehood but have faced strong pressure from Israel to vote against the UN bid, he adds.

Now they can say, “What can we do? Your war over there in Gaza isolated … [Abbas] to the extent that now we have to come to his help,” says Mr. Liel, noting that a number of European countries would have voted in favor of the bid even without such cover.

Symbolic date

Today’s vote comes on the 65th anniversary of the UN vote to partition historic Palestine into two states, one Israeli and one Palestinian. Israel accepted the offer and declared independence six months later, but Arab leaders in Palestine and the region rejected it and fighting broke out between Zionists and Arabs, which lasted until 1949. The 1949 armistice lines, also referred to as the Green Line or the 1967 borders, prevailed up until the 1967 war between Israel and its neighbors.

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