France, Britain may recognize Palestinian state
Hours after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu met with his British counterpart David Cameron and on the eve of his planned meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Thursday, foreign sources said that both heads of state have threatened to support the Palestinians' statehood bid in the UN if there is no progress in peace talks.
The Guardian quoted a diplomatic source as saying Cameron told Netanyahu that Britain would consider supporting a unilateral declaration of statehood by the Palestinians if Israel fails to join substantive peace talks to create a two-state solution.
"Britain's clear and absolute preference is for a negotiation to take place between Israel and the Palestinians which leads to a two state solution which everyone endorses. But at this point Britain is not ruling anything out. The more Israel engages seriously in a meaningful peace process the less likely it is that this question of unilateral declaration would arise," the source said.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy said his state would be willing to recognize a Palestinian state if there was no progress in peace talks, L'Express reported on Wednesday.
"If the peace process resumed in the summer, France will say that the main parties much talk without pushing forward the schedule," Sarkozy told the French weekly. "If, conversely, the peace process remains stalled in September, France will take responsibility on the central question of recognizing a Palestinian state."
He added that Europe, the largest donor to the Palestinians, "will not remain a political dwarf in this matter." Peace "will not happen if the US does not get more involved, but the Americans will not succeed alone," Sarkozy explained.
Sarkozy also welcomed reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas, saying that "nothing is possible" in the peace process without it.
During a Wednesday-night meeting with Netanyahu, Cameron pledged a commitment to Israeli security – but did not promise to reject the Fatah- Hamas unity deal.
The Israeli leader entered the meeting at 10 Downing Street hoping to hear those words from Cameron.
Netanyahu believes that a Palestinian government that is aligned with Hamas, an organization dedicated to Israel’s destruction, is a threat to Israel’s security.
Although Fatah and Hamas signed a unity agreement in Cairo on Wednesday, Cameron did not even mention it at the start of their meeting.
“Britain is a good friend of Israel, and our support for Israel and Israel’s security is unshakable. We are strong friends of Israel,” he said.
“There is a real opportunity with the end of bin Laden, and the Arab spring.
“This is a moment of opportunity to continue the work, and to defeat terrorism in our world and to continue the expansion of democracy, civil rights and freedom across the Middle East and North Africa,” Cameron continued.
Although Netanyahu has said that the unity deal has dealt a blow to the peace process, Cameron nevertheless said he believed that there was an opportunity to “push forward the process of peace between Israel and Palestine.”
Although the Hamas-Fatah unity deal is the issue upmost on Netanyahu’s mind, he did not mention it at the start of the meeting, either.
Instead he spoke in more global terms.
“I think the fate of the Middle East and the fate of peace hangs in the balance,” he said.
Addressing Cameron, he said, “You have taken a resolute stance against tyranny and terror in such places as Iran and Libya. We think that moral clarity and political clarity can ensure that peace wins out.”
Israeli officials said that during the meeting Cameron did say that the United Kingdom was committed to the Quartet's principles that Hamas must renounce terror, recognize Israel and abide by past agreements with Israel.
Outside the meeting, however, it was Syria, not Israel, that worried activists in London.
Indeed, although an Israeli prime minister was at Downing Street, activists gathered outside to demonstrate against Syria.
“Down with Assad,” they shouted, as the two men talked.
Unlike Cameron’s publicly avoiding any mention of the Palestinian unity agreement, a top US official said Washington expected the Palestinians to stick to the principles of peace.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said the US expected to receive a document from the Palestinians detailing each and every point in the unity agreement, Israel Radio reported.