Eye on Palestine
Recognition of Palestinian Statehood Is Growing
Greece became the 10th European Union member state and 137th to recognize Palestine as an independent state. This was after the Greek parliament voted unanimously in favour of recognising the State during a visit from Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas. After the visit Mr Abbas said that his National Authority proposed changing the name on its passports to 'State of Palestine' within the year.
Various European parliaments, notably the United Kingdom (just days after the 2014 Autumn Party Conference overwhelmingly voted in favour) and France, have voted to recommending the recognition of Palestine as an independent state rather than as a semi-autonomous authority. However formal recognition of the Palestinian state has yet to be implemented.
Recognition of Palestine as a state has been seen as one of very few initiatives to help save the 2 state solution and to reboot negotiations. The Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine hosted a fringe event at the Autumn Conference that debated this subject. This included the former senior British Diplomat, Sir Vincent Fean, and Hannah Weisfeld, Executive Director of the Jewish group Yachad, who both argued for such recognition.
The Vatican signed its first treaty with the "State of Palestine" when it called for moves to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and backed a two-state solution. The Agreement references essential aspects of the life and activity of the Church in Palestine, while at the same time reaffirming the support for a negotiated and peaceful solution to the conflict in the region. The U.N. General Assembly had adopted a resolution in 2012 recognizing Palestine as an observer non-member state, welcomed at the time by the Vatican, which has the same observer non-member status. The Holy See under Pope Francis is eager to have a greater diplomatic role in the Middle East, from where many Christians have fled because of the various conflicts.
Palestinian Christians Flee Israeli Persecution
The Middle East is a frequent topic for Pope Francis due to the unprecedented persecution of ethnic and religious minorities. These include Christians forced to flee from war torn Syria and Iraq due to violence and hostility as a result of the spread of militant Islamist ideology, as well as those also fleeing due to economic issues.
Palestinian Christians also widely complain that Israeli policies — and not Palestinian militant groups — have hurt their communities, causing a massive exodus of Christians from the land that is at the heart of Christianity. At Christmas, hundreds of Palestinians in Gaza were granted rare approval to leave, and many were expected to look beyond Gaza to settle elsewhere. Ten years ago, there were some 3,000 Palestinian Christians in Gaza; today, little more than 1,000 remain.
Israeli Arab Party Fights For Existence Amid Efforts For Ban By Israeli Nationalists
Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel is Our Home Party) proposed a bill banning the Balad party - a party mainly made up of Palestinians with Israeli citizenship, which aims to increase representation of Israeli-Palestinians in Israel’s politics. Lieberman has referred to Balad members of the Knesset as “Terror Supporters”.
If passed, Lieberman's bill would also strip Israel's High Court of Justice the power to overturn the Central Electoral Commission's decisions.
Jamal Zahalka, a Knesset member and leader of the Balad party, condemned the bill. "There is an anti-democratic and racist atmosphere in Israel," he said and he accused Lieberman of "attempting to change the subject" away from the corruption scandal that rocked Lieberman's party early in 2015.
In the last Israeli Knesset election early in 2015, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a last ditch effort to win votes urging Israelis to stop Arab parties from making large gains in the general election. Netanyahu’s actions were viewed to be pitting Israelis against the Arab minority in Israel, which caused outrage locally and internationally.