Palestine may or may not win tomorrow's vote to achieve "non-member observer state" status at the United Nations, but several European powers are starting to change their opinion on the matter. On Tuesday, France (a permanent member of the Security Council) announced that it will vote in favor of the resolution, as will Austria. And earlier today Spain joined the cause, too. Denmark, Portugal, Ireland, and nearly half the nations of the European Union are expected to vote yes—though Germany, the Netherlands, and Italy are all still nays.
But in what might be the most significant declaration yet, the UK Foreign Secretary William Hague announced this morning that Britain would also be willing to vote yes, if Palestine agrees to certain conditions, including a return to peace negotiations with Israel. More importantly, even if Palestine doesn't accept that bargain (which they likely won't) Hague says the UK will abstain, essentially lending acceptance to the mostly symbolic gesture.
The vote will take place in the General Assembly, not the Security Council, so the UK or the US couldn't block it with a single no. But the symbolism is still powerful, which is why the European allies remain so divided about. Those opposed believe it would be rewarding Palestinians for rough behavior, especially so soon after the recent rocket attacks from Gaza into Israel. Israelis are also worried that it might make it possible for Palestinians to start attacking them through diplomatic means, by way of the International Criminal Court. They've already said that recognition won't bring them back to the table.
However, many of the nations voting yes believe that by welcoming Palestine into the club (sorta) it will force them into better behavior, and make it easier to re-build formal peace negotiations with Israel. Britain is pushing for it to be the other way around, but after this month's conflict in Gaza, diplomats around the globe are willing to try almost anything if they think it might prevent another round of shooting.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.