BRUSSELS (AP) — Frustrated by deadlock in the Middle East peace process, a growing number of European leaders and lawmakers are calling for unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state.
That movement took a step forward Wednesday as members of the European Parliament began debating whether they can agree on a common approach for the European Union's 28 member states.
Recognition of a country is a decision for national governments. But EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini told lawmakers meeting in Strasbourg, France that the bloc needs to forge "a united and strong message" to influence events.
On Oct. 30, Sweden's government became the first Western European nation in the EU to recognize Palestinian statehood. Since then, lawmakers in Britain, Spain and Ireland have approved non-binding motions urging recognition. French legislators are scheduled to debate a similar measure on Friday.
The trend in favor of recognition has aroused both alarm and approval in Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday warned that it would encourage the Palestinians to "harden their positions" and make peace harder to achieve.
Other Israelis said the Europeans' actions, and the snowball effect they might have, could force their country back to the negotiating table with the Palestinians for substantive talks.
"Without European pressure, nothing here will budge," said Alon Liel, a former director of the Israeli Foreign Ministry.
Germany, Israel's closest European ally and the EU's most powerful member, is a leading opponent of recognizing Palestinian statehood before Israel does. To do so, German officials say, would do more harm than good.
Chancellor Angela Merkel said Friday that her government supports a two-state solution as a durable formula for peace. She added that "we also believe that unilateral recognition of the Palestinian state won't move us forward."
Goldenberg reported from Jerusalem.