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French Lawmakers Vote To Recognize Palestinian State


Good morning. I'm Steve Inskeep. Someone returned "Gone With The Wind." The book disappeared in 1946 from the high school library in Spokane, Washington. Now it's turned up inside a house in New England. Nobody knows how. The New Englander offered to return the book so long as he was not hit with $470 in overdue fees. The library agreed to save him all that money, so he can say like Scarlett O'Hara...


(Imitating Scarlett O'Hara) As God is my witness, I'll never be hungry again.


GREENE: The French lower house of Parliament voted yesterday to recognize a Palestinian state. France is the fifth European country to make such a move in the past month, following Sweden, Britain, Spain and Ireland. Growing frustration over years of unending violence has European lawmakers looking for new ways to force an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal. NPR's Eleanor Beardsley reports.


ELEANOR BEARDSLEY: As French congressmen voted inside the National Assembly, several hundred French Jews gathered outside. The crowd sang the French and Israeli national anthems and carried signs, which said, recognizing a Hamas-led Palestine is akin to legitimizing a terrorist state. Collette Venifleis says not only does France have no right to interfere in Israel's internal affairs, but this vote will cause major problems in France.

COLLETTE VENIFLEIS: (Through translator) This is throwing oil on the fire. Already there has been an upsurge in anti-Semitic acts in France, and this is going to embolden the pro-Palestinian camp. It'll cause a hemorrhage of Jews, too. We're all going to leave France.

BEARDSLEY: The protracted Israeli-Palestinian conflict reverberates in France, which has Europe's largest population of Jews and Muslims. During the war between Israel and Gaza this summer, some Jewish-owned shops were attacked outside of Paris. The non-binding resolution does not change the policy of the French government, which says a Palestinian state must result from negotiations between the parties. But Daniel Levy, Middle East and North Africa director of the European Council on Foreign Relations, says there's increasing frustration because many Europeans believe Israel is no longer working for a two-state solution.

DANIEL LEVY: And there was a sense in Europe that one needs to inject something new into the equation and one in some way needs to push back against an ongoing set of egregious Israeli policies, which are increasingly unpopular amongst Europeans.



BEARDSLEY: Parliamentarians rose to their feet after the votes were counted - 339 to 151. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned France that passing the resolution would only encourage terrorism. But Socialist parliamentarian Christian Bataille says it was a balanced measure and not at all aggressive toward Israel.

CHRISTIAN BATAILLE: (Through translator) I feel that the founders of Israel, Ben Gurion and Golda Meir, would've been OK with this, maybe not present leaders, like Netanyahu, but the socialist founders, yes.

BEARDSLEY: The vote split the French left and right. Conservative lawmaker Pierre Lellouche says the socialists adopted the resolution to win more Muslim voters.

PIERRE LELLOUCHE: I think it's going to be damaging. It's going to radicalize a position in Israel and in the Palestinian camp as well. So in no way is it going to bring back the two parties at the table of negotiation.

BEARDSLEY: Palestinians say 135 nations have recognized their state. And Palestine has gained non-member observer country status at the United Nations.

LAURENT FABIUS: (Through translator) Speaking in parliament before the vote, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said France, as a friend to Israel and Palestinians, would push for a U.N. Security Council resolution requiring they reached a two-state peace deal within two years.


FABIUS: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: And if they cannot do it in that time, said Fabius, then the French government is committed to recognizing a Palestinian state. Fabius said for France, it is out of the question to continue with the status quo. Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News, Paris. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eleanor Beardsley began reporting from France for NPR in 2004 as a freelance journalist, following all aspects of French society, politics, economics, culture and gastronomy. Since then, she has steadily worked her way to becoming an integral part of the NPR Europe reporting team.