Speeches are given, echoing across the vast hall in Strasbourg, in the various tongues native to the small continent, sparking debates on a thorny topic that has been bitterly disputed worldwide for almost seven decades now. On December 17, 2014, a grand total of 697 present members of the great body assembled submit their stances on the resolution posed. Finally, the results are in…and yes, the motion carries. 498 in favor, 88 against, and 111 abstentions. The European Parliament, the main legislative body of the European Union, has just passed a resolution recognizing the statehood of Palestine along the 1967 armistice lines that partition Jerusalem into East and West to serve as the Palestinian and Israeli capitals, respectively. This bold move follows a trend established by several national parliaments in Europe who have all passed resolutions moving to acknowledge Palestine as a state, and marks a major paradigm shift in Europe illustrating a growing sense of sympathy for Palestine coupled with a deepening disconnect with Israel and a more independent attitude towards United States foreign policy.

It cannot be denied that the European Union has historically almost always been a proponent, if only formally, of Palestinian Statehood. The European Union first marked where it stood on the matter in 1980 with the Declaration of Venice that acknowledged the right of Palestinians to self-government. Then, in 1986, the European Union enacted legislation that allowed Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied territories to export products to Europe under the label "Made in the West Bank and Gaza". The European Union took further action regarding the conflict in 1993, offering financial support to the fledgling Palestinian government as part of the Oslo Accords. More recently, in December 2010, 26 former EU leaders called for economic sanctions to be imposed on Israel in response to its continued construction of Israeli settlements on the West Bank, settlements that even the Israeli High Court of Justice have been found to be illegal. Israel has consistently deplored such measures, holding that they take away from bilateral engagement with Palestinian leaders and complicate the peace process. Interestingly, the European Union has been one of Israel’s largest trading partners and a major supplier of weapons for its army, and continued engagement with Israel and the Israeli military even while issuing formal declarations supporting a Palestinian state has caused many to accuse Europe of hypocrisy. Yet, with new talks of possible sanctions, it is becoming clear that European nations are taking a more adamant stance against what they feel is unwarranted Israeli aggression. The historic December 17 vote is not solely definitive of this paradigm shift; rather, this vote is the culmination of a recent and unprecedented trend where countries across Europe—such as Sweden, Ireland, England, France, and Portugal—have passed resolutions at the national level asserting their wishes to recognize Palestine as a free and independent state.

Europe’s new show of support for Palestinian statehood carries several implications that will alter the European Union’s current foreign relations with both Israel and the United States. The United States has always considered itself to be Israel’s greatest ally and has often condemned third-party involvement in the Israel-Palestine conflict, agreeing with Israel that the most effective way to reach a solution is for the Palestinians to directly engage with Israel instead of skirting around and seeking international recognition. This maxim came to the fore most recently when the United Nations passed Palestine’s bid to be upgraded to a Non-Member Observer State in 2012, drawing intense criticism from the United States. Others argue that one-on-one negotiations have so far failed and are unlikely to succeed in the future, and so by allowing them to involve the international community, Palestine would be able to operate within a more legitimate legal framework, thereby putting greater pressure on Israel to approach the Palestinian side with a more compromising nature. Another development that will put further strain on EU-US relations is an EU High Court’s removal of Hamas, the dominant political party in Gaza Strip with an associated military wing that has engaged in intentional violence against civilians as a method of resistance, from its list of terror organizations, much to the dismay of the United States. The court defended its reversal by claiming that factors leading to the initial deeming of Hamas as a terrorist organization were based not on examined facts but rather on unverified statements by the press. Yet, this justification will do little to abate the United States’ anger at the decision, evidencing a significant change in Europe’s mindset where it is no longer afraid of taking actions despite intense US outrage. It cannot be overlooked that Hamas’s charter, drawn up in 1988, calls for the explicit destruction of Israel as a state. However, we cannot ignore recent statements made by Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, asserting that the charter is “a piece of history and no longer relevant, but cannot be changed for internal reasons.” This new attitude exhibited by Hamas’s leadership, if it is sincere, will be instrumental in bringing about any compromise.

It is clear that we are witnessing a major shift in the European attitude towards Palestine. It is most likely that these new developments between Europe and Palestine will help accelerate the peace process as they bring increased international attention to the issue, adding a sense of heightened global pressure on both sides to resolve the issue in a civil manner without the need for further violence. Though Israel still has staunch support from the United States, this European shift might also pressure the United States to be sterner with Israel regarding negotiations. We can already see the beginning of this decision’s contagious effects on the United States as the Obama Administration has hinted at possibly, for the first time, not using its veto power in the next UN Security Council Resolution that Israel finds detrimental. This would be quite problematic for Israel, as for decades it has depended on the previously unwavering US veto to secure its interests on the global stage. On the other hand, Europe’s solidarity with the Palestinian cause while at the same time stressing the Two-State Solution may further compel Hamas to reform, recognize Israel’s right to exist, and operate using legitimate methods in order to gain further support abroad. Israel’s several military excursions into Palestinian territories in recent years, aimed at cracking down on Hamas, have driven many Palestinians to look for other avenues, such as international recognition, to achieve self-government free from Israeli dominion. The most recent military engagement, Israeli Operation Protective Edge conducted in the summer of 2014 during the holy Islamic month of Ramadan, resulted in the deaths of thousands of Palestinian civilians. It is obvious that something must change. Ultimately, leaders in the region from both sides need to rise above ideological differences to reach an agreeable solution. Regardless, it is now evident that Europe will be a bastion of support for the future free state of Palestine living side-by-side with a safe and secure Israel, something both Israeli and Palestinian leaders will have to accept and work towards if there is to be peace in the region.