STRASBOURG, France (Jul. 7)
The European Parliament decided Wednesday night to postpone a vote on ratification of three economic and trade agreements with Israel out of fear that the required majority could not be obtained.
Many supporters of ratification among the various political factions preferred the delay to another setback in relations with Israel.
A canvas of the deputies indicated the measure would fall short of the 260 votes needed to carry it in the 518-member assembly, the European Community’s legislative body.
The deputies therefore endorsed a proposal by West German Socialist Rudiger Hitzigrath to put off the vote until the assembly’s October session.
Simone Veil of France, a leader of the Liberal group and a former president of the parliament, called the postponement “scandalous” and “inadmissable.”
But Israeli diplomats here, while publicly expressing regrets, agreed privately with the decision.
A negative vote Wednesday would have sent the economic measures back to the E.C.’s Council of Ministers, where the rotating chairmanship is currently held by Greece, considered the most pro-Arab of the 12 E.C. member states.
Israel signed the agreements with the 12 last year, but ratification by the Strasbourg-based parliament, normally routine, was denied in March. It was a calculated rebuff to Israel for its handling of the Palestinian uprising, then at a peak.
The Israelis and their supporters lobbied vigorously over the ensuing months to reverse the negative vote. It appeared this week that the chances were good.
The Socialists, the largest single faction in the parliament, announced they would no longer oppose ratification. The Christian Democrats and Liberals were also ready to endorse the protocols.
But British Laborites and Italian Socialists were said to be reluctant, while the Communists, Greens and British Conservatives insisted on postponement.
They argued that Israel has not yet made its position clear with respect to the direct export of Palestinian agricultural produce from the West Bank and Gaza Strip to the Common Market countries.
The E.C. has insisted that Israel allow the Palestinians to export to Europe under their own label and without the intervention of the government agencies controlling exports.
Asked Tuesday about Israeli compliance with the Europeans’ wishes, Willy De Clerco, the E.C.’s commissioner for external relations, said this could not be known until the citrus export season begins next fall.
He said, however, that “the European Executive Commission cannot say that it is entirely satisfied. There are no guarantees” from Israel.
Israeli diplomats attending the session were indignant over the linkage between the technical matter of the economic trade agreements and the unrelated issue of Palestinian exports.
The parliament’s decision to adjourn without voting on the protocols showed how difficult it is to assemble a clear pro-Israel majority among the Europeans.
The canvas indicated that if a vote was taken Wednesday, ratification would have lacked some 20 votes.
“During a meeting of the enlarged bureau of the 518-member E.C. assembly with the leaders of the political groups, it appeared that none of these groups wanted to take the risk of a vote without being totally assured that the majority would be obtained,” a parliament spokesperson said.