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On Europe trip, Obama to argue against a vote for a Palestinian state

Obama calls the statehood plan a misguided effort to isolate Israel. One factor Europeans might take into account at the time of a UN vote is whether the moribund peace process shows any life.

By Staff writer / May 23, 2011

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama wave as they arrive at College Green in Dublin, Ireland, on Monday, May 23, to start off his three-country European trip.

Stefan Wermuth/Reuters

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Washington

President Obama takes his ideas for addressing Middle East turmoil to Europe this week, including his proposal to back up the political reforms under way in Egypt and Tunisia with targeted international economic assistance.

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But having told Israel Sunday that it is time to make “hard choices” for peace with the Palestinians before changes in the region make an accord even more difficult, Mr. Obama now has a new task: persuading the Europeans not to support the declaration of a Palestinian state in September.

The president said in his Middle East speech last week that plans afoot for the United Nations General Assembly to vote at its September meeting on a declaration of an independent Palestine would accomplish nothing for the Palestinians. Calling the plan a misguided attempt to isolate Israel, Obama said the United States would oppose the effort.

Now Obama’s attention shifts to convincing leaders with whom he will meet on his three-country European trip to reject the statehood proposal, which is already gaining significant support.

One factor determining Obama’s prospects for ultimately convincing Europeans will be whether the moribund peace process is showing any signs of life by the time of a General Assembly vote, some regional analysts say.

The Europeans can be dissuaded from voting with a UN majority on an independent Palestine “only if there is something else going” on in September, says Stephen P. Cohen, president of the Institute for Middle East Peace and Development in Teaneck, N.J. “If it’s just the status quo, the Europeans are going to feel they have to vote for a Palestinian state.”

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