By Richard Carter

French lawmakers voted Tuesday in favour of recognising Palestine as a state, sparking an immediate angry reaction from Israel which said such “unilateral measures” would harm efforts towards Middle East peace.

Following hot on the heels of similar votes in Britain and Spain, French MPs voted 339 to 151 in favour of a motion urging the government to recognise the state of Palestine as a way of achieving a “definitive resolution of the conflict.”

The vote — which is non-binding on the government but highly symbolic — comes as European countries seek alternative ways to restart the stalled Middle East process.

Sweden’s government has gone even further, officially recognising Palestine as a state in a controversial move that prompted Israel to recall its ambassador.

But the French vote result still prompted a swift and angry response from Tel Aviv, which said it would send the “wrong message” to the region and would be counterproductive to the drive towards peace.

“Israel believes that the vote in the National Assembly… will reduce the possibility of achieving a deal between Israel and the Palestinians,” its embassy in Paris said in a statement.

A solution to the conflict will be achieved “only with honest and direct talks between the parties and not by unilateral measures taken by one of the parties or by third parties,” it said.

The United States also gave the French vote a cool reception, saying its position was unchanged.

“We support Palestinian statehood but believe it can only be achieved through direct negotiations between the parties that resolve the final status issues,” deputy State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said.

She added though that “what you’re seeing are people around the world speaking out and saying the status quo is unacceptable.”

The Palestinian leadership, though, expressed its “gratitude” and urged Paris to “translate its parliament’s vote into action”.

France will ‘do its duty’

Palestinians are seeking to achieve statehood in Gaza and the Israeli-occupied West Bank with east Jerusalem as the capital.

With little progress on reaching a settlement, they have been lobbying foreign powers for international recognition.

The Palestinian Authority estimates that 135 countries have now recognised Palestine as a state, although that number is disputed.

During a debate on the issue Friday, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Paris would recognise Palestine if diplomatic efforts failed again and urged a resolution to the Middle East conflict within two years.

France is spearheading a drive at the United Nations to unfreeze the moribund peace process and the Palestinian envoy to the UN said earlier Tuesday a draft resolution could be submitted to the Security Council by mid-December.

Riyad Mansour told AFP the text was set to lay out a timeframe for negotiations on a final peace deal and possibly a deadline for Palestinian statehood.

It would also pave the way for a last-ditch international conference that France has offered to host.

This European initiative was expected to be discussed in Brussels when US Secretary of State John Kerry holds talks with European ministers during this week’s NATO meeting.

“If these efforts fail. If this last attempt at a negotiated settlement does not work, then France will have to do its duty and recognise the state of Palestine without delay and we are ready to do that,” Fabius told MPs on Friday.

‘Momentum will grow’

At a pan-European level, the European Parliament is expected to hold a vote later this month on recognising Palestine and EU foreign policy supremo Federica Mogherini is also pushing for the creation of a Palestine state.

“Governments and parliaments are taking action. That momentum will grow,” said United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon last month.

However, lawmakers in Paris were more divided on the issue than their British and Spanish counterparts, reflecting the sensitivity of the debate in France, which is home to Europe’s largest Jewish and Muslim communities.

Senior lawmaker Christian Jacob of the opposition UMP party told MPs ahead of the vote: “Who are we kidding? We are kidding the French people if we think that the parliament will have any influence at all” on the peace process.

France was the scene of several pro-Palestinian demonstrations during this summer’s 50-day offensive by the Israeli army in Gaza that killed more than 2,000 Palestinians and dozens of Israelis.

Some of these turned violent with looters in July destroying Jewish businesses and shouting anti-Israel obscenities in the Paris suburb of Sarcelles — sometimes known as “Little Jerusalem” for its large community of Sephardic Jews.


I’ve been busy writing articles on Aquila Style lately, yess I’m now officially an Aquila Columnist! it’s written in Bahasa Indonesia, I’ll try my best to keep it synced between my tumblr page (english) and aquila page (bahasa ID).

The humble editor of Aquila Style-Indonesia Afia R. Fitriati found my Tokyo trip stories interesting, so here goes my first 3 articles about Tokyo; 1, 2, 3. I’m gonna need loads of clicks on my aquila page, it’s steaming!


Finally ! An article about myself from AQUILA STYLE has been released at AQUILA STYLE MSN ! (Thank you so much to the writer, Miss Najwa Abdullah for the article !) Just a short brief about myself and for sure about my style ! I am definitely happy and overjoyed with this. If you want to read the article or you want to know more about me, just click this link below !

AQUILA STYLE SPIED : Mia Ben from Malaysia

Iranian professor is first woman to win “Nobel Prize of maths”

An Iranian-born mathematician has become the first woman to win a prestigious Fields Medal, widely viewed as the Nobel Prize of mathematics.

Maryam Mirzakhani, a Harvard-educated mathematician and professor at Stanford University in California, was one of four winners announced by the International Congress of Mathematicians (ICM) at its conference in Seoul on Wednesday.

“This is a great honour. I will be happy if it encourages young female scientists and mathematicians,” Mirzakhani said in a press release from Stanford University where she is a professor.

Racism in France: Attacks on French Morocco-born minister spark debate

“Provocation”, “a Moroccan Muslim”, “an Ayatollah”: the appointment of a young Morocco-born woman as France’s education minister has sparked a wave of attacks that has renewed concerns about racism in the country.

Najat Vallaud-Belkacem is one of the brightest lights in President Francois Hollande’s deeply unpopular government.

The 36-year-old telegenic Hollande protegee was appointed last month as the country’s first-ever female education minister, the latest step in a prodigious political career.

But her appointment was greeted with a volley of complaints from the far-right, with its weekly mouthpiece Minute describing the appointment of “a Moroccan Muslim” as a “provocation”.

Another right-wing publication, Valeurs Actuelles, described her as the new “Ayatollah” at the education ministry.

And the latest controversy: over the weekend, a false letter circulated on Twitter, purportedly from the minister, encouraging town halls to introduce an hour of Arabic-language class in schools.


Saudi Woman Conquers Everest, Seeks to Inspire Other Women

Adventurer Raha Moharrak, the first Saudi woman and youngest Arab to conquer Everest, urged women in Saudi Arabia to “challenge themselves” as she arrived back in the region.

Her group of four, including a Qatari royal, a Palestinian and an Iranian, was greeted with cheers and garlands of flowers on arrival from Nepal late Sunday at Sharjah International Airport in the United Arab Emirates.

Palestinian bagpipers back Scottish independence

Scottish independence campaigners have found an unexpected source of support ahead of a landmark referendum on the fate of the United Kingdom — Palestinian bagpipers.

In a small hall in the occupied West Bank, far from the tussle over Scotland’s future, pipers and stick-twirling drummers burst into action as local scout troop members march up and down for weekly practice.

The deafening display appears more like the kind of spectacle seen on the streets of Edinburgh than in the predominantly Christian town of Beit Jala.

But the scouts insist the bagpipes’ Scottish heritage translates perfectly to the Palestinian struggle for their own independence.

Bangladeshi directors hope to step out of Bollywood’s shadow

With his debut nominated for the top prize at Asia’s biggest film festival, Bangladeshi director Abu Shahed Emon is hopeful that his achievement will help spur on his compatriot filmmakers.

Jalal’s Story is the first-ever Bangladeshi film to vie for the New Currents award at the Busan International Film Festival — the event’s main category that offers two prizes of $30,000 to first or second-time directors.