The European Parliament has called for the first time for a “permanent ceasefire” in Gaza and for political efforts to find a solution to the war between Israel and Hamas.
The resolution, purely symbolic and without legal value, was approved on Thursday in the Strasbourg plenary chamber with 312 votes in favour, 131 against and 72 abstentions, after a compromise reached to please the centre-right deputies.
The ceasefire call represents a significant shift from Parliament’s previous position, agreed in October, which called for a humanitarian “pause” to increase the flow of aid reaching civilians in Gaza. The vote passed with 500 votes in favour, 21 against and 24 abstentions.
The sharper call comes as the death toll in Gaza surpasses 24,000, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry.
While the left and center groups in the chamber had openly supported the call for a ceasefire, members of the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP), the largest group in the chamber, had expressed reservations.
The resolution passed after the approval of an amendment specifying that the ceasefire should be conditional on the release of all hostages held in Gaza and the “dismantling” of Hamas, considered a terrorist organization in the EU.
“There cannot be sustainable peace as long as Hamas and other terrorist groups take control of the Palestinian cause and threaten the existence of Israel, the only democracy in the region,” Antonio López-Istúriz, MEP from the EPP Group, told the European Parliament on Tuesday .
While awaiting the vote, different versions of the text have been tabled, which reflect the variety of points of view present in the chamber.
In a sign of the difficult political wrangling needed to push the resolution forward, Hilde Vautmans, a Belgian MEP from Renew Europe, urged the chamber to find unity after hours of negotiations in recent days.
Before the vote he said the EU’s “international credibility” was at stake.
The 27 leaders of the bloc have not yet unanimously decided to call for a ceasefire, despite the pleas from countries such as Belgium, Ireland and Spain. So far, their official line remains focused on “humanitarian pauses and corridors.”
The December summit ended with no new conclusions on Gaza, despite a majority of member states having supported a UN General Council resolution calling for a humanitarian ceasefire a few days earlier.