German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (L) talks with Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn. Photo: John Thys/AFP via Getty Images

Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn is pushing for all member states of the European Union to recognize Palestine, a reaction to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s announcement that the U.S. doesn’t see the Israeli settlements in the West Bank as illegal, European officials tell me.

Why it matters: Luxemburg is one of the smallest countries in the EU, but Asselborn — who has served in his position for 15 years — has significant standing and influence among Europe's foreign ministers.

  • His efforts also come in the context of a relative diplomatic vacuum regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as well as concerns within the EU about the Trump administration's policies toward the region.

Behind the scenes: Last week, Asselborn sent a letter to the new EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell and to all other EU foreign ministers stressing that the way to save the two-state solution is to create “a more equitable situation” between Israel and the Palestinians.

  • Therefore, he wrote, "it is time to start a debate within the European Union on the opportunity of a recognition of the State of Palestine by all its Member States."

Asselborn also wrote in his letter:

"The recognition of Palestine as a State would neither be a favour, nor a blank check, but a simple recognition of the right of the Palestinian people to their own State. In no way would it be directed against Israel. Indeed, if we want to contribute to solving the conflict between Israel and Palestine, we must never lose sight of Israel’s security conditions, as well as of justice and dignity for the Palestinian people”.

Driving the news: The letter was sent in advance of the monthly meeting of the EU Foreign Affairs Council on Monday in Brussels. The Israeli Foreign Ministry discovered the initiative last Friday and urgently sent Israeli diplomats scrambling across the continent to find out whether the EU was prepared to take the dramatic step.

  • Israel is very concerned about the initiative. But while ministers are expected to take note of Asselborn's letter, Israeli and European officials say the issue will not be discussed in Monday's meeting.
  • A broader discussion about the issue is expected to take place during the next EU Foreign Affairs Council meeting in January.

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