How important is the recognition of the Palestinian state by Spain, Norway and Ireland?

How important is the recognition of the Palestinian state by Spain, Norway and Ireland?

Photo: The leaders of Spain and Ireland recognizing the State of Palestine © Quds News Network

What happened Wednesday morning – and why?

In a carefully choreographed move that followed weeks of discussions, the governments of Norway, Spain and Ireland said they intended to recognize the state of Palestine.

Norway, which has played a central role in Middle East diplomacy over the years, hosting Israeli-Palestinian peace talks in the early 1990s that resulted in the Oslo Accords, said the recognition was necessary to support moderate voices in the context of the Gaza war.

In the midst of war, with tens of thousands dead and wounded, we must keep alive the only alternative that offers a political solution to Israelis and Palestinians: two states, living side by side, in peace and security.“, said Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of carrying out a “massacre” in Gaza and endangering the two-state solution. “We must use every political resource at our disposal to say loud and clear that we will not allow the possibility of a two-state solution to be destroyed by force, because it is the only just and lasting solution to this terrible conflict“.

Irish Prime Minister Simon Harris said he expected other countries to join Ireland, Spain and Norway in recognizing a Palestinian state in the coming weeks. He said Ireland unequivocally recognized Israel and its right to exist “safely and at peace with its neighbors“, and he demanded that all the hostages in Gaza be immediately returned.

Is there a timetable for recognition?

Norway, Spain and Ireland said they would officially recognize Palestine on May 28.

Is the recognition of a Palestinian state a first for European countries?

No way. Sweden became the first EU country to recognize a Palestinian state in October 2014. At the time, Sweden's foreign minister said: “This is an important step that confirms the Palestinian right to self-determination. We hope this will show the way to others“.

Other EU member states that have already recognized a Palestinian state (before joining the EU) are Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Malta, Poland and Romania.

What does this mean for the peace process?

Many countries already recognize Palestine as an independent state, but the push toward recognition, particularly among European countries, will have significant implications.

Perhaps most important is how the new acknowledgments underscore the erosion of American “ownership” of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process since the period of the peace talks and the Oslo Accord.

With the peace process long largely moribund, Palestinian officials have worked assiduously to solicit European support for a process that has accelerated under the Trump era, as the Palestinians have been sidelined by the Abraham Accords and that Trump moved the US embassy to Jerusalem, causing deep distrust in the United States which the Palestinians say has not been an honest broker.

Sweden, Norway, Ireland and Spain have long been seen as sympathetic to the Palestinians. The UK has also indicated that it may consider recognizing Palestine as part of a deeper frustration with Israel's long refusal – notably under the Netanyahu era – to move towards a two-state solution, even as Israel continued to appropriate Palestinian land for settlement purposes.

As Hugh Lovatt of the European Council on Foreign Relations says, this recognition also opens a significant path to statehood. “Recognition is a tangible step toward a viable political path to Palestinian self-determination.”

This is a precondition for Arab countries to commit to a lasting ceasefire in Gaza. As part of their 'Arab Vision' plan to implement a two-state solution, states such as Saudi Arabia have called on the United States and Europe to recognize Palestine.

Will this have any practical impact for Palestinians?

The push toward recognition may be a double-edged sword for Mahmoud Abbas's unpopular, weak and corrupt Palestinian Authority, which governs in the occupied West Bank, where an aging Abbas has not held legislative elections since 2006. Abbas himself has no popular mandate.

Any hope that the latest recognitions will change the miserable conditions in the West Bank, where attacks by Israeli security forces and settlers have increased, will almost certainly be premature, and discontent could grow against Mr. Abbas.

However, recognition implies a right to Palestinian self-determination, which could also help reinvigorate a Palestinian civil society that was stifled under the Abbas era. Perhaps most important to Palestinians is something less tangible: acceptance that they have an explicit and fundamental right to self-determination that does not require Israeli permission, a notion that under tends American mediation from Oslo.

What are the implications for Israel?

For more than a decade, a cliché of Israeli politics – coined by former Prime Minister Ehud Barak – has been that Israel risks a diplomatic tsunami because of its policies. In recent weeks, this tsunami has begun to hit Mr. Netanyahu. The recognition comes just after Netanyahu and his defense minister, Yoav Gallant, were informed that the International Criminal Court prosecutor had launched war crimes charges against them. At the request of South Africa, Israel is also being investigated for alleged genocide at the International Court of Justice.

The United States, the United Kingdom and other countries have begun imposing a sanctions regime against violent settlers and the far-right groups that support them. Today, three major European states have decided unilaterally to recognize the existence of a Palestinian state.

While Israeli society remains deeply disconnected from international disgust with its right-wing and far-right government and the manner in which it has conducted its campaign in Gaza, Israelis are also aware that Israel is increasingly being treated as a pariah and that it is increasingly isolated diplomatically. This situation is partly behind the growing and suddenly more visible fractures within Mr. Netanyahu's cabinet, raising serious questions about the lifespan of his government.

Translation: AFPS