What does the recognition of the state of Palestine by Norway, Ireland and Spain mean? The Guardian, 5/23/2024

What does the recognition of the state of Palestine by Norway, Ireland and Spain mean?
Facts Three European countries have announced that they will recognize Palestine as a state. What does this mean for a possible peace process? What does it mean for the concrete situation of the Palestinians – and for Israel? An initial classification
by Peter Beaumont, Sam Jones
| The Guardian
[This article posted on 5/23/2024 is translated from the German on the Internet, https://www.freitag.de/autoren/the-guardian/palaestina-was-bedeutet-die-anerkennung-durch-norwegen-spanien-und-irland.]

What happened on Wednesday morning – and why?

In a carefully coordinated move that followed weeks of discussions, the Norwegian, Spanish and Irish governments declared their intention to recognize the state of Palestine.

Norway hosted the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks that led to the Oslo Accords in the early 1990s and has therefore played a central role in Middle East diplomacy in recent years. The country has now declared that recognition is necessary in order to support moderate voices in the midst of the Gaza war. “In the midst of a war with tens of thousands of dead and injured, we must keep alive the only alternative that offers a political solution for Israelis and Palestinians alike: two states living side by side in peace and security,” said Norway’s Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre.

Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez accused Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of carrying out a “massacre” in Gaza and jeopardizing the two-state solution. “We must use all the political means at our disposal to say loud and clear that we will not allow the possibility of the two-state solution to be destroyed by force, because it is the only just and sustainable 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 stated that Ireland fully recognizes Israel and its right to exist “securely and in peace with its neighbors” and called for the immediate release of all hostages in Gaza.

Is there a timetable for recognition?

Norway, Spain and Ireland have declared that they will formally recognize Palestine on 28 May.

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

Not at all. Sweden was the first EU country to recognize a Palestinian state in October 2014. At the time, the Swedish Foreign Minister said: “This is an important step that confirms the Palestinians’ right to self-determination. We hope that this will also show the way for others”.

In the meantime, around 140 of the 193 UN member states have recognized Palestinian statehood since 1988.

What does this mean for the peace process?

Many countries already recognize Palestine as an independent state, but the new momentum of recognition, especially in European countries, will have far-reaching consequences. The erosion of US responsibility for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process is particularly evident. It has been ongoing since the Oslo peace talks and agreements.

As the peace process has been largely stalled for a long time, Palestinian officials have campaigned intensively for European support – while in the Trump era they were sidelined by the Abraham Accords when Donald Trump moved the US embassy to Jerusalem. This caused a deep mistrust of the US, which the Palestinians felt was no longer an honest broker.

Sweden, Norway, Ireland and Spain have long been regarded as sympathizers of the Palestinians. The UK has also hinted that it might consider recognizing Palestine, out of deep frustration at Israel’s long refusal – not least during the Netanyahu era – to pursue a two-state solution, while Israel continues to appropriate Palestinian land for settlements.

As Hugh Lovatt of the European Council on Foreign Relations think tank says, recognition also opens up a significant path towards statehood. “Recognition is a concrete step towards a viable political path leading to Palestinian self-determination. This is a prerequisite for securing Arab commitment to support a lasting ceasefire in Gaza. As part of their ‘Arab vision’ to implement a two-state solution, states such as Saudi Arabia have called for recognition of Palestine by the US and Europe.”

Will recognition have practical consequences for the Palestinians?

The dynamics of recognition could be a double-edged sword for the unpopular, weak and corrupt Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas, which rules the occupied West Bank, where the ageing Abbas has not held parliamentary elections since 2006. Abbas himself has no popular mandate.

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Nevertheless, expectations that the latest recognitions will change anything about the miserable conditions in the West Bank are certainly premature. Attacks by Israeli security forces and settlers have recently escalated here. Dissatisfaction could continue to be directed against Abbas.

However, recognition implies a right to Palestinian self-determination, which could also contribute to the revival of Palestinian civil society, which has been stifled during the Abbas era. Perhaps most important for the Palestinians is something less tangible: the recognition that they have an explicit and fundamental right to self-determination that does not require Israel’s consent – a notion that had characterized US mediation work since Oslo.
What are the consequences for Israel?

A cliché in Israeli politics for more than a decade – coined by former Prime Minister Ehud Barak – is that Israel risks a diplomatic tsunami because of its government policy. In recent weeks, this tsunami has begun to descend on Netanyahu. The recognition of Palestine comes shortly after Benjamin Netanyahu and his defense minister Joaw Galant learned that the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court is investigating them for war crimes. Israel is also being investigated by the International Criminal Court for alleged genocide at the instigation of South Africa.

The USA, the United Kingdom and other countries have begun to impose sanctions against violent Israeli settlers and the far-right groups that support them. Now three major European states have unilaterally decided to recognize Palestinian statehood.

While there is still deep resentment in Israeli society about the international dislike of the far-right government and the way it has conducted its campaign in Gaza, Israelis are also aware that their country is increasingly being treated as a pariah and is becoming more and more isolated diplomatically. This has led in part to sudden visible fractures in Netanyahu’s own cabinet, raising serious questions about how long his government can survive.

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