Pedro Sánchez. SUR
Struggling for recognition
The Euro Zone opinion

Struggling for recognition

Spain hopes to lead the EU to official recognition of Palestine, something for which the bloc's parliament first called in 2014, writes Mark Nayler

Mark Nayler


Friday, 12 April 2024, 16:47


Only now, over four months since stepping down from its half-year stint as president of the Council of the European Union, is Spain shaping European policy on a major international issue. The Guardian reported last week that Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez's relentless criticism of the Israeli counter-offensive and his pledge to recognise a Palestinian state are emboldening other EU countries to adopt unambiguous stances on the conflict.

Now Sánchez is going on tour, starting this weekend in Norway and Ireland, to lobby other European nations for the two-state solution. He will also meet with the governments of Portugal, Slovenia and Belgium, all of which have signalled readiness to recognise a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

Spain thus hopes to lead the EU to official recognition of Palestine, something for which the bloc's parliament first called in 2014.

If Spain were to recognise a Palestinian state by the summer, as Sánchez has promised, it would become only the second country to do so as a member of the EU. Currently, only nine of the bloc's 27 members regard Palestine as a state, eight of which did so prior to joining the bloc: Bulgaria, Malta, Cyprus, Poland, Czech Republic, Romania, Slovenia and Hungary (the last is also one of Israel's staunchest allies).

Sweden became the first EU-affiliated country to extend official recognition to Palestine in 2014, the same year that the EU parliament voted to do so 'in principle'.

But is this the right time for the EU to recognise Palestine as a state?

One enormous problem is how to ensure that such recognition is anything other than symbolic at the same time as maintaining the bloc's historically strong relations with Israel. Obviously, this cannot be achieved when there is not even consensus between different factions within the Palestinian leadership, let alone between Israel and Palestine, on where the borders should be drawn.

An even bigger problem is presented by Hamas, which wants all the land between the Jordan and the Mediterranean - i.e. a 'solution' in which there are no borders.

Hamas doesn't want to exist alongside Israel. Its founding charter, written in the late 1980s, committed it to a war against all Jews in the region - in other words, to the obliteration of Israel.

The document was revised in 2017, partly to redefine the terrorist cell's quarrel as being with Zionist 'occupiers', not Jews as a whole - a semantic tweak that was shown to be utterly meaningless by the October 7th surprise attacks.

Pedro Sánchez is trying to garner support for a plan that won't even be fit for negotiation until Palestinians are represented by a political organisation committed to dialogue and coexistence with the state of Israel.

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