Western states are moving forward: What are the consequences of recognizing Palestine?

Norway, Ireland and Spain recognize Palestine as a state. The Israeli ambassador says this step gives Hamas a boost. Is that really true? What do the three countries want to achieve with this? Answers to the most important questions.

What goal do Norway, Ireland and Spain pursue with their recognition?
After Hamas’ violent excess on October 7, many Western governments expressed their solidarity with Israel under attack and emphasized that Israel has the right to defend itself against Hamas terrorists. However, the Israeli offensive is now exacting a very high price in terms of civilian casualties – due to the military offensive, but also due to the starvation of the population in the Gaza Strip.

“Many states share the well-founded concern that this war is limitless and without an achievable goal. In addition, there is the fear that Israel does not want to commit to a globally acceptable political solution for the Gaza Strip that includes a political horizon for the Palestinians,” says Stephan Stetter, Middle East expert at the University of the Bundeswehr in Munich.

Parts of the incumbent government in Israel are extremist and nationalist, with Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir repeatedly speaking out in favor of a “resettlement of the residents of the Gaza Strip”. The withdrawal of Palestinians and the re-establishment of Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip is “a correct, just, moral and humane solution,” Ben Gvir said in January.

Among other things, by recognizing Palestine as a state, “Western states such as Spain, Ireland or Norway say they want to put a stop to such ideas,” says Stetter. The aim is to stabilize the situation in the region and keep the two-state solution alive. They want to ensure that there is a political perspective for the Palestinians. “That includes a safe Israel, but also a safe Palestine.”

What area is this about?
The recognition refers to clearly defined areas, namely the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. These areas and more were awarded to the Palestinians in a partition plan by the UN in 1947. They should found their state there, just as the Jews founded the state of Israel in 1948.

However, the Arab side did not accept this plan and five Arab states attacked Israel immediately after its founding. Israel resisted successfully and conquered parts of the area earmarked for the Palestinian state. In another war, the Six-Day War in 1967, Israel occupied the entire West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. There was no country left in which the Palestinians could exercise state sovereignty.

The Palestinians’ founding of the state in 1988 referred to exactly this Israeli-occupied area – the West Bank, Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem. And it is to this very area that Spain, Norway and Ireland now recognize the state of Palestine. In doing so, they in no way support the currently frequently put forward demand “From the river to the sea”, which wants to establish a Palestinian state from the Jordan to the Mediterranean and wipe Israel off the map.

Is the recognition of the Palestinian state a success for Hamas?
At least that is what the terrorists want the world to believe, declaring this process of recognition to be a “direct result” of the “legendary steadfastness of the Palestinian people.” They call on other countries to “recognize our legitimate national rights.”

But these public statements from the Hamas leadership are nothing more than window dressing. Ultimately, the Islamist terrorist group wants to pass off its violence as a Palestinian struggle for freedom. Consequently, the terrorists must now act as if this diplomatic step was in their interest.

The reality is different: Hamas wants to wipe out the state of Israel and kill every Jew it can get hold of. This is written in its statutes and it demonstrated this with its massacre on October 7th. A peaceful coexistence between two states – one Jewish and one Palestinian – would be an absolute catastrophe in the eyes of Hamas. Accordingly, any step that could bring the Israeli and Palestinian sides closer to such a peace solution is threatening to Hamas and its objectives.

What exactly does recognition of Palestine as a state mean?
What you probably take for granted as a citizen of Germany does not apply to Palestinian people: They are not citizens of a state of Palestine in the sense of the United Nations (UN). The Palestinian National Council did proclaim its own state in 1988, but what is the use if many powerful governments within the UN do not recognize this statehood? These include the USA, France, Great Britain, Germany and many other European countries.

Palestine is now recognized as a state by 143 UN member states. With 193 UN members in total, the quota is quite high. The first wave of recognition rolled out after the founding of the state in 1988. Two years later, 100 nations in the world had officially recognized Palestine, including mainly communist states and many African countries.

In a second wave around 2012, many more countries were added, primarily from South America, and Sweden as a European country. This second wave came about because Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas changed his strategy in the fight for his own state: instead of violent conflict with Israel, he now relied on international diplomacy. The calculation: The more governments recognize us as a state, the greater the pressure on Israel to do the same.

The strategy partly worked because international recognition for the State of Palestine became even broader, but important European countries and the USA, which have the greatest influence on the Israeli government, were still missing. The goal of getting Israel to recognize the state of Palestine and starting a new unification process was not achieved.

Why doesn’t Germany recognize the state of Palestine?
“With regard to its relationship with Israel, Germany has traditionally had very little room for maneuver, and this is of course primarily linked to the German-Jewish past,” says Middle East expert Stetter. Germany’s orientation towards the USA, which has also not yet recognized the Palestinian state, can also be observed in other conflicts.

For Stetter, the argument that the conflicting parties must come to an agreement before state recognition can take place cannot be dismissed out of hand. “This is the usual formula in many conflicts around the world,” says the political scientist, but also adds that “there are certainly arguments that recognition of Palestine does not replace a peace process, but could be a prerequisite for one to take place at all becomes possible again”. He does not expect that Germany would join other countries that could recognize the state of Palestine. Such efforts are currently being reported in Slovenia and Malta. From the scientist’s point of view, it would be interesting to see how France behaves on this issue. As a nuclear power and as a veto state in the Security Council, France has geopolitical weight.

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