• Tuesday, July 23, 2024
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More countries will soon recognise Palestine as a state. Why is that such a big deal?

Ireland, Norway and Spain have just announced they will soon recognise Palestine as a state, a move which has caused significant upset in Israel.

But, seven months into the war in Gaza, many hope such a recognition will help move peace talks between the two warring factions, Israelis and Palestinians, forward.

Here’s why this is such a pivotal moment for the ongoing conflict in the Middle East.

Which countries recognise Palestine as a state?

At least 140 members of the UN already acknowledge Palestine’s statehood, as will Norway, Ireland and Spain from May 28.
That means there will soon be 12 European countries in total recognising Palestine, nine of whom have supported Palestinian statehood since they were part of the Soviet bloc.
As Ireland’s PM Simon Harris noted, the decision comes after 143 nations (out of 193) at the UN General Assembly voted in favour of a resolution offering Palestine an enhanced status in the international organisation earlier in May.

The UK and the US do not recognise Palestine as a state due to their alliance with Israel.
However, foreign secretary David Cameron recently said that the government and its allies may “look at the issue of recognising a Palestinian state, including at the United Nations” soon.

But, Israel has always refused to recognise it because it claims that would threaten their country’s very existence.

Why is recognising Palestine’s statehood a big deal?

Many Palestinians see their historical home as the entire stretch of land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea – land Israels also believe is their ancestral home.

After the state of Israel was officially established in 1948, that land started to split between Israelis and Palestinians.

By 1967, the Palestinians had access to 22% of the land they saw as historically theirs.
By 2018, it had dropped to 10% as the more central of the land mass went to the Israeli settlers in the West Bank.

Palestinians now live in either the territory of Gaza, the West Bank or east Jerusalem – and the latter two areas have been occupied by Israel since 1967.

There have been attempts to turn these remaining territories into a Palestinian state, but Israel has blocked such bids.

The militant group Hamas rule Gaza – and are currently fighting Israel in a brutal war – while the Fatah party rule the West Bank.

These two groups have offered clashed themselves over how to respond to Israel.
Hamas does not recognise the Israeli state, while Fatah does, and is willing to negotiate.
However, both groups would accept a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders – meaning the current borders of the West Bank would be extended.

What impact will recognising the Palestinian state have?

The coordinated announcement from Ireland, Norway and Spain is likely to have long-term political ramifications rather than an immediate political shift in the war in Gaza.

The countries are the first three European countries to officially back Palestine as a state in almost four decades.

The move will add further pressure to Israel to move towards a two-state solution.
But, as Israel still has the US’s backing (and the UK’s), it’s very unlikely that this will translate to any changes on the ground in Gaza – for now.

What has Israel said?

Writing on social media the day before Ireland, Norway and Spain’s announcement, Israel’s foreign ministry said recognising Palestine “will lead to more terrorism, instability in the region and jeopardise any prospects for peace”.

Alongside a 30-second video about “extremism and instability”, it adds: “Don’t be a pawn in the hands of Hamas.”

On Wednesday morning, Israel said it was recalling its envoys to Ireland and Norway “for urgent consultations”.

Foreign minister Israel Katz said: “Israel will not back down against those who undermine its sovereignty and endanger its security. Israel will not go over this in silence – there will be other serious consequences.”

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