Could European recognition bring a Palestinian state even closer?

Decisions of Spain, Norway and Ireland Recognition of an independent Palestinian state reflects Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s growing exasperation with Israel, even from traditional friends, and suggests international pressure on him will intensify. increase.

However, that doesn’t make it inevitable that there will be other problems larger European countries will follow. This year, President Emmanuel Macron of France said that such recognition “is not taboo,” a position reiterated by the French Foreign Ministry on Wednesday. In February, David Cameron, the British Foreign Secretary, said that such recognition “cannot come at the beginning of the process, but it also does not have to be at the end of the process.”

Those are small steps that, while going beyond what they have previously said, are still not enough to recognize a Palestinian state. If Europe were united, with the recognition of major nations, leaving the United States isolated in rejecting such a step, it could have a greater impact, but that stage is still far from being reached. Okay.

“This decision must be useful, that is, allow a decisive step forward at the political level,” Foreign Minister Stéphane Séjourné said in a statement about the possibility of recognition. “France does not consider that the conditions have been met so far for this decision to have a real impact on the process.”

In other words, France will wait. Likewise, Germany, which supports Israel based on atonement for the Holocaust, will also be second only to the United States. The decisions of Spain, Norway and Ireland make one thing clear: There will be no agreement in Europe, or at least reasonable timing, on the issue of recognizing a Palestinian state before one. Such a state exists in reality.

There will also be no agreement between the transatlantic allies. Like Israel, the United States remains adamant that recognition of a Palestinian state must come through negotiations between the two sides. On the contrary, the mere act of recognition changes nothing on the ground, where conditions are deteriorating.

Netanyahu’s life’s work has largely been built around avoiding a two-state deal, even to the extent of his past support for Hamas aimed at obstructing such an outcome. That seems unlikely to change, unless the United States can somehow balance Saudi Arabia’s normalization of relations with Israel with Israel’s vague verbal commitment to an end-run process. in the two countries and ended the war in Gaza.

“For any prime minister except Netanyahu, the US offer is very attractive,” said Itamar Rabinovich, former Israeli ambassador to the United States. , who noted that ending the war in Gaza would certainly lead to an official investigation into responsibility for the October 10 attack. The December 7 disaster and confronting Netanyahu with allegations of fraud and corruption against him. “But for his own personal reasons, he rejected any significant role for post-war Palestinians in the governance of Gaza.”

Leaders of three European countries that recognize Palestine said they are determined to maintain the two-state idea. “We will not allow the possibility of the two-state solution being destroyed by force,” said Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez.

Those are touching words. It seems possible that at a time of terrible suffering – in the ruins of Gaza and under what many see as the Palestinian Authority’s ineffective and corrupt rule in the West Bank – recognition would bring moral upliftment for Palestinians pursuing the right to self-determination.

But the reality is that a divided Europe has had little or no real impact or impact on the conflict for some time.

The country has been a fringe player since Israeli-Palestinian peace talks in the early 1990s led to the Oslo accords. The only voice today that Israel will listen to is America’s – and even there, Netanyahu has recently appeared defiant.

“The Europeans really have no influence,” Mr. Rabinovich said. “Recognition of a Palestinian state is purely symbolic and changes nothing. If they sent 30,000 European troops to Gaza to end the war, things would be different, but we know that if 10 of them were killed, they would all leave immediately.”

The recognition came a week after the International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor requested arrest warrants for Netanyahu and his defense minister, Yoav Gallant, for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity. against humanity in Gaza, at the same time he asked for orders from the Leader of Hamas. The requests still must be approved by court judges.

The United States called the ICC prosecutor’s decision “shameful,” while France said it “supports the International Criminal Court, its independence and the fight against impunity in all situation” – another possible sign of alliance disunity as war rages on. But Mr. Séjourné, the Foreign Minister, later said the orders “should not create equivalence” between Hamas, which he called a terrorist group, and Israel.

In response to the case brought by South Africa, the International Court of Justice, which judges cases between states and not individuals, ordered Israel to prevent its forces from carrying out or inciting commit acts of genocide.

In other words, the pressure on Israel is increasing. So, too, is its isolation. Netanyahu’s decision, with his own political and judicial fate at stake, to prolong the war and refuse to draw up a day-by-day plan for Gaza has come at a high price.

A fundamental question remains: Will all the condemnation bring about a change in Israel’s steadfast position that the war with Hamas must be won, including in Rafah? Or will it reinforce that view as outrage grows over what is seen by many in Israel as Europe’s unforgivable moral equivalence between the terrorists of Hamas and the democratic state? owner of Israel?

Some fierce opponents of Mr. Netanyahu, whose far-right coalition has a shrinking electorate in Israel, were outraged that the ICC prosecutor appeared to equate the Israeli leader with Yahya Sinwar, Hamas leader in Gaza and mastermind of the October 7 attack, that they felt obliged to rally to the Israeli leader’s side.

“Today’s decision sends a message to Palestinians and the world: Terrorism has a price,” Israel Katz, Israel’s Foreign Minister, said in a sharp reaction to the three countries’ recognition of Palestinian statehood, adding that there will be consequences.

There is no doubt that the Palestinian cause, which had been dormant until the terrorist violence of October 7, is now once again taking center stage in Western capitals and beyond again.

The attack on Israel, and Israel’s devastating bombing of Gaza in response, stunned the world into an intractable conflict. The Biden administration, along with European powers, has barely mentioned the two-state outcome in previous years, believing that the Palestinian issue can be resolved through broader normalization of relations in the Middle East with Israel.

That proved to be wishful thinking.

Two peoples, Israelis and Palestinians, are fighting for the same narrow piece of land between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, which remains the inseparable core of the conflict. Neither of them disappeared; each believes his claim to be irrefutable. Now that a broader regional confrontation is possible, a scramble to revive the two-state idea has emerged even as the conditions for it appear less favorable than ever. .

The recognition of a Palestinian state by Spain, Norway and Ireland as part of that struggle may have come too late. It reflects a common feeling that “enough is enough.” It’s part of the global exasperation that could help fuel momentum if more things change – not least the replacement of the current Israeli and Palestinian leadership, an end to the war, and the creation of some new institutions. administration in Gaza that has nothing to do with this. What to do with Hamas?


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