Recognition of Palestine is “one piece of the diplomatic puzzle”

Recognition of Palestine is “one piece of the diplomatic puzzle”
Recognition of Palestine is “one piece of the diplomatic puzzle”

Norway, Ireland and Spain are added to the list of 142 United Nations member states that recognize a Palestinian state. The three European countries (including two members of the EU) thus form a united front, a common vision, which is part of a turning point concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the international scene.

The bloody attack by Hamas on October 7 on Israeli soil and especially the crushing Israeli response on the Gaza Strip have “changed the situation”, believes Hugh Lovatt, project manager for the Middle East and North Africa program of the European Council. of Foreign Relations (ECFR).

Why recognize Palestine now?

The decision announced Wednesday by the European trio does not come easily. Madrid, Oslo and Dublin have been discussing the issue for months, in consultation with Arab countries, notably Saudi Arabia, which welcomed a “positive decision”.

This desire for recognition nevertheless takes place in the particular context of events which have modified the international scene and the vision of Europeans. “It is, in part, the Israeli response to October 7 that changed the calculations of European countries,” argues Hugh Lovatt. It’s the answer to what’s happening in Gaza right now, it’s really a key factor. » And it is therefore not a “reward to the terrorists” of Hamas, as Benjamin Netanyahu maintains.

“Until now, Europeans and Americans, in a constant and regular manner, have opposed the non-violent strategies and proposals made by the Palestinians, such as the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement,” underlines our expert. The reason ? The illusion persists that the Oslo Accords, signed in 1993 with a view to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, were still useful. Thus, “Western countries have constantly blocked diplomatic and non-violent channels” perceived as obstacles to agreements. “The logic was to encourage negotiations and nothing else,” insists Hugh Lovatt. However, the situation in Gaza, between bombings, famine and humanitarian catastrophe, now shows that “the process established by the Oslo Accords has completely failed”.

European Union countries Spain and Ireland, as well as Norway, announced dates on Wednesday for the recognition of Palestine as a state.– Berit Roald/AP/SIPA

Coincidentally, this announcement also comes two days after the thunderous request from the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to issue an arrest warrant against the Israeli Prime Minister. “Israel is becoming more and more isolated, there is very clearly an international change taking place at the moment,” notes Hugh Lovatt, while, on May 10, 143 countries voted in favor of joining the Palestine at the UN.

What will the recognition of Palestine change?

Three European countries at the same time, that has weight at the negotiating table. In the short term, the Spanish-Irish-Norwegian announcement could inject impetus into discussions around a truce in the Gaza Strip which have been dragging on for months. By “strengthening Arab positioning”, believes Hugh Lovatt.

Beyond the immediate, recognizing the Palestinian state can provide a vision for the post-war period and strengthen “not only the European position on the two-state solution on the 1967 borders but also create a horizon towards a solution policy that could facilitate Arab engagement in support of Gaza,” interprets the ECFR researcher. According to him, an Arab plan, not yet publicly revealed, would propose the deployment of international forces in Gaza, but not without the existence of a diplomatic channel. Same thing for the Palestinian authority which does not see itself returning to Gaza without a political opening.

We must also ask ourselves how this shift can weigh on the Israeli balance. “How long will it take for the Israeli government and public to change their position? », asks Hugh Lovatt before answering: “it will still require quite a bit of international time and effort. » So, to hope for lasting change, we will have to go beyond this very symbolic recognition of the State of Palestine, which is, for the moment, “an element of the diplomatic puzzle”, tempers the expert.

And after ?

“It will take other measures, other actions than the recognition of a Palestinian state, including by the Arab countries themselves,” argues Hugh Lovatt. These measures are known and certain countries, notably France, have started to implement them. These include, for example, economic sanctions against Israeli settlements such as a ban on the importation of products from the settlements. Or even against “extremist” Israeli settlers in the West Bank, as Paris did last February.

Our file that the war in Israel and Hamas

Another possibility: review the conditions of the Association Agreement which serves as a legal basis between the European Union and Israel, particularly on the trade side. Many European NGOs are calling for this agreement to be suspended “in light of the human rights violations committed by the State of Israel”. Violations which “constitute a non-compliance with the clauses of the “essential elements” which stipulate that the agreement is conditional on respect for human rights”.

“While many subjects were still taboo a year ago, they are now on the table, whether recognition or sanctions. The challenge for European states is to push these measures to the maximum.”

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