Recognize a Palestinian State: what you need to know

The decision by three European countries – Ireland, Norway and Spain – to recognize a Palestinian state fits into a long-term goal of Palestinian leaders to secure diplomatic acceptance, but it appears that the immediate practical impact will be limited.

In general terms, recognizing a State means declaring that it meets the conditions for being a State under international law. It usually opens a path to establish diplomatic relations and an embassy there. But European countries seemed more concerned with expressing support for the Palestinians and sending a message to Israel at a time of growing international concern over its conduct of the war.

Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide said at a news conference that the country’s representative office to the Palestinian Authority, opened in the West Bank in 1999, would become an embassy. He did not give a date for this change, but said it would allow Norway to enter into bilateral agreements.

Recognition would also have some “internal legal effects in Norway in areas where issues related to the State of Palestine arise,” he said.

Statements by the leaders of Ireland and Spain focused on the need for peace in Gaza and the importance of a two-state solution, but made no mention of embassies or other immediate changes.

“The recognition of Palestine is not the end of a process, it is the beginning,” said Simon Harris, the taoiseach or prime minister of Ireland. He said Ireland was recognizing the right of a Palestinian state to exist in peace and security within internationally agreed borders, and said doing so sent a message “that there is a viable alternative to the nihilism of Hamas”.

Harris said she would travel to Brussels on Sunday to meet with more than 40 partners from the Middle East, Europe and elsewhere “to discuss how recognition can have a concrete and practical impact on ending this horrific conflict and implementing a two-state solution.” . “

To date, around 140 countries, mainly outside Western Europe, have recognized a Palestinian state, according to the Palestinian Authority website. These do not include the United States, Israel’s most important ally, nor Britain, France or Germany.

Wednesday’s announcements fit into a broader Palestinian campaign for diplomatic recognition, although progress so far has had little immediate impact on the lives of people in the West Bank and Gaza.

The United Nations voted in 1947 to create an independent Arab state alongside a Jewish one, but the plan was rejected by neighboring Arab governments and the Palestinian Arabs, and the following year the State of Israel was founded in the midst of a war. In the decades since, plans for a two-state solution have been repeatedly stymied.

This month, the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly adopted a resolution declaring that Palestinians qualify for full membership in the United Nations. The Assembly can only grant full membership with Security Council approval, and the United States would almost inevitably exercise its veto power to override such a move, as it did last month.

Although a majority in the General Assembly supports Palestinian statehood, the resolution was the first time the body voted on the question of full membership, reflecting the solidarity with Palestinians that appears to have deepened in some nations as a result of the war. in Gaza.

Palestine became a member of UNESCO, the United Nations cultural organization, in 2011, but its attempt to become a full member of the UN failed. The following year, Palestine was granted minor observer status at the United Nations, a level shared by the Holy See.

Observers can participate in sessions of the UN General Assembly, but cannot vote. They can also join the International Court of Justice, which is currently hearing a case about the legality of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories.

International Criminal Court prosecutor Karim Khan on Monday requested arrest warrants for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and Hamas leaders accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Israel does not recognize the court, but Palestine has been a member of the court since 2015.

Palestine is also a party to several treaties and became a member of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in 2018.

Henrik Pryser Libell contributed with reports.

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