Movement to Recognize Palestinian Statehood Continues

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Minister Eamon Ryan, Taoiseach Simon Harris, and Tanaiste Micheal Martin of Ireland during a press conference in Dublin to announce Ireland’s recognition of Palestinian statehood on Wednesday, May 22, 2024. (Damien Storan/Associated Press)

Ireland, Spain, and Norway have stated that they will recognize Palestinian statehood on May 28, with Malta and Slovenia saying they may do so as well. Back in March, leaders of these five countries discussed recognizing Palestine in an effort to help end the war. Amidst global outrage over Israel’s human rights violations in the Gaza Strip, this could be a momentous step towards further action by the rest of the European Union and the United Nations. 

What is the context for a Palestinian state? The Israel-Palestine war has been ongoing for more than 75 years, with a devastating human toll. Sixteen years of Israeli blockade in the Gaza Strip, which has a dense population of about 2.3 million people, has caused one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, with 1.1 million people facing extreme hunger. Around 1.7 million Palestinians are internally displaced, without basic supplies or sanitation, and nowhere safe to go. Al Jazeera reports that widespread bombardment, violence, hunger, and other tragedies have resulted in the deaths of more than 36,000 Palestinians and over 1,000 Israelis. A majority of homes, schools, hospitals, businesses, and places of worship in Gaza have all been destroyed. Recent Israeli attacks on displacement camps in Rafah have only seen the conflict worsen. Yet the international response to the war has been varying, as many major Western powers like the United States, United Kingdom, France, and Germany, have insisted against recognizing Palestinian statehood, despite 143 countries voting in favor to admit Palestine as an independent state to the United Nations. 

What exactly does it mean for a country to recognize Palestinian statehood? International law provides some loose guidelines for statehood. The 1933 Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States set out four criteria: a permanent population; a government; defined territorial borders; and the ability to enter into relations with other states. These are also the benchmarks the United Nations uses when admitting new members. However, in the case of Palestine, the European countries are not necessarily formalizing diplomatic relations with an existing state, but are more so indicating support for Palestinians. The symbolic act serves to legitimize the Palestinian movement and send a message to pressure Israel, which has been increasingly isolated due to the atrocities it’s committed. 

Israel has expressed outrage over this move, immediately recalling its ambassadors to the capitals of Ireland, Spain, and Norway, and condemning the European countries for rewarding terrorism. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu referred back to the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel that triggered an Israeli offensive as evidence of Palestine being a “terrorist state.” 

What are the impacts? The three countries have called for greater efforts to impose a ceasefire and urged other Western countries to also follow suit in recognizing a Palestinian state, hoping to relaunch negotiations for a peace agreement and two-state solution. Norway has also said that its representative office to the Palestinian Authority will be upgraded to an embassy, enabling the creation of bilateral agreements. Diplomatic recognition, however, has done little to change the situation in Gaza and the West Bank, and the United State’s staunch support for Israel has curbed Palestinian efforts. As Israel’s largest weapons supplier and strongest ally, the United States has consistently shielded and backed Israel’s actions. For example, the UN General Assembly voted with an overwhelming majority for a resolution declaring that Palestine qualified for full United Nations membership status. However, the United States, as a permanent member of the Security Council, used its veto power to reject the resolution, and Palestine’s membership bid. 

As the international community expresses deepening solidarity with Palestinians, and the Israel-Palestine conflict only becomes more destructive, the United States and other Western powers have a critical role to play in the tides of conflict. Every hour in Gaza, six children are killed. What’s next for the people who pay the cost of war?

Written by Emilie Fann

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