The geopolitical implications of recognising Palestine

  • Syeda Noor ul Ain Ali
  • May 29, 2024

In an anticipated move, Spain, Ireland, and Norway have announced their intention to recognise the state of Palestine on May 28. This decision aligns with a long-held Palestinian aspiration and comes amidst global outrage over the humanitarian crisis in Gaza following Israel’s recent offensive. The almost simultaneous announcements by these countries could generate significant momentum for other European Union (EU) countries to follow suit, potentially leading to further steps at the United Nations and deepening Israel’s diplomatic isolation.

Currently, seven of the EU’s 27 member states officially recognise Palestine. Five of these are former Eastern Bloc countries that extended recognition in 1988, alongside Cyprus. Sweden joined this group in 2014. Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez emphasised that this recognition is not intended to oppose the Israeli people but to support peace, justice, and moral consistency. Similarly, Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide noted that Norway’s support for the establishment of a Palestinian state spans decades, describing recognition as a decisive, one-time action.

Numerous countries worldwide already recognise Palestine as an independent state, but the recent recognitions by European nations hold profound implications. Perhaps most significantly, they signal a shift away from the longstanding US “ownership” of the Israel-Palestine peace process, which has prevailed since the Oslo Accords. Recognition implies an acknowledgment of the Palestinian right to self-determination, which could reinvigorate a Palestinian civil society that has been stifled in recent years. This symbolic acceptance underscores that Palestinian statehood does not require Israeli consent, challenging a fundamental notion underpinning US mediation efforts since Oslo.

Israel faces increasing international condemnation, particularly over its right-wing government’s handling of the Gaza conflict. This growing disfavour contributes to Israel’s diplomatic isolation and exacerbates internal fractures within Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet, raising questions about the government’s stability and longevity. The coordinated recognition of Palestine by Spain, Ireland, and Norway could apply additional pressure on other European countries and influence the stalled ceasefire negotiations.

Zinaida Miller, a professor of law and international affairs at Northeastern University, suggests that the coordinated nature of the recognitions adds a significant pressure point. This development coincides with the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) chief prosecutor pursuing arrest warrants for Israeli leaders, including Prime Minister Netanyahu and his defense minister, as well as three Hamas leaders. According to Miller, these European countries’ actions reinforce the widely accepted view within the international legal community that the ICC has jurisdiction over the situation.

The implications of these recognitions extend far beyond the immediate diplomatic sphere, potentially reshaping regional alignments and power dynamics in the Middle East and beyond. By departing from the traditional Western alignment with Israeli interests, this move could inspire other European nations to reconsider their positions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, leading to broader diplomatic support for Palestinian statehood.

The collective recognition of Palestine amplifies the mounting international pressure on Israel to engage in meaningful negotiations and address the grievances of the Palestinian people. It highlights the growing global discontent with Israeli policies, particularly regarding settlements and human rights violations in Palestinian territories. This international stance may influence regional stability, affecting the dynamics of existing conflicts and alliances in the Middle East. It could provoke reactions from neighboring states and non-state actors, potentially escalating tensions or creating new opportunities for dialogue and cooperation.

For the Palestinian Authority, this recognition bolsters its legitimacy and strengthens its position in negotiations with Israel and on the international stage. It provides a morale boost to Palestinian leaders and could invigorate efforts toward achieving a viable two-state solution. The recognition by these European countries signifies a broader acceptance of the Palestinian right to self-determination and adds weight to their diplomatic efforts.

For Pakistan, the recognition of Palestine by Ireland, Spain, and Norway presents both diplomatic opportunities and strategic considerations. Pakistan’s longstanding support for the Palestinian cause aligns with these European countries’ actions, providing it with diplomatic leverage and opportunities for collaboration in advancing Palestinian rights in international forums. This alignment can enhance Pakistan’s diplomatic standing and influence on global issues, allowing it to strengthen ties with countries that share similar positions on regional conflicts and humanitarian issues.

The recognition of Palestine could foster closer cooperation between Pakistan and European nations, particularly those that support Palestinian statehood. This presents opportunities for increased trade, investment, and cultural exchange between Pakistan and the recognised states. Additionally, Pakistan’s support for Palestine resonates deeply within the Muslim world, reinforcing its role as a key advocate for Muslim causes on the international stage. The alignment with European countries recognising Palestine enhances Pakistan’s credibility and influence among Muslim-majority nations, strengthening solidarity within the Islamic community.

However, Pakistan must carefully balance its support for Palestine with its relations with pro-Israel nations and Arab states, particularly those with which it maintains strategic partnerships. While advocating for Palestinian rights, Pakistan must navigate its relationships to safeguard its broader regional interests and stability. This delicate balancing act requires Pakistan to manage its diplomatic engagements effectively, ensuring that its support for Palestine does not undermine its strategic partnerships in the region.

In conclusion, the recognition of Palestine by Spain, Ireland, and Norway carries profound implications for regional diplomacy. It presents opportunities and challenges for nations like Pakistan to advance their foreign policy objectives while navigating complex regional dynamics. This move signifies a pivotal moment in the Israel-Palestine conflict, potentially reshaping international alignments and fostering new avenues for dialogue and cooperation. As the international community continues to respond to these developments, the question remains: will more nations follow suit, and how will this impact the quest for lasting peace in the Middle East?


Syeda Noor ul Ain Ali

Syed Noor ul Ain Ali is a freelance writer.

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