May 21, 2024 | Flash Brief

Spain, Ireland Lead Push in EU to Unilaterally Recognize Palestinian State

May 21, 2024 | Flash Brief

Spain, Ireland Lead Push in EU to Unilaterally Recognize Palestinian State

Latest Developments

European Union (EU) member states Spain and Ireland are moving to unilaterally recognize a Palestinian state, urging other European countries to follow suit, Deutsche Welle reported on May 20. Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said he would propose official recognition of a Palestinian state to the Spanish parliament on May 22 as the “only way” to resolve the Gaza war. Ireland plans to recognize Palestinian statehood by the end of May.

On May 6, Sánchez and his Irish counterpart Simon Harris reaffirmed that they would coordinate their efforts. Three other EU member states — Belgium, Malta, and Slovenia — have also indicated that they will recognize a Palestinian state in the short term, as has non-EU member Norway.  While the EU as a body is not considering recognition at the present time, its foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, both acknowledged the Spanish and Irish efforts and predicted that other EU states would follow their example in a May 10 interview with a Spanish radio station RNE. “This is a symbolic act of a political nature. More than a state, it recognizes the will for the state to exist,” Borell said.

Expert Analysis

“Spain and Ireland think they’re recognizing a Palestinian state but they’re actually inventing a new state sponsor of terrorism. I’d love to know what borders this state sponsor of terrorism supposedly has, where its capital sits, and why millions of its residents should be considered refugees if they live inside their own state sponsor of terrorism.” — Richard Goldberg, FDD Senior Advisor

“Amid a tide of antisemitic, pro-Hamas demonstrations in their cities in recent months, the governments of Spain and Ireland are determined to reward Hamas for its October 7 atrocities by recognizing a Palestinian state. Those EU member states, especially Germany, who understand that unilateral recognition is an obstruction to peace and a shameful appeasement of terrorism must now take action to arrest this process.” — Ben Cohen, FDD Senior Analyst and Rapid Response Manager

Israel, United States Oppose Unilateral Palestinian Statehood

Israel opposes unilateral Palestinian statehood, a position reinforced by the Israeli Knesset in February. On May 19, Israel’s Diaspora Affairs Minister Amichai Chikli criticized Spain’s efforts to recognize Palestinian statehood, noting the Spanish government “believes that the Palestinians should be rewarded for the [October 7] massacre.”

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken similarly cautioned Spain in its approach towards Palestinian statehood. While meeting with Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs José Manuel Albares on May 10, Blinken said that Palestinian statehood should instead occur “at the end of the process,” following a peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians.

Multiple EU Member States Supported United Nations Palestinian Statehood Bid

Belgium, Ireland, Slovenia, and Spain jointly announced their intentions to recognize a Palestinian state in March. Additionally, on May 10, these countries voted in favor of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly resolution which provided “additional rights and privileges of participation of the State of Palestine” because the body believes the “State of Palestine” meets the UN parameters for membership. Other EU member states, including Czechia and Hungary, voted with Israel and the United States to oppose the resolution.

EU Still Divided Over Palestinian Statehood

Currently, only eight of the EU’s 27 member states recognize a Palestinian state: Bulgaria, Czechia, Cyprus, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and Sweden. Following Hamas’s October 7 massacre in southern Israel and the resulting war in Gaza, EU member states are increasingly considering the recognition of a Palestinian state.

However, leading EU member states, such as Germany and France, remain opposed to doing so unilaterally. Last February, French President Emmanuel Macron stated that “recognizing a Palestinian state is not a taboo for France” but did not elaborate on a timeline. On February 26, the foreign affairs spokesperson of Germany’s ruling Social Democratic Party addressed the issue in near-identical language to Macron but, similarly, did not specify a timeline. According to Deutsche Welle, Germany — the largest contributor to the EU’s budget — has opposed the current Spanish campaign for unilateral recognition.

Palestinian Statehood Bid Risks Triggering U.S. Defunding of UN,” FDD Flash Brief

EU Members Gear Up for Palestinian State Recognition,” FDD Flash Brief

U.S. Vetoes Palestinian Statehood Bid at UN,” FDD Flash Brief


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