The case for recognising Palestine as a state - Ireland should follow Sweden


The decision by Sweden’s new centre-left government to set in train the formal recognition of Palestine as a state, was followed on Monday by a non-binding vote in the Commons – 274-12 – to do likewise. The British government made clear it would not do so, yet. And France’s foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, said on Tuesday that Paris would only recognise a Palestinian state if doing so would help achieve peace. But if negotiations fail, “Paris would recognise the Palestinian state”.

But the mood music represents a significant racheting up of diplomatic pressure on Israel, a sign of increasing exasperation in EU capitals at its perceived failure to engage in dialogue and particularly its continuing expansion of settlements – in recent weeks, the seizure of 1,000 acres of land near Bethlehem and plans to build 2,600 settler homes near Jerusalem.

That alienation was most strikingly expressed by Tory chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Richard Ottaway, who said he had stood by Israel “through the good years and the bad ... but such is my anger over Israel’s behaviour in recent months that I will not oppose the motion. I have to say to the government of Israel that if they are losing people like me, they will be losing a lot of people.”

Ireland, although among the EU states most supportive of the Palestinians, has traditionally been conservative about wielding the recognition card, whether to bestow or withdraw. In response to Dáil questions this week Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan echoed Fabius in linking recognition to assisting talks.

But perhaps the time has come to go further. The most recent US-mediated talks collapsed in April and Israel, whose diplomats are frantically lobbying against recognition, needs to be told that it can not hold the issue hostage while continuing to prevaricate on engaging in meaningful dialogue. Recognition would not do anything to copperfasten Palestinian sovereignty, but it would send an important message to Israel that there will be a diplomatic price to pay. Ireland should join Sweden in doing so.