State of Palestine: a symbolic recognition

It appears Irish diplomacy does not do symbolic gestures

 

When Sweden in 2014 formally recognised the State of Palestine it was not a declaration that the state existed. It was, Foreign Minister Margot Wallström hoped, a “positive injection into the dynamics of the Middle East peace process”, a symbolic expression by the Swedes of their commitment – shared by fellow EU states who did not follow suit however – to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Palestine was not yet a state but diplomatic designation as such could help it become one.

Ireland, traditionally among the most sympathetic of EU states to the Palestinian cause, has held back on recognition despite resolutions backing it in both the Dáil and Seanad. In 2011 then Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore promised Ireland would lead the charge among EU states in recognising Palestine, but added the caveat that it would not happen until the Palestinian Authority was in full and sole control over the territory to which it laid claim. Until it was a state.

It appears Irish diplomacy does not do symbolic gestures. And Iveagh House has argued that Ireland should also march in step with fellow EU member-states who are at the moment reluctant to embrace recognition. Israel, which regards campaigning against any shift in EU policy as a diplomatic priority, insists the Palestinians can only receive their promised state through direct negotiations and not through diplomatic declarations which preempt them.

But the public appeal to the Taoiseach on Monday by some 90 public figures calling for a review of the Government’s position and for recognition of statehood is important and timely. Both the US and Israel have recently publicly cast doubt on their willingness to support a two-state solution, breaking from the central pillar of a longstanding international consensus on the way forward. Recognition of Palestinian statehood by Ireland and, it is to be hoped, the EU, would be an important reaffirmation of that consensus, a strong signal diplomatically that the international community will not continue to be frustrated by Israeli intransigence. Inertia is not a policy.

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