‘A symbolic foray with no practical effects’: European media reaction to Irish recognition of Palestine

Popular publications describe move as ‘noble and comprehensible intention’ and a ‘seal of approval for terror’

European press reaction to Ireland’s recognition of the state of Palestine was mainly neutral or positive, although a common theme was whether it amounted to anything more than symbolism.

The Süddeutsche Zeitung, Germany’s bestselling quality newspaper, was largely sympathetic, calling the move a “noble and comprehensible intention”.

“This is certainly not a hostile act towards Israel, as the right-wing government in Jerusalem now suggest,” it wrote, “nor is it a reward for the Palestinians at the wrong time”.

That the US and Germany make Palestinian statehood the outcome, rather than a precursor, to peace talks “is no longer Realpolitik but more dishonest”.


Ireland’s move was an “impetus”, it suggested, “a symbolic foray with no practical effects that at least is more honest”.

The conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine daily framed Dublin’s decision as informed by its own independence struggle – but also current domestic politics.

“The three parties of the Dublin Coalition are in the middle of the election campaign for the European elections and local elections against the opposition Sinn Féin,” it wrote, noting the party’s steady pressure on the Government over Israel. “In this respect, the joint appearance of the Coalition leaders on the steps of Government buildings in Dublin on Wednesday seemed like a deliberate demonstration of unity.”

The newspaper noted that all three Coalition leaders “asserted that the decision was not directed against Israel”, confirmed the country’s “right to a secure existence within its borders”, condemned Hamas terrorism and called for the release of its Israeli hostages.

The left-wing Tageszeitung welcomed the move but suggested it changed nothing for the Palestinian people.

“Just what exactly a Palestinian state should look like has remained unclear for 30 years,” it noted. “Spain, Ireland and Norway thus recognise a construct that is informal and diffuse. Recognition will hardly have any concrete consequences.”

The bestselling Bild tabloid was more critical. In a story under the headline: “Hamas celebrates recognition of ‘State of Palestine’” it asked: “Is this the reward for years of terror against Israel?”

Similarly, the conservative daily Die Welt, from the same Springer newspaper stable, described the decision as a “seal of approval for terror”.

The Guardian described Ireland’s move as ‘carefully choreographed’ adding that the momentum towards recognition, particularly among European countries, will have important implications

“The recognition promotes the narrative among the Palestinians that it doesn’t matter what they do. And it creates incentives for Palestinian politicians to prefer to rely on terror rather than compromise in the future,” argued Die Welt. “In the end, it is important that the Palestinians convince a majority of Israelis of their will to be peaceful, because it is the Israelis who have to grant the Palestinians a state.”

French newspaper Le Monde which referred to Ireland as “Europe’s most pro-Palestinian nation” last month described the move as a “further setback for Israel”.

UK-based paper The Guardian described Ireland’s move as “carefully choreographed” adding that the momentum towards recognition, particularly among European countries, will have important implications.

The paper said that Ireland’s move to recognise Palestine, alongside Norway and Spain, points to the “erosion of US ‘ownership’” of the Israel-Palestine peace process and opens a route towards statehood.

A column in the Telegraph, however, argued that Ireland has taken the side of Hamas terrorism and said the move, which they described as “frivolous showboating” will have no beneficial impact for Palestinians.

The column argued that the recognition of Palestine by the three countries is in reality about “their own internal politics rather than actually seeking to bring about a Palestinian state”.

“All three countries have long been in the vanguard of support for Palestine, mostly because it goes down well with their voters. It’s costless and bolsters their domestic support,” it reads.

The Irish move has generated discussion elsewhere with Het Laatste Nieuws, the daily newspaper published in Brussels, describing the question of Palestinian recognition as the “debate of the day” and asking whether Belgium should follow suit.

Derek Scally

Derek Scally

Derek Scally is an Irish Times journalist based in Berlin

Jack White

Jack White

Jack White is a reporter for The Irish Times