by Al Akhbar
Irish lawmakers urged their government Wednesday to recognize Palestine as a state in a symbolic motion that sailed through parliament unopposed, the latest in a series of similar measures across Europe as the EU parliament holds a crucial vote on Palestine next week.
The Irish move came a day before the Danish parliament gears up to vote on Thursday to recognize Palestine as well.
The non-binding motion agreed by lawmakers in Dublin called on the government to “officially recognize the State of Palestine, on the basis of the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as the capital, as established in UN resolutions.”
This would be “a further positive contribution to securing a negotiated two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” it added.
The government is not bound to follow the motion but Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan said Ireland supported early recognition of a Palestinian state “in principle.”
“We have always supported a viable two-state solution and will continue to support that in any manner and by any means,” Flanagan told parliament.
Despite being proposed by the opposition Sinn Fein party, the motion had cross-party support, dispensing the need for a vote. Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams, who was refused entry to Gaza by Israel during a visit to the region last week, said the motion was about inspiring hope.
“We must stand with the Palestinian and Israeli citizens who want peace – who are taking risks for peace. The passing of this motion is an important contribution to this,” Adams said.
The motion also called on the Irish government to do everything it could internationally to secure “an inclusive and viable peace process.”
European politicians have become more active in pushing for a sovereign Palestine since the collapse of US-sponsored peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in April, and ensuing conflict in Gaza, where more than 2,000 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and on the Israeli side, 66 soldiers and six civilians were killed this summer.
“It’s been suggested that recognition now might help jump-start a stalemate process. This was the judgement made by Sweden and indeed it is the spirit of this evening’s motion,” Flanagan said.
The chairperson of the Irish Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Martin O’Quigley, welcomed the move.
“It’s very important, but just as important is for the Irish government to make Israel accountable for what has happened and what is happening in Palestine,” he told AFP.
The Israeli embassy in Dublin said however the motion was premature.
“A vote in favor of this motion, therefore, is a vote for Ireland, a neutral country, to intervene in a foreign conflict in favour of one national movement at the expense of another,” the Embassy said in a statement.
“That is not how peace is brought about.”
Denmark to debate Palestine recognition
Meanwhile, the Danish parliament will debate a motion calling for the recognition of Palestine as a state on Thursday.
Danish MP Holger K. Nielsen, one of the main drivers behind the initiative in Denmark, told Ma’an news agency that the first reading will take place Thursday before a potential vote in the second reading, which could take place in early 2015.
The motion was introduced by the Red-Green Alliance, the Socialist People’s Party (SPP), and Greenland’s Inuit Ataqatigiit, three small left-wing parties. It calls on the government to recognize Palestine as a state within the 1967 borders
“I think there is strength now among European countries tired of Israel’s attitude to negotiations and it is therefore more important now to put pressure on Israel,” Nielsen, a member of the SPP, said.
Nielsen says it will be “difficult” to get a majority in the Danish parliament, which may even vote against it. But he thinks debates like these aim to raise public awareness and have notably changed national attitudes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“Public opinion has changed (in Denmark) today compared to 10 years ago. Our aim is to change the situation so the Danish public understands the conflict.”
A former Danish adviser at the EU parliament told Ma’an that while the vote in Denmark won’t change the realities on the ground, it is a step in the right direction.
“The Danish vote is part of larger picture where a lot of Europeans are getting fed up with Israel’s rejectionism and continued settlement building. Parliaments in a lot of EU countries are reacting to this and putting Palestinian statehood to a vote out of concern for the two-state solution.”
According to PA estimations, around 135 countries have so far recognized the State of Palestine, although the number is disputed and several recognitions by what are now European Union member states date back to the Soviet era.
Ireland’s parliament is the fourth European assembly to call for the recognition of Palestinian statehood since October.
Sweden, who initiated the vote, has gone even further, officially recognizing Palestine as a state in a move that prompted Israel to recall its ambassador.
A week after Sweden’s decision, MPs in Britain voted 274 to 12 for a non-binding motion to “recognize the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel as a contribution to securing a negotiated two-state solution.”
On November 18, Spanish MPs backed a motion to recognize Palestine as a state following a final-status agreement, while on December 2, French MPs voted 339 to 151 in favor of a motion that invites Paris to recognize the state of Palestine “as an instrument to gain a definitive resolution of the conflict.”
Spain notably changed its wording on the day of the motion following an attack on a Jerusalem synagogue — from recognition as a way to encourage a “negotiated settlement” to recognition following an agreement.
Intense lobbying around EU vote
The Danish debate comes a week before the EU parliament is due to vote on recognizing Palestine as a state on December 17, a motion postponed on November4 27 following reportedly intense pressure by Israeli diplomats.
Spain’s significant rewording of its motion reflects the core split within the EU parliament: using unconditional recognition as a means to address the imbalance between both sides in the peace process, or recognition as a condition of the outcome of talks.
A staffer in the European parliament told Ma’an that the vote was extremely tight at the moment, with signs that there could be no majority for any text at all, a potentially damaging blow for the EU’s role as a serious global actor.
The PA has also notably been absent from lobbying parliament members on the vote, the staffer said, with Israeli civil society actors lobbying passionately in favor of recognition and Israeli diplomats and other actors lobbying intensely against parliamentarians recognizing Palestine.
Whatever the outcome of the vote next week, debate in the EU parliament has been extensive, the staffer added.
EU recognition of Palestine would do little to change the realities of occupation, the former Danish adviser told Ma’an, but it could be taken as a sign of future EU action if Israel continues to maintain the status quo.
New EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, who took office in early November, has been extremely vocal on Palestine and made it a point of calling for a Palestinian state during a visit to Gaza, the first visit in her new position.
Mogherini’s statements together with real measures such as getting tougher on settlements, denying violent settlers access to the EU, and reviewing the extensive trade agreements with Israel could signal meaningful change if the EU recognition vote falls flat, the former adviser added.
Holger Nielsen, the Danish MP, agrees that the EU must use economic means and be stricter on trade policy to really influence the Israeli government’s position.
“It’s difficult, but you have to continue the discussion. Change is coming all the time. Maybe not tomorrow, but I’m sure the only way you can make things change is to maintain this kind of pressure.”
The roots of the Israel-Palestine conflict date back to 1917, when the British government, in the now-famous “Balfour Declaration,” called for “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.”
Israel occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank during the 1967 Middle East War. It later annexed the holy city in 1980, claiming it as the capital of the self-proclaimed Zionist state – a move never recognized by the international community.
In November 1988, Palestinian leaders led by Yasser Arafat declared the existence of a state of Palestine inside the 1967 borders and the state’s belief “in the settlement of international and regional disputes by peaceful means in accordance with the charter and resolutions of the United Nations.”
Heralded as a “historic compromise,” the move implied that Palestinians would agree to accept only 22 percent of historic Palestine, in exchange for peace with Israel. It is now believed that only 17 percent of historic Palestine is under Palestinian control following the continued expansion of illegal Israeli settlements.
The Palestinian Authority (PA) this year set November 2016 as the deadline for ending the Israeli withdrawal from the territories occupied by Israel during the Six-Day War in 1967 and establishing a two-state solution.
It is worth noting that numerous pro-Palestine activists support a one-state solution in which Israelis and Palestinians would be treated equally, arguing that the creation of a Palestinian state beside Israel would not be sustainable. They also believe that the two-state solution, which is the only option considered by international actors, won’t solve existing discrimination, nor erase economic and military tensions.
(AFP, Ma’an, Al-Akhbar)