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Analysis: A rift grows in Europe over recognizing Palestinian state

Laura King, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

For decades, western Europe has largely spoken with one voice on the subject of Palestinian statehood. Now cracks are appearing in that consensus.

Ireland, Spain and Norway on Wednesday declared their intention to recognize Palestinian statehood, effective next Tuesday. Previously, only seven of the 27 European Union member states had made such a pronouncement.

Norway is not a member of the bloc, but the Spanish and Irish announcements will bring the number of EU countries recognizing Palestinian statehood to one-third of its membership.

While the often-fractious bloc is unlikely to act as a whole on the question, EU members Slovenia and Malta have signaled they may extend recognition as well, and concerted lobbying efforts are under way in several other member states, including Belgium.

“There’s a certain momentum there,” said Khaled Elgindy, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Middle East Institute.

Even as major Western powers refrain from recognition, the round of announcements illustrates yet again how the devastating war between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas is complicating traditional Western alliances — both within the EU and in transatlantic ties.

 

For the last two years, Washington and the EU have been largely focused on presenting a united front on the war in Ukraine, and on the growing closeness of Russia and China. But Gaza has shaken up diplomatic priorities.

Analysts say Wednesday’s announcements primarily point to fundamental disagreements among Western allies over whether recognizing a Palestinian state now — usually a prelude to establishing diplomatic ties — will spur or hinder a future state’s actual establishment.

The Biden administration supports the creation of a Palestinian state, existing side-by-side with Israel, but says recognition should be the result of political negotiations — a view backed by key European partners including Britain, France and Germany.

But the issue is a nuanced one. Britain’s foreign secretary, David Cameron, ruled out recognizing a Palestinian state while Hamas remains in Gaza, but said it could occur in the context of ongoing peace negotiations.

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