Will European Momentum Help Generate a Move to Recognize Palestine as a Sovereign State?

Credit: UNRWA
  • Opinion by HMGS Palihakkara (colombo, sri lanka)
  • Inter Press Service

According to Gaza’s health ministry, more than 270 people including children and other non-combatants were killed during intense fighting between Israeli forces and Hamas militants in and around the Nuseirat refugee camp on June 8, in the middle area of the war-torn enclave. More than 600 were reportedly injured with hospitals overwhelmed. UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths said in a post on X that the Nuseirat camp “is the epicentre of the seismic trauma that civilians in Gaza continue to suffer.” “Seeing shrouded bodies on the ground, we are reminded that nowhere is safe in Gaza”, he said.

The effort straddled two centuries but the issue remained unresolved. It became a core question of peace and security in the Middle East and the world. The so-called rules-based order of the international system that grew out of the carnage of two world wars was unable or unwilling to find a reasonable consensus on this issue as major powers juggled ‘rules-based-justice’ with ‘power-based practice’.

The unresolved conflict thus peaked in atrocious violence in Gaza with Hamas and Israel being accused of things ranging from war crimes to genocide including the brazen massacre of over 200 civilians in a hostage rescue drama over the week end. The heart-rending tragedy in Gaza is therefore obvious but the opportunity embedded therein not so.

In a not- so-strange irony of war, it was the unprecedented human suffering and devastation in Gaza, not the political will of the major powers, that brought back the Palestinian statehood issue to the fore as a new inflection point in building peace among parties to this conflict.

What is new is that the bold joint move by Ireland, Norway and Spain to recognize the Palestine State as a precursor to peace rather than in its aftermath, can set in motion a new dynamic.

It has somewhat shaken the US led conventional Euro-Atlantic posture on the Israeli Palestinian conflict that peaceful and secure two states can only emerge at the end of a bilateral peace process between Israelis and Palestinians.

The question is -- will that posture now face a reboot calling for international recognition of two States-- first, as a via media to peace between the two nations. Israeli intransigence and the devastation in Gaza has brought the need for this re-sequencing into sharper focus.

It can generate a constructive momentum especially if more European countries join Norway,Spain,and Ireland plus 140 odd other countries of the world. Slovenia has already done that.

Obviously, it is not a big snow ball- at least not yet- but something has started to roll. Norwegian Foreign Minister Eide signalled this when he declared at the press conference that if present double standards continue, it will undermine the 'rules-based international order'-a rebuke to their ‘hold out’ Western partners who preach human rights to some and protect impunity by others.

These four European countries have taken the first step. Will the United States now re-assert its leadership by taking the next ‘giant step’?.

After all, it was President John Kennedy announcing the other ‘giant step’ his great country took in the last century, who famously said “we decide to go to the moon and do other things not because they are easy but because they are difficult”.

This is 21st Century, There is an unprecedented opportunity to follow the European lead to recognize the reality of two states and end the forever-war between an Iron-domed State backed by ‘Western might’ and a hapless and stateless people - the latter being a creation by ‘Western democracies’ themselves. If the US does not seize the opportunity, the opportunists will seize it.

HMGS Palihakkara is former Foreign Secretary, Sri Lanka, former Ambassador to the United Nations, and a one-time chairman of the UN Israeli Practices Committee.

IPS UN Bureau

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