Opinion| Can Spain, Norway, and Ireland’s recognition of Palestine revive the cause?

Hatem Sadek
7 Min Read

It wouldn’t be overly negative to suggest that the recent discussions regarding the recognition of the Palestinian state by Spain, Norway, and Ireland are merely a desperate attempt by certain Hamas members to grasp a sense of triumph. This recognition is being used as a feeble excuse to justify their disastrous actions on 7 October, which resulted in the deaths of numerous Palestinians and the ongoing destruction of over 70% of the Gaza Strip. However, there are other reasons for concern beyond this.

These acknowledgements hold no significant political weight and will not result in any further entitlements that may be utilized in the future. It is also inappropriate to present them as acceptable compensation for the lives lost and ongoing bloodshed in the Gaza Strip from October until the present, surpassing the total casualties of the Arab-Israeli conflict since 1967.

Approximately 144 out of 193 United Nations member states officially recognize the State of Palestine, with support coming from countries in the Southern Hemisphere, Russia, China, India, and several European nations. An analysis by The New York Times suggests that the decision for these countries to recognize Palestine was influenced by Washington, not as a show of support for Hamas, but as a response to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s actions that strained relations with US President Joe Biden. Another factor at play, which will not be elaborated on, is linked to the upcoming American elections. With former President Donald Trump leading in polls over Biden, particularly among Americans of European descent, many European Union countries are concerned about a potential return of Trump to power. Granting them more autonomy in Middle Eastern affairs could help rebuild trust between the EU and Washington, particularly with their preferred Democratic Party in Europe.

From Washington’s perspective, it is important to note that recognition serves as a means of exerting pressure and a bargaining tool for President Biden. This sentiment arises from his feeling of being insulted during the American elections and his weariness of Netanyahu’s constant challenges. The advisors of President Biden are well aware that recognition holds symbolic and moral significance, but it does not carry any legal implications for Palestinian rights. The true objective here is to isolate Netanyahu further, particularly following the International Criminal Court’s decision to pursue his trial.

The relationship between Biden and Netanyahu has been steadily deteriorating for about two months since the beginning of the war in Gaza. Biden’s arrival in Israel shortly after the 7 October attack, accompanied by his naval fleets, was seen as an unprecedented show of solidarity. Disagreements arose between the two leaders due to the excessive use of Israeli force, which did not lead to any significant progress on the ground. The entry of Israeli tanks into Palestinian Rafah escalated the differences to a public confrontation. While tensions over the impending Israeli attack on Rafah had been building since last February, frustration among Biden administration officials grew significantly when Netanyahu refused to change course after defending his country against over three hundred Iranian missiles and drones on 13 April.

The dispute revolved around two fundamental questions: how to bring an end to the conflict and how Israel envisions the future of Gaza after the war. The Biden administration faced challenges in obtaining specific answers, partly due to the complexities within the Israeli government and partly due to the changing military plans on the ground. Consequently, no concrete resolution was achieved. The differences between the two sides have been exacerbated by the White House’s belief that Netanyahu has employed exaggerated political and military tactics, thereby compromising Israel’s security and exposing it to threats from distant regions. The US administration criticizes Netanyahu for prioritizing tactics over strategy, which included the release of hostages with only partial success and targeted killings of Hamas fighters and leaders. However, how these tactics were executed resulted in increased international opposition and unnecessary casualties, while leaving the top Hamas leadership unharmed.

The White House maintains that peace agreements are far more sustainable and economical than engaging in war. They highlight the significance of advancing the Abrahamic Accords initiated by former President Trump with Arab leaders and Israel. A comprehensive agreement between Tel Aviv and the largest Arab oil country in the region is seen as a crucial step towards enhancing Israel’s stability and security, surpassing even the most successful Rafah process against Hamas.

The White House reaffirmed the credibility of its vision by observing the return of Hamas fighters in previously cleared areas of Gaza, such as Khan Yunis, which were under the control of Israeli forces. It is believed that Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar is currently hiding in this region. American officials believe that their strategy involves Israel closing the Egyptian border with Gaza and targeting Hamas leaders without engaging in large-scale operations that result in unnecessary casualties. Following this, an international or Arab force would be responsible for ensuring security in Gaza, while Israel collaborates with other parties to establish a Palestinian leadership structure capable of exerting pressure on Hamas. Subsequently, all parties would reach a consensus on a path that leads to the formation of a Palestinian state, and efforts would intensify towards achieving Saudi normalization and restructuring the regional security framework.

The strategic advantage of Israeli-Saudi normalization in maintaining security within the region is evident. However, Netanyahu and his government face a significant dilemma as they navigate conflicting goals. On one hand, they pursue normalization; on the other hand, they aim to eliminate Ras Sinwar and secure the release of hostages. Achieving both simultaneously presents formidable obstacles.

Dr. Hatem Sadek: Professor at Helwan University

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