What Are the Current Indications Pointing Towards Recognition of a Palestinian State?
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Early this April the State of Palestine sent a message to the UN Security Council demanding, once again, that it be admitted as a full member of the UN. On April 8, the US ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas Greenfield, affirmed, at the end of a closed meeting of the “Committee to admit New Members”: “Our position is well known and has not changed.” That position holds that the UN “is not the appropriate body to recognize a Palestinian state” and that such recognition must be the “end result of an agreement between the Palestinians and Israel.” On April 18, the US vetoed a resolution submitted to the Security Council by Algeria on behalf of the Arab group, calling for recognition of the State of Palestine as a full member of the UN. Twelve SC members voted in favor of that resolution and two abstained, the UK and Switzerland. According to normal practice, acceptance of any state in the UN is supposed to result from a positive recommendation by the SC, i.e. at least 9 votes out of 15, and without being vetoed by a permanent member, which would then be approved by a two thirds majority of the General Assembly. US deputy Ambassador Robert Wood stated: “This vote does not reflect opposition to the creation of a Palestinian state. Instead, it recognizes that this cannot come about except through direct negotiations between the two sides.” He expressed regret as regards “these premature moves here in New York, even with the best of intentions.”[1]

Recognitions of a State of Palestine prior to October 7

When the Palestine National Assembly convened in Algiers on November 15, 1988, then announced the “Independence Document,” 85 states around the world recognized the State of Palestine. In later decades, other states followed suit as a result of bilateral diplomatic efforts, and 137 member states of the UN, out of a total of 193 members, recognized the State of Palestine. These were mostly states of the global South and East, while in the West Sweden was the first EU country to recognize the State of Palestine at the end of October 2014. The Palestinian Authority called this a “courageous and historic” step while then Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman described it as a “bad” move likely to “encourage extremist factions” as well as the policy of rejection pursued by the Palestinians.[2] Eight other EU member  states had recognized the State of Palestine before they had joined the EU: Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Malta. From outside the EU, Iceland and the Vatican had also extended recognition.

In September 2011, the head of the Palestinian Authority Mahmud Abbas launched an initiative to have the State of Palestine admitted as a full member of the UN, but that initiative was unsuccessful. On November 29, 2012, Palestine obtained a non-member observer status at the UN, following a resolution at the General Assembly with 138 states voting Yes,  9 voting No, and 41 abstentions. While that status does not allow Palestine to cast a vote in the General Assembly, it does allow it to join UN agencies and international pacts. UNESCO had, in October 2011, paved the way by admitting the State of Palestine as a full member of that organization, a move which led Israel and the US to withdraw from UNESCO in 2018, before the latter returned to that body in 2023. Thanks to that status, Palestine was accepted by the International Criminal Court in 2015, the only permanent international body that can try individuals who commit war crimes.[3]

Spain leading Europe towards recognizing the State of Palestine

As Israel was waging its war of genocide and starvation on the civilian population of the Gaza Strip, a number of states, especially in Europe, moved to place the issue of recognizing Palestine on the agenda, and Spain, led by the Socialist Pedro Sanchez, took the lead.

In 2014, the Spanish parliament, then dominated by a conservative government, adopted a resolution calling for recognition of a Palestinian state, a resolution supported by all the political parties in parliament. However, that resolution, being non-binding, had little effect. In November 2023, Pedro Sanchez, having succeeded in extending his mandate for four more years at the head of a governmental coalition with the far left, promised that his “primary commitment” in foreign policy was “to work in Europe and Spain to achieve recognition of a Palestinian State.”  On November 23, 2023, and during a visit to Israel, Sanchez affirmed at a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu his support for Israel’s right to defend itself but added: “It is in Israel’s interest to work for peace and peace today requires the establishment of a viable Palestinian State.” Sanchez now emerged as “one of the most strident voices that are critical of Israel in Europe” in its war on the Gaza Strip. On April 10, 2024, he declared: “The international community cannot help the Palestinian State if it does not recognize it” and stressed that Madrid was prepared to recognize Palestine as a state, adding: “Such recognition serves the geo-political interests of Europe.” However, he did not set a specific date. During a visit he paid on April 12 to Poland, Norway and Ireland to discuss, according to a Spanish government spokesperson, “the need for progress towards recognition of a Palestinian State” Sanchez, speaking in Oslo, stated: “Spain is openly committed to recognize the Palestinian State as soon as possible when circumstances allow and in a manner that leaves the strongest possible positive effect on the peace process.”[4]

Other European states declare their readiness to recognize the State of Palestine

On March 22, 2024, Pedro Sanchez along with his Irish, Maltese and Slovenian counterparts, released a joint communique on the margins of the EU Summit in Brussels where they asserted “their readiness to recognize Palestine” when this “can constitute a positive contribution to the Palestine Question and to the settlement of the Israel Palestine conflict.”[5]

Several years beforehand, Ireland had announced that it did not in principle object to officially recognizing the Palestinian State if this contributed to the Middle East peace process. Irish Foreign Minister Micheál Martin, addressing the Irish parliament in Dublin on April 9, 2024, stated: “There is no doubt whatever in my mind that recognition of the State of Palestine will take place,” adding that delaying such recognition “is no longer credible or defensible.” Later, and speaking to the Irish news site The Journal, he stated: “There is no doubt that war crimes were committed, and I condemn in the strongest terms the unceasing shelling of the population of Gaza.” He considered that recognition of the State of Palestine “could act as an incentive to help the people of Gaza and the West Bank and advance the Arab-led peace initiative.”[6] On April 12, Irish Prime Minister Simon Harris, only a few days after assuming office, and while welcoming his Spanish counterpart Pedro Sanchez stated: “Pedro Sanchez is the first Prime Minister I welcome, and look forward to discuss with him the issue of recognizing the State of Palestine among other, more general topics.” In a joint message addressed in February 2024 by the two states to the European Commission, they urged it “to act quickly to ensure that Israel respects the basic clauses in the partnership agreement it signed with the EU pertaining to human rights and democratic principles.” On April 11, 2024, the Irish Prime Minister spoke to the head of the European Commission Ursula van der Leyen, regarding the need for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and for a reassessment of the partnership agreement between Israel and the EU. He believed that “the EU must use all the means at its disposal to protect the Palestinian people.” This was a standpoint harshly criticized by Israel, accusing the Irish official of “failing to mention the fate of the hostages held in Gaza.”[7]

For his part, Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gar Store stated in Oslo on April 12, and in the presence of his Spanish counterpart Pedro Sanchez, that Norway was ready, along with other states, to recognize the Palestinian State. At a joint press conference with Sanchez, he stated: “Norway is prepared to take a decision regarding recognition of the State of Palestine,” and “that this decision should be taken in due time and context and jointly with other states of a similar inclination, but we have not determined a specific date for this.” He added: “I welcome the initiative taken by Prime Minister Sanchez to consult with other states of a similar mind in order to enhance coordination, something we intend to do in the coming weeks.” In November 2023, the Norwegian parliament had adopted a proposal submitted by the governing political parties calling on the government to stand ready to recognize an independent Palestinian state.[8]

The political agreement according to which the coalition government in Belgium was formed in October 2020 had proposed the possibility of recognizing the State of Palestine at the right time. On April 19, 2024, the office of Belgian Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib, affirmed that discussions were ongoing inside the government pertaining to recognition of the State of Palestine since this would “accord with the two state solution,” adding that such recognition “would be part of the ongoing political negotiations, provided the recognition takes place at the right time in order to constitute a strategic uplift within a comprehensive political operation joined by as many states as possible, so that this recognition would have the strongest impact on the peace process and on achieving the two state solution.”[9]

Has a change occurred in the French position regarding recognition of the State of Palestine?

On February 16, 2024, French president Emmanuel Macron, while welcoming King Abdullah II of Jordan, affirmed that recognition of the State of Palestine “was not a taboo” for France. Foreign Minister Stéphane Séjourné announced that same month that recognition of the State of Palestine was “a tool in the Israel Palestine peace process.” Meanwhile, and in a radio interview on April 4, 2024, Jean-Eve Le Drian, former Foreign Minister and currently presidential envoy to Lebanon, expressed his desire that France would recognize the State of Palestine in order to pressure Israel. He stated: “Personally, I believe this should be done”, arguing that it was necessary “to take measures of this kind in order to apply more pressure on Israel since we cannot accept the current situation to persist.” He added: “The Israelis must end their isolation since they will be a pariah to the entire international community, and this cannot be the desired goal.” He pointed out that the situation on the ground “was reaching a turning point.”[10]

At a press interview conducted with him on March 2, 2024, Frédéric Encel, a French geopolitics expert and Professor at Sciences Po in Paris, commented as follows on the official French position regarding recognition of a Palestinian State: “We should remember how France voted at the UN Security Council in 2012, when France and the UK abstained, which prevented the passing of a resolution recognizing the State of Palestine by one vote.” He added: “France, like the UK, believes that we cannot recognize a state, or at least an entity, unless it possesses certain advantages such as sovereignty over a certain region. Today, this is not the case with respect to Palestine.” He argued that the Foreign Minister’s remarks that recognition of a Palestinian state was “a tool in the peace process” should be interpreted “in a metaphorical and not a literal sense since France is thereby exercising diplomatic pressure on Israel” and “is reaffirming, a little more firmly than before, its wish that the two-state solution will succeed.” In other words, it is one way of saying that “all options are on the table and is a way of applying more diplomatic pressure on the Netanyahu government which is firmly opposed to recognition of a Palestinian state.”[11]

The latest veto shows up the US maneuver hinting at recognition

On January 31, 2024, the US news website Axios revealed that the US Administration was studying the options related to recognition of the Palestinian State at war’s end, and that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken “is studying the various options regarding this issue, according to two officials whose names were not revealed.” The UK government had preceded the US Administration in hinting at that possibility when on 29 January its Foreign Secretary David Cameron declared the following: “We and our allies are thinking of recognizing the State of Palestine, including at the UN,” and affirmed his country’s “responsibility” in “achieving progress towards the settlement of the Israel Palestine conflict.” However, the US veto cast at the 18 April meeting of the UN Security Council against the Algerian resolution calling for recognizing Palestine as a full member of the UN revealed the real nature of the US position regarding recognition. It made it clear that the Biden Administration, by hinting at recognition, was merely a maneuver aimed at that moment to apply pressure on the Netanyahu government and to deflect the mounting wave of criticism among wide sectors of the US public, including inside the Democratic Party, against the policy of the Administration as regards Israel’s war on Gaza.[12]

Israel’s firm opposition to this trend to recognize a Palestinian State

Israeli officials are of the view that at a time when Israel “is waging a vicious war against HAMAS and is solely defending itself against threats of war from Iran” voices are being raised in Europe calling for recognition of a Palestinian state. This, they consider, would be tantamount to “a victory for Iran and rewarding Islamist terrorism.”[13] Accordingly, and on February 15, 2024, Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu rejected any recognition of a Palestinian state “outside the framework of a resumption of the Israeli Palestinian peace negotiations.” On his X (formerly Twitter) account, he wrote in Hebrew: “Such recognition, after the massacre of October 7, would constitute a great and unprecedented reward to terrorism and would prevent any future peace agreement.” He added: “Israel absolutely rejects all international diktats as regards a final settlement with the Palestinians.” He went on to state that a peace settlement “cannot come about except through direct negotiations and without preconditions.’[14] On February 21, 2024, the Israeli Knesset voted by a majority of 99 votes out of 120 in favor of a resolution suggested by Netanyahu himself opposing any unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state since this would constitute “an unprecedented reward to the terrorism practiced by HAMAS.” The resolution further affirmed Israel’s decisive rejection of “international diktats regarding a permanent settlement with the Palestinians” which can only be achieved “through direct negotiations between the two parties and without preconditions.”[15]

Conclusion: What does recognition of a Palestinian state mean?

After Israel launched its war on Gaza, the idea of recognizing the State of Palestine began to gain slow popularity among Western states, especially in Europe. Among European leaders, the Spanish Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez was the most fervent supporter of this idea. In November, 2023, he expressed his conviction that recognizing a Palestinian state was “in Europe’s best interests” and did not exclude the possibility of a unilateral recognition. His standpoint encouraged other European leaders to express their desire to recognize the State of Palestine at the appropriate time. Although Spain cannot sway the EU standpoint,  given the differences among its constituent states, it can nevertheless contribute to demonstrating the existence of many sensitivities inside the EU. The President of the European Council, Charles Michel, had argued that EU states willing to recognize a Palestinian state “ought to work in unison” in order to achieve substantial progress in enhancing peace in that region. Speaking to reporters in Brussels he believed that there could be “coordination on the European level” among EU states ready to recognize the state of Palestine, thus granting this action political value, and proposed that other like-minded non-EU states could join that initiative.[16]

As regards the position of the two states with most influence in the EU, it is unlikely that France will witness any time soon a positive change in its attitude to recognition, while Germany, since October 7, 2023, emerged as the most pro-Israel of all EU states, and most in accord with the US position on this issue. Germany affirms its adherence to the two-state solution, considering it to “guarantee Palestinian rights” as well as “the security of Israel in the long term” but it does not support “a unilateral recognition” of a Palestinian state.[17]

Despite the recent US veto cast against the special resolution to grant Palestine dull membership of the UN, the overwhelming support of Security Council members in favor of that resolution “does send a very clear message” that “Palestine deserves a place” at the UN as expressed by the Algerian ambassador `Ammar Bin Jami`. Speaking for the group of Arab states, he promised he would resubmit that resolution at a later date and affirmed: “Yes, we will be back, stronger and louder in voice.”[18]

Hence, what does recognition of a Palestine state mean?

Such recognition would above all else be a political decision with symbolic connotations. While supporting the struggle of Palestinians for national independence, its effect would nevertheless be limited as long as Israel continues to occupy Palestinian lands and as long as serious international pressure is not applied on Israel’s government, including the imposition of sanctions, to force it to accede to international legitimacy.[19]


[1] “L’adhésion de la Palestine à l’ONU rejetée par les Etats-Unis”, Le Monde, 19/4/2024.

[2] “La Suède, premier pays de l'UE, à reconnaître l'Etat de Palestine”, Le Point, 30/10/2014.

[3] Kenza Soares El Sayed, “Reconnaissance d'un Etat palestinien : quels pays ont déjà franchi le pas?” L’express, 10/4/2024.

[4] “L'Espagne, une voix en soutien des Palestiniens au sein de l'UE”, euronews, 23/11/2023;

Pedro Sánchez: ‘la reconnaissance d’un État palestinien est dans l’intérêt de l’Europe’”, 7sur7, 10/4/2024.

[5] Kenza Soares El Sayed, “Reconnaissance d'un Etat palestinien…”, op.cit.

[6] “L’Irlande s’apprête à reconnaître un État palestinien dans les prochaines semaines”, Le Parisien, 10/4/2024.

[7] “Guerre à Gaza : Pedro Sanchez en Irlande pour une reconnaissance mutuelle de la Palestine”, l’Humanité, 12/4/2024.

[8] “La Norvège et l’Espagne prêtes à reconnaître un État palestinien”, F International, 12/4/2024.

[9] “Proche-Orient : toujours pas d’accord au gouvernement fédéral belge sur la reconnaissance d’un Etat palestinien”, rtbf actus, 19/4/2024.

[10] “Gaza: Jean-Yves Le Drian aimerait que la France reconnaisse un État palestinien pour faire pression sur Israël”, HUFFPOST, 4/4/2024.

[11] “DECRYPTAGE. Guerre Israël-Hamas: la France peut-elle vraiment reconnaître l'Etat palestinien?”, LADEPECHE. fr, 26/4/2024.

[12] Benjamin Laurent, “Guerre au Proche-Orient : les États-Unis envisagent de reconnaître un État palestinien après la guerre”, GEO, 1/2/2024.

[13] “La reconnaissance d’un Etat palestinien sera une victoire de l’Iran et une récompense au terrorisme islamiste”, Tribune Juive, 26/4/2024.

[14] “Netanyahu rejette une reconnaissance internationale d'un Etat palestinien”, L’Orient-Le Jour, 16/2/2024.

[15] “Le parlement israélien vote contre la reconnaissance unilatérale d’un État palestinien”, La Presse, 21/2/2024.

[16] “Charles Michel : les pays de l’UE désireux de reconnaitre l’Etat de Palestine ‘devraient agir ensemble’”, AL24News.

[17] “L'Allemagne fustige les propos de Netanyahu rejetant la solution à deux États”, NouvelleAube, 11/3/2024.

[18] “L’adhésion de la Palestine à l’ONU rejetée par les Etats-Unis”, Le Monde, 19/4/2024.

[19] Amélie Zaccour, “Que signifie reconnaître un État palestinien?”, L’Orient-Le Jour, 1/2/2024.

Author Bio: 

Maher Charif: a Palestinian historian, holder of doctorate of State in Arts and Human Sciences from the Sorbonne University - Paris I. He is a researcher at the Institute for Palestine Studies and ssociate researcher at the French Institute for the Near East - Beirut.