Spain’s foreign minister Josep Borrell signaled his government’s intention to recognize the State of Palestine as an independent country. During an EU meeting in Austria last week, Borrell urged other EU leaders to do so as a whole. If the European Union fails to reach an agreement on the issue, Borrell made clear that Madrid would take that step individually.
Borrell’s statement highlights the failure of the twenty-eight member EU to respect the Palestinian right to self-determination.
Since the State of Palestine was proclaimed by the Palestinian Liberation Organization in exile in Algeria in 1988, it has gained recognition from 137 out of 193 UN member states. Arab countries and most African, Asian, and South American governments have long recognized Palestine. So have Eastern European that once belonged to the Soviet sphere of influence. Powerful Western European states remain an exception.
A product of colonialism, the State of Palestine lies on only 22% of historic Palestine illegally occupied by Israel, including Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem. Its government, the Palestinian Authority, has become a corrupt construct that assists Israel in its control of Palestinian lives.
Although the EU has officially declared its support for the Palestinian right to self-determination, “including the option of a state” in 1999, it has continued to embrace a pro-Israel bias.
Following Israel’s 2014 assault on Gaza, parliaments in most Western European countries discussed recognizing Palestine. Sweden followed through and recognised Palestine in October 2014. Within months, lawmakers in Ireland, the United Kingdom, Portugal, France, Belgium, Italy, Luxembourg, and Spain passed resolutions calling on their governments to recognize Palestine. An overwhelming majority in the EU parliament backed the recognition with 498 to 88 votes in December 2014.
Not a single one of these resolution, which were non-binding, have been implemented by the respective governments.
Although the EU has repeatedly condemned Israel’s settlement expansion, it does nothing to hold the Israeli government accountable. EU diplomacy has significantly contributed to exacerbating Palestinian suffering. For example, in reacting to Israel’s 2014 war against Gaza, the EU explicitly condemned Hamas’ “indiscriminate firing of rockets into Israel,” adding only in passing that it was “appalled” by Israel’s brutal actions in Shujaiya. Similarly, last week, the EU responded in a discreetly worded joint statement to Israel’s destruction of the Palestinian village Khan al-Ahmar, politely calling “upon the Israeli authorities to reconsider their decision to demolish Khan al-Ahmar.”
Given the EU’s pattern of ignoring Palestinian self-determination, while appeasing Israeli human rights violations, the Spanish foreign minister’s latest statement are probably just lip service, unless the EU and its Western member states end their traditional support for Israel.