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Will Sweden Start a Trend on Palestinian State Recognition?

Caroline Leal | WORLD News Service | Updated: Nov 03, 2014

Will Sweden Start a Trend on Palestinian State Recognition?

On Oct. 30, the Swedish government officially recognized Palestine as an independent state, an announcement welcomed by Palestinian leadership but strongly protested by Israel. 

There are signs other European Union member states could move in the same direction, according to Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom, who told reporters the recognition could aid in bringing an end to the decades-long conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. A tweet posted on Thursday by the Swedish Foreign Ministry announced the move, saying the government “expressed hopes for peaceful coexistence between #Israel and #Palestine.”

“Our decision comes at a critical time because over the last year we have seen how the peace talks have stalled, how decisions over new settlements on occupied Palestinian land have complicated a two-state solution, and how violence has returned to Gaza,” Wallstrom told reporters.

Sweden is the 135th country in the world to recognize a Palestinian state, fulfilling a pledge the Social Democratic-led government made earlier this month when it took office. Wallstrom said Sweden hopes to maintain cooperation with Israel and see Jerusalem respond to the announcement in “a constructive way.” But Israel fears Sweden’s move could inspire other powerful European countries to follow in its footsteps. Israeli officials said that trend could hurt prospects for future negotiations.

In swift reaction to the announcement, Israel recalled its ambassador from Stockholm in protest. Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s foreign minister, said in a statement Thursday the Scandinavian country’s recognition of a Palestinian state was unfortunate and counterproductive.

“The Swedish government must understand that relations in the Middle East are more complex than one of Ikea’s flat pack pieces of furniture, and would do well to act with greater responsibility and sensitivity,” he said in a Facebook post.

Wallstrom responded to the Ikea analogy with one of her own.

“I will be happy to send Israel FM Lieberman an Ikea flat pack to assemble,” she said. “He’ll see it requires a partner, cooperation and a good manual.”

Cyprus and Malta are the only other countries in Western Europe to recognize a Palestinian state. While British Prime Minister David Cameron currently disapproves of recognition, Britain’s Parliament recognized Palestine in a symbolic non-binding vote earlier this month. But earlier this month, the United States said international recognition for Palestine would be premature and a negotiated outcome should be the sole gateway to statehood.

Sweden’s move comes as Israelis make controversial plans to erect 1,000 housing units in East Jerusalem, exacerbating tensions between Arabs and Jews following a bloody summer conflict with Hamas in the Gaza Strip, which thwarted peace negotiations. Despite rising international impatience with Israel’s control of the West Bank, the Israeli Embassy in Sweden stood firm, saying Sweden’s decision would not promote peace or result in “any changes on the ground, but only serve a more extreme Palestinian position since no concessions are demanded from them.”

“A peace deal and a two-state solution can only be achieved through direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians,” the embassy statement said.

Courtesy: WORLD News Service

Publication date: November 3, 2014

Will Sweden Start a Trend on Palestinian State Recognition?