Cecile Feuillatre
Last updated: 14 October, 2014

Despite recent shifts, broad recognition of Palestine still long way off

Despite a highly-symbolic British vote to recognise Palestine as a state, the road to official recognition is still fraught with obstacles, experts say, with the hoped-for two-state solution a long way off.

Diplomats and analysts see Monday’s overwhelming British vote to recognise Palestine as a state, following Sweden’s decision to do so, as a “small shift”, but warn against reading too much into it.

“It’s moving a little bit. Certain European countries are trying to make themselves heard and push things forward,” said Agnes Levallois, an expert on the Arab world, adding that the push for Middle East peace must now come from Europe after the failure of US-led efforts.

According to an AFP count, at least 112 countries around the world have recognised a Palestinian state. A Palestinian count puts the number at 134.

EU member countries that have recognized a Palestinian state include Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Malta, Poland and Romania.

But experts say the EU is unlikely to push further towards recognition, particularly given the sensitivity of European heavyweight Germany’s relations with Israel due to Berlin’s Nazi past.

France has said it will recognise Palestine “when the time is right” but diplomats say Paris will not act outside the European framework.

The Palestinian ambassador in Paris, Hael al-Fahoum, said: “I hope that France, which is normally a driving force on this topic, will soon make a very important gesture.”

But diplomats in Paris say that France is not yet ready to follow Sweden and take the plunge. “You can only play the card of recognition once, which is why it is important to choose one’s moment,” said one diplomat, who requested anonymity.

“There’s no other answer” to the conflict than the two-state solution, said another source.

But frustration is growing within the international community in the face of a seemingly intractable conflict with the Europeans increasingly vocal about the cost of rebuilding after military flare-ups.

French President Francois Hollande said in August that the EU should not be seen as a “cash point” for reconstruction and EU foreign policy supremo Catherine Ashton said it must be the “last time” the international community has to pay to rebuild Gaza, after a global pledge made on Sunday of $5.4 billion.

Pessimists say that a political solution seems light years away, pointing to “out of control” Israeli settlement building, “weak and divided” Palestinians and difficulty restoring trust after this year’s Gaza conflict that killed more than 2,000 Palestinians and dozens of Israelis.

The emergence of the Islamic State and the crisis in Syria and Iraq threatens to take the international community’s eye off the ball in the Middle East peace process as well, warn analysts.

And Israel cautioned that “premature international recognition … actually undermines the chances to reach a real peace.”