Officials in Sweden have confirmed that there will be recognition of the state of Palestine, a move which is a sign of increased pressure on Israel amid worldwide scrutiny from the Gaza genocide.
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Sweden’s new center-left government will recognise the state of Palestine in a move that will make it the first major European country to take the step, Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said on Friday.
The U.N. General Assembly approved the de facto recognition of the sovereign state of Palestine in 2012 but the European Union and most EU countries, have yet to give official recognition.
“The conflict between Israel and Palestine can only be solved with a two-state solution, negotiated in accordance with international law,” Lofven said during his inaugural address in parliament.
“A two-state solution requires mutual recognition and a will to peaceful co-existence. Sweden will therefore recognise the state of Palestine.”
For the Palestinians, Sweden’s move will be a welcome boost for its ambitions.
With its reputation as an honest broker in international affairs and with an influential voice in EU foreign policy, the decision may well make other countries sit up and pay attention at a time when the Palestinians are threatening unilateral moves towards statehood.
However, there is likely to be strong criticism of Sweden from Israel, as well as from the United States and the EU, which maintain that an independent Palestinian state should only emerge through a negotiated process.
Within the EU, some countries, such as Hungary, Poland and Slovakia recognise Palestine, but they did so before joining the 28-member bloc.
If the centre-left government fulfils its plans, Sweden would be the first country to recognise Palestine while being a member of the European Union.
Officials representing the European Union mildly criticized the Israel plan to build new settlement homes in contested East Jerusalem. The response from leaders has been seen as largely empty rhetoric when compared to the absence of condemnation during the most recent Gaza airstrikes.
Plans for new settlements in East Jerusalem pose a threat to peace and Israel’s relations with the European Union, the 28-member bloc said on Friday, joining the United States in its criticism of the decision.
The strong language from the European Union, the biggest aid donor to the Palestinians who seek statehood in territories captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war, echoes criticism from Germany, France and Washington.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said the decision to build 2,610 homes in Givat Hamatos would be the first new settlement in the East Jerusalem area for 15 years.
“This represents a further highly detrimental step that undermines prospects for a two-state solution and calls into question Israel’s commitment to a peaceful negotiated settlement with the Palestinians,” the European Union’s External Action Service said in a statement.
“We stress that the future development of relations between the EU and Israel will depend on the latter’s engagement towards a lasting peace based on a two-state solution,” the EEAS said, referring to an independent and democratic Palestinian state that would exist alongside Israel.
It did not say whether any action would be taken over its criticism. Israel is eligible for 14 million euros ($17.6 million) in EU funding over the next seven years, while the EU is Israel’s biggest trading partner.
EU criticisms followed a message from US President Barack Obama to the Israeli Prime Minister on the bold plans.
US President Barack Obama has told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Washington’s deep concerns over an Israeli plan to build 2,600 new settler homes in East Jerusalem.
Obama raised the development in face-to-face talks in the Oval Office on Wednesday, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.
“The United States is deeply concerned by reports the Israeli government has moved forward” with planning for settlements in a “sensitive area” of East Jerusalem, Earnest said.
Earnest said Israel would send a “very troubling message” by following through with the settlement project, and in noticeably blunt language said that the step was contrary to Israel’s stated goal of negotiating a permanent final status agreement with the Palestinians.
“This development will only draw condemnation from the international community, [and] distance Israel from even its closest allies,” Earnest said.
He added that it would also “poison the atmosphere” – not only with the Palestinians but with “the very Arab governments” with which Netanyahu had said he wanted to build relations.
All Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian territory are illegal under international law.