There are those who will argue that our decision to recognise the State of Palestine is premature. If anything, I fear that it is too late. New Israeli settlement decisions have hampered a two-state solution. The purpose of our recognition is to contribute to a future where Israel and Palestine live side by side in peaceful coexistence, writes Sweden's minister for foreign affairs Margot Wallström.
The government will decide today to recognise the State of Palestine. This is an important step that confirms the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination.
Sweden’s traditionally close ties with the state of Israel are now complemented by an equivalent relationship with the other party in the two-state solution that Israelis, Palestinians and a united international community see as the path to lasting peace in the Middle East.
Our decision comes at a critical time. Over the last year, we have seen how the peace talks have again stalled, how new settlement decisions on occupied Palestinian land have hampered a two-state solution and how violence returned to Gaza. Today’s recognition is a contribution to a better future for a region that for far too long has been marked by frozen negotiations, destruction and frustration.
By recognising the State of Palestine, we want first of all to lend our support to the moderate Palestinian forces – those who will manage the complex Palestinian state-building process and those who will soon again have to sit at the negotiating table.
Secondly, we want to facilitate an agreement by making the parties in these negotiations less unequal. The objective is to enable Israel and Palestine to live within mutually recognised borders, with the 1967 borders as the basis and Jerusalem as the capital of two states, and where any land swaps will only be accepted if negotiated by the parties.
And thirdly, we want to contribute to creating more hope and belief in the future among young Palestinians and Israelis who might otherwise risk being radicalised in the belief that there is no alternative to violence and the status quo. We want our recognition to say the same thing to the six-year-old child in Gaza who has already experienced three wars as to six-year-olds in Israel: we still believe in a peace agreement based on the state of Israel living side by side in peace and security with a democratic, cohesive and viable Palestinian state.
The government considers that the international law criteria for the recognition of the State of Palestine have been satisfied.
There is a territory, albeit with non-defined borders. There is also a population. And there is a government with the capacity for internal and external control.
In addition, the international community has deemed Palestine to be well positioned for the establishment of a state; in other words, it has the capacity to assume the obligations of a state.
It is true that the Palestinian Authority does not have full control over Palestine, neither in the West Bank nor in Gaza. As far as Gaza is concerned, following the formation of Palestinian technocratic unity government and the reconciliation agreement between Hamas and Fatah, the capacity for internal cohesion has been enhanced. Not to recognise Palestine because of the Israeli occupation would be contrary to the international law principle of ‘no fruits of aggression’.
The government’s assessment that the international law criteria have been fulfilled is shared by international law experts, including Professor Ove Bring, Professor Said Mahmoudi and Professor Pål Wrange, who recently wrote an opinion piece on this subject in Dagens Nyheter (20 October).
Sweden has previously recognised states – Croatia in 1992 and Kosovo in 2008 – even though they lacked effective control over parts of their territory. Palestine is similarly a special case. Now as then, there are strong political arguments for why recognition – a decision regarding Palestine already taken by more than 130 states – is the right way to go.
In 2009 EU member states reiterated their readiness to recognise a Palestinian state, when appropriate. We are now ready to lead the way. In view of the difficult situation in the region and in light of the international law analysis, the government sees no reason to further delay a Swedish decision. We hope that this may show others the way forward.
Sweden’s recognition of the State of Palestine will be followed by enhanced efforts to support the development of democracy and human rights in Palestine. Recognition also entails greater responsibility. We will make clear demands on Palestine, just as we do on Israel. These will include fighting corruption, respecting civil and political rights and increasing the influence of women. Obviously, this also means a complete renunciation of violence.
There are those who will argue that today’s decision is premature. If anything, I fear it is too late. The government will now, together with the other EU countries, the United States and other regional and international actors, work to support renewed negotiations on a final status settlement. Such a settlement must be negotiated in accordance with the principles of international law and guarantee both the Palestinians’ and Israelis’ legitimate demands for national self-determination and security.
Israel and Palestine are already living side by side. The goal is to be able to do so in peaceful coexistence with secure and recognised borders. The purpose of Sweden’s recognition is to contribute to such a future.