Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez during a visit to the Rafah border crossing on November 24, 2023 in Rafah, Egypt. (Photo by Ali Moustafa/Getty Images)

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Spain ‘to recognise Palestinian statehood before summer’ amid ongoing EU division

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The Spanish Government is making its support of Palestine known ahead of the European Parliament elections on June 9.

On his current trip to the Middle East, Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez told journalists his country planned to officially recognise the State of Palestine “before the summer”.

Sánchez is also making an effort to persuade Arab nations to recognise Israel’s legitimacy.

On March 9, Spain promised to recognise Palestine as a state “in this legislature” but with his statements on April 1, Sánchez has brought that goal forward.

“We have to be attentive to the decisions that will be taken soon in Brussels and New York,” he said.

His latest move comes after Spain, together with Ireland, Slovenia and Malta, said at the European Council in Brussels on March 22 that the recognition of the State of Palestine was the “only way to achieve peace and security” in the war-torn region.

The four countries stated they stood ready to do so “when it [Palestine] can make a positive contribution and the circumstances are right”.

Madrid thinks those “circumstances” are fast approaching being “right” as it now is aiming for an official recognition of Palestine by July.

Malta already acknowledges the legitimacy of the State of Palestine.

Sánchez said he believed there would soon be a “critical mass” within the European Union to push several Member States to adopt the same position, according to state news agency EFE.

That is despite Israel’s objections as it battles the terrorist group Hamas based in Palestine.

When Spain and the three other EU countries announced their intentions, Israel called it a “prize for terrorism”, claiming it would only make finding a solution more difficult.

“Recognition of a Palestinian State following the October 7 massacre sends a message to Hamas and the other Palestinian terrorist organisations that murderous terror attacks on Israelis will be reciprocated with political gestures to the Palestinians,” Israel’s foreign minister Israel Katz said on X.

“A resolution of the conflict will only be possible through direct negotiations between the parties. Any engagement in the recognition of a Palestinian State only distances reaching a resolution and increases regional instability.”

Apparently in a bid to appease Israel, Madrid is trying to persuade Arab nations, such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar, that have not yet officially recognised the State of Israel to do so.

Of the 193 UN members, 139 have acknowledged Palestinian statehood since 1988. The opposing countries are primarily Western.

Conversely, Israel is recognised by 165 UN members, with most of opponents being in the Arab world.

To achieve a two-state solution, Spain wants Western nations to acknowledge Palestine and, concurrently, the Arab states to acknowledge Israel.

Both the war between Hamas and Israel and the occupation of parts of the West Bank might make progress difficult.

Still, diplomatic sources from Madrid told El Pais they expected a “window of opportunity” to open in the near future.

The sources said it was anticipated that the intense phase of the military campaign against Hamas will soon wind down and diplomats want to make a move ahead of the US elections. That would be in a bid to secure support from Washington while it still was possible, as the sources said it was expected that a win for Donald Trump as president would mean the US would fully back Israel.

Although El Pais reported that Madrid would move ahead regardless.

Portugal and Belgium were also willing to push for a recognition of Palestine, to promote the two-state solution, but they pulled out at the eleventh hour amid respective election campaigns in their countries, according to the Spanish newspaper.

The EU is divided over the issue. Countries such as Austria and Germany vehemently oppose the move to recognise Palestine while others including France and Italy are also not in favour.

Spain has been a vocal supporter of the Palestinian cause and Sánchez has visited the region three times since October 7.

On April 2, he also guaranteed that his country would continue to support the controversial UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA).