Iceland First W. European Country to Recognize Palestinian State

Iceland became the first western European country to recognize Palestine as an independent state. The Icelandic parliament passed the motion this week with 38 of 63 votes in favor of recognizing Palestine as a sovereign state.

The Icelandic minister for foreign affairs Ossur Skarphedinsson, told RUV, the Icelandic national broadcasting service, "Iceland is the first country in western Europe to take this step." He also said the vote gives him the authority to make a formal declaration on the government’s behalf regarding Palestine, but that he will discuss it further with other Nordic countries.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas sent out a message after the vote, which Palestinian UN observer Riyad Mansour read at the UN headquarters. The message reaffirmed Palestine’s bid for UN membership, saying it would help complement peace negotiations, but only if Israel is prepared to negotiate on the basis of the 1967 borders.

Abbas also said in the message that Palestinians don’t want to "to de-legitimize Israel" by applying to join the UN, rather they want to "de-legitimize its settlement activities and the seizure of our occupied lands." He added that Israeli sanctions imposed on them because of Palestine’s recent UNESCO membership are unjust.

Evelyn Gordon wrote an op-ed for the Jewish magazine, Commentary, regarding the vote. She said some in the Icelandic parliament probably voted for the resolution because it recognizes pre-1967 Palestinian borders and urges Israel and Palestine to sign a peace agreement for “mutual recognition.” But the problem for her is that it also affirms the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their former homes.

For Gordon, the resolution makes it seem as though “it isn’t enough for the Palestinians to have one state; they ought to have two: one in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, and another in pre-1967 Israel, which would be converted from a Jewish-majority to a Palestinian-majority state by flooding it with some five million descendants of the 1948 refugees.”

Most see the recognition as largely symbolic though. Senior Fellow with the Hudson Institute Tevi Troy told The Christian Post that the vote isn’t going to help Palestine get what it wants. “If it (Iceland) were a larger, more powerful European state, it might have greater implications,” he said. But the truth is, “if anything is going to get sorted out, [and] for Palestine to get what they want they have to negotiate with Israel. The rest is a side show.”

Tuesday’s decision coincided with a day of solidarity with the Palestinian people. The United Nations has a day of solidarity each year to recognize the Palestine Liberation Organization as the legal authority for a Palestinian state. It also urges Israel and Palestine to come together to reach a peace agreement.