Spanish parliament easily passes measure recognizing Palestinian state

The symbolic motion, which echoes similar votes last month in Britain and Ireland, received the backing of all the political groups of the lower house.

DEMONSTRATORS MARCH with Palestinian flags during a protest against the Israeli offensive against Gaza, in Valencia, Spain (photo credit: REUTERS)
DEMONSTRATORS MARCH with Palestinian flags during a protest against the Israeli offensive against Gaza, in Valencia, Spain
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The lower house of Spain’s parliament voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to recognize “Palestine” as a state.
“I want to express my satisfaction that all (political parties) have decided to vote for this declaration,” said Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Garcia-Margallo.
He added that just as Spanish politicians must arrive at accords in the parliament, “so too we have to arrive at accords in the European Union if we want a foreign policy that’s common and truly continental.”
The position of the Spanish government has been to seek recognition of Palestinian statehood as the end result of bilateral negotiations, rather than unilaterally recognizing it outside such a process.
Spain’s position takes on a magnified importance heading into 2015, when it will assume a temporary position on the United Nations Security Council, a body whose support is necessary for Palestinians to become a UN member state.
Margallo said Monday before the vote “the worst service we can give to the cause of peace in the Middle East is for each country to continue advancing national, isolated solutions and not a joint solution." At a conference of European Union foreign ministers Monday, EU policy chief Federica Mogherini said that creating a Palestinian state was more important than recognizing one.
“What we need is not just recognition [of a Palestinian state]. We need the building of a Palestinian state that can live next to the Israeli one in peace and security,” she said.
The bill’s main proponent, former foreign minster Trinidad Jimenez, opened Tuesday’s legislative session by restating her “conviction that the solution to the conflict in the Middle East depends on the coexistence of two states.”
She said because “negotiations have been cut off again and again,” it is necessary to “take another step forward” towards Palestinian statehood and regional peace.
“It’s not against Israel, and it’s not against Palestine,” she said Monday in an interview with the Jerusalem Post. “It’s only to push parties to negotiate, to sit down.”
Speaking Sunday with Germany’s foreign minister, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called similar resolutions that passed the British and Irish parliaments this fall counterproductive, saying the “the calls… to unilaterally recognize a Palestinian state pushed peace backwards.”
“They don’t tell the Palestinians that they have to make their peace with a nation-state for the Jewish people,” he said. They just give the Palestinians a nation-state.”
Spain’s Congress of Deputies passed the motion after the largest opposition party, the Spanish Socialist Workers Party, led by Jimenez, rejected an amendment from other opposition groups to fix a timeline for the recognition of “Palestine,” Spanish newspaper El País reported.
But the more significant compromise was between the opposition and the ruling Popular Party, which added a paragraph promoting an international solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that “takes fully into account the legitimate worries, interests and aspirations of the State of Israel,” the newspaper reported.
The motion passed with 319 votes in favor, two opposed and a single abstention.
Some in the opposition took positions during Tuesday’s session that went further than the resolution.
Basque politician Rafael Larreina took the podium wearing a red, white and green scarf that said “Palestine” in English. He condemned the recent violence in Israel, including a terrorist attack that killed four in Jerusalem and the hanging death of a Palestinian bus driver that Israeli police ruled a suicide, saying those events “lead to the conclusion that it’s urgent” to recognize a Palestinian state.
Addressing a gallery of diplomats from the Arab world, Communist politician Joan Josep Noep said Israel, “invades Palestinian land and kills its people,” and called for the urgent recognition of a Palestinian state with “a capital that is called Jerusalem.”
Though Noep had been in favor of an amendment recognizing “the historic city” as the Palestinian capital, his party withdrew it and he praised the measure as a clear statement of purpose.
Referring to the French parliament’s Nov. 28 vote on Palestinian statehood, he said “the news tomorrow will be that we urge the government of Spain to recognize the state of Palestine, like Sweden has done as well, just like France will do next week, and how other European countries will possibly do following our example.”
Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.