(photo credit: REUTERS)
Just days after the new Swedish prime minister announced Stockholm will recognize the “state of Palestine,” the British Parliament is scheduled to hold a symbolic debate on recognition on Monday, while Israel searches for ways to put an end to discussion on the matter so it does not gain momentum.
“There is a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy here,” one diplomatic official said. “The more people talk about recognition, the more they will feel that they need to take some kind of action.”
Israel wants to try to put an end to the discussion by arguing that recognizing a Palestinian state will only feed unrealistic Palestinian expectations that they can bypass Israel and get the international community to impose a solution.
Trying to squelch the discussion on the issue was one of the reasons for Israel’s tough reaction to Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven’s announcement, and for the very public “reprimand” Israel delivered on Monday to Swedish Ambassador Carl Magnus Nesser.
While there are low expectations in Jerusalem that Sweden will reverse its decision – although the timing of the recognition is not clear – Israel’s angry response was meant as much to deter other government’s from considering the move than it was for Stockholm.
At this point, Jerusalem will suffice with the diplomatic protest delivered to the Swedish ambassador, and does not intend to take any other diplomatic measure to express its displeasure, such as recalling Israel’s ambassador for consultations. Diplomatic officials would not say how Israel will respond if and when Stockholm goes ahead with the recognition.
Sweden’s announcement doesn’t promote the diplomatic process but harms it, leading to a deterioration of the situation on the ground and reducing the prospects of reaching an agreement, because it creates false expectations among the Palestinians that unilateral steps will solve the conflict, senior diplomat Aviv Shir-On told the Swedish ambassador on Monday.
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Shir-On, the ministry’s deputy director-general in charge of Western Europe, summoned Nesser to his office and – according to a statement issued by the Foreign Ministry – expressed Israel’s disappointment at the move.
Shir-On told Nesser that Lofven’s decision to focus on the Palestinian issue even as atrocities are being committed in many countries in the region on a daily basis was “surprising.”
The ambassador noted Israel’s protest and said he would relay it back to Stockholm.
Just before the meeting, Nesser told Army Radio that “Israel and Sweden have a strong relationship, and that the new government has been very clear that it wants it to continue.” He said this was the message he took to the ministry.
Nesser said that with peace talks having been suspended for a while, “the tragedy of the conflict in Gaza made it very clear that the status quo needs to be changed.”
In Britain, meanwhile, the parliamentary debate on recognizing a Palestinian state, sponsored by Labor lawmaker Grahame Morris, is designed to raise the political profile of the issue.
The motion is unlikely to win approval through the British Parliament because it is at odds with official policy, but even if it does pass, it is nonbinding and would not force the government to change its diplomatic stance.
“It’s against the government position, but it’s not an attack on them as such. We just feel that now’s the time to shout out loud that this should be done,” Morris said.
“Not only is statehood the inalienable right of the Palestinian people, but recognizing Palestine will breathe new life into a peace process that is at an impasse,” he said.
The UN General Assembly recognized Palestine as a nonmember state in 2012 but the European Union and most EU countries, including Britain, have yet to give official recognition.
“We continue to believe that negotiations toward a two-state solution are the best route to meeting Palestinian aspirations in reality and on the ground,” a Foreign Office spokesman said.Reuters contributed to this report.
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