Ireland and the Palestinian State

Middle East Conflicts - May 29, 2024

On Wednesday morning the three leaders of the parties of Ireland’s coalition governing appeared before the cameras in front of Government Buildings to announce that the Republic had decided to recognise the Palestinian State. On the 28th of May the flag of Palestine will be raised over Leinster House seat of the Irish Parliament and the recognition will be formally adopted. On the same day Spain and Norway will do the same.

The first and most obvious question being asked is which state precisely is being recognised. If we take the Montevideo Convention as a template for what is conventionally to be considered a state article 1 of the convention says

The state as a person of international law should possess the following qualifications: (a) a permanent population; (b) a defined territory; (c) government; and (d) capacity to enter into relations with the other states.

Does Palestine have a government ? Or does it have two? Or are there in fact two Palestinian States ?The Fatah controlled Palestinian Authority established after the Oslo Accords was in control of Gaza and the West Bank but since the elections of 2006 Gaza has been controlled by Hamas. How is the territory of the State defined? Does it consist in the land from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea as Hamas assert? In 1988 when Yassar Arrafat declared the “State of Palestine on our Palestinian territory with its capital Jerusalem”. Later this was clarified to “Arab Jerusalem” . Does the Irish state envisage a Palestinian State where Israel will renounce sovereignty  of the Jerusalem or even East Jerusalem?

As of now there is no Palestinian State as normally understood to recognise so this de-escalation is more a recognition not of a reality but of a platonic idea of the Palestinian State. Ireland recognises the Form “Palestinian State” even if in the world of shadows where we ordinary folks live it does not yet exist.

Ireland has long been a proponent of the Two State Solution. As has virtually everyone else in the western world. There are of course parts of the world where the One State solution has been more popular and that State is not Israel. Why it became a good idea to make this declaration at this juncture is another question being asked in Ireland.

The Taoiseach Simon Harris said  “Ireland is resolute and unequivocal in recognising the state of Israel and Israel’s right to exist securely and in peace with its neighbours….Let me be clear that Ireland condemns the barbaric massacre carried out by Hamas on 7 October last,”  He continued “Hamas is not the Palestinian people”.  He and Minister for Foreign Affairs Michael Martin are keen that this declaration should not be construed as a victory for Hamas or terror but if that is a sincere hope then it can considered at best naive.

Hams has been quick to instrumentalise the recognition by three European nations, Spokesman Bassem Naim told Agence France Presse

‘These successive recognitions are the direct result of this brave resistance and the legendary steadfastness of the Palestinian people. We believe this will be a turning point in the international position on the Palestinian issue.’

While the Israeli government also clearly believes that the action of Ireland Spain and Norway will be seen as a victory for Hamas. Prime Minister Netanyahu in a statement made before the official declaration on Wednesday stated in a communique from his office

 “The intention of a number of countries in Europe to recognize a Palestinian state is a reward for terror… This will be a terror state, which will attempt to perpetrate the onslaught of October 7th time and again, and to that we shall not agree… A reward for terror will not bring about peace – and also will not stop us from winning over Hamas,”

Ireland has not been seen as a friendly nation to Jerusalem for some years now and it maybe that more Irish voters are sympathetic to the cause of the Palestinian people than are to the Stare of Israel but the polling on this recently has been consistent that the number of voters for whom this is a pressing issue hovers about 5%. Norway and Spain will have made their own determinations about the rights and wrongs of the issue and the consequences that may eventuate for them on foot of this recognition, Ireland is in a very different position and the Irish voters know this well.

While the reaction of the Israelis may not impinge, nor even that of Germany France or Italy our European partners or the UK our near neighbour the reaction from the USA is something that should concern our politicians.

In an interview on the radio programme The Hard Shoulder Mick Mulvaney the former White House chief of staff asserted that in Washington the plan to recognise the Palestinian State at this time was being greeted with “Shock and outrage” The decision is seen in the US as a “recognition of Hamas”

“I recognise the statement says it isn’t that and it’s directed at the Palestinian authority, but that’s not how it’s going to be perceived,…It’s going to be perceived as a reward to Hamas for October 7th that this would not have happened for them if only for October 7th and the Israeli response….it’s going to be perceived as a good thing for Hamas….Hamas has not been quiet about it today; they’re crowing from the rooftops that this is a big win for them.”

He went on to speculate that since the gesture was essentially a symbolic one that the White House might well feel it has to respond symbolically and perhaps cancel the traditional St Patricks day meeting between the the Taoiseach and the President in the White House which would create a very concerning optic for a country so deeply interconnected with US business and American FDI.

In response on social media many voices from the progressive left were dismissive of his speculation observing that he was a Trump appointee and therefore somehow not to be taken seriously . Those who however have been paying attention know that in the recent polling Donald Trump is ahead of Joe Biden across the swing states and right now looks very much the favourite to win come November. It is worth remembering that it was Donald Trump when President reversed seventy years of US policy and formally recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and mandated the embassy be moved there from Tel Aviv.

The cynical might see the timing of the announcement a couple of weeks before the European and local elections as an attempt to change the conversation away from Immigration Housing and Net Zero where increasingly independents seem to be making head way against the larger parties and get into loftier global narratives where the professional politicians can shine. More likely what we are seeing is in part well intentioned and in part more of the same  Virtue Signalling and Politics as Theatre that has been the hall mark of Dublin political discourse for the life of this administration. Irish Politicians love to say that Ireland punches above its weight when it comes to international diplomacy but there is always the danger that this delusion leads to a  day you get into the ring with a fighter that punches far harder than you and all the virtuous intent in the world will not protect from a painful introduction to Real Politik.