What Does It Mean to Recognize a Palestinian State?

The decision by three European countries — Ireland, Norway and Spain — to recognize a Palestinian state fits into a long-term goal of Palestinian leaders to secure diplomatic acceptance, but it appears that the immediate practical impact will be limited.

Broadly speaking, recognizing a state means declaring that it meets the conditions of statehood under international law. It typically opens a path to setting up diplomatic relations and an embassy there. But the European countries appeared to be mostly concerned with expressing support for Palestinians and sending a message to Israel at a time of deepening international concern about its conduct of the war.

The foreign minister of Norway, Espen Barth Eide, told a news conference that the country’s representative office to the Palestinian Authority, which was opened in the West Bank in 1999, would become an embassy. He gave no date for this change but said it would enable Norway to enter into bilateral agreements.

Recognition would also have some “domestic legal effects in Norway in areas where issues related to the state of Palestine arise,” he said.

Statements by the leaders of Ireland and Spain focused on the need for peace in Gaza and the importance of a two-state solution, but did not mention embassies or other immediate changes.

“Recognition of Palestine is not the end of a process, it is the beginning,” said Simon Harris, the taoiseach, or prime minister, of Ireland. He said that Ireland was recognizing the right of a Palestinian state to exist in peace and security within internationally agreed borders, and said that to do so sent a message “that there is a viable alternative to the nihilism of Hamas.”

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