A step towards peace
DW: Sweden has just recognized Palestine's statehood. This generated a lot of applause from Palestine - but also criticism, and not only from Israel. Who does the recognition of Palestine help?
Antar: This recognition helps peace, above all. Sweden has made an important contribution to the peace process and to rescuing the two-state solution. Everyone knows that without international intervention, the two-state solution could topple, because all the facts created by the Israeli side only hinder it.
Some are also very critical of this recognition because it does not change the status quo and all the problems remain unsolved.
Sweden has encouraged France, Ireland and Spain to take the same step, because we are talking about two unequal parties here. The Israelis are building settlements on Palestinian ground every day. This is going to prevent any connection between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Any reasonable person who looks at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict recognizes that the two-state solution is the best solution. But Israel simply goes on with its settlement policy and thus the two-state solution is reduced to naught.
Does that mean that the more countries that recognize Palestine's statehood, the more likely the two-state solution is?
The Palestinians need hope in order to continue on the peaceful path. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says that too: that a state can only be founded through peaceful means. But without help from outside, that is simply not doable. Palestinians are being humiliated by Israeli policy, which has been going on for over ten years. In the past our experience has been that the Europeans take the first step, and the Americans often follow.
The recognition of Palestine as a state does not solve the problems between Israelis and Palestinians, however.
That's true. But recognition would force Israel to a solution. Therefore, we thank the Europeans. They are trying to follow the right course, so that the situation does not come to a third Intifada. The Palestinians are losing more and more hope. Therefore, they expect help from the Europeans.
Help in what form?
Above all, political support, which could contribute to Palestinians continuing to believe in a peaceful course and peaceful co-existence with Israel. Otherwise radicalization will take over here. We want to prevent that. But for that we need hope - and that could come from the countries that Israel supports the most, i.e. the Americans and the Europeans.
Usama Antar is a political scientist in Gaza City
Interview by Anne Allmeling