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Which countries recognize Palestinian statehood?

May 24, 2024

Despite widespread international recognition of Palestine as a state, many Western nations say they will only endorse Palestinian statehood as part of a comprehensive peace agreement with Israel.

The Palestinian flag hanging outside UN headquarters in New York City
Spain, Ireland and Norway will be among the latest to recognize Palestinian statehoodImage: Dennis Van Tine/Geisler-Fotopress/picture alliance

In a coordinated move, Norway, Spain and Ireland have announced plans to recognize a Palestinian state next week. The decision aims to bolster prospects for a lasting peace agreement under a two-state solution, but it has encountered opposition from Israel.

"Israel will not remain silent in the face of those undermining its sovereignty and endangering its security," Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz wrote on the social media platform X, formerly Twitter, announcing the recall of ambassadors from the three countries.

Most countries worldwide already acknowledge the State of Palestine, but opposition remains strong from certain key powers. On May 11 of this year, 143 of 193 United Nations General Assembly members voted in favor of a resolution that would recognize Palestinian statehood.

Palestine already has non-member observer status, but full UN membership can only be decided upon by the UN Security Council. In April, the United States, a permanent member with veto power, blocked a draft resolution that would have recommended granting Palestine full membership.

The path to recognition for a Palestinian state

Currently, at least 139 nations officially recognize Palestine as a state. Just over half of these did this formally after November 1988, when the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) officially declared Palestine an independent state. Endorsements came from communist states such as the Soviet Union and China, as well as non-aligned countries Yugoslavia and India.

More countries followed suit. In the last decade of the 20th century, many central Asian nations, along with South Africa, the Philippines and Rwanda, established diplomatic relations with the State of Palestine. In the early 2000s, Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador and Venezuela officially recognized Palestine as a sovereign nation.

In 2011, The Palestinian Authority (PA) applied for full membership in the UN, but the Security Council dismissed its bid. Nonetheless, the PA's diplomatic efforts, coupled with widespread frustration with the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process, prompted more than a dozen countries, including Chile, Uruguay and Peru, to recognize Palestine as a state.

In 2011, Palestine was admitted as a full member of UNESCO, marking a victory for Palestinian diplomacy. Iceland became the first Western European country to recognize Palestine the same year, setting a precedent for Sweden, which followed suit in 2014.

A hall hosting the session of UNESCO's 36th General Conference.
For some countries, recognizing Palestine was a symbolic act to balance diplomatic relations in the Middle East and to signal their commitment to a two-state solution.Image: dapd

Recent developments

Earlier this month, the Bahamas, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, and Barbados announced their recognition of Palestine. In June 2023, Mexico announced its full support for Palestinian statehood, and shortly afterward, the Mexican government moved to establish a full embassy with all the privileges and immunities granted to diplomatic missions in the Palestinian territories.

In 2018, Colombia declared Palestine a sovereign nation just before President Juan Manuel Santos' term ended. Since the beginning of the Israeli offensive on Gaza, the Latin American country, which exported $1 billion worth of goods to Israel in 2023, has reduced its political and economic relations with Israel. Colombian President Gustavo Petro has cut ties with Israel and earlier this week ordered the opening of an embassy in the Palestinian city of Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank.

What is the West's stance?

The US, Canada, Australia, many Western European states and their allies Japan and South Korea officially support the concept of an independent Palestinian state coexisting with Israel as a resolution to the long-standing Middle Eastern conflict. However, many say that they will only recognize Palestine as an independent nation within the framework of a comprehensive peace agreement. 

In view of the current developments, several European states are reconsidering their stance.

On Wednesday, French Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne said his country stood by the decision not to recognize Palestinian statehood but added that the topic was "not taboo." On the same day, a spokesperson at the Maltese Foreign Ministry told reporters that "Malta has recently affirmed its readiness to recognize Palestine when such recognition can make a positive contribution."

Belgian legislators have been working on a resolution to recognize a Palestinian state in recent days, but Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said on Wednesday that the timing was not right and that his country would "continue to be part of the like-minded group on Palestinian statehood."

Ireland, Spain, Norway to recognize Palestinian state