Palestine is a country… Right? Well, maybe. Although it is recognized by many Muslim countries as a formal state and has an observer status in the United Nations, few Western countries have outright recognized Palestine as a legitimate country until now. In an edgy move, Sweden has become the first major European country to recognize Palestine as legitimate and state that it has right to its own autonomy. This daring move comes amid heightened tensions from a diplomatic push by Palestinians in the UN to gain a resolution for the two-year deadline of Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories by November 2016. That date is coming up soon.
The formal acknowledgement by Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven is seen as a significant backing to the Palestinian cause. The White House has cautiously warned Sweden that it risked “alienating even its closest allies”- such as Israel- in the move. This diplomatic push puts Israel in a very tight spot. Surrounded by Muslim countries, since its inception on May 14th, 1948, Israel has been in a near state of constant warfare by its neighbors, and has since established a proactive rather than reactive stance to the neighborly threats. Tensions in the Palestinian territories, specifically the Gaza Strip, have risen and fallen dramatically at various points in the past, but nevertheless, the areas continue to be problematic towards the Israeli cause. Therefore, this movement by Palestinians is seen as a threat to many Israelis, who would want nothing less than military occupation in these lands continuing into the foreseeable future.
But Palestinians are tired of being the outsiders in what they see as their rightful home. Sweden’s reputation as an international peace broker and honest, influential voice will surely make other European nations sit up in their seats. Within the European Union, Sweden joins a small group of nations who similarly support the Palestinian cause: such as Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia. Mr. Lofven has received harsh criticisms from both Israel and the US, condemning the actions of his government, and even his own deputy, Annicka Engblom, has filed a complaint with the party saying that Mr. Lofven has violated Swedish law by unilaterally declaring the recognition of Palestine without approval from the Advisory Council of Foreign Affairs. If he is found to have broken the law, he could be reprimanded by the party, which is seen as a very severe punishment in the eyes of politics. Parliament has apparently been outraged, and ministers are taking sides.
What will happen within Palestine? The future is certainly uncertain, if anything, but perhaps it may win its independence after all. Unfortunately, it seems the solution will not be easy nor forthcoming any time in the near future.