Spain, Norway and Ireland will recognize the Palestinian state next week. Since the beginning of the war in Gaza, on October 7, several countries have spoken of two states, Palestine and Israel, as part of the solution to the conflict in the Middle East, including the The United States, the United Kingdom and the European Union, but few Western leaders had taken the step of supporting Palestinian sovereignty in Gaza and the West Bank. The 1948 UN decision that created the State of Israel provided for a neighboring Palestinian State, but some 70 years later control of the Palestinian territories remains divided and candidacies for membership in the United Nations have been rejected.

The Palestinian authorities are celebrating the decision, which they consider a historic milestone in their struggle for sovereignty. But in reality the gesture has little practical effect. What exactly does the recognition of Palestine as a State mean?

Shortly before the second intifada, Yasser Arafat, then chairman of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), proclaimed the State of Palestine, which included Gaza and the West Bank, with East Jerusalem as its capital , which represented barely 22% of historical Palestine. It was embodied in the Declaration of Independence of the Palestinian National Council on November 15, 1988 in Algiers, but the Israeli occupation, backed by its allies, never allowed it to materialize.

After the aforementioned declaration, 85 countries recognized the Palestinian State, including most of the Arab countries. In the following years, other nations followed and so far there are 143 members of the UN that have recognized Palestine. Most are southern and eastern countries. In 2014, Sweden became the first Western country to recognize Palestine, after joining the European Union. Eight more recognized Palestine before joining the EU, including Malta, Cyprus and some from Eastern Europe. As of Tuesday, May 28, the total will rise to 11 of the 27 EU members. Outside the EU bloc, there is Iceland, the Vatican and, soon, Norway.

At present, the recognition of the Palestinian State remains mainly a symbolic gesture. In practice, it does not guarantee that the Palestinians have sovereignty over the territories they claim. Israel continues to maintain control over borders (land, sea and airspace), security and most resources in Gaza and the West Bank. “The will of Norway, Ireland and Spain is to put Israel and Palestine on an equal footing within the logic of the two states as a solution to the conflict,” says Cidob director Pol Morillas to La Vanguardia. “There is also the will to move towards an EU position towards this recognition”, he adds. However, the expert in European politics considers that in practical terms the only recognition that “would make a substantial difference” in the status of Palestine within the international community would be to become part of the UN as a member state and not as an observer, as it is now. “And this will not happen for the time being because it requires the approval of the Security Council, and the United States has already exercised its right to veto on this issue,” recalls Morillas.

While the US, like many of Israel’s Western allies, supports the idea of ​​a Palestinian state existing alongside Israel as a solution to the conflict, they understand that recognition must occur within framework of these negotiations. There have been no substantial negotiations on this issue since 2009. Instead, Spain, Norway and Ireland consider that recognition is now a necessary and preliminary step in the process of reaching a two-state solution.

The decision of the three European countries puts some pressure on Israel, hence the Israeli discomfort – which has called its ambassadors for consultations – and the joy of Hamas and the Palestinian National Authority – which interpret it as a legitimization of their cause–. However, some analysts believe that the gesture has little effectiveness when it comes to really putting pressure on Israel. “We have to ask ourselves if some states take this measure to avoid taking other, much more tangible ones, such as arms or trade embargoes and sanctions on the Israeli government”, pointed out the co-director of the think tank Al Shabaka, the Palestinian Policy Network, Iara Hawari, in an article published late last month in Al-Jazeera.