On Monday, MP’s in the House of Commons will vote on British recognition for the Palestinian state. This historic parliamentary vote will call on the British government to unilaterally and integrally recognize the state of Palestine. The vote follows the announcement of Sweden last week that it intended to become the first major EU country to officially recognize the Palestinian state. The news was received with fury by Israel, which called in the Swedish ambassador for a public reprimand.
Signs of internal peace in Gaza
This week, Palestine’s new unity government held its first cabinet meeting in Gaza in 10 years. Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and 16 ministers toured the town of Beit Hanoun and the Gaza City neighborhood of Shijaiyah, both of which are areas that were badly damaged during this summer’s conflict with Israel. The Morning Star reports the PM’s impressions of the tour, “what we have seen today is horrible. I cried in Beit Hanoun when I saw how the people live and sleep. The priority is reconstruction and political unification.”
Rami Hamdallah’s trip is considered an important step towards ending the long-standing division between the secular Fatah, which governs the West Bank, and the Islamist Hamas, who have been in control of Gaza since 2007. The visit and sudden friendly tone between Fatah and Hamas could be a strategic move to show unity in order to obtain more support from Europe.
Fears of a global trend
Palestine, who was upgraded to the status of nonmember observer state of the United Nations by a vote in the General Assembly in November 2012, is slowly obtaining more international recognition. The announcement of Sweden along with the upcoming British vote could be the start of a greater pro-Palestinian global movement. The French Foreign Ministry said this week that recognition would be a positive step.
As The Independent explains, “while a vote in favor of Palestinian recognition [in Britain] would only be symbolic and not bind the Government it would nonetheless have profound international implications.” The Daily Star reports that a Palestinian official said last week that “European moves toward recognizing an independent Palestine would bring them in line with global public opinion,” referring to the British parliament debate on the issue set for early next week. The shift in global public opinion over Palestine, which gained momentum during the invasion of Gaza this summer, could influence the dynamics of the conflict. We may also expect a counter move by the Israeli government, likely to increase tensions over the next several weeks.
Israel’s economy at risk
In this moment, Israel cannot afford to renew the armed conflict with Gaza. According to analysts at National Public Radio, the war over the summer cost the Israeli economy about $3 billion. Businesses, especially those in the south, suffered as customers stayed in their homes. One of the hardest-hit sectors was tourism. The number of foreign tourists arriving plummeted more than 25 percent. With Israel renewing its negative rhetoric against Palestine ahead of the British vote, tensions are likely to increase, putting Israeli economic sectors, such as agriculture and tourism, at risk once again.