“Considering” recognition of the State of Palestine

Apr 28, 2024
Palestinian flag flying freely in the suburban suburbs backlit at sunset. Image:iStock/ChiccoDodiFC

The recognition of the State of Palestine has been an issue for the current Labor government since it came to office. Readers are reminded of these articles: The ALP and the Israeli occupation of Palestine, 9 August 2022; Why did Australia oppose the ICJ advisory opinion on Israeli settlements?, 15 February 2023; Recognise Palestine Now!, 3 October 2023; and The 2025 Federal Election – what are we to do?, 30 January, 2024.

Readers are also reminded of the impending ICJ decision on the advisory opinion requested of it by the General Assembly of the UN: International law and Israel’s occupation: Understanding the ICJ advisory opinion case, 7 March 2024.

To complicate matters further is the recent vote – and US veto – in the Security Council on the application to the Security Council for it to award full UN member state status to Palestine: The end of occupation: A state of Palestine at the UN, 16 April 2024, and A state of Palestine? Outrage as US backs perpetual occupation and oppression, 20 April 2024. It should be understood that such recognition would necessarily be on the current boundaries as accepted by international law, namely the ’67 boundaries: UN Security Council Resolution 242, and being the whole of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza.

So where do things stand at this moment? Well, the ICJ appears to be becoming more and more relevant. It has been put in a rare spotlight. There is of course the outstanding South African proceedings against Israel, asserting breach of the Genocide Convention and resulting in provisional orders, pending final judgment, made on 26 January 2024. Those proceedings saw additional provisional measures ordered on 28 March.

In parenthesis, the Australian justice on the Court, Hilary Charlesworth, at the time of the making of the additional orders, in her own separate judgment expressed an additional explanation of her position. She questioned whether the Court’s order calling for Israel to ensure “its military does not commit acts” that breach the genocide convention, might not have been “drafted in such opaque terms that it fails to provide clear guidance to the parties”. Her Honour said: “(I)n my view the court should have made it explicit that Israel is required to suspend its military operations in the Gaza Strip, precisely because this is the only way to ensure that basic services and humanitarian assistance reach the Palestinian population”. One tick at least for Australia.

But let us return to the issue at hand – recognition of the State of Palestine. We move to the advisory opinion proceedings currently before the ICJ referred to above. Judgment in those proceedings was reserved on 26 February and so the Court has been deliberating for two months. We cannot however hold our breath. The ICJ does not from past experience appear to have a sense of urgency in the publication of its judgments. It is noted, however, that a query directed to the ICJ as to when judgment might be handed down resulted in a response, “in coming months” which is possibly a little encouraging.

Related proceedings in the ICJ were instituted by the Republic of Nicaragua against the Federal Republic of Germany on 1 March 2024. The proceedings allege violations by Germany of its obligations under the Genocide Convention consequent upon its participation in the ongoing plausible genocide in the Gaza Strip, the result of Germany’s provision of arms to Israel.

And so, the ICJ is poised to be a major player in the ongoing narrative relating to Gaza. But is anything else happening, apart from proceedings in the ICJ, and in the Security Council or General Assembly? The answer to that question is yes. Individual states appear to be reviewing their own decisions to not hitherto recognise the State of Palestine.
On 19 April, the day after the US vetoed the Security Council resolution to admit Palestine as a member of the UN, Barbados recognised the State of Palestine. It became the 140th state (out of 193) to do so. Four days later, Jamaica did the same.

Other countries that have intimated a likely recognition in the near future are Spain, Ireland, Belgium, and Slovenia. Then, returning to the vote in the Security Council vetoed by the US, there are France, Japan, and the Republic of Korea, being three of the 15 current member states of the Security Council, and three of the twelve which voted to approve the grant of member status to Palestine, but which presently are included in the states which do not recognise Palestine. Such votes by these three could be an indicator of their future course. There has also been conjecture over Norway’s intent. If some of these countries do take the step, a real impetus might develop. Would it be sufficient to prod our lot into action?

Our lot is of course four of the current 50 odd naysayers, namely the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. It is now over two weeks since Prime Minister Albanese made his announcement that Australia was considering recognition of the State of Palestine. Were Australia to do so, that might just be the trigger needed for others to step up. How much “considering” does Anthony and his team need to do?

Do it Anthony!

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