The Irish Times view on recognition of Palestine: a timely and symbolic move

The fact that the well-flagged statement was synchronised with parallel announcements from the Norwegian and Spanish governments adds to its weight

To describe an act as symbolic is sometimes taken to mean that it is meaningless or hollow. But symbolism has its place, not least in international relations. Yesterday’s recognition by Ireland of the state of Palestine is, therefore, of some consequence.

The fact that the well-flagged statement was synchronised with parallel announcements from the Norwegian and Spanish governments adds to its weight. Formal recognition by the three countries on May 28th will bring to eight the number of European states which now recognise Palestine. Some 143 of the 193 member nations of the United Nations currently do so. Slovenia, Malta and Belgium are considering their positions.

What difference will this make to the millions of Palestinians suffering in Gaza, the millions more under occupation in the West Bank, or, indeed, the many displaced in surrounding countries or further afield?

In the short term, probably very little. But the recognition represents a further ratcheting up of international opposition to the aggressive and inhumane war being prosecuted by Israel’s military in Gaza, and to the irredentist policies pursued by its right-wing government.


The war has deepened divisions among democratic states as well as within international institutions over how best to respond to its appalling humanitarian consequences.

Israel has now recalled its ambassador from Dublin and imposed diplomatic sanctions on the Irish, Norwegian and Spanish ambassadors to Israel. The chairman of the Jewish Representative Council of Ireland echoed Israeli criticism that the recognition rewarded Hamas for the atrocities it perpetrated in its attack of October 7th. That reaction will hardly come as a surprise, although all three Government party leaders on Wednesday reiterated their absolute condemnation of Hamas.

It remains to be seen what recognition means in practice. Despite yesterday’s statement, there is no physical Palestinian state, just two separate strips of territory. One of these, Gaza, is nominally ruled by a terrorist organisation and has been devastated by seven months of bombardment. The other, the occupied West Bank, is supposedly governed by the inneffectual and corrupt Palestinian Authority, with its territorial integrity all but destroyed by decades of illegal settlement and expropriation.

Israel’s embassy said the recognition undermined the country’s sovereignty and security. The Palestinian Authority said that it affirmed Palestine’s right to self-determination. It would be easy to despair that the chasm between the two will never be bridged. But it is incumbent on the international community to continue to seek a peaceful solution. The recognition of Palestine is a timely contribution to that process.