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Spain Emerges as an Advocate for Palestinian Rights 

posted on: Apr 17, 2024

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

By: Ziyan Qutub / Arab America Contributing Writer 

Pedro Sánchez, the prime minister of Spain, is attracting worldwide notice as he has taken a stand for Palestinian people. By fashioning his diplomacy to back the Palestinians, he has ventured onto ground that not even the alliance’s most self-consciously distinctive member, France, has dared to tread.

Sanchez has wrapped up a round of visits to the Middle Eastern region in Doha, from where he sent a powerful message to the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu through a large television channel which the Israeli Prime Minister has tried to silence: Al Jazeera, urging a reevaluation of European Union relations with Israel, and recommending a suspension of arms sales in case Israel continues to violate Human Rights in Gaza. Sanchez’s statements underline an ever-increasing Spanish dissatisfaction with Israel’s behavior as to the broader context of the Gaza crisis, and in particular, it seems, regarding the events after Hamas’ attack on October 7 at the southern Israeli border.

The position of the Spanish leader is not just talk. Spain is undertaking steps to demand a long-term ceasefire arrangement in the Gaza Strip, and also to argue for the international recognition of Palestine as a sovereign state, with full UN membership. Spain is thinking about recognizing the Palestinian state. According to Jose Manuel Albares, Spain’s Foreign Minister, the official offer is scheduled to be delivered ahead of July.

Spain’s position regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has put it at the forefront of the European Union. When the majority of Western countries initially supported Israel until the end of this conflict, Spain, consistent and with a clear course, demanded the need for a global solution to the conflict between Palestine and Israel. While fully acknowledging the security needs that Israel has, this country, led by its Prime Minister, Pedro Sanchez, has also called for security and adherence to international law and global humanitarian norms and has consistently condemned the homeowners in Gaza.

In Spain, Sánchez’s support for Palestinian rights strikes a chord as a high level of sympathy for the Palestinian cause prevails, especially among left-wing voters and in the regions with a history of demanding the right to self-determination. Recent demonstrations across Spain, including a human mosaic depicting the Palestinian flag in Guernica, underscore the public’s sense of unity with the people of Gaza.

Nevertheless, diplomatic activity from Spain is running up against problems on the international stage. Despite leading a coalition of EU members who are pushing for the statehood of the Palestinians, Sánchez’s influence in the Security Council is very limited. Further, while EU Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell has stopped saying the same thing that the Spanish authorities do about the need for a two-state solution, the European Union awaits serious and practical progress before recognizing Palestine’s independence.

Spain’s stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict indicates a larger European trend of countries reassessing their policies on the issue. Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, by advocating Palestinian rights, has aligned with like-minded allies such as Ireland and Malta, a position that is a marked shift from traditional European Union policy on the matter and one that could have significant repercussions for the region.

Despite facing backlash for its conduct in Gaza – most notably, the recent airstrike that killed humanitarian workers – Israel is no closer to making substantial compromises to help resolve the conflict. While the United States and the European Union have both conveyed alarm over the incident which killed 21 people, they have been unable to exact even the smallest concession on Israel’s part. Although the two sides seem to be inching towards a ceasefire, the demands made of Israel – primarily, that it open its border to an EU peacekeeping force – remain unchanged.

Amid Spain becoming an advocate and a leading force in support of Palestinian rights, the present condition in the Gaza Strip is placed as an assessment regarding the commitment of the EU to uphold humanitarian values as well as to resolve internal disputes. As to whether the diplomatic activities of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez meet real outcomes is an open question. Despite that, the firm position of Spain proves that the country has turned out to be one of the most crucial factors in shaping the future of the region.

As he concluded his most recent trip to the Middle East by a visit to Doha on Thursday, Spain’s Pedro Sanchez had a message for his Israeli counterpart, which was delivered by Al Jazeera, the Qatar-based channel that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has stated he wants to be closed down.

The Socialist leader of Spain stated that the European Union needs to reconsider its strategic connection with Israel if it decides that Israel has broken humanitarian law in Gaza. If Israel meets its worldwide obligations, he stated that he had “doubts.”

Sanchez mentioned that his country has ceased to supply Israel with weapons. He also encouraged other countries to follow suit. Noting Netanyahu’s increasing isolation, he underlined how the West has generally adopted a more critical stance towards Israel’s attacks in Gaza, which came as a reaction to the Hamas-led massacres in southern Israel on October 7th.

The leader of Spain repeated his appeal for a cease-fire that would last indefinitely in the Gaza Strip. He also called for international recognition of Palestine as a fully sovereign state that would be a complete member of the United Nations, and reiterated that, despite Israeli opposition, Madrid would follow through with its plan to recognize Palestinian statehood.

While he did not give a timetable, his foreign minister, Jose Manuel Albares, previously said Madrid would recognize the State of Palestine before July. “We need a real Palestinian state,” Albares told reporters in Brussels on Wednesday. “The Palestinian people must not be condemned to forever be refugees.”

He didn’t provide a timeline, but his foreign minister, Jose Manuel Albares, had previously stated that Madrid would recognize the State of Palestine before July. “We need a Palestinian state in reality,” Albares told reporters in Brussels on Wednesday. “The Palestinian people should not be sentenced to be forever refugees.”

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