France-Spain, Be careful what you wish for

star-France-Spain-160Will a Spanish and/or French decision to recognise the State of Palestine come back and bite them?

The French and Spanish governments are shortly about to repeat the Swedish/English/Irish farce and debate/ decide without debate and probably recognise the fictional State of Palestine. Pointing out the failure of the Palestinians to fulfil any of the traditional requirements of a state won’t stop them. Will pointing out that the very arguments they use to justify recognising Narnia Palestine can be used against them by their own separatist movements be more effective?


Secessionist regions in Spain and France†

Once upon a time (or if we must be pedantic, 1933‡) a state required the following qualifications: (a) a permanent population; (b) a defined territory; (c) government; and (d) capacity to enter into relations with the other states. It’s not difficult to argue that the proposed State of Palestine fulfils none of these. In the interest of completeness I will discuss this later.

Now, apparently, the customary international law is moot. The arguments seem to be divided (if we accept the House of Commons Claytons* debate), into two.

  1. The rules don’t matter. We are recognising the future state, now, for when it does qualify.
  2. It does follow the rules, Israel is the bad boy who doesn’t follow rules.
  3. No one was honest or informed enough to quote L.C. Green “since recognition of statehood is a matter of discretion, it is open to any existing State to accept as a state any entity it wishes, regardless of the existence of territory or of an established government.

Shortly Spain and France are due to make a decision, perhaps only symbolically, as did the British about recognition. Five Minutes for Israel is hardly a committed regular observer of either state but Spain is considered to be the most anti-Israel state in Europe after Ireland so it is a fair bet they will support the move. I’m less certain about France but who knows which way the hexagon†† will roll, particularly as the only push is from Israel’s enemies?

Catalonian nationalist flag seen all over the province

Catalonian nationalist flag
seen all over the province

It occurred to me that the two should be concerned about setting a precedent. Five secessionist movements are represented in Spain with Catalonia being currently the most demanding. On Sunday, well above a third of Catalonia’s electorate voted in an informal referendum.  80.76% (1,861,7536 people) of participants voted yes that they thought Catalonia should be a state and that state be independent.  Unlike Palestine the Catalans can point to independence in their history, beginning in the 10th century. Unlike the Palestinian basket case Catalonia is one of the most economically dynamic regions of Spain. Unlike the Palestinians the Catalans have a distinct language.

France also has five potential areas vying to be new states. One, Occitania, would take about one-third of France’s land area if successful. However, Corsica has the most active independence movement.

Corsica was only conquered by France in 1769 and has been struggling for independence since then. It, too, has enjoyed periods of independence. 1975 marked the beginning of an armed nationalist struggle against the French government. Ever since, Corsican nationalism has been a feature of the island’s politics, with calls for greater autonomy and protection for Corsican culture and the Corsican language. Periodic flare-ups of raids and killings culminated in the assassination of Prefect Claude Érignac in 1998.

In other words, be careful what you wish for.

Does Israel have the balls to recognise some of these wannabe states? That would be real tit-for-tat.

To be or not to be … a state

As promised:

The proposed State of Palestine demands the ethnic cleansing of over half a million Israelis, those who currently live in the areas Jordan captured and annexed in 1948. Making Palestine Judenrein would give the Palestinians yet another unique attribute – a permanent population created by expelling those inhabitants it doesn’t want.

The Palestine Authority demands the entire West bank of the Jordan, properly called Judea and Samaria, as well as Gaza as it’s defined territory but it neither occupies or controls all of what it claims. Nor is it likely to. Israel and Hamas will see to that.

Uniquely Palestine has not one but two governments. One could argue about how much of the Authority actually governs outside Ramallah but one thing is certain it doesn’t the government in the West Bank doesn’t even dare to enter Gaza. Nor does it govern in Area C (full Israeli civil and security control).

In a sense, any state with a telephone has capacity to enter into relations with the other states but most authorities take that to mean independence. International law recognises treaties and whatever you might think about them, the Oslo Accords are that. Independence is what they want. Not what they have.

Emperor’s New Clothes syndrome

Yesterday I attended the event, Israel, Hamas, and Media Coverage of Gaza, where I learnt a new concept. No one wants to be the first to inform the emperor but likewise no one wants to be the last.

Now that the door has been opened, in the European Union, expect others to follow. They think they have nothing to lose by recognising Palestine but their own secessionist movements may seize on that and bite them.

Extra credit

† Map modified from the list of members of the European Free Alliance – an umbrella organisation that gathers 40 progressive nationalist, regionalist and autonomist parties throughout the European Union (EU), representing stateless nations, regions, and traditional minorities in Europe.
‡ Montevideo Convention Article 1
* For the non Aussies, Claytons is the brand name of a non-alcoholic, non-carbonated beverage coloured and packaged to resemble bottled whisky. It was marketed as “the drink you have when you’re not having a drink”.
†† France’s six sides are defined by its borders. One side of the hexagonal shape is formed by France’s border with Belgium and Luxembourg. The next side is borders Germany, Switzerland and Italy. Another side is bordered by the Mediterranean Sea, while another borders Spain. The Bay of Biscay forms the border of another side, and the English Channel borders the sixth side, separating France from England.


About David Guy

B.A./B.C.A. (Communication and Media Arts) University of Wollongong, AUSTRALIA M.A. in Government (Diplomacy and Conflict Studies) Inter Disciplinary Center, Herzliya, ISRAEL Twitter @5MFI
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