Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom’s announcement on 30 October that Sweden has recognised the State of Palestine elicited a response from Israel’s Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman that will surely go down as one of the most memorable diplomatic quotes of 2014:
“It is too bad that the government of Sweden has chosen to adopt the measure that does a lot of damage and has no benefits. Sweden must understand that relations in the Middle East are much more complicated than self-assembly furniture at Ikea”
Ms Wallstrom’s reasons for justifying Sweden’s incredible decision were:
“The Government considers that the international law criteria for the recognition of the State of Palestine have been satisfied.
There is a territory, albeit with non-defined borders. There is also a population. And there is a government with the capacity for internal and external control….
The Government’s assessment that the international law criteria have been fulfilled is shared by international law experts, including Professor Ove Bring, Professor Said Mahmoudi and Professor Pål Wrange, who recently wrote an opinion piece on this subject in Dagens Nyheter (20 October).”
It seems inconceivable that Professor Bring, Professor Mahmoudi and Professor Wrange could have reached the conclusions attributed to them by Ms Wallstrom.
Hopefully someone conversant in the Swedish language might be kind enough to post a translation in English to verify what they actually wrote.
Certainly Ms Wallstrom’s assertion that the international criteria for recognition of the State of Palestine have been satisfied – are rebutted by the clear terms of Article 1 the Montevideo Convention 1934 – which expressly provide:
“The state as a person of international law should possess the following qualifications:
a) a permanent population;
b) a defined territory;
c) government; and
d) capacity to enter into relations with the other states.”
Failure to even mention that there must be a permanent population before Sweden can possibly begin the diplomatic process of recognising the State of Palestine indicates the incredulity that Ms Wallstrom’s announcement has produced.
Sweden is sending a clear signal that masks an underlying and sinister racist and apartheid attitude – that Jews presently living in the West Bank have no right to expect to continue living there as part of the State of Palestine’s permanent population.
The fact that Jews have lived, died and been buried in the West Bank since Biblical times with the exception of a 19 year period between 1948-1967 seems to be strangely absent from Sweden’s current thinking.
The fact that international law – Article 6 of the Mandate for Palestine and article 80 of the UN Charter – authorises and legalises close settlement by Jews on West Bank land – including State lands and waste lands not required for public purposes – while ensuring that the rights and position of other sections of the population are not prejudiced – seems to have passed under Sweden’s radar and that of the panel of its international law experts.
Equally as incredible is the fact that Sweden considers that the legal requirements for a State can be met in an undefined area with non-defined boundaries.
Effective control of territory is required – boundaries are not and have never been a necessary legal pre-requisite.
Sweden is of course entitled to do whatever it likes in pursuit of its perceived national interests – no matter how inept and incompetent its decisions might be.
However having apparently done so on its total misconception and misinterpretation of international law surely should give Sweden cause for second thought.
Ironically any such reconsideration now has its own problems in international law – since Article 6 of the Montevideo Convention further provides:
“The recognition of a state merely signifies that the state which recognizes it accepts the personality of the other with all the rights and duties determined by international law. Recognition is unconditional and irrevocable.”
Among Sweden’s well-known exports are the “do-it yourself” furniture and home product construction kits emanating from Ikea – which proudly states on its website:
“We want to have a positive impact on people and the planet.”
If the Swedish Government thought its decision to recognise the State of Palestine would have a similar effect – then it has been gravely mistaken.
How Sweden builds relations with the State of Palestine – whilst missing pieces integral to its construction prevent it becoming a functioning entity Sweden can conduct meaningful diplomatic relations with – remains to be seen.
Perhaps Sweden should have heeded another successful Swedish export – Abba – whose “Waterloo” lyrics will surely resonate to Sweden’s future embarrassment:
Ignoring history by attempting to unilaterally recognize a second Arab State in former Palestine for the first time ever in recorded history – in addition to Jordan – whilst
the PLO Covenant
the Hamas Charter and
the declared intentions of the Islamic State
oppose that solution – is a certain recipe for disaster.
Ms Wallstroms further declared:
“In 2009 EU Member States reiterated their readiness to recognise a Palestinian State, when appropriate. We are now ready to lead the way. “
EU member States tempted to follow Sweden into this political quagmire based on a reading of international law lacking any credibility whatsoever will only exacerbate the Arab-Jewish conflict – not resolve it.
Sweden has now become stuck with a fictitious and non-existent State of Palestine wallowing in an Ikea la-la-land.
David Singer is a Sydney Lawyer and Foundation Member of the International Analysts Network.