Terrorism once again showed its ugliest face in Jerusalem on Tuesday with the murder of five people who were stabbed while praying at a synagogue. Eight more were wounded by the two terrorists, who were shot down by police. This is a despicable act for which no justification or excuse could ever exist.
But attacks by fanatics cannot be used to condemn an entire people or to send important decisions off course. The violence that has ravaged the Middle East for decades – and has flared up in similar, and even worse episodes, on both sides – is a source of suffering for its victims and a source of concern for the international community.
Several European countries have adopted the strategy of forcing a way out of the deadlock by recognizing the Palestinian state, which already enjoys observer status at the United Nations. In this context – as Britain has already done and France soon will – the Spanish parliament has approved a non-binding motion put forward by the Socialist group, asking the government to recognize Palestine as a state.
The EU is Israel’s main trade partner and the Palestinian government’s top donor, giving it plenty of leverage
The document, which was approved on Tuesday, makes no reference to a deadline by which Spain must recognize this new state, nor does it threaten Israel with recognizing Palestine in the absence of negotiations, as the original draft proposed. Yet these nuances do not detract from the significance of this parliamentary initiative, both inside and outside Spain.
Domestically, at a time marked by a deep divide between political parties and society, and between the parties themselves, the degree of consensus achieved on this issue underscores that when politicians work together in a spirit of dialogue, it is perfectly possible to reach a broad consensus on matters of state.
Internationally, this vote is significant because it shows Spain acting along the same lines as most of its European partners. The Treaty of Lisbon requires prior consultation among EU members before embarking on relevant foreign action. And that is what happened in this case. Such consultation is important so as to oil the mechanisms that will pave the way for coordinated common action on the Middle East, as well as on any other matter.
Europe’s strategy, which received backing by the Spanish Congress on Tuesday, is not so much to lead the Middle East peace process as to exert an influence and contribute ideas towards a positive resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And it is in a privileged position to do so: the EU is Israel’s main trade partner and simultaneously the Palestinian government’s top donor, giving it plenty of leverage to make itself heard.
Recognition of Palestine, when it happens, should not be viewed as a taking of sides against anybody, but as a firm commitment to the difficult but necessary peace process.