How serious is Spain about recognizing Palestine?

The parliamentary vote urging the Spanish government to recognize Palestine is not binding and sets no timeframe, raising questions about its significance

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The Spanish parliament voted Tuesday in favor of a resolution urging Madrid to recognize Palestine, becoming the third legislative house in the European Union to take such a step after the UK and Ireland.

The edict, for which 319 MPs voted in favor and one against, is not binding on the Spanish government and sets no timeframe, which raises questions about its significance.

Diplomatic sources cited by Spain’s El País newspaper said the Foreign Ministry was not against recognizing Palestine, but such an important decision should be coordinated with other EU states.

“The Spanish government doesn’t want to be singled out together with Sweden as being unilateralist on this,” Haizam Amirah-Fernández, a senior analyst at the Madrid-based Elcano Royal Institute for International and Strategic Studies, told Al Arabiya News.

“The Spanish government is already willing to go ahead, but is waiting to be accompanied by more European partners,” he said.

Chris Doyle, director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding, said the vote “indicates less a change of policy because these are symbolic votes by the legislature.”

However, it was a “very strong signal that Israel is losing friends abroad and the argument,” Doyle added.

“European policies are fed up with Israel’s refusal to listen to European concern to work for a peaceful solution for the conflict, including a viable, independent, sovereign state of Palestine,” he told Al Arabiya News.

Tuesday’s vote was a rare show of almost unanimous agreement among Spain’s political parties, said Amirah-Fernández.

As the resolution sets no timeframe, all eyes are on the distribution of power in parliament following elections that are scheduled before the end of 2015.

The conservative People’s Party, which currently holds the majority in parliament, achieved a watering-down of the original draft submitted by the Socialist Workers Party (PSOE), which saw the omission of a clause that angered the Israelis.

The omitted clause would have allowed Spain to unilaterally recognize Palestine if “negotiations prove impossible or get delayed indefinitely.”

El Pais reported that the clause was omitted on the order of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

Amirah-Fernández said: “All opinion polls say [the PP] won’t have an absolute majority in the upcoming elections.”

The newly-formed Podemos party is “ranking first right now,” he added. “Podemos is full of young people who aren’t pro status quo and would go further in their support for change in the Spanish and European position on Palestine.”

The future Spanish government would likely be “less pro-Israeli.”

Although the resolution has no timeframe, Spain’s Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo said time was “running out.”

El Pais quoted him as saying: “Either we act quickly, or the viability of the Palestinian state will be physically impossible.”

García-Margallo was referring to the recently-announced expansion of Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem.

Doyle said EU member states had “invested billions in aid of a peace process that was designed to lead to [a Palestinian] state. What do they do now to try to rescue it from oblivion?”

He added: “What we’re seeing on the ground, day in and day out, [is] a systematic process of undermining any chance of having that state.”

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