Sweden officially recognizes state of Palestine

The decision, which has drawn the ire of Israel, comes unexpectedly early

The Swedish government became the first E.U. member to officially recognize the state of Palestine on Thursday.

Newly elected Prime Minister Stefan Lofven first announced the move at his swearing-in ceremony on Oct. 3, but he was not expected to follow through so soon, writes the Israeli daily Haaretz.

“Some will claim that today’s decision comes too early. I’m rather afraid it’s too late,” writes Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom in the Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter. “The past year, we’ve seen how the peace negotiations once again have halted, how decisions on new settlements on occupied Palestinian land have obstructed a two-state solution and how violence has returned to Gaza.”

Wallstrom writes that the recognition aims to support moderate forces among the Palestinians, make future negotiations more equal and give young Palestinians hope of a peaceful solution to the conflict.

Israel has publicly protested the move, which some believe is feeding unrealistic Palestinian expectations of working out a resolution with the international community but without involving Israel, writes the Jerusalem Post.

A total of 134 other countries recognized Palestine before Sweden. Hungary, Poland and Slovakia all did so before joining the E.U.

Those fighting for Palestine – currently Hamas – are labeled as “terrorists” by Israel.

“EU members confirmed in 2009 their readiness to recognize the state of Palestine when it was appropriate,” Wallstrom said.

“We are now ready to take the lead. We hope this can show the way for others.”

She added that the fact that the Palestinians don’t have full control of their land or have fixed borders should not be an obstacle to international recognition.

A vote at the UN General Assembly in 2012 secured a de facto Palestinian statehood, although a ‘yes’ vote from most EU members is still pending. While Sweden is the first EU member in Western Europe to have recognized the state, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Malta, Romania, Poland and the Czech Republic have already done so.

Iceland – the only non-EU member in the pack, has also recognized the Palestinian state.