European states' move to recognize a Palestine nation adds to Biden's reelection, peace-deal efforts

The White House reportedly knew long in advance about the three countries' decision but was not pleased about it. 
Humanitarian aid, charities, Oct. 21, 2023, Gaza

More European countries' recognition of Palestine as a sovereign, independent nation is increasing the challenges President Biden faces in trying to win reelection and broker a long-term peace deal between Israel and Palestinian-backed Hamas. 

The developments have the potential to tip the scales in what is expected to be a tight presidential race between Biden and former President Donald Trump, with Biden's Democratic Party possibly abandoning him for his support of longtime Middle East ally Israel.

Recent interviews by ABC News with more than a dozen activists, Democratic operatives, and voters reveal uncertainty over whether the six-month-old war in Gaza is significantly shifting political allegiances in the U.S. by turning away party voters and perhaps independents. 

"Potentially," Wa'el Alzayat, the head of Muslim advocacy organization Emgage, said when asked by the news outlet whether Gaza is different in its electoral fallout.

"I think this is a rare occurrence in American politics, but we have clearly seen that this policy is unpopular in the Democratic Party. ... The president won his ticket by cobbling together a coalition of different groups under the big Democratic tent, as they say, and his policy is at odds with his electoral strategy because it's fracturing the party."

Alzayat also said it's not just Arabs or Muslims who appear to be moving away from Biden.

"You're seeing progressives, young voters, black voters, liberal Jewish voters or progressive Jewish voters. This is a pretty good segment of the party," he said.

The criticism that Biden is not doing enough to stop Israel from killing civilians in its war and creating a humanitarian crisis, largely over food, will likely heighten as a result of the country's air attack on the southern Gaza city of Rafah this past weekend that killed at least 45 people – among them reportedly war refugees living in tents. 

In Europe, three countries – Ireland, Norway, and Spain – said they would formally recognize the possibility of a state in Palestine, effective Tuesday. And two other European states, Malta and Slovenia, are set to follow suit in the coming weeks. 

The White House reportedly knew long in advance about the three countries' decision but was not pleased about it. 

Biden's stance has been that a Palestinian state should be “realized through direct negotiations ... not unilateral recognition," says National Security Council Advisor Jake Sullivan.

Moreover, the Biden administration is worried that the recognition could strengthen the Palestinian-backed Hamas militant group battling Israel in Gaza, an unnamed source told Politico.

Irish Prime Minister Simon Harris stressed that his country would like for diplomacy between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank to resume and that it did not want to throw a diplomatic lifeline to the militant group, the news outlet also reports

Public support of Biden’s handling of the war between Israel and Hamas has been declining since the start of the war last October, according to recent polling. One recent poll said that as many as one-in-five voters in five key states say they are “less likely” to vote for Biden because of his handling of conflict. 

Trump, Biden's likely Republican challenger in November, has meanwhile remained steadfast in his support for Israel, and earlier this month he reportedly vowed, if reelected, to set back the pro-Palestinian movement in the U.S. "25 to 30 years."

European states' pushing for Palestinians to effectively have their own state has also angered Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused European nations of offering “a reward for terror.”

In addition, Israel Minister of Foreign Affairs Israel Katz immediately recalled the country’s ambassadors from Ireland and Norway and threatened to do the same for Spain.

“I am sending a sharp message to Ireland and Norway: Israel will not go over this in silence,” he said. 

But perhaps more importantly, the decisions to recognize Palestine are the latest proof that the U.S.’s global influence is waning. 

The three European countries will not be the first to recognize some version of Palestine’s statehood: most of the countries in the world already recognize it as a sovereign state. But these will be the first diplomatic recognitions since the start of the bloody conflict. 

Though mostly symbolic, the latest moves also represent a serious blow to the U.S.’s influence over this prickly topic.

Just 50 of the United Nations 193 member states do not recognize Palestine but that group includes almost all of Washington’s closest global allies, including Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, and – until now – almost all of western Europe. 

Last month, a U.S. veto was the only thing preventing the United Nations Security Council from approving a resolution to admit the State of Palestine as a voting member of the body.

That delayed action, leaving Palestine in a kind of limbo, as a “United Nations permanent observer” state (the only other country with that status is the miniscule Vatican City, home to around 800 priests and nuns, which fails to meet the rule requiring a “permanent population”). 

But if enough countries – particularly those in the U.S. sphere of influence – choose to recognize Palestine’s autonomy, the world may be forced to again confront what might be its most intractable political problem