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Norway, Spain and Ireland have moved to formally recognize Palestine as a state. There was a discussion about what Spain specifically was recognizing, but the answers focused heavily on the land aspect. I am assuming that the current Gaza + West Bank borders are where any Palestinian state would reside.

The catch here is you effectively have had two governments since 2005.

Fatah has been steadily losing ground to Hamas (Dec 2023)

In a two-way presidential race, Ismail Haniyeh, the exiled political leader of Hamas, would trounce Abbas

A lot of that is due to the fact that 2005 was the last election and Abbas is trying to hold on to the power he currently has (he has repeatedly delayed elections, which likely contributes to his unpopularity).

Have Norway, Spain, Ireland, or any other government that wants to formally recognize a Palestinian state indicated which of these two groups they see as the leadership of said state? Do they see both as equally legitimate?

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    Per Reuters, "The three countries recognised a Palestinian state with its borders to be demarcated as they were prior to 1967, with Jerusalem as the capital of both Israel and Palestine. However, they also recognised that those borders may change in any eventual talks to reach a final settlement." Commented May 23 at 14:13
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    If you look at the quotes in the related Q (that you've linked), the 3 EU countries are not recognizing Hamas', obviously. Commented May 23 at 14:20
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    @KelvinSherlock That's true, but the problem is they're recognizing Palestine without negotiations first. Israel isn't going to redraw borders just because a handful of countries want it. At least for now, countries recognizing Palestine would have to take the current borders as-is. I think the question about where the borders would be has been pretty well discussed in other posts, tho.
    – Machavity
    Commented May 23 at 14:22
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    Are you only interested in Norway, Spain and Ireland or also in what government the other 140 countries that recognize Palestina recognize? Commented May 23 at 14:22
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    There are over 140 countries that have moved in the past to formally recognize Palestina. Norway, Spain and Ireland are hardly the first ones there. Just want to make sure that answering for these 140 countries would answer the question or not. Commented May 23 at 14:27

6 Answers 6

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Palestinian liberation organization (PLO) is recognized as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, and represents them in the UN (with an observer status):

The Palestine Liberation Organization is recognized by the Arab League as "the sole and legitimate representative of the Palestinian people",[14][41] and by the United Nations as "the representative of the Palestinian people".[68]

The Palestinian Authority that handles everyday government responsibilities is technically distinct from the PLO:

The administrative responsibilities accorded to the PA were limited to civil matters and internal security and did not include external security or foreign affairs.[26] Palestinians in the diaspora and inside Israel were not eligible to vote in elections for the offices of the Palestinian Authority.[27] The PA was legally separate from the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which continues to enjoy international recognition as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, representing them at the United Nations under the name "Palestine".[28][29]

Hamas also accepted PLO as the sole representative of the Palestinian people as a pre-condition for its participation in Palestinian elections :

On 28 June 2006, Hamas signed the second version of (originally) 'the Palestinians' Prisoners Document' which supports the quest for a Palestinian state "on all territories occupied in 1967".[68][329][330] This document also recognized the PLO as "the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people", and states that "the negotiations" should be conducted by PLO and President of the Palestinian National Authority and eventual agreements must be ratified by either the Palestinian National Council or a general referendum "held in the homeland and the Diaspora".

However, Hamas is not a member of PLO and is currently in a state of open rebellion against it.

PLO vs. PA

The 1993–1995 Oslo Accords deliberately detached the Palestinian population in the Occupied Palestinian Territories from the PLO and the Palestinians in exile by creating a Palestinian Authority (PA) for the Territories. A separate parliament and government were established. Mahmoud Abbas was one of the architects of the Oslo Accords.[54][55]

Although many in the PLO opposed the Oslo Agreements, the executive committee and the Central Council approved the Accords. It marked the beginning of the PLO's decline, as the PA came to replace the PLO as the prime Palestinian political institution. Political factions within the PLO that had opposed the Oslo process were marginalized.

The PLO managed to overcome the separation by uniting the power in PLO and PA in one individual, Yasser Arafat. In 2002, Arafat held the functions of Chairman of the PLO/Executive Committee; Chairman of Fatah, the dominating faction within the PLO; as well as President of the Palestinian National Authority. He also controlled the Palestinian National Security Forces.[56]

Only during the Hamas-led PA Government in 2006–2007 did the PLO resurface. After Hamas took over Gaza in 2007, Abbas issued a decree suspending the PLC and some sections of the Palestinian Basic Law, and appointed Salam Fayyad as prime minister.

The PLO remains the official representative of the State of Palestine at the UN.

Remark
In response to comments (This doesn't not answer explicitly the question.) it is necessary to note that de jure recognition means recognizing that the state fullfils all the necessary requirements under the International law:

A distinction is also drawn between de jure and de facto recognition. If a state is accorded de jure recognition, that means all the preconditions under international law for final and complete recognition have been fulfilled. De facto recognition has a comparatively less binding effect, because the legal relationship – though effectively in existence – is only provisional. Provisional de facto recognition for political reasons can of course be converted to de jure recognition once all the required legal preconditions have been fulfilled.

In other words, only the PLO, representing Palestinians in the United nations can be meaningfully recognized as Palestinian State.

This recognition does not mean that the countries are obliged to establish diplomatic relationships with the Palestinian government, i.e., recognize this government - in this sense the title of the question (Which Palestinian government is getting recognized?) might cause some confusion. As per Wikipedia:

Diplomatic recognition must be distinguished from formal recognition of states or their governments.2 The fact that states do not maintain bilateral diplomatic relations does not mean that they do not recognize or treat one another as states. A state is not required to accord formal bilateral recognition to any other state, and some have a general policy of not doing so, considering that a vote for its membership of an international organisation restricted to states, such as the United Nations, is an act of recognition.

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    "Sole legitimate representative etc." - ignoring the philosophical question of what representation means exactly, recognizing a Palestinian state necessarily means declaring that this phrase is no longer valid, and in fact, that the PLO loses representative status completely, in favor of the State of Palestine. There is no such thing as recognizing a sovereign state while, supposedly, a non-state organization is the sole representative of its people.
    – einpoklum
    Commented May 25 at 18:40
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    @einpoklum it is not up to Spanish or anyone else to decide how Palestinians call their state, and countries are known to change their names. The point is that most "Palestinian supporters" outside of ME don't understand the difference between Hamas and PLO - which is rather telling about what they actually support.
    – Morisco
    Commented May 26 at 6:29
  • I don't see how your comment relates to mine. Suppose, say, Puerto Rico seems a movement for liberation from the US, and that the UN recognizes the "Puertorican Liberation Organization" as the sole representative of the Puerto-Ricans. When this movement succeeds, and the independent state of Puerto Rico is established, it would be recognized as the "sole representative of the Puerto-Ricans", by admission into the UN as a member with the recognized territory of the island of Puerto-Rico. Wouldn't it?
    – einpoklum
    Commented May 26 at 7:54
  • @einpoklum Puerto Ricans will decide for themselves how they name their representative in the UN - they may choose a new name or keep the old one, even if it looks semantically outdated. In either case, it will be the same entity. I am not sure recognition means recognizing specific borders - Palestine is clearly problematic in this sense.
    – Morisco
    Commented May 26 at 8:03
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Everything I've seen suggests that they will recognise the PA, whose head is currently from Fatah.

This quote from the Norwegian government make it clear in that case:

"Norway will continue to support the Palestinian state-building project. We must strengthen the Palestinian Authority under the leadership of Prime Minister Muhammed Mustafa, and we must work for the Palestinian Authority to govern in Gaza following a ceasefire and for there to be one Palestinian government. The goal is to achieve a Palestinian state that is politically cohesive, and that derives from the Palestinian Authority,’ said Mr Eide."

https://www.regjeringen.no/en/aktuelt/norway-recognises-palestine-as-a-state/id3040194/

Its unclear what would happen should circumstances ever conspire to make someone from Hamas head of the PA.

It is also worth noting that while other international organisation recognise the PLO as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinians, that us not what the Norwegian minister said.

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  • This does seem to answer the question! ;) Commented May 24 at 10:52
  • @user13964273: Do these three states hold the position that Putin is not the head-of-state of the Russian Federation?
    – einpoklum
    Commented May 25 at 18:42
  • @user13964273: Recognition of who is the head of a state is not something another state can do. That is, it can try, e.g. the US decision that Huan Guaido is somehow the president of Venezuela; and there are cases of civil war where two factions vie for external recognition - but that's not where we're at. Also, I'm no specialist on EU institutions, but Parliament resolutions aren't binding, as opposed to laws passed; or am I wrong?
    – einpoklum
    Commented May 25 at 22:20
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There is no catch because state recognition is orthogonal to recognition of governments:

The recognition of a state under international law is a declaration of intent by one state to acknowledge another power as a "state" within the meaning of international law. Recognition constitutes a unilateral declaration of intent. It is entirely at the discretion of any state to decide to recognize another as a subject of international law. [...] When a state recognizes a government, it acknowledges a group of persons as competent to act as an organ of the state in question and to represent it in terms of international law.

The very famous British international lawyer Hersch Lauterpacht wrote about it in 1944:

To recognize a community as a State is to declare that it fulfills the conditions of statehood as required by international law. If these conditions are present, existing States are under the duty to grant recognition.

The Montevideo Convention is sometimes appealed to when it comes to deciding whether an entity fullfills the conditions Lauterpacht refers to. However, recongition is at the state's own discretion so saying that these states' recognition of Palestine is wrong because of whatever is a moot point.

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    I think this is correct. You could recognize the state of Palestine and then possibly not recognize either Hamas or the PLO, or just recognize the PLO. Or possibly both of them, although that might not be a sound decision legally or policy-wise.
    – Weiwen Ng
    Commented May 24 at 17:55
  • The Montevideo Convention you link indicates that possessing a government is one of the criteria for being a State. It seems somewhat odd to state "We recognize you as a state, which means recognizing you have a government, but we don't recognize your government." There's also "capacity to enter into relations with the other states", which begs the question of who is doing the relating, if not the government.
    – R.M.
    Commented May 24 at 18:53
  • ... Or maybe the issue here is multiple slightly different definitions of "government". e.g. the mechanistic/political system versus the specific people running the place. (That is, for someone in the UK, "form a new government" refers to any time the Prime Minister changes. But for someone from the US, "form a new government" would refer to 1789 and the signing of the Constitution, and would be a complete misnomer in a post-election context.)
    – R.M.
    Commented May 24 at 19:07
  • Maybe my answer wasn't clear because you misunderstood it. The Montevideo convention provides guidelines but it's ultimately up to the state itself to decide whether to extend recognition. There are no "gotchas" here. States make the rules and the rules now say what Norway, Spain, and Ireland recognize Palestine. Arguing whether they were wrong or not is pointless because they did and here we are. Commented May 24 at 23:38
  • @R.M.: One way to potentially thread the line of "We recognize you as a state, which means recognizing you have a government, but we don't recognize your government." is to realize the last step makes a distinction between legitimate governments and illegitimate governments. You don't have to claim their government won a fair and free election, or has standing to be the legitimate leader of the country, to agree that the debate about the leader is a debate about a leader of a country. Commented May 24 at 23:44
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Norway, Spain, Ireland and other governments that formally recognized a Palestinian state have not clearly indicated which of the two groups, Fatah or Hamas, they see as the leadership of the Palestinian state.

It is likely that a future change of Palestinian leadership from Fatah to Hamas (recognized as a terrorist group by many Western states) will preserve the status of recognition of the Palestinian state by the above countries.

This prediction is based on historical evidence. After all, most countries continued to recognize Iran, Syria, South Sudan, Myanmar and other states as "states" long after their governments changed and became closely associated with terrorist groups or committed numerous war crimes or crimes against humanity.

References and commentaries:

The Irish premier said the recognition comes from a belief in “freedom and justice,” and that peace can only be secured by “the free will of a free people.”
...
Speaking to Spain’s lower house, Sanchez said that Spain’s recognition is a decision “for peace, for justice and for coherence.”

Norway, Ireland, Spain move to recognize Palestinian state, drawing Israeli fury | The Times of Israel

These statements can be reasonably interpreted that if Palestinians elect Hamas into government, as they had done so in Gaza a while ago, Ireland and Spain will continue to recognize the Palestinian state ruled by Hamas. After all, such would have been then "the free will of a free people" and "justice".


"State Sponsors of Terrorism" is a designation applied to countries that are alleged to have "repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism" per the United States Department of State.
...
In 1979, the first such list was published by the State Department, designating Iraq, Libya, South Yemen, and Syria as terrorist states.[3] As of 2024, the list consists of Cuba, Iran, North Korea, and Syria.[4] The countries that were once on the list but have since been removed are: Iraq, Libya, South Yemen (dissolved in 1990), and Sudan. A resolution concerning the addition of Russia to the list was introduced to the senate following Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

State Sponsors of Terrorism (U.S. list) - Wikipedia


The United States called out genocide and atrocities happening in six countries — Myanmar (also known as Burma,) China, Ethiopia, Iraq, Syria and South Sudan — as part of a report highlighting how the U.S. government is using financial, diplomatic and other measures to try to stop them.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday released an annual report on genocide and atrocities prevention.

"This year, for the first time, the report provides direct detailed accounts of atrocities taking place in specific countries, including Burma, Ethiopia, China and Syria. These places represent some of the toughest foreign policy challenges on our agenda," Blinken said.

US Calls Out Genocide, Atrocities Committed in 6 Countries


See also the list here: Foreign Terrorist Organizations - United States Department of State


The countries found on the above lists, sometimes on more than one list, were continued to be recognized as "states". They are rarely "unrecognized". Similarly, if the leadership of the future Palestinian state changes from Fatah to Hamas, it will most probably continue to be recognized as a state, Hamas' terrorist acts, such as the one on October 7, 2023, notwithstanding.

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They have declared their decision as an urgent decision not to lose the two-state solution in order not to lose the peace opportunity altogether, so I guess this is not deeply studied by them, not concluded upon, and this also explains why so late they are declaring such a recognition, after so many countries before them.

Indeed one may assume their natural choice will be PLO, as some other answers have already pointed above, but this is not what they can count on so strongly, as PLO is weakly supported by Palestinian people, at least compared to Hamas. So I guess they have recognized Palestine as a state without really pointing to a specific government currently in power, that would be a future concern left for future; and again I guess they will try their best to affect the future governments in Palestine so they will still be able to recognize Palestine as a state.

What now they did is only to affect NOW on the war currently happening, before Israel reaches a point with no acceptable future in the region, accepting the two-state solution as more appealing than nothing when Israel is condemned by all countries including its CURRENT allies.

I look at this recognition as one last try to save Israel, so it is why they need not to determine which group they will support in future Palestine for now. This is an act of war to help Israel, but Israel doesn't like to accept this way these countries try to support it, so all the complains in the media you hear ...

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    I'm having difficulty understanding how recognising Palestine is supposed to be an attempt to help Israel rather than Palestine, or what you mean by it being "one last try to save Israel". Save it from what, exactly?
    – F1Krazy
    Commented May 23 at 22:44
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    @F1Krazy Going over to the dark side maybe? It could be formulated more explicitly in this answer but it's not a big step to assume that Israel would also benefit from a more peaceful situation should that emerge. A lot of ifs and maybes but a possibility. Commented May 24 at 4:59
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    @F1Krazy, that it is a help to Israel doesn't mean it is not a hep to Palestine. A good solution is a solution that serves for several goals all at once. But why did they decide such at this section of the history? Were Palestinians not suffering before? Why they are recognizing Palestine as a state this much late? Why did each of them do what they did in cooperation with two other countries and not individually? ... Maybe because they wished to be least blamed/criticized this way by US, other Westerners, and Israel;
    – owari
    Commented May 24 at 6:30
  • and maybe because they wanted to manage their own people as they are right now so angry; and maybe because they think Israel, crossing the red lines one after another, can no longer be supported as the one-state solution any further, so a two-state solution will be better if it could stop Israel from going farther into world-wide condemnation, assuming two-state solution being better than no-Israel solution anyway.
    – owari
    Commented May 24 at 6:31
  • Hamas opposes the two-state solution and rejects the agreements concluded in the name of the Palestinian people by their officially recognized representatives, such as PLO and PA.
    – Morisco
    Commented May 29 at 7:15
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The European Union’s top court has ruled that the Palestinian Islamist movement, Hamas, should remain on the EU terrorism blacklist.

The EU originally listed the organisation as a terror group in 2001 in a move that froze its assets within the member states.

The decision was annulled on procedural grounds by an EU court in 2014, however, on the basis that there was insufficient evidence to maintain asset freezes and travel bans on Hamas. That court found the listing was based on media and internet reports rather than solid legal arguments, sparking outrage in Israel and Washington.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jul/26/eu-court-upholds-hamas-terror-listing

Hamas is considered as a terrorist organizations, so Norway, Ireland and Spain recongize the Palestinian Authority as the legitimate government of Palestine, which includes Gaza. If they had recognized Hamas in any way or form, it would have been met with a much bigger backlash.

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