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Iowans react to Sweden's statements on Palestine

BY AARON WALKER | OCTOBER 07, 2014 5:00 AM

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The waxing and waning negotiations between Palestine and Israel were hindered last week when Sweden vowed future recognition of statehood for Palestine.

New Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, declared in his inaugural speech that Sweden would, eventually, recognize Palestine as a sovereign state.

It would be the first major European Union country to do so.

In response to the Löfven’s statements, Al Jazeera reported Monday, Israeli officials protested and expressed disappointment directed at the Swedish prime minister’s statements.

Nicholas Grossman, a University of Iowa lecturer on the Middle East, said the prime minister technically only stated he was prepared to recognize Palestinian statehood. 

“One thing that separates states from non-states is that they have international recognition,” Grossman said. “So the more they get, it is beneficial for them politically and worldwide. It’s a signal of additional support.”

Grossman said the negotiations between Israel and Palestine were “largely a farce” and will have little to no direct effect on peace talks.

“I don’t think that the negotiations were doing anything in particular, so this doesn’t really disrupt anything,” Grossman said.

He described the other methods in which Palestine could theoretically achieve statehood without productive negotiations.

“The Palestinian Authority has floated ideas about changing its strategy with Israel to basically going around Israel with other institutions, in particular, through the [United Nations],” Grossman said. “U.S. policy is that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict should be solved by Palestinians and Israelis through negotiations between the two, not forced upon them by outside actors.”

Gerald Sorokin, a former UI associate professor of international relations and current executive director of the Hillel House, said avoiding direct negotiations would do more harm than good.

“A unilateral move that has not been negotiated by the Israelis and the Palestinians but instead has been declared by the United Nations, would run headlong into that process,” Sorokin said. “It would push the process at best sideways and probably backwards.”

Despite gaining international recognition, he said the actions would simply put Israel on the defensive.

Sorokin said there would never be a deal in which both nations are thrilled.

“It’s a vote of approval for the Palestinian aspirations, which is fine,” Sorokin said. “There’s no reason for them not to stand up and support Palestinian aspirations, but it’s being done in such a way that it will not push the process forward.”

UI senior and Palestinian-American Leila Mustafa, the president of UI Students for Human Rights, said the Swedish prime minister’s statements were a big step in Palestine’s path to statehood. 

“I don’t think [Israel] retaliating against Palestine for nations recognizing them could be seen as good thing at all,” Mustafa said. “You can’t punish Palestine because other countries believe Palestine should be a state.”

UI graduate student Marina Johnson used a metaphor of her own to describe the situation in Israel.

“It’s like two friends sitting by a big pizza they want to eat. They don’t know who should eat which pieces, so they begin to discuss how to cut it and what the best way to divide it is,” Johnson said. “But the whole time, one person keeps eating pieces of the pizza. At this rate, by the time they’re done, there will be nothing left.”


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