In First, Spain Recognizes Israel as Jewish Homeland

Remarks at UN by pro-Palestinian state seen as auspicious; adoption of new policy could thus lead other European countries to follow suit.

Spain recognized Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people for the first time on Saturday, when Spanish Foreign Minister Trinidad Jimenez addressed the UN General Assembly.

In her speech, Jimenez outlined a new policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: Spain, she said, sees Israel as the Jewish people's national home, and any solution to the Palestinian refugee issue must preserve Israel's Jewish character.

Trinidad Jimenez - AP - 26092011

Her statement is particularly dramatic because Spain is considered one of the most pro-Palestinian countries in Europe. Its adoption of this new policy could thus lead other European countries to follow suit.

"I wish to underline Spain's commitment to the State of Israel as the embodiment of the project to create a homeland for the Jewish people," she said, according to the UN's unofficial translation. "Since its foundation, Israel has lived through many wars and has suffered from terrorism against its civilian population. For Spain, the security of this young State born out of an ancient people is essential."

The best way to ensure Israel's security, Jimenez continued, is through a peace agreement creating a Palestinian state in the 1967 lines, with agreed territorial exchange and Jerusalem as the capital of both Israel and Palestine. There must also be "effective" security guarantees, "including a possible international participation, should the parties request it."

Any deal must constitute the end of the conflict, she stressed: Both countries must "be certain that claims originating from the conflict will be overcome with their signature of the peace agreement."

As for the refugees, the solution must "be just and agreed upon by all parties concerned, allowing the preservation of Israel's current character." This, too, breaks new ground, and could affect other European states: Typically, European Union statements merely demand a "just and agreed" solution to the refugees, with no mention of preserving Israel's Jewish character.

Regarding the Palestinian Authority's bid for UN recognition as a state, Jimenez said Spain supports upgrading the PA to the status of a nonmember observer state, though not yet to that of a full UN member. Such an upgrade, she said, would express the international community's deep commitment to establishing a Palestinian state.

However, she stressed, "effective, sustainable peace can only be achieved through negotiations between the parties." Therefore, she said, the upgrade should constitute "a stimulus for the prompt resumption of negotiations," and "should not be used in a way incompatible with the spirit of negotiations."

Though she didn't elaborate, Jimenez was apparently referring to an EU demand that the new state not seek to indict Israel in the International Criminal Court.