Sweden's new left-leaning government today recognized a Palestinian state—a move that comes during increased tensions between Arabs and Jews over Israel's plans to build about 1,000 housing units in east Jerusalem. As expected, the EU member became the third Western European nation, after Malta and Cyprus, to do so, reflecting growing international impatience with Israel's nearly half-century control of the West Bank, east Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom says Sweden made the move because Palestine had fulfilled the international law criteria required for such recognition. "There is a territory, a people, and government," she says.
Israel was quick to condemn Sweden's announcement, with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman describing it as "a miserable decision that strengthens the extremist elements and Palestinian rejectionism." Israel says Palestinians can gain independence only through peace negotiations, and that recognition of Palestine at the UN or by individual countries undermines the negotiating process. Palestinians counter that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu isn't serious about the peace negotiations. The latest round of US-brokered talks collapsed in April. Meanwhile, British lawmakers earlier this month voted in favor of recognizing Palestine as a state, a symbolic move that didn't change London's official diplomatic stance.