The Slovenia Times

Palestine recognition delayed by referendum motion

Janez Janša, the leader of the Democrats (SDS), addresses the National Assembly. Photo: Katja Kodba/STA

Government plans to recognise an independent Palestine on 4 June have been deferred by a referendum motion tabled by the opposition, which highlights how divisive the war in Gaza has become in Slovenian politics.

The government's decision to recognise Palestine has already caused Slovenia long-term damage "because it gives support to the terrorist organisation Hamas," Janez Janša, the leader of the Democrats (SDS), said on 3 June.

Under Slovenian law only the National Assembly has the power to recognise the independence of countries, and the move means the recognition will be delayed by at least a month because parliamentary rules of procedure stipulate that MPs cannot examine a referendum motion earlier than 30 days after it was tabled.

However, the SDS's motion is likely to be flatly defeated given the coalition's strong majority in parliament.

Coalition officials described the move as disingenuous. "If someone has a sincere intention to advocate peace, then they must also advocate a two-state solution," Foreign Minister Tanja Fajon said.

"When we see that more than 36,000 people have been killed in Gaza, when we see the bloodshed and starvation raging, I cannot understand how Slovenian society can accept that we are procrastinating," she added.

The minister reiterated the government's argument that by recognising Palestine, Slovenia would put pressure on the Israeli authorities to come to the negotiating table. Slovenia would also send a message to the Palestinians that they are not alone, she said.

Slovenia initially wanted to recognise Palestine along with Ireland, Spain and Malta, but the government then spent weeks delaying the decision. Malta later stopped short of recognising Palestinian statehood, while Ireland, Spain and Norway did it.

In Slovenia, there were allegations from the two leftist junior coalition partners, the Social Democrats and the Left, that the ruling Freedom Movement was dragging its feet and even Fajon herself repeatedly urged the government to speed up the process.

Meanwhile, senior officials at the prime minister's office have indicated that diplomats were working to convince other countries to recognise Palestine, while also sending the message to Arab countries that they should recognise Israel's right to exist.

These talks appear not to have made much headway and the formal government decision on Palestine's recognition came on 30 May.

The plan is to recognise Palestine within the 1967 borders, or within the borders that would be agreed by the parties in a future peace agreement.


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