There are few places on Earth that are as geopolitically complex and controversial as Palestine, a nation that not everyone agrees is a nation. How did this come to be? And which countries recognize Palestine?
We’ll shed some light on these questions as we explore a brief history of Palestine, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and international recognition of Palestine. See our post on the international recognition of Israel to see how the two compare.
Below is a map of Palestine, comprising the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, its major cities, and its borders with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt.
Since the official Palestinian Declaration of Independence in 1988, the world has been divided in officially recognizing it as a nation. Out of the 193 United Nations member states, 138 countries officially recognize the State of Palestine.
On the map below, countries that recognize Palestine can be seen in green. Most countries in the regions of Asia, Central and South America, Africa, and the Middle East officially recognize the State of Palestine, while most countries in North America and Western Europe do not.
Before taking a closer look at how international recognition of Palestine has changed over time and some of the reasons countries decide to recognize it or not, we’ll learn about the history of Palestine and its journey to globally recognized statehood.
A Short History of Palestine and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
Before it had a national identity, the area of modern-day Palestine was part of the larger Region of Palestine, whose name is related to the Land of the Philistines, which comes from the Ancient Greek word Philistia, referring to the lands between modern-day Gaza and Tel Aviv.
The Region of Palestine has a tumultuous history as the birthplace of Christianity and Judaism as well as a crossroads of culture, trade, commerce, and politics. Over the centuries, the region was controlled by various empires; namely, the Neo-Assyrian Empire, Neo-Babylonian Empire, Achaemenid Persian Empire, Roman Empire, Byzantine Empire, and various caliphates before having a predominantly Muslim population and becoming part of the Ottoman Empire in the 16th century.
During World War I, the Arab population of the Ottoman Empire was encouraged by the United Kingdom to rebel against the ruling Turks. In exchange for this rebellion, the British Government had agreed, by way of the McMahon—Hussein Correspondence, to support the formation of an independent Arab State.
Despite its agreement to support the formation of an independent Arab State, the British Government also engaged in a covert treaty at this time known as the Sykes-Picot Agreement. This agreement between the UK and France established guidelines for how the nations would divide the Arab-majority territories in a partition of the Ottoman Empire.
The result of the Sykes-Picot Agreement and the partition of the Ottoman Empire was the establishment of League of Nations mandates controlled by the British and French. Among these was the British-administered Mandate for Palestine.
In addition to gaining control of Mandatory Palestine, Britain had issued a public statement called the Balfour Declaration announcing its support for the establishment of a national home for the Jewish People.
This was in line with the goals of the Zionist Movement, which was growing in response to antisemitism in Europe. Part of Britain’s motivation for announcing its support of this plan was to garner the support of Jewish people in the war. The land of Mandatory Palestine includes the historic homelands of the Jewish people, making it an ideal location in the eyes of Zionists.
Britain’s Balfour Declaration would pave the way for the formation of the State of Israel and be considered partly responsible for the ongoing Palestinian-Israeli Conflict.
Over the next three decades after the establishment of Mandatory Palestine, tensions grew between the local Arab population and the increasing numbers of Jewish refugees. There were also violent uprisings by the Arab and Jewish populations against the British authorities in Palestine during this time.
Eventually, the UK made the decision to withdraw from Palestine and hand the resolution of the “Question of Palestine” over to the United Nations, which proposed a partition plan that would create a Palestinian State as well as an Israeli State. This was known as the “Two-State Solution,” though it was never successfully implemented.
Several successive violent clashes, including the 1947-1949 Palestine War and the Six-Day War of 1967 led to an expansion of Israeli territory and deepened the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The conflict has displaced millions of Palestinian refugees around the world.
The Palestinian Declaration of Independence, announced in 1988, was met with mixed reactions from the international community.
The United Nations and Palestine
In 1975, the UN created the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (CEIRPP), to protect the rights of the Palestinian people.
In pursuit of international recognition, sovereignty, and diplomatic relations, the State of Palestine has sought membership in the UN since declaring independence. This has been repeatedly opposed by Israel, the United States, and several other countries.
While Palestine has still not acquired full membership in the UN, it did gain non-Member Observer State status in the 2012 General Assembly. This achievement significantly enhanced Palestine’s international standing and has allowed it to participate in various UN activities and agencies, opening avenues for legal recourse through international institutions.
The vote to grant Palestine this status received overwhelming support; countries that voted against the move included the US, Israel, Canada, the Czech Republic, Panama, Nauru, Palau, and Micronesia.
President of Palestine Mahmoud Abbas made another appeal for full UN membership in 2022.
Countries That Recognize Palestine
As of 2022, there are 138 UN member states that officially recognized the State of Palestine, as listed in the table below.
|Countries That Recognize Palestine||Date of Recognition|
|Antigua and Barbuda||2011|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||1992|
|Central African Republic||1988|
|Papua New Guinea||1995|
|Republic of the Congo||1988|
|Saint Kitts and Nevis||2019|
|Sao Tome and Principe||2011|
|United Arab Emirates||1988|
|Vatican City (UN obs. state)||2015|
Many of the countries not on this list state that they will abstain from recognizing Palestine until productive negotiations between Palestine and Israel take place. One of the motivations some countries have for not recognizing Palestine is strong diplomatic ties with either Israel or the US.
Countries That Do Not Recognize Palestine
In the table below, we’ll list the countries that do not currently recognize Palestine. Some of these countries have diplomatic relations with Palestine even though they do not officially recognize the nation.
Although these countries don’t officially recognize Palestine as an independent state, many of them support a two-state solution and have diplomatic relations with Palestine.
|Countries That Do Not Recognize Palestine||Diplomatic Relations With Palestine|
|Trinidad and Tobago||No|
|United States of America||Yes|
Recent Developments in Palestine
In the last decade, seven new countries have expressed recognition of Palestine: Guatemala, Grenada, Haiti, Sweden, Saint Lucia, Colombia, and Saint Kitts and Nevis.
In April 2013, the President of Guatemala issued a statement that said the country recognized the State of Palestine as a “free, sovereign and independent state.” The motivation for the recognition was to make progress in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Guatemala does not have diplomatic relations with Palestine.
Guatemala and the State of Israel have had a strong diplomatic relationship for many years. Guatemala was the second country to recognize Israel after the US in 1948, and it opened an embassy in Jerusalem just two days after the controversial decision by the US to consider the city the capital of Israel.
Grenada and Haiti
After Guatemala, both Grenada and Haiti decided to officially recognize the State of Palestine in September 2013, the year after it became a non-Member Observer State in the UN. The Palestinian Foreign Minister signed agreements with both nations at a ceremony held at the UN headquarters in New York City. The agreement led to an exchange of ambassadors between the countries.
In a move making it the first Western European EU member to do so, Sweden announced its decision to officially recognize the State of Palestine in 2014. Palestine opened an embassy in Stockholm the following year, and a plan was put in place to provide Palestine with financial aid from Sweden. This aid was suspended in 2023 after the October 7 Hamas attacks on Israel, pending further review at the end of the year.
The Caribbean nation of Saint Lucia joined more than 130 others in recognizing Palestine in 2015. The country issued a Statement on Diplomatic Relations with the State of Palestine at an official signing ceremony in New York City.
Colombia was one of the last Latin American countries to recognize Palestine formally, doing so in 2018. The announcement was controversial, as it took place just weeks before a new Colombian government took office. Colombia’s President issued a statement in October 2023 concerning the occupation of Palestinian territory.
Saint Kitts and Nevis
The most recent country to recognize Palestine is Saint Kitts and Nevis, a small island nation located in the Caribbean. The country stated in 2019 that it “formally recognizes the State of Palestine as a free, independent and sovereign state based on its 1967 borders and East Jerusalem as its capital.” It also supports a two-state solution between Palestine and Israel.