Norway, Ireland, Spain to recognise Palestinian state

MADRID – Norway, Ireland and Spain announced on Wednesday that they will recognise a Palestinian state from May 28, sparking delight from Palestinian leaders and fury from Israel.

The three nations hope other countries will follow but Europe remains split over the issue as the Israel-Hamas war rages. France said it was not the right time to give recognition however.

The announcement by prime ministers Jonas Gahr Store of Norway, Pedro Sanchez of Spain and Simon Harris of Ireland in their capitals is the second diplomatic blow this week, after the International Criminal Court prosecutor said he would seek arrest warrants for Israel’s prime minister and Hamas leaders.

Israel reacted with fury again, immediately recalling its envoys to the three nations, calling the move a “prize for terrorism”.

But the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) hailed the move as “historical”. Hamas praised what it called an “important step” that resulted from the “brave resistance” of Palestinians.

Israel said recognising a Palestinian state would reduce the chance of a negotiated resolution to the Gaza war, which began on October 7 when Hamas militants stormed into southern Israel.

The attack resulted left more than 1,170 dead, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures. Hamas also took 252 hostages, 124 of whom remain in Gaza, including 37 the army says are dead.

Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed more than 35,700 people in Gaza, also mostly civilians, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz charged that “the twisted step of these countries is an injustice to the memory of the 7/10 victims.”

But Sanchez, who has visited several nations to seek support for recognition, said it would reinforce efforts to revive a two-state solution to the Middle East conflict, which he said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was jeopardising with the Gaza offensive.

“Fighting the Hamas terrorist group is legitimate and necessary after October 7, but Netanyahu is causing so much pain, destruction and resentment in Gaza and the rest of Palestine that the two-state solution is in danger,” Sanchez told parliament.

‘Only alternative’

Norway — which has played a key role in Middle East diplomacy, hosting Israeli-Palestinian peace talks in the 1990s which led to the Oslo Accords — said recognition was needed to support moderate voices amid the Gaza war.

“In the midst of a war, with tens of thousands killed and injured, we must keep alive the only alternative that offers a political solution for Israelis and Palestinians alike: Two states, living side by side, in peace and security,” Store said, adding that the moves could give renewed momentum for peace talks.

Harris drew parallels with international recognition of the Irish state in 1919.

“From our own history, we know what it means,” he went on, referring to Ireland’s declaration of independence from British rule, which eventually led to formal statehood. 

Sweden, which has a large Palestinian community, became the the first European Union member in western Europe to recognise Palestinian statehood in 2014.

A Palestinian state was recognised by Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Romania before they joined the EU.

Saudi Arabia welcomed the “positive” move by the three nations and called on other European countries “to make the same decision.”

EU divisions

In March, Slovenia and Malta signed a statement with Spain and Ireland expressing their willingness to recognise a Palestinian state.

Slovenia’s government this month passed a decree on recognising a Palestine state that will be sent to parliament for approval by mid-June.

But French Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne said in a statement that Paris “does not consider that the conditions have been present to date for this decision to have a real impact in this process.”

For decades, formal recognition of a Palestinian state has been seen as the endgame of a peace process between Palestinians and Israel.

The United States and most Western European nations have said they are willing to one day recognise Palestinian statehood, but not before agreement is reached on thorny issues like final borders and the status of Jerusalem.

But after Hamas’s October 7 attacks and Israel’s retaliatory campaign in Gaza, diplomats are reconsidering once-contentious ideas. –AFP