Spain, Ireland and Norway recognise Palestinian state

MADRID – Spain, Ireland and Norway will formally recognise a Palestinian state Tuesday in a decision slammed by Israel as a “reward” for Hamas more than seven months into the devastating Gaza war.

The three European countries believe their initiative has strong symbolic impact, which will likely encourage others to follow suit.

They also point to Norway and Spain’s historic role in advancing Israel-Palestinian peace efforts: in 1991, the two sides sat down together for the first time at a Madrid peace conference that paved the way for the 1993 Oslo Accords. 

“Recognising the state of Palestine is about justice for the Palestinian people,” Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares said on Monday in Brussels. 

It was also “the best guarantee of security for Israel and absolutely essential for reaching peace in the region”, he said alongside his Irish and Norwegian counterparts.

The plans were unveiled last week in a coordinated announcement by their prime ministers, with formal recognition to take place in all three countries on Tuesday. 

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez will give an address at 0630 GMT before his cabinet meets to adopt a decree recognising Palestinian statehood. The Irish government will also meet during the morning.

Differences within the EU

Norway informed Palestinian prime minister Mohammed Mustafa at the weekend that its recognition would also take effect on Tuesday.

Although Slovenia has also started the process of recognising a Palestinian state, the issue has provoked sharp disagreement within the 27-nation European Union. Spain and Ireland are part of the bloc.

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

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

The spiralling bloodshed in Gaza has revived calls for Palestinians to be given their own state, with a growing number of European countries expressing a desire to do so.

Within the EU, states like France believe it is not the right time to do so, while Germany only envisages recognition following negotiations between the two sides. 

Tuesday’s move by Spain, Ireland and Norway will mean 145 of the UN’s 193 member states now recognise Palestinian statehood.

These include many Middle Eastern, African and Asian countries, but not the United States, Canada, most of western Europe, Australia, Japan or South Korea.

In 2014, Sweden became the first EU member to recognise a Palestinian state, following six other European countries that took the step before joining the bloc: Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Romania.

‘Award for Hamas’

Last week’s decision by Madrid, Dublin and Oslo has provoked a furious response from Israel. 

On Monday, Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz said he had told Spain’s consulate in Jerusalem to stop offering consular services to West Bank Palestinians from June 1 as a “preliminary punitive” measure. 

“We will not put up with harming Israel’s sovereignty and security,” he said, describing recognition of Palestinian statehood as giving “an award to Hamas”, whose unprecedented October 7 attacks sparked the Gaza war. 

Hamas militants stormed into southern Israel on that day in an assault that resulted in the deaths of more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.

Militants also took 252 hostages, 121 of whom remain in Gaza — among them 37 the army says are dead.

Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed more than 36,000 people in Gaza, also mostly civilians, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.

Katz posted a contentious video on X, formerly Twitter, on Sunday that spliced footage of the October 7 attacks with flamenco music and dance alongside the words: “Spanish Prime Minister Sanchez: Hamas thanks you for your service”.

Spain’s top diplomat denounced the video as “scandalous and revolting”.

On Saturday, Spain’s Defence Minister Margarita Robles accused Israel of committing “a real genocide” in Gaza. 

Until now, such language had only been heard from far-left ministers of the coalition government but not from the Socialist party.

“Some have framed our decision to recognise the state of Palestine as… a reward for terror. Nothing could be further from the truth,” Irish Foreign Minister Micheal Martin said Monday.

With the move, Dublin, Madrid and Oslo want “to see a future of normalised relations between the two peoples” and to implement a two-state solution, he said. –AFP