Ireland, Spain, and Norway to Recognize Palestinian State Amid Gaza Conflict

Ireland, Spain, and Norway will recognize a Palestinian state on May 28, aiming to accelerate a ceasefire in Israel's conflict with Hamas in Gaza. The move, condemned by Israel, signals growing international frustration and aims to push for peace. Other Western countries are encouraged to follow suit.

Reuters | Updated: 22-05-2024 20:15 IST | Created: 22-05-2024 20:15 IST
Ireland, Spain, and Norway to Recognize Palestinian State Amid Gaza Conflict

Ireland, Spain and Norway announced on Wednesday that they would recognise a Palestinian state on May 28 and hoped other Western countries would follow suit, prompting an angry response from Israel which recalled its ambassadors from the three capitals.

All three countries painted the decision as a move aimed at accelerating efforts to secure a ceasefire in Israel's war with Hamas in Gaza. "We hope that our recognition and our reasons contribute to other western countries following this path, because the more we are, the more strength we will have to impose a ceasefire, to achieve the release of the hostages held by Hamas, to relaunch the political process that can lead to a peace agreement," Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez told parliament.

Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store said the only possible political solution between Israelis and Palestinians was "two states living side by side in peace and security". Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide said he did not expect the recognition to stop the war in Gaza, but it was "a key component" for an Arab-led peace initiative. Ireland's Prime Minister Simon Harris told a Dublin news conference that Ireland remained unequivocal in recognising Israel's right to exist "securely and in peace with its neighbours", and called for all hostages in Gaza to be freed.

The decision infuriated Israel, which says recognising a Palestinian state amounts to rewarding Hamas militants for the Oct. 7 attack that precipitated the Gaza war. Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz said the decision would carry "severe consequences", and ordered the immediate return of the Israeli ambassadors from the three countries for consultations.

"I am sending a clear message today: Israel will not be complacent against those who undermine its sovereignty and endanger its security," he said. The decision was welcomed by the Palestinian Authority, which exercises limited self rule in the Israeli occupied West Bank, and by Hamas, which has ruled the Gaza Strip since driving the PA out of the enclave in 2007.

Around 144 out of 193 member-states of the United Nations recognise Palestine as a state, including most of the global south, Russia, China and India. But only a handful of the 27 EU members have done so, mostly former Communist countries as well as Sweden and Cyprus. Britain, Australia and EU members Malta and Slovenia have indicated in recent months that they could soon follow suit.

U.S., FRANCE, GERMANY NOT READY Norway was the host of the Oslo peace process 30 years ago, intended to lead to a Palestinian state on territory captured by Israel in a 1967 war, including the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. But the last negotiations collapsed a decade ago.

Israel's rightwing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected a sovereign Palestinian state, despite the so-called "two-state solution" remaining the policy objective of Israel's closest ally the United States. Washington, however, opposes recognising Palestine without an agreement reached at negotiations. President Joe Biden "is a strong supporter of a two-state solution and has been throughout his career," a spokesperson for the White House National Security Council said. "He believes a Palestinian state should be realised through direct negotiations between the parties, not through unilateral recognition."

Germany said it was a matter that required further dialogue, while France said conditions had not yet been met. Last month, Washington vetoed recognising Palestine as a state at the United Nations, where the Palestinians now have observer status.

The move by the three European countries was the latest example of Israel's increasing international isolation, both over the civilian casualties resulting from its tactics in the Gaza war, as well as its over longstanding policies such as building Jewish settlements in occupied Palestinian territories. Jan Egeland, who was part of the Norwegian diplomatic team that helped broker the Oslo Peace Accords in the 1990s, said the announcement by the European trio, though "symbolic", was a message to Israel that the occupation of Palestinian territories had to end.

Alon Liel, a former director general of Israel's foreign ministry and a critic of Netanyahu's government, told Reuters by phone from Tel Aviv that the move by Spain, Ireland and Norway could have an important impact on Israeli public opinion. Equalising the status of Israel and Palestine in the international sphere, was "a nightmare for the current Israeli leadership", he said. The three European countries' action represented "the start of the recognition by the countries that Israel cares about, that are a role model for Israel."

Israel launched its war in Gaza in retaliation for an Oct. 7 assault by Hamas in which fighters killed 1,200 people and took more than 250 hostages, by Israeli tallies. Israel's operations in the enclave have killed more than 35,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza's health ministry. Spain and its allies have spent months lobbying European nations, including France, Portugal, Belgium and Slovenia, to garner support for the recognition of a Palestinian state.

Yolanda Diaz, Spain's deputy prime minister and leader of the government's far-left junior coalition partner, said she expected the recognition to be an important first step to more concrete action, such as pushing the EU to review the arms trade and support investigations into alleged Israeli war crimes.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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