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‘Historic’: Spain, Ireland, Norway recognise Palestine state, angering Israel

‘Historic’: Spain, Ireland, Norway recognise Palestine state, angering Israel
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Spain, Ireland and Norway formally recognise Palestinian statehood, angering Israel amid Gaza war

Spain, Norway and Ireland formally recognised a Palestinian state on Tuesday in a coordinated effort by the three western European nations to add international pressure on Israel to soften its devastating response to last year’s Hamas-led attack. Tel Aviv slammed the diplomatic move that will have no immediate impact on its grinding war in Gaza.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez told his nation in a televised address from Madrid that “this is a historic decision that has a single goal, and that is to help Israelis and Palestinians achieve peace.”

Israel’s Foreign Minister Israel Katz quickly lashed out at Spain on X, saying Sanchez’s government was “being complicit in inciting genocide against Jews and war crimes.”

Ireland and Norway soon joined Spain in formalising a decision they had jointly announced the previous week.

The Palestinian flag was raised in Dublin outside Leinster House, the seat of the Irish parliament.

“This is an important moment and I think it sends a signal to the world that there are practical actions you can take as a country to help keep the hope and destination of a two-state solution alive at a time when others are trying to sadly bomb it into oblivion,” Irish Prime Minister Simon Harris said before his Cabinet met to formally sign off on the decision.

Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide said in a statement that “for more than 30 years, Norway has been one of the strongest advocates for a Palestinian state. Today, when Norway officially recognises Palestine as a state, is a milestone in the relationship between Norway and Palestine.”

While some 140 countries have recognised a Palestinian state – more than two-thirds of the United Nations – none of the major Western powers has done so. Still, the adherence of three European countries to the group represents a victory for Palestinian efforts in the world of public opinion, and is likely to put pressure on EU heavyweights France and Germany to rethink their position.

Relations between the EU and Israel have nosedived with the diplomatic recognitions by two EU members, and Madrid insisting on Monday that the EU should take measures against Israel for its continued deadly attacks in southern Gaza’s city of Rafah.

After Monday’s meeting of EU foreign ministers, Irish Foreign Minister Micheal Martin said “for the first time at an EU meeting, in a real way, I have seen a significant discussion on sanctions” for Israel.

Harris, the Irish leader, insisted on Tuesday the EU should consider economic sanctions for Israel, saying “Europe could be doing a hell of a lot more.”

Norway, which is not an EU member but often aligns its foreign policy with the bloc, handed diplomatic papers to the Palestinian government over the weekend ahead of its formal recognition.

Last week’s joint announcement by Spain, Ireland and Norway triggered an angry response from Israeli authorities, which summoned the countries’ ambassadors in Tel Aviv to the Foreign Ministry, where they were filmed while being shown videos of the October 7 Hamas attack and abductions.

The United States and Britain, among others, back the idea of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel but say it should come as part of a negotiated settlement. Netanyahu’s government says the conflict can only be resolved through direct negotiations.

Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez delivers a speech over the recognition of Palestinian statehood by Spain. Photo: Handout/La Moncloa/AFP

Sanchez has spent months touring European and Middle Eastern countries, including stops in Oslo and Dublin, to garner support for the recognition of a Palestinian state. He called for a permanent ceasefire, for stepping up humanitarian aid into Gaza and for the release of hostages still held by Hamas.

The Socialist leader said that his intention was to back the beleaguered Palestinian Authority, which lost effective political control of Gaza to Hamas. He laid out his vision for a state ruled by the Palestinian Authority that must connect the West Bank and Gaza via a corridor with east Jerusalem as its capital.

The Western-backed Palestinian Authority administers parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, cooperates with Israel on security matters and favours a negotiated two-state solution. Its forces were driven out of Gaza by Hamas when the militants seized power there in 2007.

The Palestinians have long sought an independent state in Gaza, the West Bank and east Jerusalem, territories Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war. The idea of a land corridor linking Gaza and the West Bank through Israel was discussed in previous rounds of peace talks, but no serious or substantive peace negotiations have been held in over 15 years.

“We will not recognise changes in the 1967 border lines other than those agreed to by the parties,” Sanchez added.

A scene in Rafah, in the south of war-torn Gaza, this month. Photo: AP

“Furthermore, this decision reflects our absolute rejection of Hamas, a terrorist organisation who is against the two-state solution,” Sanchez said. “From the outset, Spain has strongly condemned the terrorist attacks of October 7. This clear condemnation is the resounding expression of our steadfast commitment in the fight against terrorism. I would like to underline that starting tomorrow, we would focus all our efforts to implement the two-state solution and make it a reality.”

Ireland’s government said that it will appoint an ambassador and create a full embassy in Ramallah in the West Bank.

Norway’s Barth Eide added on Tuesday that “it is regrettable that the Israeli government shows no signs of engaging constructively.”

“The recognition is a strong expression of support for moderate forces in both countries,” Norway’s top diplomat said.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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