Norway, Ireland, Spain will recognize Palestine state, furious Israel recalls envoys

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

While the three nations hope other European countries will follow suit, France said it believed now is not the right moment for it to do so.

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A furious Israel immediately announced it was recalling its envoys to Ireland and Norway for “urgent consultations” and was expected to do the same with its ambassador to Spain.

Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store made the announcement in Oslo, Spain Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez in Madrid and Irish Prime Minister Simon Harris in Dublin.

Israel has said plans for Palestinian recognition constitute a “prize for terrorism” that would reduce the chances of a negotiated resolution to the war in Gaza, which began on October 7 when Hamas militants stormed into southern Israel.

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

‘Only alternative’

But Norway -- which has played a key role in Middle East diplomacy over the years, hosting Israeli-Palestinian peace talks at the beginning of 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.

Spain’s Sanchez said recognition was needed to reinforce the two-state solution, which he said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was jeopardizing with the offensive in the Gaza Strip.

“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.

And Ireland’s Harris drew parallels with the 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.

The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), seen internationally as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, hailed the moves as “historical” while Jordan called it an “important and essential step.”

Hamas in a statement hailed the move as “an important step towards affirming our right to our land,” while Bassem Naim, a senior Hamas political bureau member, said the move will mark “a turning point in the international position on the Palestinian issue".

EU divisions

The European Union, however, remains divided over the issue.

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

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

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

The United States and most Western European nations have said they are willing to one day recognize 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.

In 2014, Sweden, which has a large Palestinian community, became the first EU member in western Europe to recognize Palestinian statehood.

It had earlier been recognized by six other European countries: Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Romania.

Hamas’s October 7 attack resulted in the deaths of more than 1,170 people, 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 at least 35,647 people in Gaza, also mostly civilians, according to the territory’s health ministry.

With AFP

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