Published: 14:34, May 28, 2024 | Updated: 20:54, May 28, 2024
Spain, Ireland and Norway recognize Palestinian statehood
By Reuters
(From right) Norway's Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide, Spain's Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares Bueno and Ireland's Foreign Minister Micheal Martin pose for a photo, at the end of a media conference, during talks on the Middle East, in Brussels, May 27, 2024. (PHOTO/ AP)

MADRID/DUBLIN/OSLO – Spain, Ireland and Norway officially recognized a Palestinian state on Tuesday, despite an angry reaction from Israel, which has found itself increasingly isolated after more than seven months of conflict in Gaza.

Madrid, Dublin and Oslo said they sought to accelerate efforts to secure a ceasefire in Israel's war with Hamas in Gaza. The three countries say they hope their decision will spur other European Union countries to follow suit.

"It's the only way of advancing toward what everyone recognizes as the only possible solution to achieve a peaceful future, one of a Palestinian state that lives side by side with the Israeli state in peace and security," Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said in a televised address.

READ MORE: Spain to ask EU partners to back ICJ over Israel

Spain was recognizing a unified Palestinian state, including the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, under the Palestinian National Authority with East Jerusalem as its capital, he said.

We had wanted to recognize Palestine at the end of a peace process, however we have made this move alongside Spain and Norway to keep the miracle of peace alive.

Simon Harris, Prime Minister, Ireland

The move means 146 of the 193 member-states of the United Nations now recognize a Palestinian state, Spain's Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares said on Tuesday.

The Palestinian Authority, which exercises limited self-rule in the West Bank under Israeli military occupation, has welcomed the decision.

Sanchez said Madrid would not recognize any changes to pre-1967 borders unless agreed to by both parties.

Ireland's Department of Foreign Affairs said last week it would upgrade its representative office in Ramallah in the West Bank to an embassy and appoint an ambassador and upgrade the status of the Palestinian mission in Ireland to an embassy.

"We had wanted to recognize Palestine at the end of a peace process, however we have made this move alongside Spain and Norway to keep the miracle of peace alive," Irish Prime Minister Simon Harris said in a statement.

Israel has repeatedly condemned the move. It says it bolsters Hamas, the Islamist militant group that led the deadly Oct 7 attack on Israel that triggered the war in the Hamas-governed Gaza Strip.

"Sanchez, when you... recognize a Palestinian state, you are complicit in incitement to genocide against the Jewish people and in war crimes," Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz wrote on X on Tuesday.

Divided opinion

Of the 27-members of the European Union, Sweden, Cyprus, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, Romania and Bulgaria have already recognized a Palestinian state. Slovenia is expected to approve recognition on Thursday and Malta has said it is considering the move.

Britain and Australia have said they are considering recognition, but EU member France has said now is not the time, while Germany joined Israel's staunchest ally, the United States, in rejecting a unilateral approach, insisting that a two-state solution can only be achieved through dialogue.

Norway, which chairs the international donor group to the Palestinians, until recently followed the US position but lost confidence that this strategy would work.

Spaniards have traditionally leaned toward the Palestinians. Since Israel began its offensive on Gaza in response to the Oct 7 attack, the number of Spaniards supporting a two-state solution has risen to 60% in April from 40 percent in 2021, according to a poll by the Real Instituto Elcano.

The conflict has killed more than 36,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza's health ministry. Israel says the Oct. 7 attack, the worst in its 75-year history, killed 1,200 people, with more than 250 hostages taken.

READ MORE: Israeli airstrikes kill at least 35 in Rafah, Gaza authorities say

The decision on recognition was welcomed by Marie Antoinette Sedin, who is now the Palestinian ambassador to Norway.

"It's a step forward to end the war, to end the occupation and to give the Palestinian people the right to exist in their own independent state, living with dignity, freedom and peace," Sedin told Reuters.

Palestinians look at the destruction after an Israeli strike where displaced people were staying in Rafah, Gaza Strip, on May 27, 2024. (PHOTO / AP)

At a protest camp at Madrid's Complutense University, political science student Abril Armengol said recognition was the correct decision but Spain took too long to act.

"Pedro Sanchez's decision is totally on target, but it's a bit late," Armengol, 22, said.

Israel has responded to the recognition move by recalling its ambassadors from Madrid, Oslo and Dublin and summoning the three countries’ ambassadors to watch videos of Israelis being taken hostage by Hamas gunmen.

It also blocked Spain from providing consular services to Palestinians in the West Bank and accused Spain of helping Hamas. In response, Spain has escalated criticism, describing the Gaza conflict as a "real genocide."

Spain said on Monday it would ask other EU members to officially back last week's International Court of Justice order for Israel to halt its military assault on the southern Gaza city of Rafah.

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But Sanchez sought on Tuesday to ease tensions by condemning Hamas and calling for the release of hostages. The ICJ also called last week for the release of hostages held in Gaza.

"It is not a decision we take against anyone, certainly not against Israel," Sanchez said. "We want to have the best possible relationship."