Norway, Spain and Ireland recognise Palestinian state in historic move

Recognition expected to pave way to sustainable peace in the region, leaders say

Powered by automated translation

LATEST: Live updates as Norway, Spain and Ireland recognise state of Palestine

Norway, Spain and Ireland on Wednesday announced that they would recognise the state of Palestine in a highly symbolic move that leaders described as aimed at achieving a long-lasting peace in the region.

Their co-ordinated decision brings the number of countries that recognise a Palestinian state to at least 141. Western states comprise the majority of countries that have so far refused recognition, with most saying they would wait until peace negotiations – effectively giving Israel veto power.

But Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store said that recognition had become necessary in the absence of a peace process and the mounting death toll in the Israel-Gaza war.

“Neither the Palestinian nor the Israeli people can live their lives in security. That is why we need to think differently and act accordingly. We can no longer wait for the conflict to be resolved before we recognise the state of Palestine,” said Mr Store.

“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,” he said. Formal recognition will take place on May 28.

Irish Prime Minister Simon Harris said that recognition was “the only credible path to peace and security for Israel, for Palestine and for their peoples”.

Israeli protests

Israel responded by recalling its ambassadors from Norway and Ireland, in protest at what Foreign Minister Israel Katz described as an “Irish-Norwegian folly”. Israeli politicians claim that recognition will embolden Hamas.

“Today, I am sending a sharp message to Ireland and Norway: Israel will not go over this in silence. I have just ordered the return of the Israeli ambassadors from Dublin and Oslo to Israel for further consultations in Jerusalem,” Mr Katz said on X ahead of Ireland's planned announcement.

Mr Katz threatened to do the same with Spain.

The recognition of Palestinian statehood by Norway, Spain and Ireland comes almost eight months after Israel began strikes on Gaza following an attack by Hamas-led militants on Israeli communities on October 7, killing around 1,200 people and abducting another 240.

It might encourage other European countries towards recognition, said Mr Store. “This could ultimately make it possible to resume the process towards achieving a two-state solution and give it renewed momentum,” he said.

The death toll from the Israeli onslaught on Gaza has now passed 35,600, and there has been a shift in public opinion in Europe in favour of recognition of Palestinian statehood, analysts say.

“To be impactful, recognition of Palestine must be matched with tangible steps to counter Israel’s annexation and settlement of Palestinian territory – such as banning settlement products and financial services,” said Hugh Lovatt, senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations think-tank.

“European governments should also use this as an opportunity to press Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to implement a package of reciprocal steps to revive Palestinian institutions and restore national unity,” he said.

Those who defend recognition say that it will bring more security to the entire region.

“So many countries in the West say they support a two-state solution but only recognise one [Israel], so there's a contradiction,” said Haizam Amirah-Fernandez, professor of international relations at IE University in Madrid.

He said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had long sought to stymie the creation of a Palestinian state.

“Successive Netanyahu governments have tried to prevent any possible negotiation and claim there is no way of establishing a Palestinian state. That is what led us to October 7 and its aftermath,” Mr Amirah-Fernandez told The National.

Historic parallels

A vote at the UN's General Assembly earlier this month showed overwhelming backing to recognise a Palestinian state. Countries that have already done so include the 22 members of the Arab League and the 57-nation Organisation of Islamic Co-operation.

“Efforts are under way to draw up a comprehensive Arab peace vision. A number of Arab countries are involved in this, and recognition of Palestine as a state is a key component,” said Norwegian Foreign Affairs Minister Espen Barth Eide.

“Norway is co-operating closely with Saudi Arabia and is taking active steps to mobilise European support for the Arab peace vision.”

Mr Harris established a parallel with Ireland's own struggle for independence from the British government, which started in 1919.

“Our message to the free nations of the world was a plea for international recognition of our independence, emphasising our distinct national identity, our historical struggle and our right to self-determination and justice,” he said.

“Today, we use the same language to support the recognition of Palestine as a state. We do so because we believe in freedom and justice as fundamental principles of international law and because we believe that permanent peace can only be secured upon the basis of the free will of a free people.”

Two hundred days of Israel Gaza war – in pictures

Updated: May 22, 2024, 10:37 AM