Spain, Ireland and Norway recognise Palestine

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Spain, Ireland and Norway formally recognised Palestine on Tuesday, sparking a furious reaction from Israel.

Spain’s prime minister Pedro Sánchez said the move was “not a decision we are taking against anyone” but part of an effort to end the war between Israel and Hamas.

“It is not only a question of historical justice, it is a necessity to achieve peace,” he said in a televised speech outside the prime ministerial palace in the Spanish capital Madrid.

The Spanish move triggered an angry retort from Israel’s rightwing government, with foreign minister Israel Katz accusing Sánchez of being “complicit in inciting a genocide of the Jewish people and war crimes”.

Ireland’s Taoiseach Simon Harris urged other countries to follow suit, saying that “there are practical actions you can take as a country to keep the hope and the destination of a two-state solution alive at a time when others are trying to sadly bomb it into oblivion”.

Two days after an Israeli air strike killed dozens of Palestinians in a camp for displaced civilians in Rafah in Gaza, he also condemned what he called “a new despicable and disgusting trend emerging where every now and again a particular event of absolute horror seems to take place and the prime minister of Israel comes out and describes it as a tragic mistake”. 

Israeli politicians have traded barbs with their counterparts in Spain, Norway and Ireland since the three countries unveiled their plans to recognise Palestine last week.

That announcement prompted Israel to recall its ambassadors from the three countries and ban the Spanish consulate in Jerusalem from providing services to Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, which Palestinians seek as the heart of a future state, but which Israel has occupied since 1967.

Israel also summoned the three countries’ ambassadors in Israel to its foreign ministry, where they were shown videos of the October 7 attack by Hamas militants on Israel that triggered the current war.

A man runs past a graffiti reading ‘Free Palestine’
A graffiti reading ‘Free Palestine’ in Guernica © Vincent West/Reuters

Most UN member states already recognise Palestinian statehood and Palestine was also previously recognised by several EU states, including Sweden, which acted alone in 2014, and several central and eastern European members that had recognised it before joining the EU.

Slovenia and Malta have also suggested that they could follow suit.

However, neither France nor Germany, the EU’s most powerful states, nor the US recognise Palestinian statehood, although they support a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. France’s foreign minister said last week that recognition was not “taboo” for Paris, but that such a move had to be “useful and permit a decisive step forward on the political level”.

Denmark’s parliament on Tuesday rejected a bill to recognise a Palestinian state, endorsing the government’s view that the necessary conditions were not yet in place.

But Ireland’s Harris said Europe could use its influence and do “a hell of a lot more” to help bring about a ceasefire. Ireland’s foreign minister Micheál Martin said on Monday that EU ministers had this week for the first time raised the prospect of imposing sanctions on Israel “in a real way”.

Sánchez, who has been one of the most active European leaders in pushing for the recognition of a Palestinian state, said the Spanish move was based on “international respect” with no changes to the 1967 borders, and with East Jerusalem as Palestine’s capital.

Espen Barth Eide, Norway’s foreign minister, called on Palestinian officials to “continue the challenging reform efforts and lay the foundation needed to govern in the West Bank and Gaza once a ceasefire is in place”.

Arab and Palestinian officials have said recognition of a Palestinian state should be a crucial step to underpin moves towards a longer-term resolution of the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and to bolster a future administration for the occupied West Bank and Gaza.

They want the US and other major western powers to support Palestine’s full membership of the UN through the Security Council. But the US this month opposed a resolution that would have paved the way for full Palestinian membership of the UN.

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