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Spain, Ireland and Norway recognize Palestinian state


Published : May 28, 2024 - 21:29

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A protestor holds a Palestinian flag during a demonstration called by the French organization A protestor holds a Palestinian flag during a demonstration called by the French organization "France Palestine Solidarite" in Paris on Monday to protest an overnight Israeli strike on a camp in Rafah for internally displaced Palestinians. (AFP)

Spain, Ireland, and Norway formally recognized a Palestinian state on Tuesday in a coordinated decision slammed by Israel as a "reward" for Hamas, more than seven months into the devastating Gaza war.

The three European countries believe their initiative has a strong symbolic impact, likely encouraging others to follow suit.

After Ireland's government formally approved the measure, Prime Minister Simon Harris said the aim was to keep hopes of peace in the Middle East alive. "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," he said in a statement, urging Israel to "stop the humanitarian catastrophe" in Gaza.

As Oslo's recognition went into effect, Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide hailed the move as "a special day for Norway-Palestine relations."

After Spain's cabinet backed the move, Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares said it would be a day "etched in Spain's history."

Earlier, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said recognition was "essential" for peace, insisting the move was "not against anyone, least of all Israel" and the only way to secure a future of two states living side-by-side "in peace and security."

The decision also reflected Spain's "outright rejection of Hamas, which is against the two-state solution" and whose October 7 attacks led to the Gaza war, he added.

'Incitement to genocide'

The plans were unveiled last week by the prime ministers of the three countries, sparking a furious response from Israel and further exacerbating its diplomatic tensions, notably with Spain. Last week, Sanchez's far-left deputy Yolanda Diaz hailed the move, saying: "We cannot stop. Palestine will be free from the river to the sea," which the Israeli ambassador in Spain slammed as a "clear call for the elimination of Israel."

The slogan refers to the British mandate borders of Palestine, which stretched from the River Jordan to the Mediterranean Sea before Israel was created in 1948. On Tuesday, Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz went even further. "Sanchez, as long as you don't fire your deputy and you recognize a Palestinian state, you are participating in the incitement to commit genocide and war crimes against the Jewish people," he wrote on X.

On Sunday, Katz posted a video on X splicing footage of the October 7 attacks with flamenco dancing, saying: "Sanchez: Hamas thanks you for your service." Spain condemned the post as "scandalous and revolting." On Tuesday, Spain's Albares said Israel's attacks on social media -- which had also targeted Ireland and Norway -- were an attempt to change the narrative.

He said all three nations would issue a "calm but firm" joint response.

Differences within the EU

Recognizing Palestinian statehood has provoked sharp disagreement within the 27-nation European Union. For decades, formal recognition of a Palestinian state has been seen as the endgame of a negotiated peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Washington and most Western European nations have said they are willing to one day recognize Palestinian statehood, but not before agreement on thorny issues like the status of Jerusalem and final borders.

The Gaza bloodshed has revived calls for Palestinians to be given their own state.

Tuesday's move will mean 145 of the United Nations' 193 member states now recognize Palestinian statehood.

In 2014, Sweden became the first EU member to recognize a Palestinian state.

It followed six other European countries that took the step before joining the bloc: Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Romania.

On October 7, Hamas fighters stormed into southern Israel in an assault that killed more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.

The Palestinian militants also took 252 hostages, 121 of whom remain in Gaza. The Israeli army says 37 of them are dead.

Israel's relentless retaliatory offensive has killed more than 36,000 people in Gaza, also mostly civilians, according to the Hamas-run territory's health ministry. (AFP)

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