Norway, Ireland, Spain to recognise Palestinian state

The three European countries will formally enact recognition on May 28 despite Israel’s warnings of the consequences.

The leaders of Norway, Ireland and Spain have said their countries will formally recognise Palestine as a state next week for the sake of “peace in the Middle East“, prompting Israel to immediately recall its envoys.

Norway’s Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store said on Wednesday that a two-state solution was in Israel’s best interest and the recognition of Palestinian statehood would come as of May 28.

“There cannot be peace in the Middle East if there is no recognition,” he said in Oslo.

Ireland’s prime minister Simon Harris made a similar announcement in Dublin, as did Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez in Madrid, to applause in parliament.

“In the midst of a war, with tens of thousands killed and injured [in Gaza], 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,” Gahr Store said.

“Recognition of Palestine is a means of supporting the moderate forces which have been losing ground in this protracted and brutal conflict,” he said.

Harris told a news conference: “I’m confident that further countries will join us in taking this important step in the coming weeks.”

Ireland’s foreign minister Micheal Martin said on X that the recognition will take place on May 28.

Sanchez, while announcing that Spain’s council of ministers would also recognise an independent Palestinian state on May 28, accused his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu of putting the two-state solution in “danger” with his policy of “pain and destruction” in Gaza.

“We hope that our recognition and our reasons contribute to other Western countries to follow this path, because the more we are, the more strength we will have to impose a ceasefire,” Sanchez said.

Harris also said that Ireland was unequivocal in recognising Israel’s right to exist “securely and in peace with its neighbours”, and called for all captives in Gaza to be immediately returned.

“But let me also be clear, Hamas is not the Palestinian people … a two-state solution is the only way out of the generational cycles of violence, retaliation and resentment,” he added.

At least 35,709 people have been killed and 79,990 wounded in Israeli attacks on Gaza since October 7. The death toll in Israel from Hamas’s October 7 attack is 1,139, with dozens still held captive.

Al Jazeera’s Imran Khan, reporting from Amman, Jordan, because Israel’s government has banned Al Jazeera, said that Malta and Slovenia were also expected to make similar announcements.

“This is a momentous occasion for the Palestinians,” he said.

“It’s perhaps unsurprising that Norway has taken the lead on this because they were behind the Oslo Accords – the agreement in 1993 that really did two things: it recognised the Palestine Liberation Organization, the PLO, as the legitimate representatives of the Palestinian people,” Khan added.

The timing of the move comes amid heightened international pressure on Israel. Just this week, the International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor Kharim Khan announced that he was seeking an arrest warrant for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, among others, and the International Court of Justice (ICJ) hears on South Africa’s request for a ruling to stop the Israeli offensive in Rafah, southern Gaza.

Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Turkey welcomed the three leaders’ decision. France said now was not the right moment, but added that recognition was not “taboo”. Meanwhile, the White House acknowledged that each country can make its own decision on whether to recognise a Palestinian state, but stressed that US President Joe Biden thinks direct negotiations by the parties is the best approach.

Reporting from Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, Al Jazeera’s Nida Ibrahim said it is seen as a great step, on paper, “that is very much welcomed on the street”.

“However, great diplomatic moves won’t change the reality for Palestinians on the ground” amid intensifying Israeli attacks, Ibrahim said.

“If we take Jenin, for example, in the north of the occupied West Bank, it is suffering the repercussions of a second day of an Israeli raid.”

Israeli warning

Israel immediately announced it was recalling its envoys to Ireland and Norway for “urgent consultations”.

“Today, I am sending a sharp message to Ireland and Norway: Israel will not go over this in silence,” Foreign Minister Israel Katz said in a statement, adding that he planned to do the same with the Spanish ambassador.

The Israeli foreign ministry had earlier posted a video message addressed to Ireland on X warning that “recognising a Palestinian state risks turning you into a pawn in the hands of Iran and Hamas”, adding the move would “only fuel extremism and instability”.

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 fighters stormed into southern Israel.

Hussein al-Sheikh, the secretary-general of the executive committee of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), posted on X: “Historical moments in which the free world triumphs for truth and justice after long decades of Palestinian national struggle, suffering, pain, occupation, racism, murder, oppression, abuse and destruction to which the people of Palestine were subjected.”

Hamas called the decision by the three countries an “important step”.

Palestinian politician Mustafa Barghouti said it was a “powerful political and symbolically significant step” that moved the achievement of “freedom and justice” closer for the Palestinian people.

“This is also a blow to Netanyahu and his extreme government, and to the fascists in his government … It means the acts of fascism and extremism in the Israeli government has no future,” he told Al Jazeera.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies