Norway, Ireland, Spain defy Israel to recognize Palestinian statehood

Madrid/Tel Aviv, May 22, (dpa/GNA) – Norway, Spain and Ireland will recognize an independent Palestinian state, their leaders said in near simultaneous announcements on Wednesday, defying staunch opposition from Israel.

“This is an historic and important day for Ireland and Palestine,” said Irish Prime Minister Simon Harris in a speech to the nation.

It was “never the wrong time to do the right thing,” he said, comparing the Palestinian struggle for independence to Ireland’s pursuit of independence some 100 years ago.

Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre said in Oslo he hoped other countries would join in the initiative, believing it will advance the prospects for peace after more than seven months of fighting between Israel and Hamas.

“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,” Støre said.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez told the parliament in Madrid that it was clear to him Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “isn’t pursuing a project of peace for Palestine.”

Netanyahu was punishing Palestinian civilians “with hunger and terror,” he said.

“Fighting against the terrorist group Hamas is legitimate after what happened, but it is causing so much pain, so much destruction and resentment in Gaza and the rest of Palestine, that the two state solution is in danger, in serious danger of being viable.”

“As the states defending the human rights and the rule-based international order we are obliged to act, in Ukraine and Palestine, without double standards,” he continued.

Spain has long been one of the harshest critics in Europe of Israel’s military action in the Gaza Strip. The left-wing government suspended all arms exports to Israel in October. It also recently decided to deny all cargo ships loaded with weapons for Israel entry to Spanish harbours in future.

Israel for its part recalled its ambassadors from the three countries.

“I’m sending a clear and unequivocal message to Ireland and Norway: Israel will not remain silent in the face of those undermining its sovereignty and endangering its security,” Foreign Minister Israel Katz said on X. “There will be further severe consequences.”

A top official with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which unilaterally declared a Palestinian state in 1988, called it an “historic” moment for the “free world.”

“We thank the countries of the world that have recognized and will recognize the independent State of Palestine. We affirm that this is the path to stability, security and peace in the region,” Hussein Al-Sheikh, the secretary general of the PLO’s executive committee, posted on X.

The office of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas welcomed the actions of Ireland, Norway and Spain and urged other countries “to assume their responsibility and recognize the right of the Palestinians.”

The majority of the member states of the United Nations recognize Palestine as a state. But there are major exceptions, including the United States, Germany, France and Britain.

France’s foreign minister reiterated the country’s position on Wednesday.

Germany is in favour of the long-sought two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians. But it has said the establishment of a Palestinian state can only be the result of direct negotiations between the two sides.

Ireland and Spain are members of the European Union, but Norway is not. Among EU countries, Sweden recognized Palestine as a state a decade ago.

The decision by the three countries to recognize Palestine will take effect on May 28.

Momentum for recognizing Palestinian statehood has grown in several European countries as the war that began on October 7 with the Hamas attack on Israel, which left some 1,200 people dead and another 250 others taken hostage, drags on.

Critics and allies of Israel have shown increasing frustration as the war continues to claim lives in Gaza amid mass displacement in the territory and worsening humanitarian conditions.

The Hamas-run health authority says more than 35,500 people have been killed so far.

Hamas said an “important step” had been taken on Wednesday toward an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital. However, Hamas categorically rejects a two-state solution and, according to its doctrine, is committed to destroying Israel.