Ireland, Norway and Spain to recognise Palestine as independent state

Israel recalls ambassadors for all three nations over what it calls a ‘distorted step’

Tom Watling
Wednesday 22 May 2024 16:37
Norway, Ireland, Spain say will recognise Palestinian state

Ireland, Spain and Norway have announced they will recognise a Palestinian state, as Israel accused the nations of “rewarding” Hamas for its brutal attack on 7 October.

All three countries see the move as necessary to secure a two-state solution and ensure peace for both the Israeli and Palestinian people, and it comes amid mounting international criticism over Israel’s plans to conduct a full-scale offensive in the besieged southern Gaza city of Rafah, where around one million Palestinians are sheltering. The move will officially come into force on 28 May.

Irish leader Simon Harris holds a press conference at the Government Buildings in Dublin, to recognise the state of Palestine (EPA)

Around 1,200 people are believed to have been killed during the Hamas attack inside Israel, while 250 people were taken hostage, around 120 of which remain in Gaza. More than 35,000 Palestinians have been killed and nearly 80,000 wounded during the Israeli assault on Gaza triggered by that attack, according to health officials in the Hamas-run strip.

Announcing plans to recognise the state of Palestine, Spanish prime minister Pedro Sanchez received applause in parliament as he called for peace in Gaza.

“We are going to recognise Palestine for many reasons and we can sum that up in three words – peace, justice and consistency,” he said.

“We have to make sure that the two-state solution is respected and there must be mutual guarantees of security.

Spanish prime minister Pedro Sanchez receives applause as he announces that the country’s council of ministers will recognise an independent Palestinian state during a plenary session of the lower house of the Spanish parliament (Reuters)

“It is essential that the two sides negotiate for peace and it is for this reason that we recognise Palestine.”

In 1988, the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), the main representative of the Palestinians, first declared the establishment of the state of Palestine. In practice, the Palestinians have limited self-government through the Palestinian Authority (PA) in parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

The PA lost control of the Gaza Strip to Hamas in 2007. The UN considers both territories as occupied by Israel and comprising a single political entity. Palestinians also want East Jerusalem as part of a future state.

Norwegian prime minister Jonas Gahr Stoere said they must “keep alive” the two-state solution, heralding it as the only solution to the current crisis.

“In the middle of a war, with tens of thousands of dead and injured, we must keep alive the only thing that can provide a safe home for both Israelis and Palestinians: two states that can live in peace with each other," Mr Stoere said.

Norway said the demarcation of the two states should be based on pre-1967 borders, with Jerusalem as capital of both, but added that its border recognition should not prejudice negotiations over ultimate border lines. Ireland also said the borders should be along 1967 lines.

Irish prime minister Simon Harris added that he was “confident” other countries would follow their decision and recognise the state of Palestine.

Israel’s foreign secretary, Israel Katz, suggested the move threatened the security of his country. He also recalled Israel’s envoys to Ireland and Norway “for urgent consultations”, saying he would do the same with Spain.

“Today’s decision sends a message to the Palestinians and the world: terrorism pays,” Mr Katz said.

Mr Sanchez spoke about that accusation in his speech: “This recognition is not against Israel... It is not in favour of Hamas which is something that has been said. This recognition is not against anyone, it is in favour of peace and coexistence.”

Recognition of a Palestinian state is still opposed for now by Israel’s closest ally the United States, which has the power to veto it at the United Nations and did so last month.

Washington says it favours Palestinian statehood eventually, but only as a result of negotiations with Israel, a position it shares with European powers including France and Germany.

President Joe Biden “is a strong supporter of a two-state solution and has been throughout his career”, a spokesperson for the White House National Security Council said. “He believes a Palestinian state should be realised through direct negotiations between the parties, not through unilateral recognition.” Germany said it was a matter that required further dialogue. France said the issue was not a taboo for Paris, but the conditions had not yet been met.

British foreign secretary Lord David Cameron said in January that Britain was “looking at the issue of recognising a Palestinian state”.

Before Wednesday’s announcements by Spain, Norway and Ireland, some 140 out of 193 member-states of the United Nations recognised a Palestinian state. A number of other European Union members, including Slovenia and Malta, have indicated their intention to recognise the state of Palestine.

Earlier this week, the chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC) announced he had applied for arrest warrants for Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and defence minister Yoav Gallant in a further blow to the countries’ war effort in Gaza. The charges against Mr Netanyahu and Mr Gallant, two of the three core members of Israel’s war cabinet, include “starvation of civilians as a method of warfare … intentionally directing attacks against a civilian population … wilfully causing great suffering … persecution as a crime against humanity … [and] extermination and/or murder”.

Arrest warrants were also applied for relating to Hamas’s leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, Hamas’s political leader Ismail Haniyeh and the group’s military chief Mohammed Deif, are also wanted for arrest. Prosecutor Karim Khan accused the Hamas leaders of having committed crimes including extermination, murder, hostage taking, rape and sexual violence, and torture.

A panel of ICC judges will now consider Mr Khan’s application for the arrest warrants.

Mr Netanyahu responded angrily to the ICC prosecutor’s statement, saying Israelis were being painted as “mass murderers” and accusing Mr Khan of “callously pouring gasoline on the fires of antisemitism that are raging across the world”.

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