LONDON — The leaders of Ireland, Spain and Norway announced their countries would formally recognize Palestinian statehood in the coming days, with other member states in the European Union expected to follow their lead soon.

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz said he would recall the country's ambassadors from the three countries for consultations.

Ireland has long supported the Palestinian cause on the global stage, and political leaders there have been particularly vocal since the start of the current conflict in Gaza.

Simon Harris, the Irish prime minister, or taoiseach, said that Wednesday was "an historic and important day for Ireland and for Palestine," and said he was "confident that further countries will join us in taking this important step in the coming weeks."

In Norway, Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre insisted that without the recognition of Palestinian statehood, "there cannot be peace in the Middle East."

It's been more than 30 years since a major peace agreement — theoretically paving the way for the Israeli and the Palestinians to live side by side in two separate states — was signed in Oslo, the Norwegian capital, in 1993.

Since then, Støre said in a press conference Wednesday morning, "the Palestinians have taken important steps towards a two-state solution." Støre also said the Hamas attacks on October 7th in Israel had not been carried out by supporters of that two-state solution, but that "Palestine has a fundamental right to an independent state."

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez had long signaled his own announcement that finally came Wednesday. He has progressively become more vocal in his criticism of Israel's response to the Oct. 7 attacks, in which Hamas-led militants killed more than 1,200 people and took some 240 hostages. Israeli forces have killed more than 36,000 Palestinians in Gaza in the war since.

On a November visit to Israel, Sánchez told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Israel must respect international law and end what he called a "humanitarian catastrophe" in the Gaza Strip.

This was a rare position at the European level and marked the departure of Sánchez's social-democratic government from the main European Union line of support for Israel.

The tension between the two countries resulted in Israel recalling its ambassador from Spain in December, and reprimanded the Spanish ambassador in Israel. Sánchez meanwhile toured Europe to try to enlist other countries to recognize Palestine as an independent state, which in part led to today's simultaneous announcement.

Sánchez said his government rejected what he termed "the massacre in Gaza and the rest of the Palestinian territories" and reiterated its demands for a ceasefire and the implementation of the two-state solution as part of what he termed concrete action.

"Prime Minister Netanyahu is still turning a blind eye and bombing hospitals, schools, homes," Sánchez said. "He is still using hunger, cold and terror to punish more than a million innocent boys and girls – and things have gone so far that prosecutors at the international criminal court have this week sought his arrest for war crimes."

Palestinians and several human rights organizations have long argued that such unilateral recognitions, while largely political and symbolic, does serve as a step for the securing of greater rights for Palestinians as well as broadening the legal options for accountability of Israeli actions. Critics say that this recognition offers cover for countries to avoid taking more tangible action.

Katz wrote on social media wrote that by recalling its ambassadors, he was "sending a clear and unequivocal message," and that "Israel will not remain silent in the face of those undermining its sovereignty and endangering its security."

Katz argued that the decision by Spain, Ireland and Norway sent a message that "terrorism pays," and that the three European nations were rewarding Hamas and Iran despite the "massacre" last October. The last European country to recognize the state of Palestine was Sweden, in 2014, but other members of the EU in central and eastern Europe had already done so before joining the bloc, including Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Poland and Romania.

Willem Marx reported from London, and Miguel Macias reported from Seville, Spain.

Copyright 2024 NPR

300x250 Ad

Support quality journalism, like the story above, with your gift right now.