SPAIN’S PM announced that Madrid will recognise Palestine as a state on May 28.—AFP
SPAIN’S PM announced that Madrid will recognise Palestine as a state on May 28.—AFP

• Norway, Ireland and Spain seek two-state solution based on pre-1967 borders, call on other nations to follow suit
• Poland also voices support; Germany and France say more time needed to settle outstanding issues
• Furious Israel recalls envoys; US says ‘unilateral recognition’ not the way to achieve peace in Middle East

MADRID: Three European nations — Norway, Ireland and Spain — on Wednesday announc­­ed their intention to recognise a Palestinian state, prompting praise from Arab and Muslim nations and fury from Israel.

Dublin, Madrid and Oslo announced they would recognise a Palestinian state next Tuesday.

The announcement by prime ministers Jonas Gahr Store of Norway, Pedro Sanchez of Spain and Simon Harris of Ireland comes weeks after the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) overwhelmingly voted to support a Palestinian bid to become a full UN member.

Sanchez, who has visited several nations to drum up support for recognition, said the move would reinforce efforts to revive a two-state solution to the Middle East conflict, which he said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was jeopardising.

“Netanyahu is causing so much pain, destruction and resentment in Gaza and the rest of Palestine that the two-state solution is in danger,” Sanchez told parliament.

Yolanda Diaz, Spain’s deputy prime minister and leader of the government’s far-left junior coalition partner Sumar, said she expected the “symbolic” recognition to be an important first step to more concrete action.

“We have to push for the EU to break the agreements and funds it has with Israel, to support investigations into war crimes, to review the arms trade and to press daily for a ceasefire and a stop to the genocide,” she said.

Irish premier Harris drew parallels with international recognition of the Irish state in 1919.

“From our own history, we know what it means,” he went on, referring to Ireland’s declaration of independence from British rule, which eventually led to formal statehood.

He added that Ireland was unequivocal in recognising Israel’s right to exist “securely and in peace with its neighbours”, and calling for all prisoners in Gaza to be immediately returned.

“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,” Norwegian PM Store said, adding that the moves could give renewed momentum for peace talks.

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.

An Arab-Israeli war in 1967 saw Israel seize the Palestinian territories of the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.

Israel later annexed east Jerusalem, and successive Israeli governments have encouraged Jewish settlements in the Palestinian territories.

According to the UN, the Palestinian territories, including Gaza, remain occupied, and Israeli settlements in east Jerusalem and the West Bank are considered illegal under international law

European recognition

Norway — which played a key role in Middle East diplomacy, hosting Israeli-Palestinian peace talks in the 1990s which led to the Oslo Accords — said recognition was needed to support moderate voices.

These three are not the only European nations to recognise Palestinian statehood; Sweden, which also a large Palestinian community, became the first EU member from western Europe to extend recognition to the cause in 2014.

A Palestinian state was also recognised by Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Romania before they joined the EU.

In March, Slovenia and Malta signed a statement with Spain and Ireland expressing their willingness to recognise a Palestinian state.

Slovenia’s government this month passed a decree on recognising a Palestine state that will be sent to parliament for approval by mid-June.

Britain, Australia and Malta have indicated in recent months that they could soon follow suit.

Poland also said on Wednesday that it backed a two-state solution. “We will support the efforts of the High Representative of the European Union and other countries that believe that some long-term, stable solution is needed,” Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski said.

According to the Palestinian Authority, which rules parts of the occupied West Bank, 142 of the 193 UN member countries already recognise a Palestinian state.

On Wednesday, Germany said it was a matter that required further dialogue. France also said the issue was not a taboo for Paris, but the conditions had not yet been met.

Praise from Arab, Muslim world

The Palestine Liberation Organisation, (PLO) seen as one of the main representative forums of the Palestinian people around the world, hailed the European moves as “historical”.

Led by the iconic Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat for over 35 years, the PLO Arab states also hailed the decision by the European trio and urged other countries to follow suit. Saudi Arabia and Egypt, having called for a two-state solution for decades, praised the move, with the former saying it was a “positive decision” that “affirms the international consensus on the inherent right of the Palestinian people to self-determination”.

Egypt, which has engaged in mediation efforts between Israel and Hamas, alongside Qatar and the United States, also hailed Wednesday’s move as a “welcome step”.

Qatar similarly welcomed the announcement as an “important step in support of a two-state solution”, also expressing hope that other countries would do the same.

“We welcome the decisions taken by friendly European countries today to recognise a Palestinian state,” Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi told a joint press conference with his Hungarian counterpart in Amman.

He expressed hope that “these decisions will be part of a wider movement that… places all countries in the world and the region on a clear path towards a just and comprehensive peace, which is the only guarantor for security and stability for Palestine, Israel and the region”.

The six-member Gulf Cooperation Council also supported the European countries’ move, with secretary general Jasem Mohamed Albudaiwi calli­ng it “a pivotal and strategic step towards achieving the two-state solution”.

The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) also welcomed the move as an “important historic step”.

‘Turning point’

Bassem Naim, a senior member of Hamas’ political bureau, said that European recognition of the Palestinian state is a “turning point in the international position” on the issue, Al Jazeera reported.

He said it was the “brave resistance” of the Palestinian people that spurred Norway, Ireland and Spain to announce that they will recognise Palestine as a state.

“These successive recognitions are the direct result of this brave resistance and the legendary steadfastness of the Palestinian people,” he told AFP.

“We believe this will be a turning point in the international position on the Palestinian issue.”

Israeli fury

Tel Aviv reacted sharply to the announcement, with PM Benjamin Netanyahu saying the move amounted to a “reward for terror” for Hamas.

Israel said it was recalling its envoys to Dublin, Oslo and Madrid for “urgent consultations” and also summoned the three European ambassadors for a rebuke.

Foreign Minister Israel Katz said the decision to recognise a Palestinian state undermined Israel’s right to self-defence and efforts to return the 128 prisoners being held by Hamas in Gaza.

The White House said President Joe Biden opposed unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state, saying it should be realised “through direct negotiations”.

Published in Dawn, May 23rd, 2024



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