• Three European countries say decision aims to keep Mideast peace hopes alive
• Israel describes move as a ‘reward’ for Hamas

MADRID: Spain, Ireland and Norway formally recognised a Palestinian state on Tuesday in a coordinated decision slammed by Israel as a “reward” for Hamas, more than seven months into the devastating Gaza war.

The three European countries believe their initiative has strong symbolic impact that could encourage others to follow suit.

After Ireland’s government formally approved the measure, Prime Minister Simon Harris said the aim was to keep Middle East peace hopes alive.

“We had wanted to recognise Palestine at the end of a peace process. However, we have made this move alongside Spain and Norway to keep the miracle of peace alive,” he said in a statement, urging Israel to “stop the humanitarian catastrophe” in Gaza.

Norway’s Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide hailed the move as “a special day for Norway-Palestine relations”.

And after Spain’s cabinet backed recognition, Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares said “we know that there is still a long way to go, and Spain is willing to walk its part of the path to peace”.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said recognition was “essential” for peace, insisting the move was “not against anyone, least of all Israel” and the only way to secure a future of two states living side-by-side “in peace and security”.

The decision also reflected Spain’s “outright rejection of Hamas, which is against the two-state solution” and whose October 7 attacks led to the Gaza war, he added.

‘Incitement to genocide’

The plans were unveiled last week by the three countries, sparking a furious response from Israel and exacerbating diplomatic tensions, notably with Spain.

Last week, Yolanda Diaz, a far left member of the government, hailed the proposed recognition, saying: “We cannot stop. Palestine will be free from the river to the sea”.

Israel’s ambassador in Spain slammed the comments as a “clear call for the elimination of Israel”. The slogan refers to the British mandate borders of Palestine, which stretched from the River Jordan to the Mediterranean Sea before Israel was created in 1948.

On Tuesday, Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz went further. “Sanchez, as long as you don’t fire your deputy and you recognise a Palestinian state, you are participating in the incitement to commit genocide and war crimes against the Jewish people,” he wrote on X, the former Twitter.

On Sunday, Katz posted a video on X splicing footage of the October 7 attacks with flamenco dancing, saying: “Sanchez: Hamas thanks you for your service.”

Spain condemned the post as “scandalous and revolting”.

On Tuesday, Spain’s foreign minister said the three countries would give a “calm but firm” joint response to Israel’s social media attacks.

Differences within the EU

Recognising Palestinian statehood has provoked sharp disagreement within the 27-nation European Union. For decades, formal recognition of a Palestinian state has been seen as the endgame of a negotiated peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

Washington and most Western European nations have said they are willing to one day recognise Palestinian statehood, but not before agreement on thorny issues like the status of Jerusalem and final borders.

The Gaza bloodshed has revived calls for Palestinians to be given their own state.

Tuesday’s move will mean 145 of the United Nations’ 193 member states now recognise Palestinian statehood.

In 2014, Sweden became the first EU member to recognise a Palestinian state.

It followed six other European countries that took the step before joining the bloc: Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Romania.

Published in Dawn, May 29th, 2024

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