Spain, Norway and Ireland recognise Palestine as EU rift with Israel widens

TUESDAY, MAY 28, 2024

Spain, Norway and Ireland formally recognized a Palestinian state on Tuesday in a coordinated effort by the three Western European nations to add international pressure on Israel to soften its response to last year’s Hamas-led attack.

Israel condemned the diplomatic move, which will have no immediate impact on the war in Gaza.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said in a televised address from Madrid that “this is a historic decision that has a single goal, and that is to help Israelis and Palestinians achieve peace.”

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz quickly lashed out at Spain on X, saying that Sánchez’s government was “complicit in inciting genocide against Jews and war crimes.”

Ireland and Norway soon joined Spain in formalizing a decision they had jointly announced the previous week.

The Palestinian flag was raised in Dublin outside Leinster House, the seat of Ireland’s parliament.

“I hope (this) sends the Palestinian people a message of hope that — in this their darkest hour — Ireland stands with them,” Irish Prime Minister Simon Harris told lawmakers in Ireland’s parliament after his Cabinet formally signed off on the decision.

“It is no longer enough just to condemn. It is no longer enough just to be repulsed,” he added. “We must be on the right side of history.”

Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide said in a statement that “for more than 30 years, Norway has been one of the strongest advocates for a Palestinian state. Today, when Norway officially recognizes Palestine as a state, is a milestone in the relationship between Norway and Palestine.”

While around 140 countries have recognized a Palestinian state — more than two-thirds of the United Nations — none of the major Western powers has done so. Still, the adherence of three European countries to the group represents a victory for Palestinian efforts in the world of public opinion, and will likely put pressure on European Union heavyweights France and Germany to rethink their position.

Previously only seven members of the 27-nation EU officially recognized a Palestinian state. Five of them are former East bloc countries that announced recognition in 1988, as did Cyprus, before joining the EU. Sweden’s recognition came in 2014.

Relations between the EU and Israel have nosedived with the diplomatic recognitions by two EU members, and Madrid insisted on Monday that the EU should take measures against Israel for its continued deadly attacks in southern Gaza’s city of Rafah.

After Monday’s meeting of EU foreign ministers, Irish Foreign Minister Micheál Martin said: “For the first time at an EU meeting, in a real way, I have seen a significant discussion on sanctions” on Israel.

Harris, the Irish leader, insisted Tuesday that the EU should consider economic sanctions against Israel, saying: “Europe could be doing a hell of a lot more.”

Norway, which isn’t an EU member but often aligns its foreign policy with the bloc, handed diplomatic papers to the Palestinian government over the weekend before its formal recognition.


Photo by Reuters