Move by Norway, Ireland, Spain to recognize Palestinian state gets mixed global response

US, France, Germany say any two-state solution must be forged by dialogue; Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Turkey, Slovenia welcome announcement by three European countries

A man waves the Palestinian flag in front of the Norwegian Parliament building during a demonstration in Oslo, Oct. 28, 2023. (Frederik Ringnes/NTB via AP)
A man waves the Palestinian flag in front of the Norwegian Parliament building during a demonstration in Oslo, Oct. 28, 2023. (Frederik Ringnes/NTB via AP)

Several countries voiced their support for Norway, Ireland, and Spain after the three European countries announced Wednesday that they would unilaterally recognize a State of Palestine, while the US, France and Germany said it was not the right time nor the right conditions for such a move.

Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Turkey, and Slovenia all welcomed the announcement by Dublin, Madrid and Oslo, who said they would each recognize a Palestinian state on May 28, amid Israel’s war against the ruling Hamas terror group in the Gaza Strip.

However, Israel’s allies in Washington and Berlin stressed that negotiations with Israel were the only pathway to a Palestinian state while emphasizing support for a two-state solution to the conflict.

US President Joe Biden believes a Palestinian state “should be realized through direct negotiations between the parties, not through unilateral recognition,” a White House National Security Council spokesperson said.

“The president is a strong supporter of a two-state solution and has been throughout his career,” the spokesperson added.

Saudi Arabia’s foreign ministry said it “expresses the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s welcome of the positive decision taken by the Kingdom of Norway, the Kingdom of Spain, and the Republic of Ireland to recognize the sisterly State of Palestine,” according to a statement posted on X.

Ministers from the Palestinian Authority, the UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt hold a meeting on the Gaza war in Riyadh on February 8, 2024. (Saudi Press Agency)

“The kingdom appreciates this decision issued by friendly countries, which affirms the international consensus on the inherent right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, and calls on the rest of the countries to quickly make the same decision.”

The Gulf kingdom, home to Islam’s holiest places, has long positioned itself as a champion of the Palestinian cause and has never recognized Israel.

However, its de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, said in September that progress was being made on a possible normalization deal that would also involve beefed-up security and other agreements with the United States, and the US has been attempting to broker such a deal.

Since war broke out in Gaza on October 7, triggered by Palestinian terror group Hamas’s massive attack on southern Israel, Saudi officials have said ties with Israel are impossible without “irrevocable” steps toward recognition of a Palestinian state, which Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has long opposed. US Secretary State Anthony Blinken has acknowledged that Israel might not be willing to embrace a normalization deal with Saudi Arabia brokered by Washington if it means agreeing to clear progress toward a Palestinian state.

A woman wrapped in a Palestinian flag and wearing a keffiyeh takes part in an anti-Israel demonstration in Madrid on May 11, 2024. (Pierre-Philippe Marcou/AFP)

France’s foreign minister said Wednesday that officially recognizing the Palestinian state is not a taboo, but any such decision must come at the right time.

“This is not just a symbolic issue or a question of political positioning, but a diplomatic tool in the service of the solution of two states living side by side in peace and security,” Stephane Sejourne said in a statement.

Germany echoed such a sentiment, saying that a two-state solution is the ultimate goal but it must be born out of dialogue.

“An independent Palestinian state remains a firm goal of German foreign policy,” a German foreign ministry spokesperson told a regular news conference in Berlin, adding that a dialogue process was needed for that goal.

Jordan hailed the coordinated move by Ireland, Norway and Spain as an “important and essential step towards Palestinian statehood.”

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

“We value this decision and consider it an important and essential step towards a two-state solution that embodies an independent, sovereign Palestinian state along the July 1967 borders.”

Jordan is the custodian of Muslim and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem.

Safadi expressed hopes 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.”

He added that the recognition of a Palestinian state “marks an important and essential step in response to the Israeli government’s actions not only in rejecting the two-state solution… but also in terms of practical measures on the ground that kill the chances of achieving peace in the region.”

Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi briefs the media in Berlin, April 16, 2024. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

The six-member Gulf Cooperation Council also spoke out in support of the European countries’ move on Wednesday, with Secretary General Jasem Mohamed Albudaiwi saying it represented “a pivotal and strategic step towards achieving the two-state solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a statement said.

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation, based in the Saudi city of Jeddah, similarly welcomed the move as an “important historic step.”

Turkey welcomed Spain, Ireland and Norway’s decision, calling it an important step toward the restoration of the “usurped rights of the Palestinians.”

The Turkish Foreign Ministry also said the move would help “Palestine gain the status it deserves in the international community.” Turkey would continue with efforts to press more states to recognize Palestine, the ministry said.

Slovenia hailed the recognition of an independent Palestinian state by the three European countries but stopped short of immediately following suit.

Earlier in the year, Slovenia’s government launched a recognition procedure for a Palestinian state, but the small European Union nation has said the formal step will take place when it could best contribute to a lasting peace in the Middle East.

Slovenia’s Prime Minister Robert Golob arrives for an EU summit in Brussels, April 18, 2024. (AP Photo/Harry Nakos)

“The Slovenian government was the first of the group of countries that signed a special declaration… to start the process of recognizing Palestine, in which we expressed expectations — not conditions — for both sides,” Prime Minister Robert Golob said in a statement. He added that “Palestinians need more than just a symbolic gesture of recognition.”

“We would like to help to reform and empower the Palestinian Authority, which will represent its population in both the West Bank and Gaza and lead it to a two-state solution, which is seen by almost the entire world as the solution to lasting peace,” said Golob.

In Slovenia, lawmakers must give the final approval for the recognition of a state.

Palestinians welcomed the European recognition announcements as an affirmation of their decades-long quest for statehood in East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip — territories Israel captured in the 1967 Six Day War, when Arab countries including Egypt, Syria and Jordan tried to wipe out the Jewish state. Israel sees all of Jerusalem as its unified capital and has passed legislation to that effect. It maintains overall control of the West Bank, where the Palestinian Authority exercises authority over designated areas. Israel withdrew entirely from Gaza in 2005 and Hamas seized power there from the PA in a deadly coup 2007.

France’s Minister for Foreign and European Affairs Stephane Sejourne leaves the weekly cabinet meeting at the presidential Elysee Palace in Paris, on May 21, 2024. (Ludovic MARIN / AFP)

Israel reacted with fury to the announcements by Norway, Spain, and Ireland, recalled its ambassadors to the three countries, and summoned their envoys, accusing the Europeans of rewarding the terror group Hamas group for its October 7 cross-border attack that killed 1,200 people amid numerous atrocities. Terrorists also abducted 252 people who were taken as hostages to the Gaza Strip.

According to the Palestinian Authority, 142 of the 193 UN member countries already recognize a Palestinian state.

Most Western governments including the United States say they are willing to one day recognize Palestinian statehood — but not before agreement is reached on thorny issues like its final borders, the status of Jerusalem, the fate of refugees and their descendants, and dependable security for Israel.

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