Envoys to Israel to be shown video of women being kidnapped

Norway, Ireland, Spain move to recognize Palestinian state, drawing Israeli fury

Jerusalem recalls ambassadors from Oslo and Dublin as foreign minister says announcement is prize for terrorism; Abbas and Hamas celebrate move

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

People take part in a demonstration in support of the Palestinian people in Madrid, Spain, on May 11, 2024. (Pierre-Philippe MARCOU / AFP)
People take part in a demonstration in support of the Palestinian people in Madrid, Spain, on May 11, 2024. (Pierre-Philippe MARCOU / AFP)

The leaders of Norway, Ireland and Spain announced Wednesday that their countries will recognize a Palestinian state within days, sparking a diplomatic row with Israel.

Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said their countries would make recognition official on May 28, in a joint move with Ireland, whose leader Simon Harris said he expected other countries to join an upswell of support for Palestinian statehood in the coming weeks.

Several European Union countries have in the past weeks indicated that they plan to declare their recognition of a Palestinian state, arguing a two-state solution is essential for lasting peace in the region.

“There cannot be peace in the Middle East if there is no recognition,” Gahr Store said at a press conference.

In Ireland, Taoiseach Harris called recognition “a historic and important day for Ireland and for Palestine.”

The Irish premier said the recognition comes from a belief in “freedom and justice,” and that peace can only be secured by “the free will of a free people.”

Ireland’s Prime Minister Simon Harris arrives at Stormont Castle, in Belfast, on May 3, 2024. (PAUL FAITH / AFP)

Speaking to Spain’s lower house, Sanchez said that Spain’s recognition is a decision “for peace, for justice and for coherence.”

“Spain will be accompanied by other European countries,” he said. “The more there are of us, the sooner we will achieve a ceasefire. We are not going to give up.”

Jerusalem responded angrily to the announcements, recalling its ambassadors from Ireland, Spain and Norway for immediate consultations.

Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez delivers a speech to announce that Spain will recognize a Palestinian state on May 28, at the Congress of Deputies in Madrid on May 22, 2024. (Thomas Coex / AFP)

“I am sending an unequivocal message… Israel will not let this go quietly,” Foreign Minister Israel Katz said.

He also summoned the envoys of the three countries in Israel for “severe reprimands,” and said they would be shown footage of the kidnapping of five female Israeli soldiers on October 7 amid Hamas’s shock assault, which was set to be made public Wednesday evening.

The footage will “underscore to them what a twisted decision their governments made,” Katz said in a statement. “Their step will have severe consequences.”

A still from footage showing the capture and abduction of Liri Albag, Karina Ariev, Agam Berger, Daniela Gilboa and Naama Levy at the Nahal Oz base on October 7, 2023 (The Hostages Families Forum)

Israel will also consider future steps against the three countries, an Israeli official told The Times of Israel.

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich demanded “harsh punitive measures” against the Palestinian Authority, announcing that he will cut off the transfer of tax funds to the Palestinian administrative body. He called for voiding a mechanism set up with Norway to facilitate the transfer of salaries to PA employees in Gaza and demanded that Israel approve thousands of new settlement homes in retaliation.

The recognition of a Palestinian state by the three countries is the latest in a string of diplomatic setbacks for Israel as it battles Hamas. On Tuesday, the International Criminal Court announced it was seeking arrest warrants for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant for potential war crimes, in addition to three Hamas leaders.

Israel has argued that unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state now would be viewed as a reward for the October 7 Hamas onslaught in southern Israel, in which some 1,200 people were slaughtered and 252 kidnapped, many of whom remain hostage in Gaza. Israel’s military campaign to rid the Gaza Strip of the Hamas terror group has sparked worldwide sympathy for the Palestinians and galvanized support for recognizing statehood in some capitals.

“Ireland and Norway intend to send a message to the Palestinians and the entire world — terror pays,” Katz said, adding that they are “giving a prize to Hamas and Iran.”

He claimed that recognition would also harm efforts to bring back the 128 hostages still held in Gaza, but said the announcements would not affect Israel’s war effort.

Foreign Minister Israel Katz in Jerusalem, February 19, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

A senior Hamas official credited the “brave resistance” of the Palestinian people for spurring the recognitions.

“These successive recognitions are the direct result of this brave resistance and the legendary steadfastness of the Palestinian people… We believe this will be a turning point in the international position on the Palestinian issue,” Bassem Naim, a senior Hamas political bureau member, told AFP.

In Ramallah, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas welcomed the announcements, calling on other European countries to follow suit and recognize the State of Palestine “in order to achieve a two-state solution based on international resolutions and the 1967 borders.”

Top Palestine Liberation Organization official Hussein al-Sheikh also celebrated the announcements, calling them “historical moments in which the free world triumphs for truth and justice after long decades of Palestinian national struggle.” He said recognition would lead “to stability, security and peace in the region.”

Earlier this month, Slovenia initiated the procedure for the recognition of a Palestinian state as a form of leverage to end the conflict in Gaza. Prime Minister Robert Golob said June 13 is the latest his country would recognize a Palestinian state.

Around 144 out of 193 member-states of the United Nations already recognize a Palestinian state, including most of the global south, Russia, China and India, but only a handful of 27 EU members have so far done so.

The United States has long opposed Palestinian efforts to unilaterally secure statehood status, arguing that the goal should be achieved through direct negotiations with Israel.

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)

Washington has also said that the Palestinian Authority needs to undergo significant reforms before it’s recognized as a state. Ramallah has long been marred by allegations of corruption and mismanagement.

The moves by the individual countries do not affect EU recognition of a Palestinian state, as that decision must be made unanimously by all member states.

Eight European Union countries recognize a Palestinian state — Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Sweden and Slovakia. Malta recognizes the concept of one and has indicated it may soon recognize a state, along with Slovenia.

Sweden is the only country that recognized a Palestinian state when it was already an EU member, with the rest having done so when part of the Soviet bloc.

Norway is not a member of the EU , but is closely aligned, and is a member of the European Economic Area.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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