Ireland to open embassy in Ramallah

Spain, Norway, Ireland formally recognize Palestinian state; rift with Israel widens

Israel slams Madrid, accuses it of ‘being complicit in inciting genocide against Jews and war crimes’; Spanish PM recognizes state in a linked West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez delivering a televised speech over his country's recognition of Palestinian statehood, at La Moncloa Palace in Madrid, May 28, 2024. (POOL MONCLOA/AFP)
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez delivering a televised speech over his country's recognition of Palestinian statehood, at La Moncloa Palace in Madrid, May 28, 2024. (POOL MONCLOA/AFP)

BARCELONA, Spain  — Spain, Norway and Ireland formally recognized a Palestinian state on Tuesday in a coordinated effort by the three Western European nations.

Israel slammed the diplomatic move, which adds to international pressure on Jerusalem as it wages war against Hamas after the terror group launched a shock assault from Gaza on October 7.

Spanish government spokesperson Pilar Alegria said the cabinet had “adopted an important decision to recognize a Palestinian state,” which had “one objective: to help Israelis and Palestinians achieve peace.”

Earlier, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said the Spanish Cabinet would take the move.

“This is a historic decision that has a single goal, and that is to help Israelis and Palestinians achieve peace,” Sánchez, standing at the gates of the prime minister’s palace in Madrid, said during a televised speech.

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

“Khamenei, Sinwar, and deputy PM Yolanda Diaz call for the elimination of Israel and for the establishment of an Islamic Palestinian terror state from the river to the sea,” wrote Katz on X.

Diaz ended a speech last week with the slogan “from the river to the sea Palestine will be free,” and has said since it was an endorsement of the two-state solution. “Sanchez, when you don’t fire your deputy and declare recognition of a Palestinian state — you are a partner to incitement to the genocide of Jews and to war crimes,” Katz said.

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.”

Ireland also officially recognized a Palestinian state.

“The Government recognizes Palestine as a sovereign and independent state and agreed to establish full diplomatic relations between Dublin and Ramallah,” the statement said after a cabinet vote

“An Ambassador of Ireland to the State of Palestine will be appointed along with a full Embassy of Ireland in Ramallah.”

Irish prime minister Simon Harris the move was about keeping hope for peace alive.

“This decision of Ireland is about keeping hope alive. It is about believing that a two-state solution is the only way for Israel and Palestine to live side by side in peace and security,” he said in the statement.

“I again call on Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel to listen to the world and stop the humanitarian catastrophe we are seeing in Gaza.”

While dozens of countries have recognized a Palestinian state, none of the major Western powers has done so. Still, the addition of three European countries to the group represents a victory for Palestinian efforts in the world of public opinion.

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

A Spanish fighting bull billboard, is painted with the colors of the Palestinian flag and a writing that reads “free Palestine” on the outskirts of Madrid, Tuesday, May 28, 2024. S(AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

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” for Israel.

Norway, which is not an EU member but often aligns its foreign policy with the bloc, handed diplomatic papers to the Palestinian government over the weekend ahead of its formal recognition.

At the same time, the EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell threw his weight behind the International Criminal Court, whose prosecutor is seeking an arrest warrant for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as well as leaders of the Hamas terror group.

The formal declaration and resulting diplomatic dispute come over seven months into a grinding war waged by Israel against Hamas in Gaza following the October 7 Hamas-led attack in which terrorists stormed across the Gaza border into Israel, killing some 1,200 people and taking 252 hostages.

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry says more than 36,000 people in the Strip have been killed or are presumed dead in the fighting so far, though only some 24,000 fatalities have been identified at hospitals. The toll, which cannot be verified, includes some 15,000 terror operatives Israel says it has killed in battle. Israel also says it killed some 1,000 terrorists inside Israel on October 7.

Last week’s joint announcement by Spain, Ireland and Norway triggered an angry response from Israeli authorities, who summoned the countries’ ambassadors in Tel Aviv to the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, where they were shown videos of the October 7 Hamas attack and abductions.

From right, Norway’s Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide, Spain’s Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares Bueno and Ireland’s Foreign Minister Micheal Martin pose for a photo, at the end of a media conference, during talks on the Middle East, in Brussels, May 27, 2024. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)

Some 140 countries — more than two-thirds of the United Nations — recognize a Palestinian state. The addition of three Western European countries to that group may put pressure on EU heavyweights France and Germany to rethink their position.

Slovenia’s Prime Minister Robert Golob said Monday his government will decide on the recognition of a Palestinian state on Thursday and forward its decision to parliament for final approval.

The United States and Britain, among others, back the idea of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel but say it should come as part of a negotiated settlement. Netanyahu’s government says the conflict can only be resolved through direct negotiations.

In his speech on Tuesday, Sánchez said that the recognition of a Palestinian state was “a decision that we do not adopt against anyone, least of all against Israel, a friendly people whom we respect, whom we appreciate and with whom we want to have the best possible relationship.”

The Socialist leader, who announced his country’s decision before parliament last week, has spent months touring European and Middle Eastern countries, including stops in Oslo and Dublin, to garner support for the recognition of a Palestinian state and a cease-fire in Gaza.

He called for a permanent ceasefire, for stepping up humanitarian aid into Gaza and for the release of the hostages that Hamas has held since the October 7 attack that triggered Israel’s response.

Smoke billows during an Israeli airstrike in eastern Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on May 19, 2024. (AFP)

Sánchez said that the move was to back the beleaguered Palestinian Authority, which was ousted from Gaza in a bloody coup by Hamas in 2007. He laid out his vision for a state ruled by the Palestinian Authority that must connect the West Bank and Gaza via a corridor with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Israel has annexed East Jerusalem and considers the entire city its capital.

Norway’s Barth Eide added that “it is regrettable that the Israeli government shows no signs of engaging constructively.

“The recognition is a strong expression of support for moderate forces in both countries,” Norway’s top diplomat said.

The Western-backed Palestinian Authority administers parts of the West Bank, cooperates with Israel on security matters and favors a negotiated two-state solution.

The Palestinians have long sought an independent state in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem, territories Israel captured in the 1967 Six Day War in which neighboring Arab countries tried to obliterate the Jewish state. The idea of a land corridor linking Gaza and the West Bank through Israel was discussed in previous rounds of peace talks, but no serious or substantive peace negotiations have been held in over 15 years.

“We will not recognize changes in the 1967 border lines other than those agreed to by the parties,” Sánchez added.

“Furthermore, this decision reflects our absolute rejection of Hamas, a terrorist organization who is against the two-state solution,” Sánchez said. “From the outset, Spain has strongly condemned the terrorist attacks of Oct. 7. This clear condemnation is the resounding expression of our steadfast commitment in the fight against terrorism. I would like to underline that starting tomorrow we would focus all our efforts to implement the two state solution and make it a reality.”

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