Israel recalls ambassadors as Norway, Ireland and Spain recognise Palestine

22 May 2024, 10:34

Norway’s Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store speaks during a news conference in Oslo, Norway
Norway Europe Israel Palestinians. Picture: PA

Several EU countries indicated in recent weeks that they plan to make the recognition, arguing a two-state solution is essential for lasting peace.

Norway, Ireland and Spain have said they are recognising a Palestinian state in a historic move that drew condemnation from Israel and jubilation from the Palestinians.

Israel immediately ordered its ambassadors back from Norway and Ireland.

The formal recognition will be made on May 28.

Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez speaks in the Spanish Parliament in Madrid
Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez speaks in the Spanish Parliament in Madrid (Eduardo Parra/AP)

The development is a step toward a long-held Palestinian aspiration that came against the backdrop of international outrage over the civilian death toll and humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip following Israel’s offensive there.

In Jerusalem, meanwhile, a far-right government minister paid a provocative visit to a flashpoint holy site sacred to Jews and Muslims.

National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir visit to the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, which Jews refer to as the Temple Mount, was likely to escalate tensions across the region.

Norway was the first to announce its decision to recognise a Palestinian state, with Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store saying “there cannot be peace in the Middle East if there is no recognition”.

“By recognising a Palestinian state, Norway supports the Arab peace plan,” he said and added that the Scandinavian country will “regard Palestine as an independent state with all the rights and obligations that entails”.

Several EU countries have in the past weeks indicated that they plan to make the recognition, arguing a two-state solution is essential for lasting peace in the region.

Norway Europe Israel Palestinians
Norway’s Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store, right, and foreign minister Espen Barth Eide speak during a news conference in Oslo (Erik Flaaris Johansen/AP)

The decision may generate momentum for the recognition of a Palestinian state by other EU countries and could spur further steps at the UN, deepening Israel’s isolation.

Norway, which is not a member of the EU but mirror its moves, has been an ardent supporter of a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians.

“The terror has been committed by Hamas and militant groups who are not supporters of a two-state solution and the state of Israel,” the Norwegian government leader said.

“Palestine has a fundamental right to an independent state.”

In making his announcement, Irish Prime Minister Simon Harris said the move was coordinated with Spain and Norway — and that it was a “historic and important day for Ireland and for Palestine.”

Mr Harris said he thinks other countries will join Norway, Spain and Ireland in recognising a Palestinian state “in the weeks ahead”.

Smoke billows after an explosion in the Gaza Strip, as seen from southern Israel
Smoke billows after an explosion in the Gaza Strip, as seen from southern Israel (Leo Correa/AP)

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, Spain’s Socialist leader since 2018, made the expected announcement to the nation’s Parliament on Wednesday.

He had spent months touring European and Middle Eastern countries to garner support for the recognition, as well as for a possible ceasefire in Gaza.

He has said several times that he was committed to the move.

“We know that this initiative won’t bring back the past and the lives lost in Palestine, but we believe that it will give the Palestinians two things that are very important for their present and their future: dignity and hope,” Mr Sanchez said.

“This recognition is not against anyone, it is not against the Israeli people,” he added, while acknowledging that it will most likely cause diplomatic tensions with Israel.

“It is an act in favour of peace, justice and moral consistency.”

Palestinian family members displaced by the ongoing war with Israel on the beach during a heatwave in southern Gaza
Palestinian family members displaced by the ongoing war with Israel on the beach during a heatwave in southern Gaza (Saher Alghorra/AP)

Israel’s foreign minister Israel Katz ordered Israel’s ambassadors from Ireland and Norway to immediately return to Israel. He spoke before Spain’s announcement.

“Ireland and Norway intend to send a message today to the Palestinians and the whole world: terrorism pays,” Katz said.

He said that the recognition could impede efforts to return Israel’s hostages being held in Gaza and makes a ceasefire less likely by “rewarding the jihadists of Hamas and Iran”.

He also threatened to recall Israel’s ambassador to Spain if the country takes a similar position.

Regarding the Israeli decision to recall its ambassador in Oslo, Mr Gahr Store said “we will take note of that. This is a government with which we have many disagreements. What we agree on is to condemn Hamas’s cruel attack on October 7″.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, speaking after Norway’s announcement, welcomed the move and called on other countries to follow.

Some 140 countries have already recognised a Palestinian state — more than two-thirds of UN members — but none of the major Western powers has done so.

This move could put more pressure on continental heavyweights France and Germany to reconsider their position.

By Press Association

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