Ireland, Spain and Norway to recognise Palestinian state

Ireland, Spain and Norway have announced they will formally recognise a Palestinian state on 28 May, triggering an immediate response from Israel, which said it would retaliate by recalling its ambassadors from Dublin, Madrid and Oslo, and withholding vital funds from the Palestinian Authority.

The three European governments made the long-awaited announcements in coordinated moves on Wednesday morning that they said were intended to support a two-state solution and foster peace in the Middle East.

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“We are going to recognise Palestine for many reasons and we can sum that up in three words: peace, justice and consistency,” Spain’s prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, told the parliament in Madrid, to applause. “We have to make sure that the two-state solution is respected and there must be mutual guarantees of security.”

Ireland’s taoiseach, Simon Harris, said Palestine had a legitimate right to statehood. “It is a statement of unequivocal support for a two-state solution, the only credible path to peace and security for Israel, for Palestine and for their peoples,” he told a press conference in Dublin. “I’m confident that further countries will join us in taking this important step in the coming weeks.”

In Oslo, Norway’s prime minister, Jonas Gahr Støre, said there could not be peace in the Middle East without recognition, and that Norway would regard Palestine as an independent state “with all the rights and obligations that entails”.

The Palestinian Authority – which exercises limited self-rule in the Israeli-occupied West Bank – welcomed the announcement, as did Hamas, which has ruled the Gaza Strip since driving the authority out in 2007.

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Israel launched a swift diplomatic counteroffensive to try to deter others from recognising Palestine, with the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, denouncing the move as a “prize for terrorism”.

“This would be a terrorist state. It would try to carry out the October 7 massacre again and again – and that, we shall not agree to,” Netanyahu said.

The foreign minister, Israel Katz, ordered the immediate return of the Israeli ambassadors to the three countries for consultations and warned that further “severe consequences” could follow.

“I am sending a clear message today: Israel will not be complacent against those who undermine its sovereignty and endanger its security,” he said.

Israel’s foreign ministry said it would reprimand the Irish, Spanish and Norwegian ambassadors and show them a video of female hostages being held in captivity by Hamas.

Katz argued recognition would impede efforts to return hostages held in Gaza and made a ceasefire less likely by “rewarding the jihadists of Hamas and Iran”.

Israel’s far-right finance minister, Bezalel Smotrich, reacted by announcing he would no longer send tax revenues to the Palestinian Authority as punishment for its “pursuit of unilateral recognition as a nation and within the framework of bilateral agreements with several countries”.

The developments came amid a grinding seven-month war in Gaza that has prompted global calls for a lasting solution for peace in the region, as well as the pursuit of arrest warrants on war crimes charges by the international criminal court.

Hamas killed about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, on 7 October, with a further 250 taken hostage. About 35,000 people have been killed in the war in Gaza as a result of the offensive by Israel’s military, according to the Palestinian health ministry.

Sánchez accused Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, of presiding over massacres, and reiterated demands for a ceasefire.

“Prime Minister Netanyahu is still turning a blind eye and bombing hospitals, schools, homes,” the Spanish leader said. “He is still using hunger, cold and terror to punish more than a million innocent boys and girls – and things have gone so far that prosecutors at the international criminal court have this week sought his arrest for war crimes.”

Sánchez has been one of the most outspoken European leaders when it comes to criticism of Israel’s offensive in Gaza. He has also said repeatedly that a two-state solution remains the only answer to the crisis in the Middle East.


While condemning Hamas’s “shocking acts of terrorism” and acknowledging Israel’s right to defend itself, Sánchez has infuriated the Israeli government by calling the number of dead Palestinians “truly unbearable” and emphasising that Israel’s response cannot include the “deaths of innocent civilians, including thousands of children”.

Harris, flanked by his coalition’s party leaders, said: “I want to know in years to come that Ireland spoke up, spoke out, in favour of peace, in favour of a political settlement that allows children in Palestine, children in Israel, to live safely and in peace and security side by side.”

The EU members Ireland, Spain, Slovenia and Malta had indicated in recent weeks that they planned to make a recognition announcement. Since 1988, 139 of 193 UN member states have recognised Palestinian statehood. The Irish government has previously said recognition would complement peace efforts and support a two-state solution.

While the UK and Australia have indicated in recent months that they could soon follow suit, Germany said it was a matter that required further dialogue, and France ruled out a similar move for the time being. In a statement to Agence France-Presse, France’s Europe and foreign affairs minister, Stéphane Séjourné, said: “France does not consider that the conditions have been present to date for this decision to have a real impact in this process.”

The US president, Joe Biden, believed a Palestinian state should be achieved through negotiations rather than by unilateral recognition, a White House spokesperson told Reuters on Wednesday.

“The president is a strong supporter of a two-state solution and has been throughout his career. He believes a Palestinian state should be realised through direct negotiations between the parties, not through unilateral recognition,” the National Security Council spokesperson said.