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Israel infuriated as Norway, Ireland and Spain mull recognition to a Palestinian state

Nepalkhabar

 |  Tel Aviv

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) and Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr.

Norway, Ireland and Spain said Wednesday they would recognize a Palestinian state, a historic but largely symbolic move that further deepens Israel’s isolation more than seven months into its grinding war against Hamas in Gaza. Israel denounced the decisions and recalled its ambassadors to the three countries.

Palestinian officials welcomed the announcements as an affirmation of their decades-long quest for statehood in east Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip — territories Israel seized in the 1967 Mideast war and still controls.

While some 140 countries — more than two-thirds of the United Nations — recognize a Palestinian state, Wednesday’s cascade of announcements could build momentum at a time when even close allies of Israel have piled on criticism for its conduct in Gaza.

The timing of the move was a surprise, but discussions have been underway for weeks in some European Union countries about possibly recognizing a Palestinian state. Proponents have argued that the war has shown the need for a new push toward a two-state solution, 15 years after negotiations collapsed between Israel and the Palestinians. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government opposes Palestinian statehood.

It was the second blow to Israel’s international reputation this week after the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court said he would seek arrest warrants for Netanyahu and his defense minister. The International Court of Justice is also considering allegations of genocide that Israel has strenuously denied.

In addition to recalling the ambassadors to the three countries, Israel summoned their envoys, accusing the Europeans of rewarding the militant Hamas group for its Oct. 7 attack that triggered the war. Foreign Minister Israel Katz said the European ambassadors would watch grisly video footage of the attack.

In that assault, Hamas-led militants stormed across the border, killing 1,200 people and taking some 250 hostage. The ICC prosecutor is also seeking arrest warrants for three Hamas leaders. Israel’s ensuing offensive has killed more than 35,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry, and has caused a humanitarian crisis and a near-famine. The ICC prosecutor has accused Israeli leaders of using starvation as a weapon.

“History will remember that Spain, Norway, and Ireland decided to award a gold medal to Hamas murderers and rapists,” Katz said.

In response to the announcements in Europe, Israel’s far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir paid a provocative visit Wednesday to the Al-Aqsa mosque compound — a flashpoint in Jerusalem that is sacred to Muslims and Jews, who refer to it as the Temple Mount.

“We will not even allow a statement about a Palestinian state,” he said.

In further retaliation, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich said he would stop transferring tax revenue earmarked for the Palestinian Authority, a move that threatens to handicap its already waning ability to pay salaries to thousands of employees.

Under interim peace accords in the 1990s, Israel collects tax revenue on behalf of the Palestinians, and it has used the money as a tool to pressure the PA. After the Oct. 7 Hamas attack, Smotrich froze the transfers, but Israel agreed to send the money to Norway, which transferred it to the PA. Smotrich said Wednesday that he was ending that arrangement.

U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan said the cutoff was “wrong” because it “destabilizes the West Bank” and undermines “the search for security and prosperity for the Palestinian people.”

The international community has viewed the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel as the only realistic way to resolve the conflict.

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.

The formal recognition by Norway, Spain and Ireland — which all have a record of friendly ties with both the Israelis and the Palestinians, while long advocating for a Palestinian state — is planned for May 28.

Their announcements came in swift succession. Norway, which helped broker the Oslo accords that kicked off the peace process in the 1990s, was the first. “There cannot be peace in the Middle East if there is no recognition,” said Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre.

The country plans to upgrade its representative office in the West Bank to an embassy.

Irish Prime Minister Simon Harris called it a “historic and important day for Ireland and for Palestine,” saying the announcements had been coordinated and other countries might join.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, who announced his country’s decision before parliament, has spent months touring European and Middle Eastern countries to garner support for recognition and a cease-fire in Gaza.

“This recognition is not against anyone, it is not against the Israeli people,” Sánchez said. “It is an act in favor of peace, justice and moral consistency.”

President Mahmoud Abbas, the leader of the Palestinian Authority, which administers parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, welcomed the decisions and called on other nations to “recognize our legitimate rights and support the struggle of our people for liberation and independence.”

Hamas, which Western countries and Israel view as a terrorist group, does not recognize Israel’s existence but has indicated it might agree to a state on the 1967 lines, at least on an interim basis. Israel says any Palestinian state would be at risk of being taken over by Hamas, posing a threat to its security.

The announcements are unlikely to have any impact on the war in Gaza — or the long-running conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

Israel annexed east Jerusalem and considers it part of its capital, and in the occupied West Bank it has built scores of Jewish settlements that are now home to over 500,000 Israelis. The settlers have Israeli citizenship, while the 3 million Palestinians in the West Bank live under seemingly open-ended Israeli military rule.

Netanyahu has said Israel will maintain security control of Gaza even after any defeat of Hamas, and the war is still raging there. An Israeli airstrike early Wednesday killed 10 people, including four women and four children, who had been displaced and were sheltering in central Gaza, according to hospital authorities.

Hugh Lovatt, a senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, said “recognition is a tangible step towards a viable political track leading to Palestinian self-determination.”

To have an impact, he said, it must come with “tangible steps to counter Israel’s annexation and settlement of Palestinian territory – such as banning settlement products and financial services.”

Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide defended the importance of the move in an interview with The Associated Press, saying that while the country has supported the establishment of a Palestinian state for decades, it knew that recognition is “a card that you can play once.”

“We used to think that recognition would come at the end of a process,” he said. “Now we have realized that recognition should come as an impetus, as a strengthening of a process.” (AP)

 

 



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