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Spain, Norway, Ireland formally recognize Palestinian state

Spain, Norway and Ireland moved to formally recognize a Palestinian state on Tuesday in a joint effort that represents the rising diplomatic pressure on Israel from Europe amid its war in Gaza.

Spanish President Pedro Sanchez called the move “a historic decision that has a single goal, and that is to help Israelis and Palestinians achieve peace.”

The recognitions, which will not have an impact on the conflict itself, were quickly denounced by the Israeli government. Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz compared the Spanish vice president to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, and said the Spanish government was “being complicit in inciting genocide against Jews and war crimes.”

Irish Prime Minister Simon Harris said recognition “sends a signal to the world that there are practical actions you can take as a country to help keep the hope and destination of a two-state solution alive at a time when others are trying to sadly bomb it into oblivion.”

Nine members of the European Union, plus Norway, now formally recognize Palestine as a sovereign state, though previously Sweden was the only major power on the continent to do so. Some 140 of the about 190 countries represented in the U.N. have already recognized a Palestinian state.

EU members Malta and Slovenia say they may follow suit, though not immediately. 

The Biden administration has repeatedly backed a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine, which would include an independent Palestinian state, though the U.S. has not formally recognized it as such. None of the major western powers have made the recognition.

Tuesday’s move represents the quick downfall in relations between Israel and Europe, especially as criticism rises of Israel’s military operations in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, where over a million Palestinian civilians are believed to be sheltering.

Irish Foreign Minister Micheál Martin said Monday that he saw “significant discussion on sanctions” against Israel for the first time from EU leaders in private meetings. 

The diplomatic conflict comes as the International Criminal Court (ICC) recommended last week that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders, as well as Hamas leaders, be arrested on charges of war crimes.

The U.S. has strongly denounced the proposed charges, and Congress is expected to vote on a bill to sanction the international judicial body.

Israel has also faced increasing diplomatic pressure from the United Nations. The body’s general assembly has voted to advocate for a cease-fire in the war and voted earlier this month to grant new “rights and privileges” to Palestine in a sign of growing international support for full voting membership.

The U.N.-backed International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordered Israel to stop its operations in Rafah last week.

The Israeli government has been generally opposed to Palestinian statehood, meaning the new recognition will likely result in little change on the ground, as negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority have halted during the conflict.

The Palestinian Authority controls the West Bank, though was kicked out of Gaza in 2006 when the region was taken over by Hamas. The U.S. has reportedly urged the Israeli government to allow them into Gaza as its military clears the region, though Netanyahu has strongly denounced the concept.

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