Norway, Ireland and Spain move to recognise State of Palestine, Israel furious | A simple guide to conflict

Israel-Hamas war update: The leaders of Norway and Spain said that their nations would recognise Palestine as a state next week. Ireland's leader also made a similar announcement, though he did not specify the timing. What does this mean, and will this have any impact on the ground?

Akriti Anand
Updated22 May 2024, 06:26 PM IST
The move comes as a blow to Israel, which has historically opposed the formation of a separate state of Palestine.
The move comes as a blow to Israel, which has historically opposed the formation of a separate state of Palestine. (REUTERS)

In a historic move, three European countries – Norway, Ireland and Spain – announced their plans to recognise a Palestinian state. The development irked Israel, which immediately recalled its envoys to the three countries.

Norway’s Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store and Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez on Wednesday said that their nations would recognise Palestine as a state as of May 28. Ireland’s Prime Minister Simon Harris also made a similar announcement, though he did not specify the timing.

The move came as a blow to Israel, which has historically opposed the formation of a separate state of Palestine. The matter is of concern even today as Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas fight for control over the Gaza Strip. Several other countries have suggested "two-state solutions" to the problem.

Who are Palestinians and what's a two-state solution? A quick guide

Origin of the conflict: Recognition of Palestine state is a long-standing issue between Israel and the Palestinians. The conflict first occurred in British-ruled Palestine between Jews, who had migrated to the area, and Arabs.

What is Palestine? For the unversed, Palestine was historically made up of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank — referred to as the State of Palestine — and the country of Israel. Both of these territories, including East Jerusalem, were captured by Israel during the Six-Day War in 1967.

Now, the Palestinians remain stateless, with most living under Israeli occupation or as refugees in neighbouring states.

The two-state solution: It envisages Israeli and Palestinian states alongside each other. In 1947, the United Nations proposed partitioning Palestine into two independent states, one Palestinian Arab and the other Jewish, with international rule over Jerusalem.

"One of the two envisaged states proclaimed its independence as Israel and in the 1948 war involving neighbouring Arab states expanded to 77 per cent of the territory of mandate Palestine, including the larger part of Jerusalem," the UN explained.

Tap here for details on ‘Two-State Solution’

Israel-Hamas war: The war in Gaza is the latest trigger, which has prompted countries to demand diplomatic discussions and a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict. The war between Israel and Hamas broke out in the Gaza Strip on October 7 last year after Hamas launched surprise attacks in some parts of Israel. 

Why did Norway, Ireland and Spain decide to recognise Palestine?

The latest move by the three European countries is seen as an essential step towards a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine.

Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre said 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 was quoted by the Associated Press as saying.

Meanwhile, Irish Prime Minister Simon Harris said the move was intended to help move the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to resolution through a two-state solution.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez took note 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."

He clarified that this recognition is not against the Israeli people. Sánchez argued that the move is needed to support the viability of a two-state solution that he said "is in serious danger" with the war in Gaza.

"It is an act in favour of peace, justice and moral consistency," Sánchez said.

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

How did Israel react?

In response to the announcement of recognition, Israel's Foreign Minister Israel Katz ordered Israel's ambassadors to Ireland and Norway to immediately return to Israel.

"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 make a cease-fire less likely by "rewarding the jihadists of Hamas and Iran".

"They decided to award a gold medal to the murderers and rapists of Hamas," Katz was quoted by AFP as saying.

But Norwegian PM Jonas Gahr Store said that "recognition of Palestine is a means of supporting the moderate forces which have been losing ground in this protracted and brutal conflict".

ALSO READ: India votes in favour of UN membership for Palestine amid Israel-Hamas war in Gaza

Spanish leader Sánchez claimed that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu "does not have a project of peace for Palestine, even if the fight against the terrorist group Hamas is legitimate".

Israel has often rejected foreign countries' decisions regarding a separate Palestinian state as going against its interests. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas welcomed the announcement of the recognition of a Palestinian state and called on other countries to follow.

What does the recognition mean?

While some consider this as a "symbolic action which has no real meaning", the recognition of the State of Palestine breaks with the long-held position of Western powers that a Palestinian state can only come as part of a negotiated peace with Israel.

The United States and Britain, among others, have backed the idea of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel but say it should come as part of a negotiated settlement.

But for Noway, a non-European Union member, the situation seems different. By recognising Palestinian statehood, the country may have now closed the door on its historic role as a mediator in the Middle East.

What are the implications of recognition?

There's hope that many countries may follow suit. European Union members Slovenia and Malta have also indicated in recent weeks that they plan to recognise Palestine. Before the announcement, some 143 out of 193 member states of the United Nations recognised a Palestinian state, according to a Reuters report.

However, little is likely to change on the ground in the short term even though the recognition would mark a significant accomplishment for the Palestinians. Peace talks are stalled, and Israel's hardline government has dug its heels in against Palestinian statehood, the Associated Press reported.

(With inputs from agencies)

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First Published:22 May 2024, 06:26 PM IST
HomeNewsworldNorway, Ireland and Spain move to recognise State of Palestine, Israel furious | A simple guide to conflict

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