Spain, Norway and Ireland recognize the Palestinian state, further isolating Israel

Spain, Norway and Ireland said Wednesday they will recognize an independent Palestinian state, dealing a diplomatic blow to Israel that shows the country's growing isolation on the world stage more than seven months after its devastating military offensive in the Gaza Strip.

In closely coordinated announcements, the leaders of the three countries said Palestinian independence cannot wait for a negotiated peace deal with Israel's right-wing government, which largely opposes the two-state solution and is expanding settlements in the West Bank occupied by Israel and continues to bomb Gaza without overthrowing Hamas or bringing home all its hostages.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has also frustrated world leaders – and two members of his war cabinet – with his refusal to establish a post-war plan to govern Gaza, where health authorities say more than 35,000 people have been killed.

Simon Harris, the Irish prime minister, linked his government's decision to Ireland's demand for independence from Great Britain. “From our history, we know what it means: recognition is an act of powerful political and symbolic value,” he said in a press conference.

The announcements by all three countries came just days after the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court requested arrest warrants for Netanyahu and Israel's defense minister, Yoav Gallant, on suspicion of war crimes. He also sought mandates for three top Hamas leaders.

Palestinian leaders in the West Bank welcomed the recognition by the three countries as an important symbolic gesture. There have been no serious negotiations on a two-state solution for over a decade. And some observers argue that by not recognizing a Palestinian state, the West has enabled a far-right Israeli agenda contrary to its existence.

“We believe this will help preserve the two-state solution and give Palestinians hope to have their own state alongside Israel in peace and security,” Ziad Abu Amr, a senior Palestinian official in the West Bank, said at a news conference. interview.

More than 140 countries have recognized the Palestinian state. But most Western European countries and the United States have not done so, arguing that statehood can only come about through a negotiated settlement with Israel.

Netanyahu, who has said the creation of a Palestinian state would pose an “existential danger” to Israel, denounced the moves on Wednesday, calling them “a reward for terrorism.” He said that “they would not stop us from achieving a victory over Hamas.”

Israel Katz, Israel's foreign minister, said he had summoned the ambassadors of Spain, Norway and Ireland for a “severe rebuke” after their governments decided to “award a gold medal to Hamas terrorists”.

In a statement on social media, Katz said he would show the ambassadors “a video of the brutal and cruel abduction of our daughters by Hamas terrorists, to highlight the distorted decision their governments have made.”

In the video, which was independently verified by the New York Times, Palestinian fighters, some wearing Hamas armbands, can be seen tying the hands of five Israeli hostages serving as lookouts at Nahal Oz, a military base near the border of Gaza. At least two of the hostages' faces are bloody. The militants repeatedly threaten the soldiers.

The families said they hope the footage will put pressure on the Israeli government to resume apparently stalled ceasefire talks that could pave the way for the release of hostages still held in Gaza.

“I ask you, please, to show this clip every day, to open your broadcasts with it – until someone wakes up, the nation wakes up and realizes they have been abandoned there for 229 days,” Eli Albag, the whose daughter Liri can be seen in the video, he told Israel's Channel 12.

Talks to secure the release of more than 125 living and dead hostages have remained at a standstill since Israel began its assault on the southern city of Rafah in early May. Israeli forces operating in northern Gaza recently recovered the bodies of four Israelis kidnapped on October 7, raising fears for the remaining captives.

In an interview on Wednesday, Jonas Gahr Store, the Norwegian prime minister, said that by offering support to Palestinians who support democracy and a sovereign Palestine alongside Israel, Norway hopes to break what it sees as “a downward spiral, with militant groups such as Hamas which sets the agenda of the Palestinian side” and the Israeli government “which establishes hundreds of thousands of settlers” on the occupied territories.

Norway's support for the Palestinian state had particular significance because it hosted the clandestine talks that led to the Oslo Accords, the 1993 peace framework that many hoped would resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The Biden administration reiterated its view on Wednesday that the creation of a Palestinian state must occur through negotiations with the Israelis.

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

Acting at least partly in response to Norway, Spain and Ireland, Bezalel Smotrich, Israel's finance minister, said Israel would stop transferring key funding to the Palestinian Authority, which administers parts of the West Bank. A spokesman for his office accused the authority's leaders of campaigning for Palestinian recognition in Europe.

“They are acting against Israel legally, diplomatically and for unilateral recognition,” spokesman Eytan Fuld said. “When they act against the State of Israel, there must be a response.”

The authority's finances were already in disarray due to Israeli restrictions on its funding and a depressed West Bank economy resulting from the war in Gaza. This month the authority managed to pay only 50% of the salaries of tens of thousands of public employees.

Jake Sullivan, the US national security adviser, called Smotrich's decision to withhold funding for the Palestinian Authority “wrong on a strategic basis.”

“This undermines the Palestinian people's pursuit of security and prosperity, which is in Israel's interests,” he said. “And I think it's wrong to withhold funds that provide basic goods and services to innocent people.”

Mohammad Mustafa, the recently installed Palestinian Authority prime minister, said the dire fiscal situation was helping to create a “very serious moment” in the West Bank, where more than 500 Palestinians have been killed since October 7, many in clashes with Israeli forces. , according to the Ministry of Health authority.

“We go through an extremely difficult time trying to provide services to our people on the ground, and they are already under military action,” Mustafa said in a video distributed by his office. “And on top of that, we can't pay them to do basic things. This is war.”

Israeli forces on Wednesday expanded a military raid into the West Bank city of Jenin, where Palestinian officials said at least 11 people, including two high school students, a doctor and a teacher, had been killed in recent days. Israeli officials said the soldiers were carrying out counter-terrorism operations.

Yair Lapid, the leader of Israel's parliamentary opposition, said he agreed with Netanyahu that the decisions of Spain, Norway and Ireland were “shameful.” But he also called it “an unprecedented diplomatic failure” for Israel, an implicit rebuke to Netanyahu.

Maya Sion-Tzidkiyahu, an expert on Israeli-European relations at Mitvim, an Israeli foreign policy research group, said the announcements reflect how much global support Israel has lost since the Hamas-led attacks on October 7 killed 1,200 people in Israel and led to the kidnapping of more than 200 people, according to Israeli authorities.

“This once again shows us, as Israelis, how increasingly isolated we are,” he said.

Spain, Ireland and Norway have all strongly criticized Israel's continuation of the war and have historically been strong supporters of the Palestinians. As a result, their announcements may not put much pressure on Israel, Ms. Sion-Tzidkiyahu said. If Germany or France, which are Israel's closest allies, embraced Palestinian statehood, it would carry more weight, she said.

“We can live with it for now, because it has no real meaning,” Ms. Sion-Tzidkiyahu said. “It has no effect on the terrain.”

Reporting contribution was provided by Steven Erlanger, Henrik Pryser Libell, Adam Rasgon, Victoria Kim, King Abdulrahim, Megan Specia AND Michael D. Shear.

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