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Roving Periscope: The US is stunned as 3 European allies recognize Palestine!

Roving Periscope: The US is stunned as 3 European allies recognize Palestine!

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Virendra Pandit

New Delhi: In a far-reaching disruption, the equivalent of a geopolitical temblor, three European allies of the United States—Norway, Ireland, and Spain—on Wednesday announced to recognize a separate Palestinian State, in a historic move that may potentially cripple NATO amid Russian challenge and diminish President Joe Biden’s chances of a second term in the White House after the November elections.

Several European Union (EU) countries have in the past few weeks indicated that they planned to recognize Palestine, arguing that a two-state solution is essential for lasting peace in the Middle East, the media reported.

This recognition of Palestine drew immediate condemnation from Israel and jubilation from the Palestinians. Israel also ordered back its ambassadors from Norway and Ireland.

It was a lightning cascade of announcements. First was Norway, whose Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre said “There cannot be peace in the Middle East if there is no recognition.”

Gahr Støre said his Scandinavian country will officially recognize a Palestinian state as of May 28. “By recognizing a Palestinian state, Norway supports the Arab peace plan,” he said.

The decision may generate momentum for the recognition of a Palestinian state by other EU countries as well and could spur further steps at the United Nations, deepening Israel’s isolation.

Of the three, Spain and Ireland are EU members. Norway, a non-member, also mirrors its moves and has been an ardent supporter of a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians.

“The terror has been committed by Hamas and militant groups who are not supporters of a two-state solution and the state of Israel,” the Norwegian government leader said. “Palestine has a fundamental right to an independent state.”

The move comes as Israeli forces have led assaults on the northern and southern edges of the Gaza Strip in May, causing a new exodus of hundreds of thousands of people, and sharply restricting the flow of aid, raising the risk of famine.

The Scandinavian country “will therefore regard Palestine as an independent state with all the rights and obligations that entails”, Gahr Støre said.

The development comes more than 30 years after the first Oslo agreement was signed in 1993. Since then, “the Palestinians have taken important steps towards a two-state solution”, the Norwegian government said.

It said that the World Bank determined that a Palestinian state had met key criteria to function as a state in 2011 and that national institutions have been built up to provide the population with important services.

“The war in Gaza and the constant expansion of illegal settlements in the West Bank still means that the situation in Palestine is more difficult than it has been in decades,” the Norwegian government said.

Also on Wednesday, Irish Prime Minister Simon Harris made his announcement, saying it was a move coordinated with Spain and Norway, “a historic and important day for Ireland and Palestine”.

He said the move was intended to help move the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to resolution through a two-state solution.

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

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said that his country will recognize a Palestinian state also on May 28. Sánchez, Spain’s Socialist leader since 2018, made the expected announcement to the nation’s Parliament on Wednesday.

Sánchez has spent months touring European and Middle Eastern countries to garner support for the recognition of a Palestinian state, as well as a possible ceasefire in Gaza.

“We know 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,” Sánchez said.

“This recognition is not against anyone, it is not against the Israeli people,” Sánchez added while acknowledging that it will most likely cause diplomatic tensions with Tel Aviv. “It is an act in favor of peace, justice, and moral consistency.”

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.

“I have spent weeks and months speaking with leaders inside and outside of the region and if one thing is clear is that Prime Minister (Benjamin) Netanyahu does not have a project of peace for Palestine, even if the fight against the terrorist group Hamas is legitimate,” the Spanish leader said.

Earlier this month, Spain’s Foreign Minister José Albares said he had informed US Secretary of State Antony Blinken of his government’s intention to recognize a Palestinian state.

The fast-moving developments drew Israel’s condemnation.

Israel’s Foreign Minister Israel Katz ordered Israeli ambassadors from Ireland and Norway to immediately return to Israel, as Norway said it would recognize a Palestinian state and Ireland was expected to do the same. “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 makes a cease-fire less likely by “rewarding the jihadists of Hamas and Iran.”

He also threatened to recall Israel’s ambassador to Spain if that country takes a similar position.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas welcomed Norway’s recognition of a Palestinian state and called on other countries to follow.
In a statement carried by the official Wafa news agency, Abbas said Norway’s decision will enshrine “the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination” and support efforts to bring about a two-state solution with Israel.


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