Netanyahu angered by "symbolic gesture"

Israel pulls ambassadors from Spain, Ireland and Norway after those countries announced they would recognize Palestinian statehood at the end of the month

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Spanish MPs applauded the decision to recognize Palestinian statehood, Photo: Reuters
Spanish MPs applauded the decision to recognize Palestinian statehood, Photo: Reuters
Disclaimer: The translations are mostly done through AI translator and might not be 100% accurate.

Yesterday, Israel recalled its ambassadors from Spain, Ireland and Norway, thus expressing a "stern warning" to those countries after they pledged to recognize Palestinian statehood. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected the move by European states as a "reward for terrorism" and added that Israel is steadfast in its intention to win the war in Gaza.

"That would be a terrorist state. She would try again and again to repeat the massacre of October 7 - and we will not agree to that," Netanyahu said in a statement.

Benjamin Netanyahu
photo: REUTERS

Later yesterday, Poland also announced that it supports Palestinian statehood, stressing that "the existence of two states is a stable, long-term solution" to the crisis in the Middle East.

This move will increase the number of European Union members that recognize Palestinian statehood, but does not include heavyweights from the bloc such as France and Germany, the "Financial Times" points out. The newspaper also states that the aspirations for the expansion of diplomatic pressure have not been fully realized since other countries, such as Belgium, Malta, France, Portugal and Slovenia, which Madrid and Dublin urged in recent weeks, did not immediately follow their example.

Ireland, Spain and Norway said they would recognize Palestinian statehood on May 28 and hoped other Western countries would do the same, explaining their decision as a move to speed up efforts to achieve a ceasefire in Gaza.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said in the parliament that he hopes "that our recognition and our arguments will contribute to other countries going that way, because the more of us, the more strength we will have to reach a truce, for an agreement on the release of the hostages who held by Hamas, to restart the political process that can lead to a peace agreement".

Pedro Sanchez
photo: REUTERS

Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gar Stjore said that the only possible political solution between Israelis and Palestinians is "two states living side by side in peace and security."

Irish Prime Minister Simon Harris said at the conference in Dublin that he is convinced "that other countries will join us" and added that Ireland remains committed to recognizing Israel's right to exist "safely and in peace with its neighbors". Ireland recalled its own efforts for international recognition while fighting for independence just over a century ago. "We know from our history what that means," Harris said.

The move by European states comes at a time of division in the EU over the decision of the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to seek arrest warrants for the leaders of Israel and Hamas, as countries within the bloc try to unite in response to the war in Gaza. It also follows a vote earlier this month in the UN General Assembly supporting Palestine's bid to become a full member state.

Israel reacted strongly yesterday, claiming that recognizing Palestinian statehood was tantamount to rewarding Hamas militants for the October 7 attack that preceded the Gaza war.

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz said that "history will remember that Spain, Norway and Ireland decided to award a gold medal to the murderers and rapists of Hamas."

He warned that the decision would have "serious consequences" and ordered the immediate withdrawal of Israeli ambassadors from those three countries. "Today I am sending a clear message: Israel will not be sympathetic to those who undermine its sovereignty and threaten its security," he said.

The decision was welcomed by the Palestinian Authority, which has limited self-rule in the occupied West Bank, and Hamas, which has ruled the Gaza Strip since 2007.

About 144 of the 193 member states of the United Nations recognize Palestine as a state, including most of the Global South, Russia, China and India. But only a handful of the EU's 27 members have done so, mostly former communist countries, as well as Sweden and Cyprus.

Irska
photo: REUTERS

Britain, Australia and EU members - Malta and Slovenia - have hinted in recent months that they could soon recognize Palestinian statehood.

Norway hosted the Oslo peace process 30 years ago, which was supposed to lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state in territory captured by Israel in the 1967 war, including the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. However, the last negotiations failed more than ten years ago, Reuters reminds.

Netanyahu rejects the idea of ​​a sovereign Palestinian state, despite the "two-state solution" remaining a political goal of the United States, Israel's closest ally. Washington, however, opposes the recognition of Palestine without an agreement reached through negotiations.

President Joe Biden "has been a strong supporter of the two-state solution throughout his career," said the spokesman for the White House National Security Council yesterday. "He believes that the Palestinian state should be established through direct negotiations between the parties, not through unilateral recognitions."

Germany announced that it was an issue that required additional dialogue, while France stated that the conditions had not yet been met.

British Foreign Secretary Lord David Cameron said in January that the UK could recognize Palestinian statehood as part of "irreversible steps" towards a two-state solution to the protracted Israeli-Palestinian crisis.

Yesterday's move by the European countries is the latest example of the strengthening of Israel's international isolation, both because of the civilian victims in Gaza and because of long-standing policies such as the construction of Jewish violence in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Jan Egeland, who was part of the Norwegian diplomatic team that participated in the negotiations in Oslo in the 1990s, said that the announcement by the European troika, although symbolic, is still a kind of message to Israel that the occupation of the Palestinian territories must stop.

John O'Brennan, professor of European integration at Maynooth University in Ireland, said that the move by these three countries is not just a gesture. "If it was only a symbolic gesture, the Israelis would not have withdrawn their ambassadors," he told the FT.

Alon Liel, former director general of Israel's foreign ministry and critic of Netanyahu's right-wing government, told Reuters by phone from Tel Aviv that the move by Spain, Ireland and Norway could have an important impact on Israeli public opinion.

Equalizing the status of Israel and Palestine in the international sphere is "a nightmare for the current Israeli leadership", he said. The action of these three European countries represents "the beginning of recognition by the countries that care about Israel, which are a model for Israel."

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