Ireland, Spain and Norway to formally recognise Palestinian state amid Israeli fury

Israel’s international isolation over the war in Gaza dramatically deepened on Wednesday as Ireland, Norway and Spain announced they were recognising a Palestinian state.

Dublin and Madrid said others in the European Union were likely to follow their landmark step. Norway’s announcement was particularly symbolic given its long-running role as a mediator in the Middle East dating from before the 1993 Oslo Accords.

In Ireland’s case, Taoiseach Simon Harris said the decision was rooted in his country’s own historic struggle to break free of rule by Britain.

“Taking our place on the world stage and being recognised by others as having the right to be there was a matter of the highest importance for the founders of our state,” he said.

A furious Israel recalled its ambassadors to Ireland and Norway before Spain joined them in the recognition, accusing the countries of sending the message that “terrorism pays”.

Foreign Minister Israel Katz insisted that his government remained determined to restore security to its citizens, to remove Hamas from Gaza and to return hostages seized on October 7 when Palestinian terrorists killed 1,200 Israelis.

"There are no more righteous goals than these," he said.

But the coordinated decision of the European countries underlined the stark divides opened up by Israel’s devastating response to the October incursion, which has left Gaza in ruins and more than 35,000 Palestinians dead.

It further isolated Israel after the International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor this week requested an arrest warrant for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to face charges of war crimes, a move that was slammed as “deeply unhelpful” by Rishi Sunak.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said the recognition would enshrine his people's “right to self-determination".

Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre said "there cannot be peace in the Middle East if there is no recognition", and rejected the Israeli criticism.

"The terror has been committed by Hamas and militant groups who are not supporters of a two-state solution and the state of Israel," he said.

"Palestine has a fundamental right to an independent state,” Mr Støre added, noting that the World Bank had determined that a Palestinian entity met key criteria to function as a state in 2011, including national institutions.

Spain’s Socialist premier Pedro Sánchez said: "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."

The three countries said they would extend formal recognition of Palestine on Tuesday, joining some 140 members of the United Nations that have already done so.

Britain and the United States insist that recognition must await a formal process as part of a negotiated two-state settlement with Israel.

There was no immediate comment from the Foreign Office. Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron has said no recognition of Palestine can come while Hamas remains in Gaza, but that it could happen while Israeli negotiations with Palestinian leaders are in progress.

However, Mr Netanyahu has long rejected the concept of two states, and is in a coalition government with Jewish far-right leaders who want to settle all of the occupied Palestinian territories.

As it is, illegal settlers have for years been taking over more and more of the West Bank with official connivance, threatening the viability of any future Palestinian state. Bloody attacks on Palestinian civilians have intensified, drawing UK and US sanctions against settler leaders.

In Dublin, Mr Harris stressed that his government was unequivocal in fully recognising Israel and its right to exist "securely and in peace with its neighbours", and he called for all hostages in Gaza to be immediately returned.

He added: "In the lead-up to today's announcement, I've spoken with a number of other leaders and counterparts and I'm confident that further countries will join us in taking this important step in the coming weeks."

President Emmanuel Macron said in February that it was not "taboo" for France to recognise a Palestinian state.

The SNP, whose plans for another independence referendum in Scotland remain blocked in Westminster, called on Rishi Sunak’s Government and Labour to follow the trio’s lead on Palestine “without further delay”.

"For far too long, Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer have refused to recognise Palestine and made feeble excuses as the government of Israel collectively punishes the people of Gaza,” SNP foreign affairs spokesman Brendan O'Hara said.