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3 nations say they will recognize a Palestinian state

TEL AVIV, Israel — Norway, Ireland and Spain said Wednesday they would recognize a Palestinian state, a historic but largely symbolic move. Israel immediately denounced the decisions and recalled its ambassadors to the three countries.

Palestinian officials welcomed the announcements as an affirmation of their decades-long quest for statehood in east Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip — territories Israel seized in the 1967 Mideast war and still controls.

Some 140 countries — more than two-thirds of the United Nations — recognize a Palestinian state.

The timing of the move was a surprise, but discussions have been underway for weeks in some European Union countries about possibly recognizing a Palestinian state.

Proponents have argued that the Israel-Hamas war has shown the need for a new push toward a two-state solution, 15 years after negotiations collapsed between Israel and the Palestinians. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government opposes Palestinian statehood.

In addition to recalling the ambassadors to the three countries, Israel summoned their envoys, accusing the Europeans of rewarding the terrorist Hamas group for its Oct. 7 attack that triggered the war. Foreign Minister Israel Katz said the European ambassadors would watch grisly video footage of the attack.

In that assault, Hamas-led terrorists stormed across the border, killing 1,200 people and taking some 250 hostage Israel’s ensuing offensive has killed more than 35,000 Palestinians, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza.

“History will remember that Spain, Norway, and Ireland decided to award a gold medal to Hamas murderers and rapists,” Katz said.

In response to the announcements in Europe, Israel’s National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir paid a visit Wednesday to the Al-Aqsa mosque compound — a flashpoint in Jerusalem that is sacred to Muslims and Jews, who refer to it as the Temple Mount.

In further retaliation, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich said he would stop transferring tax revenue earmarked for the Palestinian Authority.

Under interim peace accords in the 1990s, Israel collects tax revenue on behalf of the Palestinians. After the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attack, Smotrich froze the transfers, but Israel agreed to send the money to Norway, which transferred it to the PA. Smotrich said Wednesday that he was ending that arrangement.

The international community has long viewed the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel as the only realistic way to resolve the conflict.

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. Netanyahu’s government says the conflict can only be resolved through direct negotiations.

The formal recognition by Norway, Spain and Ireland — which all have a record of friendly ties with both the Israelis and the Palestinians, while long advocating for a Palestinian state — is planned for May 28.

Their announcements came in swift succession. Norway, which helped broker the Oslo accords that kicked off the peace process in the 1990s, was the first. “There cannot be peace in the Middle East if there is no recognition,” said Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre.

The country plans to upgrade its representative office in the West Bank to an embassy.

Irish Prime Minister Simon Harris called it a “historic and important day for Ireland and for Palestine,” saying the announcements had been coordinated and other countries might join.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, who announced his country’s decision before parliament, has spent months touring European and Middle Eastern countries to garner support for recognition and a cease-fire in Gaza.

“This recognition is not against anyone, it is not against the Israeli people,” Sánchez said. “It is an act in favor of peace, justice and moral consistency.”

President Mahmoud Abbas, the leader of the Palestinian Authority, which administers parts of the West Bank, welcomed the decisions and called on other nations to “recognize our legitimate rights and support the struggle of our people for liberation and independence.”

Hamas, which Western countries and Israel view as a terrorist group, does not recognize Israel’s existence but has indicated it might agree to a state on the 1967 lines, at least on an interim basis. Israel says any Palestinian state would be at risk of being taken over by Hamas terrorists, posing a threat to its security.

The announcements are unlikely to have any impact on the war in Gaza — or the long-running conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

Israel annexed east Jerusalem and considers it part of its capital, and in the West Bank it has built scores of Jewish settlements that are now home to over 500,000 Israelis. The settlers have Israeli citizenship, while the 3 million Palestinians in the West Bank live under open-ended Israeli military rule.

Netanyahu has said Israel will maintain security control of Gaza even after any defeat of Hamas, and the war is still raging there.

Hugh Lovatt, a senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, said “recognition is a tangible step towards a viable political track leading to Palestinian self-determination.”

To have an impact, he said, it must come with “tangible steps to counter Israel’s annexation and settlement of Palestinian territory — such as banning settlement products and financial services.”

Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide defended the importance of the move in an interview with The Associated Press, saying that while the country has supported the establishment of a Palestinian state for decades, it knew that recognition is “a card that you can play once.”

“We used to think that recognition would come at the end of a process,” he said. “Now we have realized that recognition should come as an impetus, as a strengthening of a process.”

Wilson reported from Barcelona, Spain, and Krauss from Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Associated Press writers Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen, Denmark, Jill Lawless in London and David Keyton in Berlin contributed to this story.

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