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3 Countries Recognize Palestinian State05/22 06:07

   Norway, Ireland and Spain said on Wednesday they are recognizing a 
Palestinian state, in a historic but largely symbolic move that deepens 
Israel's isolation more than seven months into its grinding war against Hamas 
in Gaza.

   TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) -- Norway, Ireland and Spain said on Wednesday they 
are recognizing a Palestinian state, in a historic but largely symbolic move 
that deepens Israel's isolation more than seven months into its grinding war 
against Hamas in Gaza.

   The announcements came as the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal 
Court is seeking arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu 
and his defense minister and the International Court of Justice is considering 
allegations of genocide that Israel has strenuously denied.

   Palestinians 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.

   Israel recalled its ambassadors to the three countries and summoned their 
envoys, accusing the Europeans of rewarding the militant Hamas group for its 
Oct. 7 attack that triggered the war.

   Netanyahu's government, which is opposed to Palestinian statehood, says the 
conflict can only be resolved through direct negotiations, which last collapsed 
over 15 years ago.

   As if to underline the point, Israel's far-right National Security Minister 
Itamar Ben-Gvir paid a provocative visit Wednesday to a flashpoint holy site in 
Jerusalem sacred to Jews and Muslims in a move that could escalate tensions 
across the region.

   Ben-Gvir said the visit was a response to the move by the three European 
countries. "We will not even allow a statement about a Palestinian state," he 
said. The Al-Aqsa mosque compound is the third holiest site in Islam, and the 
hilltop on which it stands is the holiest site for Jews, who refer to it as the 
Temple Mount.

   With their formal recognition, planned for May 28, the three countries will 
join some 140 -- more than two-thirds of the United Nations -- that have 
recognized the state of Palestine over the years. 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.

   The announcements from Europe came in a swift cascade. Norway, which helped 
broker the Oslo accords that kicked off the peace process in the 1990s, was the 
first to announce its decision, with Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store saying 
"there cannot be peace in the Middle East if there is no recognition."

   Irish Prime Minister Simon Harris called it an "historic and important day 
for Ireland and for Palestine," saying the announcements had been coordinated 
and that other countries might join "in the weeks ahead."

   The international community has long viewed the creation of a Palestinian 
state alongside Israel as the only realistic way to resolve the conflict, and 
in past weeks several European Union countries have indicated they plan to 
recognize a Palestinian state to further those efforts.

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

   "This recognition is not against anyone, it is not against the Israeli 
people," Snchez said. "It is an act in favor of peace, justice and moral 
consistency." He said it was clear that Netanyahu "does not have a project for 
peace," while acknowledging that "the fight against the terrorist group Hamas 
is legitimate."

   Israel's government harshly condemned the decision taken by the three 
countries. Foreign Minister Israel Katz recalled Israel's ambassadors and 
summoned the three countries' envoys in Israel. He said they would watch grisly 
video footage of the Oct. 7 attack.

   "History will remember that Spain, Norway, and Ireland decided to award a 
gold medal to Hamas murderers and rapists," he said. He also said the 
announcement would undermine talks aimed at a cease-fire and hostage release in 
Gaza that came to a standstill earlier this month.

   President Mahmoud Abbas, the leader of the Palestinian Authority, which 
administers parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, welcomed the moves toward 
recognition, saying they would contribute to efforts to bring about a two-state 
solution.

   Hamas also welcomed the decisions and called on other nations to "recognize 
our legitimate rights and support the struggle of our people for liberation and 
independence, and ending the Zionist occupation of our land."

   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.

   The announcements are unlikely to have any impact on the ground. Israel 
annexed east Jerusalem and considers it part of its capital, and in the 
occupied West Bank it has build 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 seemingly open-ended Israeli 
military rule.

   In Gaza, the war is still raging, and Netanyahu has said Israel will 
maintain open-ended security control of the territory even after any defeat of 
Hamas.

   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."

   But in order for it 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."

 
 
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