Ireland, Spain, and Norway Recognize a Palestinian State

Since 1948, Palestinians living in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza have remained effectively stateless, caught in the limbo of a decades-long peace process that has yielded neither peace nor a state to call their own. But on Wednesday, three European countries—Ireland, Norway, and Spain—announced their decision to officially recognize a Palestinian state alongside Israel. The decision is set to go into effect on May 28.

Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Simon Harris, who announced the decision in a press conference, likened Palestinians’ bid for self-determination to the Irish people’s history seeking international recognition of their independence in 1919. “Today, we use the same language to support the recognition of Palestine as a state,” he said, noting that he expects further countries to join them “in the coming weeks.”

Harris, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, and Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre all noted that their decision to recognize Palestine doesn’t constitute support for Hamas or its deadly Oct. 7 attack, as several Israeli leaders have suggested, but rather their support for a lasting peace. “Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu does not have a project of peace for Palestine, even if the fight against the terrorist group Hamas is legitimate,” Sánchez said of the Israeli premier in an address to the Spanish Parliament.

“There will be no peace in the Middle East without a two-state solution,” Støre said in a news conference. “There can be no two-state solution without a Palestinian state.”

Ireland's Prime Minister Simon Harris (center), with Minister of Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin and Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan, delivers a speech in Dublin, on May 22, 2024. <span class="copyright">Paul Faith—Getty Images</span>
Ireland's Prime Minister Simon Harris (center), with Minister of Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin and Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan, delivers a speech in Dublin, on May 22, 2024. Paul Faith—Getty Images

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz called the move “a distorted step” and announced Israel would recall its ambassadors from the countries. But the move was welcomed by the Palestinian Authority, the governing body that administers certain parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank. “History is being made,” Husam Zomlot, the Palestinian ambassador to the U.K., said of the decision. “We urge the few remaining countries in the world, especially the U.K., with its historic responsibility, to follow suit and provide a long overdue path out from occupation, colonization, oppression, and apartheid to equality under law and accountability.”

While the recognition of Palestine is symbolically important, it will not change the facts on the ground. For decades, consecutive Israeli governments have maintained a military occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem—territory that, with Gaza, is envisaged to make up a future Palestinian state—and have constructed hundreds of Israeli settlements that are illegal under international law. These settlements, which house some 700,000 Israeli citizens, not only bifurcate Palestinian territory, but have also resulted in untold violence between Israeli settlers and surrounding Palestinian communities. Netanyahu, who has been in power for more than 16 years, has trumpeted his role in preventing the creation of a Palestinian state, which he says would constitute “an existential danger to Israel.”

But the recognition nonetheless signals much of the world’s growing discontent with a status quo that has reaped countless cycles of violence—none more deadly than the one currently unfolding in Gaza, where some 35,000 Palestinians have been killed, according to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Ministry of Health and supported by the U.N. That discontent has been evidenced in the U.N., where a vote earlier this month on granting Palestine U.N. member status (it is currently a “permanent member state”) was supported by 143 out of 193 countries. Just nine countries (including Israel and the U.S.) voted against the resolution, with 25 abstentions.

While the Biden Administration has voiced support for a two-state solution in principle, it has opposed efforts to recognize Palestinian statehood in practice, noting that peace can only be negotiated between the two parties.

Write to Yasmeen Serhan at