Israel’s National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir condemned the move Wednesday and said the response from Israel would be to intensify its operations in Gaza

By Jon Queally
Common Dreams

Israel’s foreign minister issued a blunt threat of “severe consequences” for the countries of Norway, Ireland, and Spain—and presumably other nations that may follow—after the trio announced their decision Wednesday to formally recognize a Palestinian state.

In their joint move, inspired in large measure by the ongoing Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip, the governments of Norway, Ireland, and Spain said they would make the formal recognition next week on May 28. In response, Israel recalled its ambassadors from Oslo and Dublin as an initial sign of displeasure and protest.

Israel’s foreign minister Israel Katz said in a public statement that the move to recognize Palestine was a “distorted step” by the countries which he claimed was “an injustice to the memory of the victims of 7/10, a blow to efforts to return the 128 hostages, and a boost to Hamas and Iran’s jihadists, which undermines the chance for peace and questions Israel’s right to self-defense.”

Katz warned that “Israel will not remain silent” in the face of what it perceives as a betrayal by its European allies and that “further severe consequences” would follow for those making such a decision. Israel recalled its ambassador to Spain last year after comments made about violations of humanitarian law in Gaza.

Israel’s National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir also condemned the move Wednesday and said the response from Israel would be to intensify its operations in Gaza—where the ICC chief prosecutor this week alleged war crimes by Israeli forces have taken place—even further. In his remarks, Ben-Gvir called for a “root treatment” for the city of Rafah, where hundreds of thousands of civilians have fled but many still remain with nowhere go.

Israel’s Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, meanwhile, called for immediate punishment for the Palestinian Authority and expanded settlement construction in the Occupied West Bank as a response.

In their remarks, leaders from Norway and Ireland defended recognition of a Palestinian state as the appropriate response to the violent conflict that has endured for decades but has escalated dramatically—and brutally—over the last seven months, both in Gaza and the Occupied West Bank.

“In the midst of a war, with tens of thousands killed and injured, we must keep alive the only alternative that offers a political solution for Israelis and Palestinians alike,” said Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre, as he led the three nations in their announcement.

In place of a “long and gruesome conflict,” Støre said a new reality must be realized: “Two states, living side by side, in peace and security.”

Taoiseach Simon Harris, head of the Irish Parliament—who made the announcement on behalf of Ireland alongside Tánaiste Micheál Martin and Green Party Minister Eamon Ryan—called the decision the “right thing to do” as he condemned Hamas, which he said has “nothing to offer,” while also reiterating unwavering commitment for “Israel’s right to exist securely and in peace with its neighbors.”

The decision by Ireland, Harris said, was made in the context of its own fight for independence and freedom from colonial rule. Citing Ireland’s own declaration for independence in 1919, Harris said recognition for a Palestinian state is vital “because we ‘believe in freedom and justice as the fundamental principles of international law,’ and because we believe that ‘permanent peace’ can only be secured ‘upon the basis of the free will of a free people.'”

In response to Ireland’s announcement, Social Democrats leader Holly Cairns applauded the government’s decision.

“The Social Democrats have long called for the government to match its strong words, on the carnage in Gaza, with action—and this is a powerful action which sends a strong message,” Cairns said. “That message is one of hope, peace, justice and freedom— for an imprisoned Palestinian people being massacred by a barbaric occupier.”

Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez spoke before members of Congress in Madrid on Wednesday where he denounced “the massacre in Gaza and the rest of the Palestinian territories,” and defended the move to recognize a Palestinian state as necessary under the circumstances and in the face of Israel intransigence.

“Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu is still turning a blind eye and bombing hospitals, schools, andhomes,” Sánchez declared. “He is still using hunger, cold and terror to punish more than a million innocent boys and girls—and things have gone so far that prosecutors at the International Criminal Court have this week sought his arrest for war crimes.”

Reacting to Wednesday’s announcements by Ireland, Norway, and Spain, officials with Oxfam International—which has long lobbied for a Palestinian state and urgently demanded a cease-fire in Gaza to end the current bloodshed—welcomed the news.

“This recognition is a landmark decision and other countries must follow suit,” said Sally Abi Khalil, Oxfam Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa. “It is a crucial step in affirming the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination, but it must transcend beyond symbolism into concrete steps towards ending the Israeli occupation and achieving full sovereignty for the Palestinian State.”

While the ongoing assault on the southern city of Rafah has triggered a mass exodus of hundreds of thousands of people with no safe place to go in Gaza, Khalil said, “We urgently need an immediate and permanent ceasefire and an end to the blockade to end the death and destruction, to allow unfettered aid into Gaza and to ensure the release of the hostages and illegally detained Palestinian prisoners.”

Jim Clarken, Oxfam’s chief executive, also championed the decision by the three European nations for showing “real and brave leadership on the world stage.”

“We know right now that the people of Gaza are starving and that UN agencies have regrettably had to halt aid operations in Rafah,” Clarken said, “Ireland stood by UNRWA in its hour of need. We need now to leverage today’s move to press for urgent life-saving aid to get to the people of Gaza.”

Jon Queally is managing editor of Common Dreams, where this article first appeared; licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely0
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