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Spain, Ireland and Norway recognized a Palestinian state. Here's why it matters.

Norway, Spain, Ireland recognize Palestinian state
Norway, Spain and Ireland recognize Palestinian state 02:00

Spain, Ireland and Norway formally recognized a Palestinian state on Tuesday, a step toward a long-held Palestinian aspiration that was fueled by international outrage over the civilian deaths and humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip following Israel's offensive.

The joint decision by two European Union countries plus Norway may generate momentum for the recognition of a Palestinian state by other EU countries and could spur further steps at the United Nations, deepening Israel's isolation.

How and why the European announcements could be important

Prior to the moves by Spain, Ireland and Norway, seven members of the 27-nation European Union officially recognized a Palestinian state. Five of those are former east bloc countries that announced recognition in 1988, as did Cyprus, before joining the bloc. Sweden's recognition came in 2014.

The United States, Britain and other Western countries have backed the idea of an independent Palestinian state existing alongside Israel as a solution to the Middle East's most intractable conflict, but they insist Palestinian statehood should come as part of a negotiated settlement. There have been no substantive negotiations since 2009.

Though the EU countries and Norway aren't recognizing an existing state, just the possibility of one, the symbolism helps enhance the Palestinians' international standing and heaps more pressure on Israel to open negotiations on ending the war. Also, the move lends additional prominence to the Middle East issue ahead of June 6-9 elections to the European Parliament.

Will anything change on the ground?

While dozens of countries have recognized a Palestinian state, none of the major Western powers has done so, and it is unclear how much of a difference the move by the three countries might make.

Even so, their recognition marks a significant accomplishment for the Palestinians, who believe it confers international legitimacy to their struggle. Norway said it will upgrade its representative's office for Palestinian relations to an embassy but it was not clear what Ireland and Spain will do.

Little will likely change on the ground in the short term. Peace talks are stalled, and Israel's hardline government has dug in its heels against Palestinian statehood.

What is Israel's reaction?

Israel, which rejects any move to legitimize the Palestinians internationally, recalled its ambassadors to Ireland, Norway and Spain after they announced the decision last week.

In a video statement, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said "the intention of several European countries to recognize a Palestinian state is a reward for terrorism."

Steps like the ones by the three European countries will harden the Palestinian position and undermine the negotiating process, Israel says, insisting that all issues should be solved through negotiations.

Some 140 countries have recognized a Palestinian state — more than two-thirds of the United Nations' membership.

Some major powers have indicated their stance may be evolving amid the outcry over the consequences of Israel's offensive in Gaza, which has killed more than 36,000 Palestinians according to Gaza's Hamas-run Health Ministry. The ministry does not distinguish between noncombatants and fighters in its count. Israel launched the offensive following the Oct. 7 Hamas-led attack in which militants stormed across the Gaza border into Israel, killing 1,200 people and taking some 250 hostage.

British Foreign Secretary David Cameron has said no recognition of a Palestinian state could come while Hamas remains in Gaza, but that it could happen while Israeli negotiations with Palestinian leaders were in progress.

France has indicated that it isn't ready to join other countries in recognizing a Palestinian state, even if it isn't opposed to the idea in principle. Germany has said it will not recognize a Palestinian state for the time being.

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