“There can be no peace in the Middle East if there is no recognition.” With these words, Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre announced on Wednesday that Norway would recognize Palestine as a state from May 28. Shortly thereafter, Ireland and Spain also announced that they would officially recognize Palestine as a state on the same date.

Last week, several EU countries had already indicated that they wanted to recognise a Palestinian state. They justified the step by saying that a two-state solution to the Middle East conflict was important for lasting peace in the region. Israel immediately warned that recognition would reward terrorism.

The recent push by Norway, Ireland and Spain catapults the debate back into the spotlight. A possible initiative is also being discussed in Germany. The most important questions and answers at a glance.

For months, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez had been lobbying European and Middle Eastern countries for the recognition of Palestine and a ceasefire in the Gaza war. “Next Tuesday, May 28, Spain will accept recognition of the Palestinian state in the Council of Ministers,” he announced in parliament in Madrid. The recognition is not directed against anyone, “it is not against the Israeli people,” Sánchez continued. The recognition is “an act in favor of peace, justice and moral consequence.” At the same time, with regard to the Gaza war, Spain’s Prime Minister accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of “endangering” a two-state solution to resolve the Middle East conflict with his policy of “pain and destruction.”

Previously, Norwegian Prime Minister Gahr Støre justified his country’s decision by saying that Palestine had “a fundamental right to an independent state.” Norway will “view Palestine as an independent state with all the rights and obligations that entails.” At a press conference in Oslo, he also made a “strong appeal” to other countries to also recognize an independent Palestinian state.

Irish Prime Minister Simon Harris also spoke at a press conference in Dublin of a “historic and important day for Ireland and for Palestine.” “We know from our own history what this means,” he said, referring to Ireland’s hard-fought independence from Great Britain. Harris expressed the expectation that other countries would join Ireland, Spain and Norway in a timely manner.

There is great outrage in Israel. The Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem immediately recalled its ambassadors in Norway, Ireland and Spain for immediate consultations. “Today I am sending a strong message to Ireland and Norway: Israel will not ignore this,” said Foreign Minister Israel Katz. “The hasty step taken by the two countries will have further serious consequences,” stressed Katz before Spain made the corresponding announcement.

According to the Foreign Ministry, the ambassadors of the three countries were also summoned to give a “serious warning”. At the meeting, they will reportedly be shown a video of the capture of young female soldiers by Hamas fighters on October 7th. “History will remember that Spain, Norway and Ireland decided to award gold medals to Hamas’ murderers and rapists,” Katz said.

The foreign minister warned that a recognition could harm efforts to rescue Israeli hostages in the Gaza Strip. This also reduces the likelihood that there will be a ceasefire in the Gaza war because “the jihadists of Hamas and Iran would be rewarded,” said Katz. “Today’s decision sends a message to Palestinians and the world: terrorism pays.”

Instead, there was joy about the move on the Palestinian side. Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas praised Norway’s decision and called on other countries to also recognize Palestine. The Norwegian move will strengthen “the Palestinians’ right to self-determination” and benefit efforts toward a two-state solution, Abbas said in a statement carried by the official Wafa news agency.

The radical Islamic Hamas has also welcomed the impending recognition of a Palestinian state. It is an “important step towards affirming our right to land and establishing a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital,” the Palestinian organization said. A high-ranking Hamas representative told the AFP news agency that the planned recognitions were due to the “courageous resistance” of the Palestinians. The announcements from Spain, Ireland and Norway were the “direct result” of the “legendary steadfastness of the Palestinian people,” argued Bassem Naim of the Hamas political bureau. “We believe that this will be a turning point in the international attitude to the Palestinian question,” Naim added. Hamas called on other countries to “recognize our legitimate national rights.”

According to the Palestinian Authority, 142 of the 193 UN states have so far recognized Palestine as an independent state. However, most Western European countries, including Germany, France and Great Britain, as well as the United States, have so far held back. They argue that recognition should be achieved through negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians as part of a two-state solution, rather than through unilateral measures by third parties.

Critics complain that the Palestinian territories lack important criteria for such a step. For example, the border between Israel and the Palestinians remains contentious. This also applies to the political status of East Jerusalem.

In March, the heads of government of Spain and Ireland as well as Slovenia and Malta signed a joint declaration in Brussels in which the four EU countries expressed their willingness to recognize an independent Palestinian state. Spain and Ireland have now put their words into action.

The Belgian government is also discussing a possible recognition of Palestine. You can only recognize a state once, said Prime Minister Alexander De Croo. This step must therefore be taken at the right time and have an immediate effect. “I want an impact on two points. I want an end to the violence in the Gaza Strip. I want the hostages to be freed,” De Croo told broadcaster VRT. “The right perspective is: Will it help stop the violence tomorrow or not?”

France warned that recognition of a Palestinian state was premature. The Foreign Ministry in Paris said recognizing Palestine was “not taboo” for France. However, this step must be “useful” and enable political progress as a “diplomatic instrument in the service of a two-state solution”.

Like the majority of Western European countries, Germany is committed to a two-state solution to the Middle East conflict, but sees the recognition of Palestine as the result of direct negotiations between the conflict parties. Following the recent initiative by Norway, Ireland and Spain, the federal government is reaffirming its position. The two-state solution remains “the only viable path,” said government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit. The goal is “a negotiated solution that is accepted by all sides,” even if this “will still require a lot of diplomatic skill.” There is “no shortcut”.

Several SPD politicians had previously spoken out in favor of a German initiative – under conditions. “Germany should advance the recognition of Palestine as part of a joint European initiative,” Isabel Cademartori told the star, “provided the hostages are released and a ceasefire is agreed.”

SPD politician Ralf Stegner also welcomes the initiative. “Perhaps these steps will help on the way to a two-state solution – without which there will be no peace,” Stegner told the star. “Peace is only possible when security for Israel and self-determination for the Palestinian people come together.” Stegner continued: “To achieve this, Germany must actively engage diplomatically – that is more important than rushing forward unilaterally.” The chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the Bundestag, Michael Roth (SPD), viewed the move as the “wrong signal at the wrong time”.

The recognition of three European states strengthens the Palestinian side at a critical time. But the effort will have little immediate impact on the desperate situation of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Since the brutal Hamas attack on October 7th, Israel has taken massive military action in Gaza. According to Hamas, more than 35,000 Palestinians are said to have been killed in the war and thousands are on the run.

One thing is certain: the pressure on Israel is growing. The announcements by Norway, Ireland and Spain are just the latest blow to the Israeli government on the international stage. Just at the beginning of the week, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court requested arrest warrants for Prime Minister Netanyahu and the leader of Hamas for war crimes in connection with the October 7 attacks and the Israeli offensive in Gaza. Meanwhile, the controversial Israeli military offensive in Rafah is increasingly becoming a strain on relations with the USA. Now the move by Norway and Co. shows that international patience with Israeli politics is dwindling.

Note: This article has been updated with reactions.

Sources: “Guardian”, “NY Times”, “CNN”, with news agencies DPA, AFP and AP