Spain recognizes Palestine and calls for a ‘viable’ state based on 1967 borders

Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez made the announcement simultaneously with Ireland and Norway, leading to accusations from Israel of complicity ‘in incitement to genocide against the Jewish people’

Pedro Sánchez
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez announcing the recognition of the Palestinian state in Madrid, May 28.Borja Puig de la Bellacasa
Carlos E. Cué

With the utmost solemnity, on the steps of La Moncloa, the seat of government, alone and without taking questions, Pedro Sánchez on Tuesday confirmed the biggest leap in Spanish foreign policy since he came to power in 2018. After more than 70 years of conflict, Spain recognized the Palestinian state simultaneously with Ireland and Norway, and will thus expand the list of countries around the world that have taken the step to 145. The Spanish prime minister announced that Spain will not recognize — unless agreed between the parties — any borders other than those of 1967, when Israel gradually began to occupy larger and larger areas of Palestine after the Six-Day War. Since then, Israel has been carving up Palestinian land through areas controlled by settlers that are reducing the living space of the inhabitants of the occupied territories.

Sánchez made clear the formula proposed by Spain in its recognition: “A viable state with the West Bank and Gaza connected by a corridor and unified under the government of the Palestinian Authority.” One of the consequences of Israel’s occupation has been that the Palestinian territory has been split in two with no communication between Gaza and the West Bank. In the face of criticism from Israel and the political opposition in Spain, who have accused him of siding with Hamas, Sánchez was categorical: recognizing Palestine goes against the designs of Hamas, which opposes the two-state solution, and to which the international community is committed. “It is not a decision we take against anyone, certainly not against Israel, a friendly people whom we respect and with whom we want to have the best possible relationship. We want to show our categorical rejection of Hamas. Spain condemned from the very first moment the attacks of October 7. The Palestinian Authority is our partner for peace,” the Spanish prime minister said.

“This is a historic decision. We are acting in accordance with what is expected of a great country like Spain. It is not only a question of historical justice, it is the only way of moving toward what everyone recognizes as the only possible solution to achieve a peaceful future, one of a Palestinian state living side by side with the State of Israel in security and peace,” Sánchez added. Following his statement, the prime minister presided over the Cabinet that ratified the decision. When Minister of Foreign Affairs José Manuel Albares officially communicated the recognition of Palestine as a subject of international law, there was a long applause from all the ministers.

Yolanda Díaz, second deputy prime minister and leader of the leftist Sumar alliance that forms part of Sánchez’s coalition government, gave an interview on state broadcaster TVE shortly afterward to lay out the position of her party and to highlight that although the decision was taken by the coalition government, foreign policy is directed by the prime minister. “It is a historic day; this is the road to peace. But with what we are seeing in Palestine, it is not enough,” Díaz said. “We have to call the ambassador for consultations, we have to join South Africa in an arms embargo of Israel. This is genocide. We are facing an extreme right-wing government, that of [Benjamin] Netanyahu, which violates human rights, which impugns all the institutions of the world, including the United Nations. Something must be done. We must act against Netanyahu,” she added.

Minutes after Sánchez’s announcement, Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz accused the Spanish prime minister of being “complicit in incitement to genocide against the Jewish people and in war crimes” for recognizing Palestine and for not removing Díaz, who Katz earlier said had issued an “antisemitic call to not just recognize a Palestinian state but to ‘liberate Palestine from the river to the sea.’”

Albares described Katz’s statements as “provocations and despicable hoaxes” and said that Spain, Ireland, and Norway will provide a “firm and coordinated response” to what the minister said was an effort to divert attention from the recognition of Palestine and focus it on diplomatic tension. “My Israeli colleague seeks that today instead of talking about what we should be talking about, the existence of a Palestinian state, we were talking about tweets and provocations. We will respond when we decide and not when others decide,” insisted Albares.

A question of time

While France, Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom have not yet given any indication they may follow the lead of Spain, Ireland and Norway, other European countries such as Slovenia have already announced they will also take the step of recognizing Palestine, and the Spanish government believes it is only a matter of time before others do the same as Israel’s indiscriminate bombardments on Gaza, which have already caused more than 35,000 deaths, half of them children, are increasingly isolating the Netanyahu administration. For the first time since the war broke out, EU foreign ministers have decided to summon their Israeli counterpart “to discuss the situation in Gaza.” This was a request from Spain and Ireland, which is now making headway.

The devastating images coming from Rafah of Israeli attacks on defenseless refugees in tents, which prompted even Netanyahu to state that “something unfortunately went tragically wrong,” places Spain on “the right side of history,” said Sánchez, reiterating a phrase he often uses to defend the recognition of the Palestinian state.

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