A broad majority in the Norwegian Parliament settled on Thursday for a declaration that paves the way for full recognition of Palestine as its own state, but not right now. Eight out of the 10 parties represented in Parliament voted in favour of a compromise that disappointed many but also raised hopes because it’s more concrete than earlier measures.
The measure proposed by Norway’s Labour-Center government itself calls for unconditional recognition of a Palestinian state when it would have “a positive effect” on a peace process but not tied to any final peace pact. Earlier proposals have opened for recognition only if a peace pact is in place, so Thursday’s new measure goes further.
It instructs the government to “be prepared to recognize Palestine” and thus “means something,” according to MP Trine Lise Sundnes of the Labour Party. She went so far as to call it “an historic decision regarding recognition of Palestine.” Only the Christian Democrats and conservative Progress Party voted against it.
The Reds, Socialist Left, Liberals and Greens parties had all wanted to go much further, supporting an initial proposal from the Reds to recognize a Palestinian state immediately. Norway’s largest trade union federation, LO, supported the Reds proposal and wasn’t satisfied with Thursday’s compromise.
“It’s time to recognize Palestine, and we encouraged the Labour Party to do so,” said Jørn Eggum, leader of the large labour union Fellesforbundet. The Reds themselves had claimed that votes against its proposal amounted to denying Palestinians their right to self-determination.
“I don’t think the government parties understand the pressure that with good reason has built up in favour of the Palestinians,” Reds leader Marie Sneve Martinussen told newspaper Klassekampen.
There’s little doubt that support for the Palestinians in Norway has risen significantly in line with Israel’s ongoing attacks on Gaza, and on Palestinians in their own areas that have been occupied by Israel. Norway swiftly condemned the radical Palestinian organization Hamas’ own brutal attacks on Israel on October 7, but many Norwegians think Israel’s response has been excessive.
Norway remains in a squeeze over Palestine, however, since it’s a member of NATO, which is dominated by the US, which in turn is Israel’s most loyal supporter. Norway is also one of few western countries that has supported a UN demand for a ceasefire, however, and has clearly stated that it thinks Israel’s attacks that have killed and wounded thousands of civilians and children “have gone too far” and violated the Rule of Law. The leader of only one other NATO ally has done the same, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide went further this week, warning in newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) that many parts of the world think western countries have a double standard, condemning Russia for its attacks on Ukrainian civilians while letting Israel get away with them against Palestinians. “It can be very easy to think it’s odd there are massive protests when the Russians bomb Kherson and kill babies,” Eide noted, but no loud protests in unison when Israel does the same in Gaza.
Israel has been criticized but not to the same extent as Russia, in Eide’s view. He and foreign ministry staff, meanwhile, have also been busy trying to get 251 Norwegians out of Gaza, the borders of which are controlled mostly by the Israelis. One Norwegian citizen, a mother of two, was confirmed killed in an Israeli air raid last weekend.
Around 50 Norwegian citizens were finally allowed to cross the border to Egypt earlier this week, but speculation has swirled that Norway’s support for the Palestinians has stymied the process, even that Israel is “punishing” Norway for its criticism of Israel’s attacks.
“We have no proof of that,” Eide told Klassekampen, adding that much less than half of all foreign citizens in Gaza have been allowed to leave. Another 60 Norwegians were on a list to leave Gaza Thursday, but ended up not getting out. Norway’s foreign ministry reported Thursday afternoon that the border between Gaza and Egypt had been closed, and communications within Gaza had broken down once again.