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Norway’s recognition of Palestine meant to prod a two-state solution

It’s been 75 years since Norway recognized the state of Israel. On Wednesday the Norwegian government decided to also recognize Palestine as a means, according to Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre, of finally achieving the two-state solution he and many other countries believe is necessary for peace in the Middle East.

Norwegain Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre (right) and his foreign minister Espen Barth Eide at Wednesday’s press conference, when they announced the decision to recognize Palestine. PHOTO: Utenriksdepartementet/Mathias Rongved
Mathias Rongved

The Palestinians also have what Støre called “a fundamental and independent right” to their own state. “Both Israelis and Palestinians have a right to live in peace in their own state,” Støre stressed at a long-anticipated press conference Wednesday morning. “There can’t be peace in the Middle East without a two-state solution.”

At the same time, he said, “there can be no two-state solution without a Palestinian state.” Norway thus became the 146th member of the United Nations to recognize Palestine, on the same day Ireland and Spain did the same. Norway’s recognition of Palestine will become official from May 28.

“In the middle of a war, with tens of thousands dead and injured, we must keep the only thing that can bring about safe homelands for both Israelis and Palestinians,” Støre said. He also thinks the “territorial borders” between the state of Israel and the state of Palestine should be based on those from before June 4, 1967, with Jerusalem split between the two and options for agreements on land swaps.

There’s long been broad support for a two-state solution in the Norwegian Parliament, and a majority currently favours recognition of Palestine. Støre and his foreign minister, Espen Barth Eide, have also been under pressure from their Labour Party constituency, and not least from the labour union movement in Norway. The issue topped priorities at this year’s May 1 demonstrations, when the leader of Norway’s largest trade union confederation LO, Peggy Hessen Følsvik, declared that Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land must cease. “The rule of law must be respected, Palestine must be recognized as its own state,” Følsvik said to cheers from thousands at the May Day rally. “We demand a free Palestine.”

Large demonstrations against Israel’s attacks on Gaza and in favour of Palestinian rights to a homeland have taken place all over Norway, and here in Oslo last month. PHOTO: Arbeiderpartiet

There have also been large pro-Palestinian demonstrations in Oslo and other Norwegian cities for months, joined recently by some Jewish Norwegians. “It’s important that we Jews engage ourselves in this, too,” said Mia Habib, leader of a group protesting Israel’s destruction of Gaza after the radical Palestinian organization Hamas launched a brutal terrorist attack on Israeli communities near Gaza.

“What’s happening in Gaza now is absolutely crazy,” Habib told newspaper Klassekampen during a demonstration in Oslo last week. “It’s important that all good forces stand together against it.” She and others in her groups carried signs claiming that “Anti-Zionism is not equivalent to anti-Semitism,” and banners describing themselves as “Jews against genocide.”

Israel’s ambassador to Norway, meanwhile, was “very disappointed” over the recognition of Palestine and claimed that relations between Israel and Norway (once very strong when Israel’s equivalent of the Labour Party held political power) had reached bottom. “This is a very sad moment in the relation between Israel and Norway,” Ambassador Avi Nir-Feldklein told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK), as the Israeli government recalled him. He was due to leave Norway on Thursday.

He claimed recognition of a Palestinian state won’t end Israel’s war on Hamas, may well prolong it and “will only complicate things.” He already has claimed that Norway “doesn’t understand Israel,” has been among the most hostile countries towards Israel and has no role to play in Middle East peace talks (like it did for many years) since the Israeli government has now lost all confidence in the Norwegian government.

Norwegian Foreign Minister Eide strongly disagrees. He has recently spent a lot of time in the Middle East, most recently at meetings in Riyadh on an overall Arabic peace plan. “Norway is working closely with Saudi Arabia and is mobilizing European support for the Arabic vision of peace,” he said on Wednesday. Norway will also lead what he called “an international partner meeting on Palestine in Brussels, where the new Palestinian prime minister and government will present their reform plans.”

For the government’s own version of its Palestinian plans, click here (external link to the government’s website). 

Both Støre and Eide stressed that Norway continues to condemn the terror and violence carried out by Hamas and other militant groups, claiming that undermines the confidence needed a lasting peace in the Middle East. So does Israel’s ongoing occupation, illegal settlements and violence in Palestinian areas. Both lead to an onging feeling of hopelessness on both sides, said Eide.

Norway will also continue to expect democratic reforms, stronger legal systems and anti-corruption measures from the Palestinians. Norway will continue to support “state-building efforts” by the Palestinians under the leadership of new Prime Minister Muhammed Mustafa.

The US’ reaction to the recognition of Palestine by three European countries was restrained. A White House spokesman told new bureau Reuters that a Palestinian state should be created through negotiations, not through single recognitions of Palestine by various countries.

NewsinEnglish.no/Nina Berglund

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