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Spain, Norway and Ireland will recognize an independent Palestinian state

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Ireland, Norway and Spain announced today they will formally recognize an independent Palestinian state. The announcements were made separately, and leaders cited peace as their motivation. Here's Ireland's Minister for Foreign Affairs, Micheal Martin.

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MICHEAL MARTIN: Only a political track can deliver a permanent end to the violence. Today, we state clearly our unambiguous support for the equal right to security, dignity and self-determination for the Palestinian and Israeli peoples.

FADEL: More than 100 member states of the United Nations recognize a Palestinian state. The U.S. and many Western European countries do not. With me now is journalist Miguel Macias, who is in Spain. Good morning.

MIGUEL MACIAS, BYLINE: Good morning, Leila.

FADEL: So this has been talked about for a while. It was not quite a secret that it was going to happen. Why now?

MACIAS: Well, over the past month, the Spanish prime minister toured Europe to try to convince other countries to join Spain in recognizing Palestine as an independent state. Sanchez was hoping to get the support of as many countries as possible. That effort had some mixed results. Portugal, for example, said, no, thank you. But Sanchez was able to enlist Ireland and Norway, for example, which seemed to have been the determining factor here. Now, in late April, Pedro Sanchez ran into some internal political drama. He even considered resigning for a few days. With today's announcement, Sanchez is delivering on an old promise. He's sending a message to the entire world that he's back in business and fulfilling his political agenda.

FADEL: So in Spain, where you are, Prime Minister Sanchez spoke today in front of the national Parliament. What did he say?

MACIAS: Well, Sanchez was not shy about his criticism of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

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PRIME MINISTER PEDRO SANCHEZ: (Speaking Spanish)

MACIAS: Sanchez said that fighting Hamas was necessary, but he said that Netanyahu was generating so much pain, destruction and resentment that a two-state solution is now in danger and could no longer be possible. He also announced that Spain will receive, in the next few weeks, about 30 children with cancer or other injuries from Gaza, to give them treatment. He made it clear that this decision was not against Israel or in support of Hamas. Spain supports Israel, he says; Spain supports Jewish people, but he also offered some perspective.

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SANCHEZ: (Speaking Spanish).

MACIAS: He said, once the war is over - when we can look back to this time and really see what is taking place in Gaza - we will see that it was one of the darkest moments of this century. So Sanchez says that he wants Spaniards to be able to say then that they were on the right side of history.

FADEL: Now, do we know what impact this decision actually has, or is this just symbolic?

MACIAS: Well, Spain already has open channels of communication with the Palestinian Authority. There's not a lot that will change here. We could say that it's mostly a symbolic move, but I spoke to Amaia Camacho. She's a Middle East coordinator for Asamblea de Cooperacion Por la Paz - that's an NGO that works to provide aid around the world, including the Palestinian territories - and she told me that the fact that Ireland, Norway and possibly more countries are making this move is very important when it comes to a possible peace agreement - or for any long-term agreement, for that matter. Palestinians will have more leverage knowing that they have the support of some heavyweights in Europe.

FADEL: And how has Israel reacted?

MACIAS: Well, the most immediate consequence is that the Israeli foreign minister already said that he will be recalling the country's ambassadors for the three states for consultations - that's Ireland, Norway and Spain. Now, Spain's relations with Israel were not the best to start with. Back in December, when Pedro Sanchez visited Israel and was very critical of its war in Gaza, Israel already recalled its ambassador in Spain. Sanchez has said multiple times that they support the state of Israel, but finding that balance between his support of a two-state solution and his support of Israel is proving to be very challenging, if not just impossible.

FADEL: Journalist Miguel Macias in Spain. Thank you, Miguel.

MACIAS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.
Miguel Macias is a Senior Producer at All Things Considered, where he is proud to work with a top-notch team to shape the content of the daily show.