Why Norway's recognition of a Palestinian state matters

Dozens of countries have recognized a Palestinian state, but Norway's announcement on Wednesday that it would do so had added significance because it hosted the clandestine meetings in 1993 that led to the Oslo Accords, the peace framework that came close to the resolution of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Ultimately it failed.

Norway calls itself a friend of Israel and the two countries have a long-standing relationship. But since October 7, when Israel launched a military offensive in Gaza in response to Hamas-led attacks, Norway has also sharply condemned Israel's conduct of the war.

Norway's foreign minister said in March that “Israel's use of military force is having a disproportionately severe impact on the civilian population and is not in line with international humanitarian law” and called for a ceasefire.

Norway also continued to fund UNRWA, the main UN agency helping Palestinian refugees, after several other countries stopped doing so following Israel's allegations that around a dozen of the agency's employees had been involved in the October 7 attacks.

In February, Norway testified before the International Court of Justice, saying that Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank and east Jerusalem were among the biggest obstacles to peace in the region.

The Oslo Accords were key agreements providing for mutual recognition between the Israeli government and the Palestinian leadership, which was able to return to the occupied territories from exile. The agreements also established the Palestinian Authority, which was to be a provisional body exercising limited Palestinian self-government in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

In 2000, continuing negotiations toward a permanent peace treaty to establish an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel dissolved into a second Palestinian uprising and an Israeli military crackdown.

Jonas Gahr Støre, the Norwegian prime minister, said Wednesday that “recognition of Palestine is support for moderate forces who are on the defensive, in a long and gruesome conflict.”

He called the recognition “an investment in the only solution that can deliver lasting peace in the Middle East,” and urged other countries to follow suit “so that the process towards a two-state solution can finally begin again.”

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