Why we recognized the state of Palestine

Only a two-state solution can provide security, prosperity and hope for the people of both Israel and Palestine.

This week, Norway recognized the state of Palestine, underlining that Palestinians have a fundamental, independent right to self-determination, and that both Israelis and Palestinians have the right to live in peace and security in their respective states.

Norway has been consistent in its belief that there will be no peace in the Middle East without a two-state solution. And there can be no two-state solution without a Palestinian state. In other words, a Palestinian state is a prerequisite for achieving lasting peace in the Middle East.

Since the Oslo Accords 30 years ago, the general approach has been that recognition of Palestinian statehood would follow a peace agreement. However, we all now see that this has proven untenable. We can no longer wait for the Middle East conflict to be resolved first.

In the absence of a peace process and a political solution to this conflict, everyday life has gone from bad to worse. Neither Palestinians nor Israelis have lived their lives in security and peace. Terrorism and violence from Hamas and other militant groups have undermined the trust that’s essential to achieving lasting peace, while Israel’s illegal settlements have undermined the territorial basis for a viable Palestinian state.

Then came the horrific terror attack against innocent Israeli civilians on Oct. 7. Norway condemned the attack in the strongest terms. We’ve demanded the hostages be released immediately. And we’ve clearly stated that Israel has the right to defend itself within the framework of international law. The terror attack was committed by Hamas — which isn’t a supporter of any two-state solution, and also doesn’t recognize Israel.

It’s my firm view that the recognition of Palestine as a state can help strengthen the moderate forces on the Palestinian side. It can help those working peacefully to achieve a two-state solution — a state functioning in compliance with international law, including the U.N. Charter and relevant U.N. resolutions. It may also help strengthen moderate forces on the Israeli side.

The alternative is what we see today, with those promoting violence and insecurity dominating the agenda, bringing no hope for the future.

The war we’ve witnessed over the past six months has left Gaza in ruins, with tens of thousands killed and injured, and what we see now in Rafah is harrowing. The security of both Israelis and Palestinians has been further undermined, and the stability of the entire Middle East is under threat.

Norway sees many reasons why it is important to formally recognize Palestine at this moment:

First, the ongoing war in Gaza has made it abundantly clear that achieving peace and stability must be predicated on resolving the Palestinian question. This war is the lowest point in the prolonged negative development of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The war has led to increasing unrest in the West Bank and growing tensions between the countries in the region. The situation in the Middle East hasn’t been this grave in many years.

Second, an increasing number of countries are now seeing the need to strengthen the international political voice of the Palestinian people. On May 10, as many as 143 countries voted in favor of a resolution supporting U.N. membership for Palestine at the U.N. General Assembly.

Third, by recognizing a Palestinian state, we now support the Arab peace plan major players in the region have been working on. The establishment of a Palestinian state and the normalization of relations between Arab countries and Israel — including recognition of the state of Israel — are two decisive aspects of this plan. Norway’s now cooperating closely with Saudi Arabia, and we are working to mobilize European support for the plan.

Fourth, there’s increased support today in Europe for a Palestinian state. Norway’s recognized Palestine at a time when other European countries — Spain and Ireland — have done the same. And as many may remember, Oslo and Madrid both played important — but different — roles in the peace process in the early 1990s. We’re in close contact with other European countries as well.

Fifth, the formal recognition of Palestine as a state is a natural step in the policy Norway’s pursued for decades. This will give us greater weight in our ongoing efforts to encourage other countries to recognize Palestine, and invest in the only solution that can bring lasting peace to the Middle East.

Finally, in the big picture, we’ve rarely been as far away from a viable two-state solution as today. At the same time, there’s rarely been broader political support for this approach. In what must follow, after a cease-fire in Gaza, full access to humanitarian aid and the unconditional release of hostages, Palestinians must have the right to enjoy the integrity of statehood.

Norway’s recognition is a contribution to this.