MADRID/BRUSSELS/TEL AVIV — In a significant departure from European Union norms, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez announced Spain’s readiness to independently recognise a Palestinian state. This statement came during his press conference at the Egyptian Rafah border crossing, where Sanchez emphasized the urgency for the international community, particularly the EU, to acknowledge Palestine’s statehood.
Sanchez, recently re-elected, underscored that while collective recognition by several EU member states would be ideal, Spain will not hesitate to act solo if necessary. This stance is a continuation of his prior commitment to prioritise Palestine’s recognition in his new term.
Accompanied by Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, Sanchez’s tour through Israel, Palestine, and Egypt focused heavily on the civilian safety in Gaza and Israel’s compliance with international humanitarian law. However, their comments met with sharp criticism from Israel, with Foreign Minister Eli Cohen accusing the leaders of supporting terrorism and summoning their ambassadors in Tel Aviv for a severe rebuke.
Sanchez directly criticised Israel’s actions in Gaza, alleging non-compliance with international law and the indiscriminate killing of children. De Croo, while more measured in his remarks, echoed concerns about the humanitarian crisis and emphasised the need for discussions on Palestinian recognition post-resolution of immediate issues like the hostage situation with Hamas.
Nine EU member states currently recognise Palestine, a movement initiated by Sweden in 2014 as an EU member. The Spanish and Belgian leaders’ visit also included discussions with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who advocated for a demilitarised Palestinian state along 1967 borders, possibly under international oversight.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu strongly condemned the remarks from Sanchez and De Croo, accusing them of ignoring Hamas’s role in the conflict. Both European leaders have condemned the October 7 Hamas attack, advocating for Israel’s right to self-defense but simultaneously calling for a humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen also commented on the situation, underscoring the need for a peaceful coexistence through a two-state solution and calling for an end to extremist violence in the West Bank. Her statement highlighted the necessity of a viable and independent Palestinian state as part of a long-term solution in the region.