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The Israeli foreign ministry has ordered the Spanish Consulate in Jerusalem to stop providing consular services to Palestinians "resident under the Palestinian Authority", that is to say in the occupied West Bank, from June 1st onwards, in retaliation for Spain's decision to recognize the Palestinian State. In a diplomatic note sent to the embassy this Monday, Israeli foreign minister Israel Katz formalized this ban, which he had already announced on Friday as punishment for Spain's recognition of the Palestinian State. The Israeli government also commented on statements made by Spain's second deputy PM, Yolanda Díaz, who closed a speech using the pro-Palestinian slogan "From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free", a line which Israel considers anti-semitic.

"It is the year 2024, the days of the Inquisition are over. Today, the Jewish people have a sovereign and independent state, and no one will force us to convert our religion or threaten our existence - those who harm us, we will harm in return", said Katz in a statement in which he formally announced the first "punitive measures against Spain". According to these measures, Israel prohibits the Spanish consulate in Jerusalem from "conducting consular activities or providing consular services to residents of the Palestinian Authority", although it clarified that the measure does not apply to people with Spanish nationality.

The role of the Spanish embassy in Israel

"Following the decision of the government of Spain to recognize the 'State of Palestine', and after the inciting and hateful anti-semitic statements made by senior Spanish officials, including deputy prime minister Yolanda Díaz, we wish to notify the Embassy that the Consulate General of Spain in Jerusalem may provide consular services to residents of the Jerusalem consular district only, and not to residents of the Palestinian Authority", stated the letter sent to the embassy in Tel Aviv.

Spain has its embassy in Israel in Tel Aviv, but since before 1948 it has maintained a consulate in Jerusalem, which for decades has functioned as a de facto embassy to the Palestinians and maintains diplomatic relations with the Palestinian National Authority (ANP). The ban imposed by Israel is intended to enter into force on June 1st, 2024, and if it is not respected, the ministry "will take further actions."

"I have applied preliminary punitive measures against the Spanish Consulate in Jerusalem, which I decided after the recognition by the Spanish government of a 'Palestinian State' as a gift to the killers of Hamas and the serious anti-semitic incitement of its leaders against the existence of the state of Israel", said the minister Katz.

On the X social network, the Israeli minister had earlier posted a video featuring cliched images of Spain, in which two actors parody flamenco dancing, interspersed with images of the Hamas attack on Israel on October 7th last year; accompanied by the message directed at prime minister Pedro Sánchez: "Hamas thanks you for your service". The Spanish foreign ministry called the post "scandalous" and "abominable", in a press conference in Brussels held jointly with the prime minister of the ANP, Mohammad Mustafa.

The announcement by Spain, Ireland and Norway

Last Tuesday, Spain, together with Ireland and Norway, announced recognition of the Palestinian State, which all three countries will formalize tomorrow, a move that provoked the anger of Israel, which immediately called its ambassadors in these three countries for consultations, and summoned those countries' diplomatic representatives for a "reprimand". During a joint press conference of the foreign ministers of the three countries, the Spanish foreign minister, José Manuel Albares, declared that "recognizing the Palestinian state is justice for its people, it is the best guarantee of security for Israel and is indispensable." "Oslo and Madrid have hosted two of the most important meetings between Israel and Palestine to reach peace. Ireland's history also reflects tireless support for peace in the Middle East. Ireland, Norway and Spain coincide in the fact that it is necessary to stop the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza. More than 35,000 deaths is an unbearable number," he asserted. 

"The ceasefire will allow us to work towards a peace conference at which all parties can talk around the table, and the Arab partners, with whom we have spoken in recent weeks, are willing to take part. Tomorrow our three countries will experience an historic day that will surely bring us closer to this goal of achieving a peaceful and safe coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians", he affirmed.

For his part, the Irish foreign minister, Micheál Martin, stated that he condemns "the violence of this Sunday" in which "innocent civilians, including children, were killed and human rights are being violated", in reference to the Israeli rocket strikes on Rafah, in Gaza.

"Our recognition of both States is an unequivocal message that only a future in which Palestinians and Israelis alike enjoy equal rights is acceptable and is sustainable. We are focussed on building cross-regional cooperation and on the establishment of a Palestinian State." His Norwegian counterpart, Espen Barth Eide, insisted that "it is what must be done, recognizing the Palestinian State. Israelis live in fear, but there is also extreme violence in Gaza. Recognizing the Palestinian State is one of the many pieces of the puzzle that will allow us to reach peace."

Who recognizes Palestine?

More than 140 countries recognize the Palestinian State, including eight European countries - Bulgaria, Poland, the Czech Republic, Romania, Slovakia, Hungary, Cyprus and Sweden - as well as almost all Arab countries or those historically linked to the non-aligned movement.

In addition, Palestine is a full member of the Arab League, the Non-Aligned Movement, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and UNESCO; while at the United Nations it has been an observer, despite the fact that the General Assembly voted this month in favour of upgrading its status.