Israel stops Spanish consulate from providing services to Palestinians

Israel's acting foreign minister Israel Katz, who also serves as intelligence and transport minister, attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem

JERUSALEM/MADRID (Reuters) - Israel will block the Spanish consulate in Jerusalem from providing services to Palestinians in the occupied West Bank following Madrid's decision this week to recognize a Palestinian state, Foreign Minister Israel Katz said on Friday.

The move is the latest step in an acrimonious standoff between Israel and Spain, which joined forces with Ireland and Norway to announce it was recognizing Palestine as part of efforts to pressure Israel to end the war in Gaza, where the Israeli campaign has killed more than 35,000 people.

Israel has rejected the measure, accusing the three European countries of rewarding Hamas for its devastating attack on Israel on Oct 7 that killed some 1,200 Israelis and foreigners and saw around 250 abducted into Gaza.

Katz was particularly angered by what he described as antisemitic comments from Spain's Labour Minister Yolanda Diaz, who used the expression "Palestine will be free from the river to the sea" in a video posted on X this week.

The expression, first used by the Palestine Liberation Organisation, is taken by many in Israel as a call for the destruction of the Israeli state.

Diaz, who is also leader of junior coalition partner Sumar in the Spanish government, said on Friday her words were intended to celebrate an attempt to find a peace through a two-state solution to the Middle East conflict and that she wasn't an antisemite.

"I do not agree with the politics of hate," she told reporters in Madrid. "I think it was understood what I was trying to explain in the video, that this is a very important step that we have taken as a country."

Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares said on Friday that Spain was analyzing Israel's decision to limit the Spanish consulate's abilities to serve Palestinians in the West Bank.

"We're talking about occupied territories recognized by the United Nations. We are analyzing with Norway and Ireland what actions we can take," he said.

(Reporting by James Mackenzie in Jerusalem and Belen Carreno and Charlie Devereux in Madrid, Editing by William Maclean)