After the Swedish government officially recognized the state of Palestine Thursday, Israeli officials announced the withdrawal of the Israeli ambassador from the northern European nation.The recognition by Sweden’s newly elected government marks the largest Western European nation to recognize the state of Palestine. Malta and Cyprus have also recognized Palestine as a state.

Margot Wallstrom, Sweden’s Foreign Minister, made the announcement Thursday morning that the Swedish government would officially recognize Palestine, following a promise made earlier this month when the Social Democratic coalition took office.

Palestinian legislator Hanan Ashrawi called the Swedish move ‘a principled and courageous decision”, and added, ‘It is our hope that other EU member states and countries worldwide will follow Sweden’s lead and recognize Palestine before the chances for a two-state solution are destroyed indefinitely.’

Sweden has long offered a safe haven for Palestinian refugees, providing them with Swedish citizenship and assistance if they chose to move to Sweden. But the government of Sweden also recognizes the importance of Palestinians remaining in their homeland, as Israeli settlements continue to encroach on sovereign Palestinian land.

British legislators voted earlier this month to recognize Palestine, but the move was largely symbolic.

In addition, the United Nations has recognized the state of Palestine on a number of different levels, but the Security Council resolution proposed for that purpose by the Palestinian delegation has been threatened with a veto by the U.S. government.

After peace talks brokered by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry broke down in April, Israel has feverishly increased the pace of settlement construction on Palestinian land in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

In addition, Israel launched a massive invasion of Gaza in July that lasted fifty days and resulted in more than 2200 Palestinian deaths, the vast majority of whom were civilians. 64 Israelis were also killed, 3 of whom were civilians.