US opposes unilateral Palestine recognition but voices concern over Israel isolation

AFP , Ahram Online , Thursday 23 May 2024

The White House said Wednesday it opposed "unilateral recognition" of a Palestinian state after Ireland, Norway, and Spain announced they would establish relations, but also voiced concern over Israel’s growing diplomatic isolation.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan speaks during the daily briefing at the White House in Washingt.AP


President Joe Biden "has been on the record supporting a two-state solution," his national security advisor Jake Sullivan told reporters.

"He has been equally emphatic on the record that the two-state solution should be brought about through direct negotiations through the parties, not through unilateral recognition," he said.

He stopped short of criticizing the decision to formally recognize the State of Palestine by the three European countries, all close allies of the United States.

"Each country is entitled to make its determinations, but the US position on this is clear," Sullivan said.

Under peace agreements brokered in part by Norway in the 1990s, Israel collects money for the Palestinian Authority, which exercises limited autonomy in parts of the West Bank.

However, Israel has blocked transfers since it launched its war on Gaza.

Sullivan said that funds should keep going to the Palestinian Authority, which the Biden administration wants to strengthen in hopes it can assume control of Gaza from Hamas.

"I think it's wrong on a strategic basis because withholding funds destabilizes the West Bank," Sullivan said of Israeli moves to stop funds.

"It undermines the search for security and prosperity for the Palestinian people which is in Israel's interests, and, I think, it's wrong to withhold funds that provide basic goods and services to innocent people," he said.

Israel's isolation

The US is concerned about Israel’s growing diplomatic isolation among countries that have traditionally supported it, Jake Sullivan said at a White House briefing.

Sullivan’s remarks followed the announcement made by Ireland, Spain, and Norway that they will formally recognize a Palestinian state next week.

When Sullivan – who is due to visit the country in the coming days – was asked if he was concerned about Israel’s diplomatic isolation, he answered affirmatively.

“I think it’s a fair question,” he said. “As a country that stands strong in defense of Israel in international forums like the United Nations, we certainly have seen a growing chorus of voices, including voices that had previously been in support of Israel, drift in another direction. That is of concern to us because we do not believe that that contributes to Israel’s long-term security or vitality … So that’s something we have discussed with the Israeli government.”

Rafah Warning

Addressing Israel's assault on Rafah, Sullivan said that Israel has so far been taking more "targeted" action in Rafah but renewed its warning to avoid "a lot of death and destruction" in the southern Gaza city.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin spoke with Israeli Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant to discuss the situation in Gaza and "the United States' ironclad support for Israel," according to the ministry's statement.

Austin reiterated "strong US objections" to the International Criminal Court prosecutor's application for arrest warrants against Israeli leaders.  

Nevertheless, Austin "underscored the urgent need to increase humanitarian assistance to Gaza across all available crossings."

He also "encouraged the Israeli government to conclude talks with Egypt to reopen Rafah Crossing and resume the flow of aid from Egypt."

US President Joe Biden earlier this month warned Israel he would stop supplying some arms and his administration halted one shipment including massive bombs after he voiced opposition to a major assault on Rafah, where more than one million displaced Palestinians had found shelter.

Biden's national security advisor said he was told during a visit this week to Israel of "refinements" in its plans for Rafah that would allow it "to achieve its military objectives while taking account of civilian harm."

"What we have seen so far in terms of Israel's military operations in that area has been more targeted and limited, has not involved major military operations into the heart of dense urban areas," Sullivan told reporters.

But he stopped short of saying that Israel had addressed US concerns, adding that Washington was closely watching ongoing Israeli actions.

"There's no mathematical formula. What we're going to be looking at is whether there is a lot of death and destruction from this operation, or if it is more precise and proportional," he said.

"We will see what will unfold."

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