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US Opposes Recognition of Palestine by Ireland, Norway, Spain

The White House has expressed its opposition to the “unilateral recognition” of a Palestinian state following announcements from Ireland, Norway, and Spain about establishing relations with Palestine. However, it also cautioned Israel against retaliating by withholding funds from the Palestinian Authority (PA).

President Joe Biden supports a two-state solution, as emphasized by his national security advisor, Jake Sullivan, in a statement on Wednesday. Sullivan reiterated Biden’s stance that this solution should be achieved through direct negotiations between the parties involved, rather than through unilateral recognition.

While Sullivan refrained from directly criticizing the three European countries’ decision to recognize the State of Palestine, he emphasized the clear position of the United States on this matter, stating, “Each country is entitled to make its own determinations, but the US position on this is clear.”

Israel reacted strongly to the recognition, withdrawing envoys and prompting hawkish Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to accuse the European nations of rewarding “terror.” Additionally, far-right Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich urged Netanyahu to take retaliatory measures, including ending an arrangement in which Norway handles funds intended for the Palestinian Authority.

Tax Revenue Allocation for Palestinians

Under peace agreements negotiated in part by Norway during the 1990s, Israel has been responsible for collecting tax revenues on behalf of the Palestinian Authority (PA), which has limited autonomy in certain areas of the occupied West Bank.

However, Israel has ceased transferring these funds since the aftermath of the October 7th offensive by Hamas, the governing authority in besieged Gaza.

Jake Sullivan emphasized the importance of continuing these fund transfers to the Palestinian Authority, which the Biden administration seeks to bolster with the aim of potentially assuming control of Gaza from Hamas.

He criticized Israel’s decision to halt the funds, stating that it is strategically misguided as it destabilizes the West Bank, undermines efforts for security and prosperity for Palestinians (which is also in Israel’s interests), and deprives innocent people of basic goods and services.

The tax revenues, referred to as “maqasa” in Palestine and Israel, are collected by the Israeli government on behalf of the PA from Palestinian imports and exports, with Israel receiving a 3 percent commission in return.

These revenues amount to approximately $188 million per month and serve as the primary source of income for the PA.

According to the PA, Israel has withheld approximately $1.5 billion since the commencement of its conflict with Gaza.

Netanyahu Firm on Rejecting Sovereign Palestine

Despite pressure from Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken to advance a Palestinian state, which includes the potential for Saudi Arabia to normalize relations with Israel, Netanyahu remains resolute.

Washington’s recent veto of a UN Security Council attempt to recognize Palestine underscores its stance that recognition must come through negotiations considering Israel’s security concerns.

However, Netanyahu and his advisors staunchly oppose ending Israel’s occupation or recognizing an independent Palestine. Netanyahu reiterated this stance, stating his government “will not agree to it.”

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