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3 European nations break with U.S. and formally recognize an independent Palestine


In a historic and coordinated announcement, Ireland, Norway, and Spain said today they will formally recognize an independent Palestine. That will happen next week, and it breaks with the policy of most Western nations, including the U.S. Palestinians reacted with joy - Israel, with anger. It recalled their ambassadors. We will get to that. But first, Kenya's president, William Ruto, is in D.C. on a three-day state visit. It coincides with the arrival of Kenyan officers into gang-plagued Haiti. Kenya will lead a multinational force there to try to get this under control. Joining us now to discuss all this is White House National Security Communications Adviser John Kirby. Good morning, Admiral, and welcome to the program.

JOHN KIRBY: Good morning. Thank you so much for having me.

FADEL: Thanks for being here. I want to start with Kenya. Kenya will lead a multinational force in Haiti, as I mentioned, that will lean heavily on U.S. funding. Is that the focus of this visit?

KIRBY: Actually, the visit is focused on a much broader, deeper set of bilateral initiatives that we're working on with Kenya. This is the 60th year of our bilateral relationship with Kenya. We're very much looking forward to it. And you're going to see both presidents talk about, again, a full range of things. I have no doubt that the security situation in Haiti will be on the agenda, and we are grateful, remain grateful, for President Ruto's leadership here when it comes to being willing to lead this multinational security support mission. I'll let the Kenyans, of course, speak to what that's going to look like and the timing and all that, but we're grateful for their leadership on this, that they're stepping into that, and we will obviously continue to do what we can to support the Kenyans as they get ready for this mission.

FADEL: Are these forces ready to take on the challenges in Haiti? I mean, these gangs have reigned there for months now and a lot of people are waiting for someone to intervene.

KIRBY: Oh, we definitely want to see security improved for the people of Haiti, and we believe that this multinational security support mission will really help alleviate the conditions and to also help improve the capabilities and the performance of the Haitian national police. It's important to remember what this is and what it's not. It's not a international mission to come in and take over all security apparatus, it's to really help the Haitian national police. And we are working with the Kenyans as they prepare for that deployment, and we're confident that they will have the skills. They'll have the capabilities. They'll have the leadership. And quite frankly, they'll have the support from the United States and other partners as they get ready to embrace it.

FADEL: I want to get to some news from this morning - Norway, Ireland, Spain, announcing that they will recognize a Palestinian state next week. Other European nations, U.S. allies, are expected to follow suit. Is this something that the U.S. welcomes?

KIRBY: No. Actually, we don't. We do not support unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state, which we believe can only and should only be achieved through negotiations. So we obviously have a longstanding consistent policy with respect to this, and nothing has changed in our regard on that.

FADEL: Well, let me ask you about that, because right now, it doesn't seem like there is an actual solution on the horizon. Now Netanyahu has clearly rejected the U.S. call for a two-state solution. On the ground for all intents and purposes, there is a one-state reality, Israel and occupied Palestinian territories. The Palestinian authority is weak and unpopular. There is this war going on. European allies are saying this is the way to push it forward. How do you actually get there if the U.S. wants a two-state solution, wants a negotiated peace?

KIRBY: Well, we've been working on that very, very hard in the last 3 1/2 years to try to move the process forward to get to the possibility of a two- state solution. Look, we're not Pollyannish about this. We know how hard it's going to be. We know that a two-state solution is not just around the corner. But one of the things the president has been working hard on is a more integrated cooperative region. And one of the aspects of that is perhaps pursuing normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia. Now again, we're not close to that at this point, but both sides are still interested in talking about that and moving it forward. As a matter of fact...

FADEL: And when you say both sides, are you talking about Israel and Saudi Arabia and the U.S., Israel and Palestinians - what about the Palestinians in that equation?

KIRBY: Israel and Saudi Arabia, yeah. Exactly right. In order to get to normalization, of course, there would have to be something in there that would be for the Palestinian people, for the Palestinian authority. And we believe that the Palestinian authority - this gets to your question - they need to do more to reform themselves. They need to revitalize themselves. They need to be seen as as more credibly able to meet the aspirations of the Palestinian people. We've seen them take some steps in that regard that are welcome. There's more that needs to be done. But just because - I guess I would tell you, we have a different view here.

FADEL: Right.

KIRBY: But unilateral recognition is not the way to pressurize the system to get to a two-state solution. We believe the best way to do that is to direct negotiations with the two sides and tangentially to working towards a more integrated region to include potentially normalization.

FADEL: Now, more than two-thirds of U.N. member states recognize a Palestinian state. We're seeing European allies of the U.S. do the same. Does this, at this point, put the U.S. position into a globally isolated position?

KIRBY: We believe that the approach that we're trying to take is in the best interest of the Palestinian people, who deserve a state of their own, absolutely. And it's also in the best interest of the Israeli people, who deserve to have their security guaranteed, and all that would be part of the process we would want to pursue. And there are many around the region and around the world who support that approach. Now, look, every nation has to speak for itself. These are sovereign decisions, and we respect that. We just respectfully have a different view about what the best possible sustainable outcome here is, and that's the key. That's the key. If you're going to get to a two-state solution, and we believe you can, it has to be sustainable. It has to be enduring. And the only way that you can make it sustainable is with both parties, Palestinians and Israelis, at the table, negotiating this, talking it out, and working it out amongst themselves. Anything that's forced and artificially placed instead of that is likely not going to be sustainable.

FADEL: But they're not at the table, Admiral. So what I'm asking is, what is the path forward? We talked about a deal with Saudi Arabia, but Israel and the Palestinians are not at the table.

KIRBY: No, not right now, of course not. But that doesn't mean that we can't get there. One of the things we're trying to do is try to get a hostage deal in place, tied to a cease-fire in Gaza, for instance. That would get all the hostages home, get six weeks of calm in Gaza. Then that might lead, we hope, to something more enduring and more enduring calm and more enduring peace in Gaza. If you can get there - wait, let me finish. If you can get that, then you can really get these normalization talks going in a more concerted way. We were making progress before 7 of October. We want to be able to try to revisit that. And we think if normalization occurs, then you can absolutely get closer to a two-state solution.

FADEL: That's White House National Security Communications Adviser John Kirby. Thank you so much for your time in coming on the program again.

KIRBY: Thank you very much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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