Joe Biden Restores American Aid to the Palestinian Authority


Al Bawaba - TRANSCEND Media Service

While the move is a good sign, it might not be enough to persuade both sides to renegotiate their differences, experts say.

28 Jan 2021 – After four trying years under the Trump administration, Palestinians finally have some good news from the new US President Joe Biden. He has ordered a restoration of American aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA).

In 2018, Trump stopped transferring aid to the PA and closed down its US mission in East Jerusalem as well as the PA office in Washington.

Trump pursued an extraordinarily pro-Israel foreign policy, persuading some Middle Eastern states like the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan to normalise relations with the Zionist state, breaking up the pro-Palestinian Arab bloc.

Under Biden, some of these policies will likely stay unchanged, like the Arab-Israeli normalisation deals, or the moving of the US embassy to Jerusalem. But Palestinians like Kemal Hawwash, the Chair of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) and a founding member of the British Palestinian Policy Council (BPPC), still welcome Biden’s aid announcement.

“It’s clear that the situation under the Trump administration reached a complete deadlock with both the Palestinian leadership and Palestinian people because they cut all aid including to hospitals in Jerusalem,” Hawwash tells TRT World.

“It was not political. It was really vengeful,” he says, referring Trump’s anti-Palestinian policies.

After all, even the mere disappearance of that vengeful stance makes Palestinians feel better about the new US administration, according to Hawwash.

“I think it would be good to see reestablishing [ties with the PA], reopening the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) mission in Washington and reopening of the American consulate in East Jerusalem,” he says.

While the acting US envoy to the UN, Richard Mills, indicated that Washington will enable the PA to access aid cut out by the Trump administration, he did not specify whether the PLO mission will be allowed to operate in the American capital and if the US will reopen its consulate in East Jerusalem.

However, at the end of the day, the Biden administration has displayed goodwill towards the Palestinians.

“We do not view these steps as a favor to the Palestinian leadership,” Mills said.

“U.S. assistance benefits millions of ordinary Palestinians and helps to preserve a stable environment that benefits both Palestinians and Israelis,” the US envoy added.

Yousef Alhelou, a Palestinian political analyst, hails the new political mood in Washington.

“It’s a good shift, it’s the right move to correct Trump’s dangerous reckless moves namely sabotaging the international system and international consensus on main issues such as the status of the occupied Palestinian Territories, Jerusalem, UNRWA’s support to Palestinian refugees, etc..,” Alhelou tells TRT World.

The UNRWA is the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East. Its assistance to Palestinians living out of their homeland has been crucial for their survival.

Is the two-state solution back?

Mills also endorsed the two-state solution as long as it’s “mutually agreed”, signalling that Washington wants to bring both sides back to the negotiating table.

“I think Biden will be able to revive the US’s image and restore its slogan as a peace mediator,” says Alhelou.

He, however, has typical Palestinian scepticism towards Western promises to his people after the many disappointments since the Balfour Declaration of 1917 by the British, the then-colonial power over Palestine, which paved the way for the creation of Israel.

“It’s too early to judge his intentions. The US administration has been always pro-Israel and I doubt he will be be pro-Justice [pro-Palestinian],” he says.

“Let’s wait and see,” he adds.

The optimism is not shared simply among Palestinians like Alhelou and Hawwash, but supporters of Israel also feel buoyant about the US approach to the conflict in the Holy Land.

“This is exactly the type of swift action the administration needs to take to restore American credibility as a diplomatic mediator between Israelis and Palestinians,” said Jeremy Ben-Ami, the president of J Street, a pro-Democrat American-Jewish political action group, which backs the Palestinian-Israeli peace process.

Leading Palestinians also reacted positively to the restoration of American aid to the PA.

“For the first time, President Biden’s administration has officially expressed its position toward the peace process and the two-state solution,” said Ahmed Majdalani, a member of the PLO’s executive committee and minister of social development at the PA.

Despite positive messages, Hawwash thinks Palestinians should be careful when navigating a political route with the Americans and not to give any concessions on their rights guaranteed by international law.

“It will bring the Palestinians back to talking with the Americans. But interesting that although [US] comments say that they seek the two-state solution, the Americans are not anxious to get talks going. It may take a while for them to restart,” he says.

“I think the Palestinian Authority will return and will be ready to go to negotiations. But the question will be on what base,” he says. But the PA should reject any negotiations based on Trump’s infamous Deal of the Century, he adds.

“The Palestinians should be cautious about returning unless they know that they [negotiations] are based on international law,” he concludes.

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