The Biden administration is renewing American relations with the Palestinian leadership, previously neglected under the Trump administration, which sought to strengthen America’s ties with legitimate governments in the Middle East.
On Tuesday, the administration announced that it intended to restore “credible engagement” with the Palestinian Authority and develop a two-state solution for the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“Under the new administration, the policy of the United States will be to support a mutually agreed two-state solution, one in which Israel lives in peace and security alongside a viable Palestinian state,” said Richard Mills, acting U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, to the UN Security Council.
“In order to advance these objectives, the Biden administration will restore credible US engagement with Palestinians as well as Israelis,” Mills added. “This will involve renewing US relations with the Palestinian leadership and Palestinian people.”
Mills stated that the Biden administration intended to reopen its diplomatic offices to Palestinians and restore foreign aid allocations to the state entity, which was not formally recognized by the Trump administration. The recognition of the Palestinian government would effectively reverse policies enacted by the previous administration.
“President Biden has been clear that he intends to restore US assistance programs that support economic development programs and humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people, and to take steps to reopen diplomatic relations that were closed by the last US administration,” Mills said.
According to the Times of Israel, former President Trump shuttered the Palestinian Liberation Organisation’s diplomatic mission in Washington D.C. in 2018, in response to the Palestinian Authority’s boycott of the U.S. government following its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. In 2019, the U.S. government closed its consulate in Jerusalem which served as a de facto embassy to the Palestinians. That mission was folded into the official U.S. embassy to Israel in Jerusalem, dissolving the previous mission.
During their campaign, both President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris vowed to reopen the U.S. mission to the Palestinians, but did not specify how they planned to do so. Under congressional legislation, reopening the PLO mission in Washington would go against a previous order to shutter the mission after the Palestinians filed a suit against Israel at the ICC in 2017. Reopening the de facto consulate in Jerusalem would also require permission from the Israeli government, which the Israelis are unlikely to give as it would connote recognizing the West Bank as separate from Israel.
Critics have warned the Biden administration that any American diplomatic aid given to the Palestinians would go towards their policy of “pay-for-slay,” in which the Palestinian Authority pays the families of terrorists who commit acts of violence against Israelis, including civilians.
The Trump administration terminated foreign aid to the Palestinian Authority as a result of the policy, saying that aid would only be restored if they abandoned the practice. Thus far, the Biden administration has not raised any concerns about what the Palestinians intend to do with any aid they receive from U.S. taxpayers.