Barack Obama might not be the 46th president of the United States, but his fingerprints all over the Biden administration couldn’t be more obvious. As I reported on Monday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki snagged the ignominious term “strategic patience” from Obama’s disastrous foreign policy and slapped it onto Biden’s China policy.
And on Tuesday, the Biden administration announced it was restoring relations with the Palestinians — those pesky folks who have a proclivity for indiscriminately firing rockets into Israeli civilian areas every now and again — as well as restoring financial aid to Palestinian refugees, à la the Obama administration, as reported by the Associated Press.
The Biden administration says it will resume contact with Palestinian leaders and restore U.S. contributions to the U.N. agency which provides aid to Palestinians — a sharp turn in U.S. policy in the region.https://t.co/5J8hFrBGW7
— NPR (@NPR) January 27, 2021
Acting U.S. Ambassador Richard Mills made the announcement of
Barack Obama and Susan Rice’s Biden’s decision during a high-level, virtual Security Council meeting.
U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration announced Tuesday it was restoring relations with the Palestinians and renewing aid to Palestinian refugees, a reversal of the Trump administration’s cutoff and a key element of its new support for a two-state solution to the decades-old conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.
Acting U.S. Ambassador Richard Mills made the announcement of Biden’s approach to a high-level virtual Security Council meeting, saying the new U.S. administration believes this “remains the best way to ensure Israel’s future as a democratic and Jewish state while upholding the Palestinians’ legitimate aspirations for a state of their own and to live with dignity and security.”
President Donald Trump’s administration provided unprecedented support to Israel, recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv, slashing financial assistance for the Palestinians and reversing course on the illegitimacy of Israeli settlements on land claimed by the Palestinians.
Incidentally, the cornerstone of Barack Obama’s Middle East policy appeared to be throwing the Jewish state and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu under the bus at every opportunity, including his parting betrayal in December 2016, when he refused to veto a UN Security Council resolution against Israel’s settlement policy, described in a Wall Street Journal op-ed as “clearly intended to tip the peace process toward the Palestinians.”
Mills told the AP the Biden administration would employ a more “even-handed approach” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict than that of the Trump administration.
“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.
“In order to advance these objectives, the Biden administration will restore credible U.S. engagement with Palestinians as well as Israelis. This will involve renewing U.S. relations with the Palestinian leadership and Palestinian people.”
And of course the cash:
“President Biden has been clear that he intends to restore U.S. assistance programs that support economic development programs and humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people, and to take steps to re-open diplomatic relations that were closed by the last U.S. administration.”
Before Mills spoke, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki predictably threw the Trump administration under the bus for using “the United States’ might and influence to support Israel’s unlawful efforts to entrench its occupation and control.”
“Now is the time to heal and repair the damage left by the previous U.S. administration,” Malki said. “We look forward to the reversal of the unlawful and hostile measures undertaken by the Trump administration and to working together for peace.”
Palestinians. “Working together for peace” with a country most of them vehemently refused to recognize and would like nothing better than to “push into the sea.” Sounds legit.
— The Hill (@thehill) January 26, 2021
The Times of Israel had a “slightly” different take on the Trump administration’s involvement with the Palestinians than the AP, as well as commitments by Biden and Kamala Harris to re-open the Palestinian Liberation Organization diplomatic mission in Washington, D.C.
Former US President Donald Trump closed the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s diplomatic mission in Washington in 2018, against the backdrop of the Palestinian Authority’s boycott of his administration following the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
In 2019, the Trump administration shuttered the US consulate in Jerusalem, which served as the de-facto embassy to the Palestinians in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza. The mission was folded into the US embassy to Israel in Jerusalem and the previous position of consulate-general was dissolved.
US President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris vowed during the campaign to re-open both missions, but they did not specify how they plan on doing so. Reopening the PLO mission in Washington would violate Congressional legislation that ordered its shuttering if the Palestinians filed a suit against Israel at the ICC, which they did in 2017.
Reopening the consulate in Jerusalem would require some degree of permission from the Israeli government, which is not expected to back a move that effectively re-designates the West Bank as a separate entity from Israel.
In addition to reopening diplomatic missions, Mills said the US will restore millions of dollars in Palestinian aid, which was cut under Trump after the Palestinians refused to engage with the U.S.’s peace efforts, noted The Times.
And then there’s Hamas, the U.S.-designated Palestinian terrorist organization, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Palestinian Liberation Organization, and other extremist factions, as reported by the Jerusalem Post, all of whom have expressed opposition to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s intention to resume peace talks with Israel and engage with the Biden administration. Solution? Addled old Joe should “reach out” to Hamas.
— Middle East Monitor (@MiddleEastMnt) January 27, 2021
The Islamist extremist groups have also opposed the recent decision by Abbas to restore security and civil relations with Israel, five months after he announced that the Palestinians are “absolved” of all agreements and understandings with Israel and the US.
So in with the new, and out with the old. And the Palestinian-Israeli screw turns once more. Except, after a different approach in the Middle East by the Trump administration that was beginning to bear fruit. So in a real sense, it’s out with the new, and in with the old.
Barack “Red Line” Obama style. What could possibly go wrong?