The United States took great strides this week in reversing the policies of the previous administration vis a vis the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – restoring aid to the Palestinians and endorsing a two-state solution.
In a call with Jordan’s King Abdullah II, President Joe Biden promised to work for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, according to a White House statement. This followed an earlier decision to restore funding for the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees which former President Donald Trump had cut off.
“We plan to restart U.S. economic, development, and humanitarian assistance for the Palestinian people,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement. “It provides critical relief to those in great need, fosters economic development and supports Israeli-Palestinian understanding, security coordination and stability,”
The $235 million package includes $150 million to UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, $75 million in economic and development assistance for the West Bank and Gaza and $10 million in peace-building programs, the State Department said. Another $40 million for Palestinian security forces and $15 million for COVID-19 assistance was also set promised.
Israel denounced the renewal of aid to UNRWA. Israel has long argued that UNRWA uses textbooks that promote incitement against Israel and question its right to exist.
“Israel is strongly opposed to the anti-Israel and anti-Semitic activity happening in UNRWA’s facilities,” said Gilad Erdan, the Israeli ambassador to the United States. “We believe that this U.N. agency for so-called ‘refugees’ should not exist in its current format. UNRWA schools regularly use materials that incite against Israel and the twisted definition used by the agency to determine who is a ‘refugee’ only perpetuates the conflict.”
“I have expressed my disappointment and objection to the decision to renew UNRWA’s funding without first ensuring that certain reforms, including stopping the incitement and removing anti-Semitic content from its educational curriculum, are carried out,” he said.
UNRWA welcomed the funding. The organization maintains that the pandemic and the war in Syria have created an urgency in Syria, troubled Lebanon and Jordan. One of the Trump administration arguments was for the permanent resettlement of Palestinian refugees.
But State Department spokesman Ned Price said that this gives the United States “a seat at the table,” allowing American oversight and input.
The Biden administration has taken the same approach to the Iranian nuclear deal, opening talks to renew the agreement which Trump had pulled the U.S. out of in 2018.
During Trump’s presidency, American relations with the Palestinian Authority tanked. Trump cut off aid and made several decisions that Palestinians felt heavily favored Israel including recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state and moving the U.S. embassy to the city and closed the Palestinian Liberation Organization office in Washington.
Palestinians have been waiting for the transition to the Biden administration in hopes that Biden would walk back some of those moves.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas welcomed the restoration of funding and Biden’s “commitment to the two-state solution as a basis for resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.”
Abbas was scheduled to return to Ramallah today following a “routine” medical checkup in Germany, his office announced.
“President Mahmoud Abbas has completed his previously scheduled medical examinations in Germany,” the Palestinian presidency said in a statement. “The president is in good health and will return to the homeland on Thursday.”