RAMALLAH, West Bank — The recent fighting in the Gaza Strip between Israel and the resistance factions motivated the US government to take political and diplomatic steps from the area and to renew contact with the Palestinian Authority (PA).
On May 15, US President Joe Biden called his Palestinian counterpart Mahmoud Abbas, also US Secretary of State Antony Blinken seen Ramallah on May 25.
Together with these moves, the US administration took a range of decisions.
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According to the official Palestinian news agency WAFA, Blinken confirmed the United States intends to reopen its Consulate General in Jerusalem. He noted that the government will ask the US Congress for $75 million in growth and economic assistance for Palestinians, and could also provide $5.5 million in aid and $32 million in aid to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East.
Blinken underscored the US’ commitment to rebuilding relationships with the PA and with the Palestinian people. He didn’t, but define a date for reopening the consulate.
It was also designated a Consulate General in 1928. On March 4, 2019, the US Consulate General was merged in the US Embassy and proceeded from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Before its merger, the US Consulate had overseen US diplomatic relations with the PA for two or more decades. The consulate’s reopening is therefore a step in restoring US-Palestinian relations, following the rupture throughout the Trump government.
In the Palestinian official degree, the US decision was warmly welcomed. Member of the Fatah Central Committee Hussein Al-Sheikh advised Palestine TV on May 26 that the conclusion affirms the meltdown of the US peace deal. He explained it as one of the most crucial decisions taken by the new US administration and also a clear message that East Jerusalem is part of the occupied territories in 1967. He further noted it constitutes a legitimate ground for restoring normal relations with the United States.
Meanwhile, Israel refused the US move. Israeli ambassador at Washington, Gilad Erdan, advised the Israel Broadcasting Corporation on May 26 that Israel is not concerned about the Biden government’s desire to strengthen Abbas. “We’ve ardently opposed the reopening of the consulate in the municipal area of Jerusalem,” he, however, noted.
The PA hopes that the decision to start the consulate in Jerusalem will pave the way for further conclusions that contribute to enhancing bilateral relations. Ahmad al-Deek, the political advisor in the PA Ministry of Foreign Affairs, informed Al-Monitor, the conclusion affirms that East Jerusalem is part of the occupied Palestinian territory and is the capital of Palestine and will remain subject to final discussions. He hoped that the decision could be translated on the ground quickly.
“This decision is a step in the ideal direction. The Biden administration must fulfil the promises it made during the election campaign, including starting the PLO office in Washington,” he said. The PLO office was shut in October 2018.
On whether Blinken hinted at the steps that his country will take in the not too distant future, Deek noted,”The attempts of the US government are currently focused on consolidating the cease-fire in Gaza, opposing the eviction of families in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood, mobilizing the necessary funds and setting up a clear mechanism of actions for the immediate beginning of the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip.”
He also added,”The US administration considers each of the steps it’s currently taking should lead to the revival of the peace process and negotiations between the Palestinian and Israeli sides.”
Regarding the US government’s failure to cancel Trump’s decisions regarding Palestine, Deek said, “It is true that the Biden administration didn’t cancel Trump’s conclusions, but we are pleased with the departure of the Trump government, whose job was to annihilate the Palestinian cause. The two administrations are different. We have to deal appropriately with all the favourable stances of the Biden administration, particularly because it affirms the two-state alternative and rejects settlements. We are considering the positive evolution of the US position. We appreciate the present government’s aid to maneuver from the emergency management platform into the resolution of the battle.”
Yet the US announcement was rejected by Palestinian factions and parties. Secretary-General of the Palestinian National Initiative, Mustafa Barghouti, told Al-Monitor, “The US government’s statement of reopening the embassy in Jerusalem is inadequate. The United States cannot play a mediating role in the peace process without finishing its absolute bias toward Israel. It should reopen the PLO headquarters in Washington and prevent its efforts to divide the united states Palestinian ranks.”
Barghouti continued, “These motions are necessary if the United States wants us to view it otherwise. These motions, however, won’t allow it to play a mediating function in light of its bias toward Israel. The very last thing we will take is resuming the sterile negotiations.”
Bassam Salihi, secretary-general of the Palestinian People’s Party, downplayed the importance of any US administration move or conclusions. He advised Al-Monitor that to be able to be acute, any US decision should include setting up a binding international mechanism to terminate the occupation according to a particular timetable.
The US administration’s decision to reopen the consulate in Jerusalem and restart financial aid are optimistic signs for the PA, allowing it to restore its ties with the US government. Yet among the most prominent challenges which will face this relationship is that the US administration’s ability to take practical steps toward the Israeli settlement and the displacement of households in areas of Jerusalem.