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Is Biden going to make US aid conditional on more Palestinian concessions?

January 29, 2021 at 8:20 am

US President Joe Biden at the White House Washington, DC on 26 January 2021 [Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images]

When Joe Biden became the 46th President of the United States, some Palestinians raised their hopes that he might replace Trump’s reckless approach to their situation. They forget that US foreign policy has been always pro-Israel and always will be, for the simple reason that the Zionist lobby in America is very influential at almost every level of government and public life.

Biden will not want to upset Israel but will try to be at least a little more balanced and use soft diplomacy to give the Palestinians a glimmer of hope, buying Israel more time to boost its colonial occupation in the process. That, of course, is what the “peace process” has always been intended to do.

It was expected that Biden will restore US aid to the Palestinian Authority, sending a signal that he wants to hold the stick in the middle and is different to his predecessor. However, the reinstatement of aid streams cut by Donald Trump will be conditional upon the Palestinians agreeing to make even more concessions. That has been the norm for decades.

The leadership in Palestine welcomed the decision. Ordinary Palestinians, however, do not have high hopes that the US president will have the courage to put pressure on Israel to abide by international law and ends its occupation of Palestine.

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It makes a change to see that Biden may try to right some of Trump’s wrongs. This, however, is unlikely to extend to such issues as trampling over international laws and conventions by recognising Israel’s annexation of Jerusalem, for example, or the “deal of the century” which basically gave Israel the right to annex even more Palestinian land. Nevertheless, it will be a positive step to see US donations flowing to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) again, because the agency provides essential services to Palestinian refugees.

Trump was honest in his intentions towards Palestinians, but Biden is smarter and will promote himself as a liberal and peace lover. Meanwhile, Vice President, Kamala Harris is known for supporting Israel, as are senior appointees such as Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

The spokesman of the Palestinian Popular Conference in the Diaspora told me that Biden is more dangerous than Trump. “Unlike Trump whose policy was based on striking economic and trade deals,” explained Ziad El-Alool, “Biden’s policy will be based on making sure Israel dominates the Middle East region.” Israel, he pointed out, is America’s largest military base in the region and it will be supported by all means necessary. “So Biden will seek to get Israel more friends from the Arab and Muslim world. His decision to reinstate some of the aid programmes is just an incentive to allow the PA to function and do its duty to protect Israel and its settlers.”

After almost 73 years of Israel’s settler-colonial occupation of their land, the Palestinians still have no state of their own, despite the promises and terms of the Oslo Accords. Many US-sponsored “peace” conferences have been held, but none have led to the reality of such a state, because Washington is unable and unwilling to put pressure on Israel, which has never made any concessions of any kind. The Palestinians, meanwhile, are pushed and pushed to concede every last thing that they possess.

According to Sharhabeel Al-Gharib, a writer specialising in Palestinian affairs, President Biden is a mysterious personality. “I think he follows the footsteps of Barack Obama and we know what happened in the region when he was president. The new administration under Biden will try to reverse some of Trump’s decisions such as financial aid, but only in order to oblige the Palestinian leadership under Mahmoud Abbas to go back to the negotiation table and offer a ‘viable state’.”

Although we know that there is no intention to reverse the move of the US Embassy to Jerusalem, the closure of the PLO Office in Washington or the closure of the US Consulate in East Jerusalem, reopening the latter may well be a faint possibility, again as a sop to get the PA back to negotiations. If that happens, it will be a small but perhaps meaningful signal that the US is still in the mediation game; and that maybe — just maybe — it can even be an honest broker. Don’t hold your breath, though.

READ: Biden administration to restore aid to Palestinians, reversing Trump-era cuts

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.