A former Palestinian Authority official has said that the economic aid expected to be forthcoming during US President Joe Biden’s visit to the Middle East will be no substitute for the legitimate rights of the people of occupied Palestine.
“It would be nice to have the 4G internet access [as mentioned by US ambassador Thomas Nides],” said Mohammed Mustafa, a former deputy prime minister of the PA and ex-chief executive of Paltel, the largest telecoms operator in the Palestinian territories. “However, it’s obviously not a substitute for solving the bigger issues like Jerusalem, like sovereignty or like freedom. Israel thinks people will forget about the bigger picture.” He told AFP that, “We are interested in 4G, but we also want bigger things.”
Nides talked about extending access to 4G internet services to all Palestinians as one of the issues to be discussed during Biden’s visit to the region. The US president is expected to meet PA President Mahmud Abbas on Friday in Bethlehem, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
According to Al-Sharq al-Awsat, Biden’s visit may also see the US restore funding to hospitals in Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem, which have historically served Palestinians. However, Mustafa is not alone in thinking that US diplomacy emphasises economic benefits above the core issues of the seven-decade conflict.
Former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett adopted an approach known as “shrinking the conflict” and sought to defuse tension by improving economic opportunities in the West Bank and the blockaded Gaza Strip. One such key policy was to increase permits for Palestinians, including those from Gaza, to seek relatively lucrative work in Israel, explained the newspaper.
“The Biden administration has fallen into the Israeli trap of fragmenting all of the Palestinian rights under international law, and then using them as playing cards as if they were giving concessions back to the Palestinians,” prominent Palestinian-American businessman Sam Bahour was quoted as saying by Al-Sharq Al-Awsat. Palestinians can manage with slower internet, but not without statehood, he added. “We do not need 4G. We need the fourth generation of Palestinians not to live under military occupation.”