President Joe Biden’s administration is moving to restore aid and diplomatic relations with Palestinians and is committing to efforts toward a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine.
On Tuesday, acting U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Richard Mills announced the Biden administration’s plans to “restore credible U.S. engagement with Palestinians.”
Mills said, “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. This vision, as I know we have just heard, though under serious stress, remains the best way to ensure Israel’s future as a democratic and Jewish state, while upholding the Palestinian people’s legitimate aspirations for a state of their own and to live with dignity and security.”
Mills said relations with Palestine have “atrophied over the last four years” under President Donald Trump, but said the Biden administration will restore U.S. assistance programs to support economic development and humanitarian aid for Palestinians and re-open diplomatic missions to Palestine closed by the Trump administration.
Under the Trump administration, the U.S. closed the Palestine Liberation Organization’s (PLO) office in Washington D.C. Announcing the closure decision, the Trump State Department said the PLO had not taken steps to negotiate with Israel and had condemned a U.S. peace plan that had not yet been published.
The Trump administration also halted contributions to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which provides aid to Palestinian refugees. The Trump State Department cited repeated mismanagement of funds by the UNRWA in its decision and said, “Palestinians, wherever they live, deserve better than an endlessly crisis-driven service provision model.”
Addressing the decision to restore U.S. support for the diplomatic missions with Palestine, Mills said, “We do not view these steps as a favor to the Palestinian leadership. U.S. assistance benefits millions of ordinary Palestinians and helps to preserve a stable environment that benefits both Palestinians and Israelis.”
Mills said that while reestablishing U.S. relations with Palestine, the U.S. “will maintain its steadfast support for Israel.”
Mills also said the U.S. will urge Israel’s government and the Palestinian Authority to avoid actions that complicate negotiations for a two-state solution, “such as annexation of territory, settlement activity, demolitions, incitement to violence, and providing compensation for individuals imprisoned for acts of terrorism.”
Israeli settlements on territory disputed between Israel and Palestinian authorities is one particular issue disrupting negotiations between the two sides. Palestine also maintains a martyr fund to support the families of Palestinians killed or imprisoned after attacking Israelis.
Mills did voice support for a series of deals, negotiated through the Trump administration, to normalize relations between Israel and several Arab nations and said the Biden administration will pursue further efforts to normalize relations between Israel and Arab and Muslim-majority nations. Mills also said “we recognize that Arab-Israeli normalization is not a substitute for Israeli-Palestinian peace.”
“It is the hope of the United States that normalization can proceed in a way that unlocks new possibilities to advance a two-state solution,” Mills said towards the end of his remarks.