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Palestinian officials celebrate Biden’s reversals of Trump policy

President Joe Biden. (White House/Released)
February 12, 2021

Top Palestinian officials welcomed President Joe Biden’s decision last month to restore U.S. aid for the Middle Eastern state, checking off one item from a reported list of demands Palestine communicated to Biden after election day last year.

Palestinian government spokesman Ibrahim Milhem said President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh were happy with the Biden administration’s actions to support Palestine, Arab News reported.

“We are ready to resume diplomatic negotiations with Israel, with the help of international parties, based on international laws and UN resolutions,” Milhem said. “Any solution, however, that does not take into account Palestinian rights as enshrined by international laws and UN agreements will fail.”

“What the Palestinians really want is a clear path toward ending the Israeli occupation and the establishment of their state, not a policy of conflict management in the way it was done for eight years under the administration of former President Barack Obama,” said Wasel Abu Yousef, a Palestine Liberation Organization senior member.

In November, Palestinians were reportedly preparing a list of demands for President Joe Biden that called for the reversal of former President Donald Trump’s pro-Israel policies.

“We have already contacted Biden’s people to inform them of our demands. We had a positive dialogue with senior officials who are close to Biden,” a Palestinian official told The Jerusalem Post.

The demands included rescinding the United States’ historic decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, a move which then-President Trump announced in 2017.

The officials also demanded the new administration revoke U.S. citizens’ right to list Israel as their place of birth if they were born in Jerusalem, in addition to canceling former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s decision to label settlement products as “Made in Israel.”

Palestinian officials also pushed for the Biden administration to reinstate financial aid to the Palestinian Authority and the UN Relief and Work Agency, a request Biden granted in late January.

Acting U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Richard Mills announced the Biden administration’s plans to “restore credible U.S. engagement with Palestinians,” saying, “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.”

The aid was initially cut by Trump’s administration while they conducted a review of U.S. assistance to the Palestinian Authority in Gaza and the West Bank to “ensure these funds are spent in accordance with US national interests.”

The group also requested that Biden move the U.S. Consulate in Israel to east Jerusalem, but in an interview on Monday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken definitively stated that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital, suggesting the Consulate would remain.

Some Palestinians believe the Biden administration will be more receptive to Palestinian requests than his pro-Israel predecessor.

“The new administration believes in the two-states solution […] the new administration believes that the Deal of the Century should be off the table. They talk about reversing most – if not all these actions. And this is really for us an indication that the new administration is different. And that’s why we’re ready to engage,” Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki said at a press conference.

On Inauguration day, the new Biden administration briefly changed the Twitter account for the U.S. Ambassador to Israel, listing the account as one for the “US Ambassador to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza.”

New York Magazine reporter Yashar Ali captured the momentary account change in a screenshot.

Ali tweeted, “Changes already happening. A follower noticed that the US Ambassador to Israel’s Twitter account now says “US Ambassador to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza” Noting that the US under Biden does not recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the West Bank and Gaza.”

Within half an hour of Ali’s first tweet, the account was changed back to reflect the previous account name, “US Ambassador to Israel.”

The Palestinian Authority boycotted Trump’s administration for the majority of his term as relations between the US and Israel became stronger.

In December, Trump announced the Kingdom of Morocco as the fourth Middle Eastern country to establish diplomatic relations with Israel during his presidency, after deals with United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Sudan.