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Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Strategic Alliances for a Secure, Connected, and Prosperous Region

Escalating Tensions Between the Biden Administration and the Palestinian Authority

Filed under: Operation Swords of Iron, Palestinians, U.S. Policy

Escalating Tensions Between the Biden Administration and the Palestinian Authority
Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas appointed Mohammad Mustafa as prime minister of the PA in Ramallah on March 14, 2024. (Palestinian President’s office)

Tensions persist between the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the Biden administration, fueled by recent vetoes by the United States in the UN Security Council and by the Biden administration’s insistence on comprehensive reforms within the PA, including granting real powers to the new government.

PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas adamantly maintains full and centralized control over the PA and is banking on the upcoming U.S. presidential elections to potentially alleviate the pressure he faces.

Last week, Abbas rebuffed U.S. Secretary of State Tony Blinken’s request to meet during his visit to Israel, indicating the strained relations.

Senior PLO officials, including Mahmoud Abbas and Hussein al-Sheikh, Secretary-General of the PLO Executive Committee, also declined to meet with Blinken at an economic conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

The primary catalyst for this discord was the Palestinian outcry over the Biden administration’s veto of a proposed UN Security Council resolution seeking full membership for the “State of Palestine” in the UN on April 19. American officials expressed surprise at the Palestinian reaction, particularly as the United States endeavors to advance the two-state solution as part of its policy of facilitating normalization agreements between Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Despite receiving advance notice from the administration about the impending veto, Mahmoud Abbas’s frustration is evident.

During the Gaza conflict, the U.S. vetoed four ceasefire proposals in the UN Security Council.

Yet, while Abbas engaged with Foreign Minister Blinken six times during the conflict, his recent refusal signifies a display of defiance.

A senior PA official revealed Abbas’s fury is directed at the Biden administration’s demands for extensive reforms, including tackling corruption and terrorism within the PA’s political system.

The Biden administration, along with several Arab countries, insists on substantive changes, viewing the recent formation of a technocratic government led by Muhammad Moustafa as insufficient.

Senior Fatah officials assert that the Biden administration is well aware of the current government’s limitations, labeling it a “puppet government” controlled by Abbas and his inner circle.

Despite Abbas’s efforts to placate demands by appointing new officials, including a new chairman for the Central Election Committee and new governors, tensions persist.

The Biden administration has made it clear that financial aid to the PA hinges on meaningful reform. Prime Minister Muhammad Moustafa’s recent visits to Saudi Arabia and Algeria failed to secure any assistance due to U.S. obstruction, exacerbating the PA’s financial woes.

Abbas’s attempts to consolidate power by appointing associates to key positions, despite objections from the newly formed government, have drawn criticism and further strained relations.

These moves, viewed as clandestine by critics, only exacerbate tensions.

As these tensions between Abbas and the Biden administration escalate, Abbas remains resolute, anticipating a potential shift following the U.S. presidential elections later this year. Consequently, the future of U.S.-Palestinian relations remains uncertain amid these ongoing challenges.