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The Palestinian Authority: President Biden’s Promises Are a Mirage

 
Filed under: Palestinians, U.S. Policy

The Palestinian Authority: President Biden’s Promises Are a Mirage
PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas receiving at his office in Ramallah the U.S. envoy Hady Amr and his delegation on October 4, 2021. (WAFA Images / Thayer Ghanayem)
  • PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas is working to renew the involvement of the International Quartet to convene an international peace conference, despite the objections of the Biden administration.
  • Senior PA officials accuse the U.S. administration of “dragging its feet” and failing to live up to its promises to the PA, especially the opening of the consulate in Jerusalem.

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, spokesman for the PA chairman, said Mahmoud Abbas would soon visit Moscow to try to advance support for Palestinian issues. His announcement came after Russia announced that it was holding talks with the Palestinian leadership after the meeting in Sochi between President Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on October 22, 2021.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said that it continues to raise the idea of an Israeli-Palestinian summit meeting in Moscow and that it is promoting an initiative to convene a meeting of the “International Quartet” at a ministerial level in cooperation with the Arab League.

Russia previously pressed for a meeting between the PA chairman and former Prime Minister Netanyahu in Moscow but failed. Senior PA officials say Mahmoud Abbas will try to promote the restart of the “International Quartet” even though the United States opposes it.

The Biden administration fears that putting international pressure on Israel now will destabilize the coalition led by Naftali Bennett. Mahmoud Abbas’ intention is to bring about another international peace conference as, he expressed in his address to the UN General Assembly in September. He wishes to give an ultimatum to Israel to withdraw to the 1967 lines within a year, otherwise, he will cancel the Oslo Accords and appeal to the International Court in The Hague.

Mahmoud Abbas addresses the United Nations General Assembly remotely from his office in Ramallah
Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas addresses the United Nations General Assembly remotely from his office in Ramallah, on September 24, 2021 (Screenshot, Times of Israel)

Deep Palestinian Disappointment with the Biden Administration

According to senior PA officials, Abbas is very disappointed with the Biden administration after the administration failed to keep its promises to the PA.

The PA’s contacts with the Biden administration are conducted through the envoy Hadi Amr, the director of the Israeli-Palestinian Affairs at the State Department. President Biden continues to ignore Mahmoud Abbas and has not yet invited him to the White House.

Palestinian frustration is great, al-Arabi al-Jadeed reported on October 23, 2021, citing senior Palestinian officials who said PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Minister of Civil Affairs Hussein al-Sheikh called senior members of the Biden administration “liars” at a meeting of the PLO’s Executive Committee two weeks ago. They added that the Administration is “making fun of us,” because of the administration’s bureaucratic delays in implementing the promises made to the PA.

The Biden administration is totally preoccupied with the challenging situation with China, internal COVID problems, and the U.S. economic situation. It wants to continue managing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict without unexpected tremors and without the PA collapsing. This is a policy of maintaining the status quo, but Mahmoud Abbas perseveres because he desires immediate results regarding the promises made to the PA.

During the Palestinian leadership meeting in Ramallah on October 24, PA Chairman Abbas called on the Biden administration to reopen the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem and the PLO offices in Washington, which were closed during the Trump administration.

He also called on the U.S. administration to lift the economic blockade imposed by President Trump when his administration pressured them to accept his “deal of the century” plan. During the Executive Committee meeting, Abbas condemned Israel’s decisions to build thousands of new housing units in Judea and Samaria and Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s declaration that six Palestinian non-government organizations were terrorist groups.

The Administration’s Foot-Dragging

The prevailing view in the PA leadership is that all of President Biden’s promises to the Palestinians were election propaganda and a mirage that evaporated as soon as the President entered the White House.

Palestinian disappointment stems from President Biden’s failure to reopen a PLO office in Washington that was closed by the Trump administration. They claim that under U.S. law, the president has the authority to permanently overturn the 1987 decision that the PLO is a terrorist organization by notifying Congress. But according to the PA, President Biden worries about the response of Congress and the Zionist/Jewish lobby who allege that the PA continues to pay salaries to terrorists and their families and incitement against Israel.

The PA is disappointed that the administration is delaying the reopening of the American consulate in Jerusalem and does not accept the claim that this requires the consent of the Israeli government. PA sources claim that according to the law and UN Resolution 181, Jerusalem is international territory and the status of its diplomatic missions has not changed. Therefore, reopening the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem only requires the political will of the Biden administration.

Regarding the renewal of U.S. civilian financial aid to the PA which was stopped by the Trump administration, it claims that its hands are tied because of the Taylor Force Act, which prohibits any financial support to the PA as long as it continues to pay monthly salaries to terrorists and their families.

U.S. sources claim that to unfreeze the “Taylor Force” restrictions, President Biden needs to persuade Congress and invoke a clause in the U.S. Constitution that states that foreign relations are under the president’s authority. This claim has been made throughout the last century with little success, since the Constitution gives Congress the power to approve or block appropriations.

Again, this is a sensitive political issue that could provoke great opposition from Israel and its supporters in the United States. According to PA officials, several members of Congress who met in July with the PA Chairman and Hussein al-Sheikh, the minister of civil affairs, demanded that the allowances to terrorists and their families be converted to a social benefit unrelated to the number of years the terrorists sat in Israeli prisons. The Members of Congress also urged the PA to stop all its activities against Israel at the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas is not interested in a diplomatic falling-out with the Biden administration. He knows that he cannot get anything better at the moment, so he is trying to bypass the administration by appealing to Russia to reinvigorate the Quartet to secure its political goals.

It is highly doubtful that his efforts will succeed, but he is trying to show that he is doing everything possible to break the impasse in the political process. The PA is in a severe financial crisis. There are insane price increases in the West Bank markets, popular anger is growing, and no Arab country is willing to come to the PA’s rescue financially. Mahmoud Abbas is urgently seeking an achievement.