With the approach of US President Joe Biden’s visit to the Middle East, many questions arise about the issues that the American visitor would carry, and the expected outputs of his tour, in light of the escalating tension and instability in the “troubled region.”
In this context, according to information obtained by Asharq Al-Awsat from the White House, Biden is expected to discuss in Israel and the West Bank several key matters related to security and stability, increased economic support to the Palestinians, and finally, the consolidation of the diplomatic relations and the revival of the peace process.
The information indicates that discussions with Israeli leaders will touch on the security prosperity of Israel and means to boost integration in the wider region, while talks with Palestinian officials will focus on confirming strong US support for the two-state solution, with equal measures of freedom, security and opportunities for the Palestinian people.
US officials are concerned about the mounting violence, which has so far claimed the lives of more than 70 Palestinians, including Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Aqleh, whose killing sparked widespread controversy. The US press releases also reported the concern of Biden and the entire national security team on this issue, which will also be on the agenda.
To correct the US-Palestinian relations, the White House has reportedly adopted three main steps over the course of nearly 18 months of diplomatic contact. The first is restoring diplomatic ties at the highest levels, and allowing the Palestinian diplomatic mission to return to Washington. Second, refinancing grants and humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people, through the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and UNRWA in Gaza and the West Bank, and finally, demanding Israel to stop settlement operations, and supporting the return of dialogue and the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians.
Washington has allocated half a billion dollars to the Palestinians within the first year of the current administration’s tenure. The president will make some additional funding announcements during his visit.
While the Biden administration supports steps of normalization between some Arab countries and Israel, it has a firm conviction that normalization between Israel and its neighbors in the Middle East “is not a substitute for Israeli-Palestinian peace.” The current administration is firmly committed to the two-state solution.
Moreover, the information obtained by Asharq Al-Awsat confirms that US officials have made several contacts with their Israeli counterparts, to oppose the demolition of buildings in the settlements and the evacuation of Palestinians. This issue will also be raised during Biden’s upcoming visit, with an emphasis on the need for Israelis and Palestinians to have “equal opportunities for freedom, security, prosperity and dignity.”
The information adds that the Biden administration has announced its opposition to unilateral measures that exacerbate tensions, and include incitement to violence through demolitions, the expulsion of Palestinian families from their homes in East Jerusalem, where they have lived for generations, and the destruction of property. It also demands that the Israeli side provide compensation to individuals, who were imprisoned on false charges of terrorist acts.
The United States has provided more than half a billion dollars to the Palestinians, including more than $417 million in humanitarian aid to Palestinian refugees through UNRWA and $75 million in economic support, as well as $41 million for the security sector, including $1 million for demining activities, and more than $20 million in food and humanitarian aid related to COVID-19.