UNITED NATIONS (PA) – The administration of US President Joe Biden announced on Tuesday that it is restoring relations with the Palestinians and renewing aid to Palestinian refugees, a reversal of the Trump administration’s cutoff and a key part of its renewed support for a two-state solution to the decades-old conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.
Acting US Ambassador Richard Mills announced Biden’s approach to a virtual high-level Security Council meeting, saying the new US administration believes this “remains the best way to secure the future of ‘Israel as a democratic and Jewish state while supporting the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinians. for a state of their own and to live in dignity and security. “
President Donald Trump’s administration has provided unprecedented support to Israel, recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, moving the US embassy to Tel Aviv, cutting financial aid to the Palestinians and reversing the illegitimacy of the Israeli settlements on land claimed by Palestinians.
Israel captured East Jerusalem and the West Bank in the 1967 war. The international community considers both areas to be occupied territories and the Palestinians seek them as parts of a future independent state. Israel has built a vast network of settlements that are home to nearly 700,000 Jewish settlers in the West Bank and Jerusalem since their capture in 1967.
The peace plan unveiled by Trump a year ago contemplates a disjointed Palestinian state that cedes key parts of the West Bank to Israel, siding with Israel on key contentious issues, including borders and the status of Jerusalem and Jewish settlements. It was vehemently rejected by the Palestinians.
Mills made clear the Biden administration’s more impartial approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“Under the new administration, the policy of the United States will be to support a mutually agreed two-state solution, a solution in which Israel lives in peace and security alongside a viable Palestinian state,” he said. he declared.
Mills said peace cannot be imposed on both sides and stressed that progress and an ultimate solution require the participation and agreement of both Israelis and Palestinians.
“In order to advance these goals, the Biden administration will restore credible United States engagement with the Palestinians and the Israelis,” he said.
“This will involve renewing US relations with the Palestinian leadership and the Palestinian people,” Mills said.
“President Biden has made it clear that he intends to restore US assistance programs that support economic development programs and humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people, and to take steps to reopen diplomatic ties that have been closed by the last US administration. ” Mills said.
Trump halted funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency known as UNRWA, which was established to help the 700,000 Palestinians who fled or were forced to leave their homes during the war surrounding the establishment in 1948. It provides education, health care, food and other assistance to some 5.5 million refugees and their descendants in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as well as in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. The United States was UNRWA’s largest donor and the loss of funds created a financial crisis for the agency.
The Trump administration closed the Palestine Liberation Organization office in Washington in September 2018, effectively shutting down the Palestinian diplomatic mission in the United States.
Mills said the United States hopes to start working to slowly build trust on both sides to create an environment for a two-state solution.
To achieve this goal, Mills said, “The United States will urge the Israeli government and the Palestinians to avoid unilateral measures that make a two-state solution more difficult, such as annexation of territory, settlement activities, demolitions, incitement to violence and compensation for those imprisoned for acts of terrorism. “
Israel accused the Palestinians of inciting violence and vehemently opposed the PA paying the families of those imprisoned for attacking or killing Israelis.
Mills stressed that “the United States will maintain its unwavering support for Israel” – opposing unilateral resolutions and other actions in international bodies that unfairly distinguish Israel and promote Israel’s position and participation in it. UN and other international organizations.
The Biden administration welcomes the recent normalization of relations between Israel and a number of Arab countries and will urge other countries to establish ties, Mills said.
“Yet we recognize that Arab-Israeli normalization is not a substitute for Israeli-Palestinian peace,” he said.
Mills pointed out that the tense state of Israeli-Palestinian politics and the fact that trust between the two sides “is at its lowest” does not relieve UN member countries “of the responsibility of trying to preserve peace. viability of a two-state state. Solution. “
Before Mills spoke, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki sharply criticized the Trump administration for using “the power and influence of the United States to support Israel’s illegal efforts to entrench its occupation and its control “and reiterated the hopes of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas” for the resumption of relations. and positive engagement. “
“Now is the time to heal and repair the damage done by the former US administration,” he said. “We look forward to overturning illegal and hostile measures taken by the Trump administration and working together for peace.”
Malki called for the rebirth of the Middle East Quartet mediators – the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia – and reiterated Abbas’ call for an international peace conference “that can mark a turning point in this conflict ”. He also expressed hope that “the United States will play an important role in multilateral efforts for peace in the Middle East.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Moscow was convinced that the Quartet, working closely with both sides and the Arab states, “could play a very, very effective role.”
In support of Abbas’ call for an international conference, Lavrov proposed to hold a ministerial meeting this spring or summer with the Quartet and Egypt, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain as well as the Saudi Arabia to analyze the current situation and help “launch a dialogue” between Israelis and Palestinians.
Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit said “the Palestinians have suffered unprecedented pressure from the former US administration” and said the organization’s 22 members were anxiously awaiting Biden to correct the problems. Trump’s actions and works with international and regional parties to re-launch “a serious peace process.”
But Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan, told the council that instead of focusing on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he should focus on Iran, which “is not trying to hide its intention to destroy the only Jewish state in the world ”.
On the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he suggested that the Council discuss what he called “the real obstacles to peace: Palestinian incitement and the culture of hatred”.
Israel remains ready to make peace “when there is a willing partner,” Erdan said, accusing Abbas of inciting violence, and saying he should come to the negotiating table “without making outrageous demands and not call to another unnecessary international conference… (which) is just a distraction. “