Biden has acknowledged the importance of a two-state solution, giving some solace to Palestinians.
By Anchal Vohra
Palestinians heaved a sigh of relief as Donald Trump lost to Joe Biden in a nail-biting election and the latter was declared President-elect of the United States of America.
“America Detrumped,” tweeted Hanan Ashrawi, a Palestinian Liberation Organisation [PLO] member. She said that the change of guard at the White House might allow the world to breathe a little.
“Things have gone in a disastrous way. It’s been, really, an unmitigated catastrophe,” she told PRI news network. “We had to survive these four years that were extremely dangerous, that were extremely painful, and the very building blocks of peace were being systematically destroyed.”
Ismail Haniyeh, head of the political bureau of Palestinian nationalist group and militia Hamas, urged Biden to correct the course of Trump’s unjust policies against the Palestinians which, he said, “made the United States a partner in injustice and aggression, and damaged the stability in the region and the world.”
Whilst American politicians have been pro-Israel since the formation of the state of Israel, many of them have played a huge role in its birth, their policy at least a veneer of respectability as they also backed the Palestinian desire for a separate state in the future.
Trump, however, did everything he could to destroy these aspirations. He moved the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem — the holy city which is claimed by both the Israelis and the Palestinians as their capital. He cut off aid to the Palestinian Authority in the occupied West Bank and not only refused to condemn the continued annexations of Palestinian lands by Israel but encouraged settlements. Trump also withdrew funding to the UN refugee agency which helps millions of Palestinians scattered in countries like Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan with basic education, food, and employment.
Taking on Iran and walking out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), more commonly known as the US-Iran nuclear deal, was also in large part to protect Israeli interests.
As a parting shot, Trump secured a peace deal between Israel and three Arab nations: the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, and Sudan. These agreements de facto acknowledged Israel as a legitimate state — upending the Arab world’s decades-long policy of no recognition — before settling the Palestine question and carving a future Palestinian state on the boundaries as existed in 1967.
Biden, hope the Palestinians, might be better. He has acknowledged the importance of a two-state solution, giving some solace to the Palestinians. He opposes Israel’s illegal settlements, which are inconsistent with international law, and wants to restore diplomatic ties with the Palestinian Authority as well as provide humanitarian aid for the Palestinian people in Gaza and the West Bank.
And while Biden will not close the US embassy in Jerusalem, a decision that can prove to be very unpopular among American Jews, he is expected to reopen both the US consulate in occupied East Jerusalem to serve Palestinians, and the PLO mission in Washington. But with Biden, there is more than meets the eye. He is a self-professed Zionist and a great supporter of the Israeli cause. Even though President Obama was known to have a tough relationship with the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his Vice President Joe Biden always enjoyed warm ties.
Biden has famously said that American military aid to Israel is the “best” investment America makes. “If there weren’t an Israel, the United States of America would have to invent an Israel to protect her interests in the region,” he had said.
When in the Oval Office, Biden would not be cutting defence aid to Israel. “The idea that we would cut off military aid to an ally, our only true, true ally in the entire region, is absolutely preposterous,” Biden told American network PBS. Instead, he would only provide financial assistance to the Palestinian Authority if that money is not spent on the welfare of the families of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. Israel sees this transfer of American aid as the single most encouraging factor to Palestinians to fight Israel. Activists spread across the region, however, say that Israel’s harsh policies and annexation of Palestinian territory is the root cause behind the hostility.
Moreover, Biden cannot and will not undo peace treaties between Arabs and Israelis. Palestinians have been losing in negotiations over decades and as 28 flights a day start to arrive in Tel Aviv from Abu Dhabi and transport thousands of Arab tourists and pilgrims, Palestinians will lose their most crucial leverage tool as many fellow Muslims would have normalised with Israel without asking for serious concessions.
Trump’s legacy in the Middle East is lasting damage to Palestinian aspirations. Even under Biden, Palestinians might find it hard to recover.