Middle East Monitor / February 3, 2021
In an indirect rebuke to the administration of former US President Donald Trump, the spokesman of the Biden State Department has admitted that forcing Palestinians into a corner does not lead to concessions or fruitful political results.
“The suspension of aid to the Palestinian people has neither produced political progress, nor secured concessions from the Palestinian leadership,” said Ned Price. “It has only harmed innocent Palestinians.” Price made his comments during a press briefing.
The Trump administration is considered by many to have been the most pro-Israel in history. Indeed, the Trump era has been described as a boon for Israel and Benjamin Netanyahu in particular. The far-right Prime Minister was so grateful for Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and Israeli sovereignty over the occupied Syrian Golan Heights, that he named an illegal settlement in his honour.
Trump’s gifts to Israel were matched only by what many saw as his hostility to Palestinians. In one of his many anti-Palestinian measures, the disgraced ex-President cut funding to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). The agency, which provides essential services and humanitarian aid to more than five million Palestinian refugees, used to receive $350 million a year from the US, more than a quarter of its $1.2 billion annual budget.
The recent US administration also put a squeeze on the Palestinian Authority by cancelling more than $200 million in aid for programmes in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. Former Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi condemned the move, accusing Trump of using “cheap blackmail as a political tool.” The Palestinian people and leadership, she added, will not be intimidated and will not succumb to coercion.
Palestinian Ambassador Husam Zomlot in London, who was the head of the PLO General Delegation to the United States prior to the closure of the diplomatic office in Washington in 2018, insisted that, “Weaponising humanitarian and developmental aid as political blackmail does not work.”
Acknowledging that efforts to punish the Palestinians had been unfruitful, Price pointed out that, “The US will reinvigorate our humanitarian leadership and work to galvanise the international community to meet its humanitarian obligations, including to the Palestinian people. This is something we’re working on very quickly to restore and announced.”
The State Department spokesman also referred to a speech given by the Acting US Ambassador to the UN, Richard Mills, who said that the Biden administration is renewing US relations with the Palestinian leadership. Washington under President Joe Biden, he explained, is also restoring “credible engagement” with the Palestinians, as it works toward a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.