Middle East Monitor / February 16, 2021
The Biden administration is adopting a confusing position regarding Jerusalem, signalling a possible effort to square the circle of taking the US back to the fold of international consensus on Palestine and Israel, while maintaining the gifts which former US President Donald Trump handed on a plate to Israel. As usual, Washington is being duplicitous. Also as normal, the PA is staying silent.
In a recent briefing by the US State Department, spokesman Ned Price seemed to contradict the diplomatic position taken by the US under Trump, declaring the issue of Jerusalem to be “a final status issue which will need to be resolved by the parties in the context of direct negotiations.” Such a statement puts the US in line with two-state politics and international consensus.
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated clearly that he recognises Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, a Trump-era move which ushered in the probability of further annexation. Even more telling was Blinken’s dithering when asked whether the US would support a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem. Playing upon the fact that diplomatic negotiations are stalled, Blinken answered, “What we have to see is for the parties to get together directly and negotiate these so-called final status issues.”
If President Joe Biden is determined to pursue two-state diplomacy within the framework of Trump’s legacy, Palestinians are in for a worse time than they were under his predecessor. The “deal of the century” was explicit in its determination to strip Palestinians of their political rights. A mix of two-state politics and the deal of the century constitutes a double effort to ensure that the Palestinians are the losers, which will be exacerbated with the Palestinian Authority’s brand of acquiescent politics.
In the absence of a clear policy on Palestine, the PA has given too much importance to Biden’s overtures so far. Restoring relations with the PA is, of course, a necessity, but Mahmoud Abbas has still not spoken about US-Palestinian diplomacy, while Biden has not yet formulated a policy and is still hovering between Trump’s actions and pursuing the two-state paradigm.
So far, the US has stated that it will not move the US Embassy back to Tel Aviv, thus clearly endorsing Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s “undivided” capital. The PA has preferred not to mull over this significant strategy. The restoration of relations and the promise of humanitarian aid have instilled a resolve in Abbas to resort to the usual time waster of an international peace conference, in which participants will overlook the fact that the US can’t possibly adhere to the two-state paradigm without recognising that occupied East Jerusalem should serve as the capital of the Palestinian state.
Abbas and the international community are still clinging to the obsolete two-state hypothesis, while the US will abide by international consensus as long as it does not have to completely renege on what Trump achieved. When Trump declared Jerusalem to be Israel’s capital, Abbas called for protests. What will he do if Biden does not explicitly endorse East Jerusalem as the capital of a State of Palestine? Will Abbas call out the US for its duplicity, or will he continue to stay silent as long as the PA can once again lay claim to a minor presence in the circle of America’s diplomatic relations?
Ramona Wadi is an independent researcher, freelance journalist, book reviewer and blogger. Her writing covers a range of themes in relation to Palestine, Chile and Latin America