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Palestinian Authority’s Public Criticism of Washington Grows

Palestinian Authority’s Public Criticism of Washington Grows

‘Economic peace is an Israeli project, and the US is now adopting it. But there will be no peace as long as there is the occupation,’ Palestinian professor tells the Media Line.

The PA leadership in Ramallah is furious over what it perceives to be total US abandonment of promises Washington had made to the Palestinians.

In a meeting this week between US envoy Hady Amr and officials in Ramallah, Palestinians complained that current US policy is “counterproductive” to Washington’s efforts in bringing political and economic stability to the Palestinians.

Officials led by PA Civil Affairs Minister Hussein al-Sheikh voiced their dissatisfaction to the US delegation over a meeting the envoy held with Palestinian and Israeli businesspeople without informing them.

After the Palestinians complained, the US Embassy in Jerusalem deleted a tweet from its Twitter site regarding the meeting that Amr, the deputy assistant secretary of state for Israeli and Palestinian Affairs, held with the businesspeople in the city.

A Palestinian official told The Media Line that the deletion of the tweet was a result of a protest the PA sent to the Americans, stating that it was “annoyed” at US efforts to circumvent the PA’s influence, adding that Amr came to Ramallah without bringing anything new and that Washington did not provide anything to the PA since President Joe Biden took office more than a year ago.

With tension rising in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, Amr’s visit is seen as an attempt to cool things down before Ramadan starts in two weeks.

There is American, Israeli, and Jordanian concern that the situation on the ground is heading toward an escalation.

Palestinians say that Amr’s meeting with the business community is nothing but an attempt to create economic facilities to ease the tension but without talk of political steps to kickstart stalled negotiations.

“The Americans think that relative calm is sustainable if you strengthen the Palestinian economy, and this is the main reason behind Amr’s visit,” US-based Palestinian affairs expert Hasan Awwad told The Media Line.

The Biden Administration “did not fulfill any of the promises it made, including the reopening of the US Consulate in Jerusalem, the reopening of the Palestine Liberation Organization office in Washington, and the direct refinancing of the PA,” Awwad says.

All this, he argues, leads to public criticism of the US administration. The PA is complaining about the US administration’s “lack of real efforts to help it,” says Awwad.

The PA is still counting on the US administration and waiting for it to propose ways to revive the political track and to implement its promises on the ground, according to multiple top PA officials.

The US administration failed to pressure the wealthy Gulf states to refinance the authority. While the Europeans have said they would refinance the authority, they did not say when.

“The Americans are preoccupied with bigger and more important issues such as the war in Ukraine, the Iranian agreement and the Chinese file,” Dr. Nasr Abdel Karim, a professor of finance and economics in the College of Graduate Studies at the Arab American University in Ramallah, told The Media Line.

“The Americans will not pay any money to the PA’s treasury this year,” Abdel Karim says, adding that the scarcity of aid from the Gulf states has exacerbated the budget predicament.

“It seems that Biden is unable to convince the right-wing hawks in his government to pressure Israel to move politically. … They do not want to threaten the Bennett government.”

PA President Mahmoud Abbas is politically isolated. He doesn’t travel as much as he used to, in part because of his advanced age (he turned 86 on November 15) and failing health, and also due to lukewarm relations with countries, particularly Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, that were once major supporters of the PA budget.

The PA is experiencing the worst fiscal difficulties since its establishment more than a quarter-century ago. The treasury is facing a severe cash crunch, and this could soon affect its ability to pay government salaries and conduct daily business, top officials say.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh attended a meeting of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee of international donors in Norway last November, in the hope of persuading attendees to open their checkbooks.

Shtayyeh urged donor countries to increase their aid so that the government can fulfill its obligations.

But the meeting at Oslo City Hall and several subsequent meetings yielded little comfort for Palestinian officials, as no major financial commitments were made.

“The Palestinians will never accept economic aid in exchange for political concessions. Economic peace is an Israeli project, and the American administrations are now adopting it. But there is no peace as long as there is occupation,” says Abdel Karim.

Abbas and his top aides have held several meetings with Israel’s Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, yielding only steps to help the PA’s economy.

Abdel Karim insists that “all attempts to support the PA economically are initiatives that will work as long as it is under occupation.”

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