America Is Offering Money but That Is Not Enough
US President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have spoken of providing equal measures of dignity, freedom, prosperity and democracy, and said that they are working on practical steps to ensure a better future for Palestinians and Israelis alike; nevertheless, all we have witnessed is a restoration of financial aid to the Palestinians and a vow of intention to reopen the American consulate in east Jerusalem with no time frame determined for the promise.
America offering money is not enough. Money might appease the Palestinian National Authority leadership but not the public.
While Biden spoke of equal measures, his administration has not condemned the Jewish nation-state law of 2018, which simply neglects the rights of 2 million non-Jews holding Israeli citizenship. What was witnessed last month within Israel’s 1948 borders is a reflection of 73 years of continued Nakba that has cultivated persecution and settler terror. As Biden speaks about equal measures, his administration hasn’t lifted the 15-year blockade on Gaza, where 2 million Palestinians are deprived of basic human rights and are under the threat of the Israeli military machine every couple of years.
While Biden speaks of equal measures, his administration didn’t reverse Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, neglecting the rights of 300,000 Palestinians living in east Jerusalem. Biden didn’t put a halt to the proposed forced evictions of Palestinians from homes in Jerusalem, and it is worth explaining that the issue is not about Sheikh Jarrah alone, it is part of a settler-colonial project that includes Al-Aqsa, Silwan, and Jaffa Gate, as far as the Khan Ahmar village, the Israelis are de facto annexing territories as indicated in their E1, E2 and Jerusalem Basin plans, aiming to totally isolate east Jerusalem and Area C from the West Bank.
The Biden administration’s language is indeed positive and promising; however, in practice up until now, it is no more than lip service and an ATM machine for sustaining the UNRWA instead of resolving the issue of refugees forever. Israeli intransigence, settlement expansion, settler terror, annexation, application of discriminatory laws, and fruitless years of negotiations is what we witness on the ground. I must warn here of the return to coercive diplomacy that was sugarcoated under the umbrella of the peace process.
My fear is that the Biden administration talk about a political settlement and cease-fire will only take us back to procrastination and Machiavellian negotiations that buy more time for Israeli land confiscations at the expense of Palestinian political rights.
I told Blinken during a meeting last month that the Biden administration needs to realize that the Palestinian public is dismayed by the damage that the previous US administration had imposed on our grounds, such as witnessing former US President Donald Trump on television screens signing over Jerusalem to the Israelis. We know what Biden is capable of. From Mexico to China to transgender peoples’ rights to the climate change accords, many of former President Donald Trump’s proudest accomplishments were undone in just the first days of Biden’s administration.
- It is time to undo Trump’s decisions that fueled hate and racism in our region;
- It is urgent to reverse Trump’s decisions on Jerusalem;
- It is time to lift the blockade of Gaza;
- It is time to end the occupation;
- It is time to condemn Israeli evictions of Palestinians from their homes;
- It is time for the US to stop the $3.8 billion annual military aid to Israel;
- It is time for the US to stop Israeli annexation of the Jordan Valley;
- It is time for the US to stop shielding Israel at the United Nations through its right to veto;
- It is time to realize that peace cannot be imposed and cannot be made without the Palestinians.
The solution must include an end to the Israeli occupation, addressing inequality and ensuring justice for the Palestinian people. Economics alone will not solve the conflict. The Biden administration announced its dedication to reconstruction in Gaza, humanitarian aid and steps that bring a better future to Palestinians and Israelis. Hope cannot be restored through a déjà vu Marshall Plan. Old mistakes such as prioritizing the economic path at the expense of a political solution should be avoided. It is time for a political solution that will grant Palestinians and Israelis human rights, justice, freedom and equality, away from the limitations imposed by the Israeli military occupation.
We realize that the Palestinians need to activate democracy, reach reconciliation, reform public institutions, empower women and recognize the power of youth and more. However, the role of the United States remains indispensable.
Blinken told me in response to my above messages, delivered at a meeting on May 25 in Ramallah, that whatever is his response, it will sound insufficient to me. He continued by saying that he heard my advice on not repeating a bottom-up approach where he will delve into details and procrastination, and should instead consider a top-to-bottom macro framework where he starts by ending the occupation, recognizing the Palestinian state and above all identifying the borders of the State of Israel, but Blinken asserted that the US new administration is adopting a step-by-step approach.
If the US does not intend to fully embrace the Palestinian issue, what is the Palestinians next move?
The challenge for Palestinians is to leverage their new visibility after four years of the Trump administration’s embrace of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and the steady expansion of Jewish settlements in east Jerusalem and the West Bank.
The Trump administration’s recognition of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem gave a green light for what is happening today. What Israel is doing now is totally isolating the West Bank, and Netanyahu is leaving no option but a one-state reality.
But when you talk to people in Palestine they will tell you, no matter whether we agree with Hamas or not, it has helped Palestinians to get back their dignity and, along with that, the chance to pursue human rights and statehood for our people.
I doubt whether the Palestinians are in any position to hold elections today. Even if Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas gave the go-ahead, there’d be pressure to delay by the international community, which has seen the popularity of Hamas rise significantly after this war. Inspired by the experience of Northern Ireland and how the IRA joined Sinn Fein leading to the Good Friday agreement, the US needs to realize that, today, the inclusion of Hamas is crystal clear.
A cease-fire in Gaza is not enough. It is necessary to protect the 500 Palestinians in 28 families living in Sheikh Jarrah from eviction. Their rights must be preserved and the Palestinian national rights in east Jerusalem must be guaranteed. Above all, the Gaza siege must be lifted and the occupation must end; otherwise, the injustices we have witnessed throughout Palestine will continue to be committed by Israeli forces and settlers.
In the West, many place the blame on Hamas; however, Israel, as the occupying power, bears full responsibility for the crimes that are committed against Palestinians within Israel’s 1948 borders, in the West Bank, in Gaza, and east Jerusalem, including the residents of Sheikh Jarrah.
The US administration bears significant responsibility for what is happening, as the settler attacks in Jerusalem are inspired by the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital for the Jews alone, something that the Biden administration has continued to allow to carry over from the previous administration. It is also impossible to ignore the $3.8 billion in military aid that the US government gives Israel annually, in addition to subsidized armaments sales and at least $8 billion in loan guarantees. At the UN, successive American administrations have given Israel cover to violate human rights with impunity – most recently, Biden’s ambassador vetoed a UN Security Council resolution on May 16 calling for a cease-fire. Because of this, the US should be implicated directly or indirectly in Israel’s alleged war crimes against our people.
Palestinians are angry at how the Israeli violations are not met with sanctions or accountability, and in May they went on strike throughout Israel, the West Bank and Gaza in protest. The US must realize that this is not a matter of periodic flare-ups and cease-fires – this is about the ethnic cleansing of Palestine. Pressuring the Israeli government with sanctions and boycotts surely won’t bring an end to more than 73 years of injustice – but it would be a start. The Human Rights Watch report and B’tselem report, both of 2021, introduced a new brand for Israel – from a high-tech state to the apartheid state of the 21st century. Now, how will the US counter the new brand unless they work toward guaranteeing the political and human rights of the Palestinian people?
In Israel, Naftali Bennett, whose position on a two-state solution contradicts the Biden administration position, will lead the new government. Bennett not only opposes the two-state solution but supports settlements, is in favor of annexing Area C (which comprises 60% of the West Bank), advocates for Jewish control over Haram al-Sharif/Al-Aqsa, and supports a dangerously aggressive policy toward Palestinians.
These are some facts to consider before the Americans welcome the new Israeli government.