The Biden administration believes it must take care of the Palestinian people. That is the difference between us and the Trump administration. Writes Hugh Fitzgerald
At his first interview with the Israeli media in early January the new American ambassador was asked If he would be visiting any of the settlements. No, he said, “I absolutely will not.” This went over well in the Muqata in Ramallah, but left most Israelis feeling a blend of amazement, chagrin, and fury.
There was more to come. “New US envoy says ‘absolutely won’t’ visit settlements, to avoid inflaming tensions,” by Jacob Magid, Times of Israel, January 14, 2022:
Pointing to another difference between the current and previous American administrations, the US ambassador said, “The Biden administration believes it must take care of the Palestinian people. That is the difference between us and the Trump administration.”
“The Biden administration believes it must take care of the Palestinian people”? Since when did that become an American duty? We have no historic connection to, no special affection for, no duty towards, the soi-disant “Palestinian people,” who, thanks to UNRWA’s ever-increasing largesse, are better provided for than any of the hundreds of millions of real refugees created since World War II.
Some of us – the better-informed some of us — don’t accept the existence of a separate “Palestinian people” whom Ambassador Nides thinks we must “take care of.” We know that their invention was a propaganda effort, suggested to Arafat by the KGB. The head of the Palestinian terror group As-Saiqa, Zuheir Mohsen, explained in an interview he gave to the Dutch newspaper Trouw in 1977: “Between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese there are no differences. We are all part of one people, the Arab nation […] Just for political reasons we carefully underwrite our Palestinian identity. Because it is of national interest for the Arabs to advocate the existence of Palestinians to balance Zionism. Yes, the existence of a separate Palestinian identity exists only for tactical reasons.”
Mohsen repeated – and reinforced — the point: “The Palestinian people do not exist. The creation of a Palestinian state is only a means for continuing our struggle against the state of Israel for our Arab unity. In reality today there is no difference between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese. Only for political and tactical reasons do we speak today about the existence of a Palestinian people, since Arab national interests demand that we posit the existence of a distinct ‘Palestinian people’ to oppose Zionism. Yes, the existence of a separate Palestinian identity exists only for tactical reasons.”
Nides may think “we have to take care of the Palestinian people,” but many will reject – as you and I do – both parts of that bizarre proposition.
Nides pointed to Biden’s renewal of hundreds of millions of dollars in humanitarian aid to the Palestinians that was cut by Trump, amid Ramallah’s refusal to engage with his administration.
Asked if he’s had any meetings with Palestinian officials since his arrival, the envoy admitted that he had yet to cross the Green Line, but said he well might do so in the coming weeks if asked.
While the Palestinian Authority has renewed its ties with the Biden administration, it has maintained an overall boycott of the US embassy, objecting to its relocation from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The boycott hasn’t always been maintained though, and PA President Mahmoud Abbas has met with the head of the embassy’s Palestinian Affairs Unit George Noll — which operates in lieu of the Jerusalem Consulate that Trump shuttered in 2019.
Nides repeated the Biden administration’s assertion that the US plans to reopen the consulate that historically served as the de facto mission to the Palestinians. However, he did not provide any additional details, including a timeline for when the matter will be seen through.
Biden is a year into his term as President, and while he promised to reopen the consulate to the Palestinians very early on, it looks as if it’s not going to happen. Biden has a lot on his plate: a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine, a Chinese threat to Taiwan, the North Korean missiles, the endless wrangling with Iran in Vienna. The Palestinians are small beer. The Abraham Accords show how little they matter to the other Arabs. He’s already thinking of the 2024 election, his sinking numbers in the polls, and likely Democratic losses in 2022. Why unnecessarily antagonize Israel’s supporters by trying – in vain — to reopen that consulate to the Palestinians in east Jerusalem?
Besides, Biden would need to obtain the approval of Israel to open that consulate, and he knows that under the Vienna Convention of 1963, to which both Israel and the US are signatories, a consulate cannot be opened without the agreement of the host state. A unilateral reopening of the consulate would contradict the convention, custom, and common sense. Both Prime Minister Bennett and Foreign Minister Lapid have insisted that Israel will never give such approval. Biden is stuck.
And the Bidenites have gotten the message.
Three sources familiar with the matter told The Times of Israel last month that Washington has effectively decided to shelve plans to reopen the consulate amid strong Israeli resistance to the move. The news has deeply angered PA leaders, who warned ToI [Times of Israel] that the move would have consequences on US-Palestinian relations moving forward.
Oh dear. America, you have been warned. There will be “consequences on [sic] US-Palestinian relations” if that consulate is not reopened. What might they be? Will the Palestinians refuse to cash those generous checks the Bidenites have been sending to Ramallah? No one in the U.S. will be losing sleep over that.
Nides asserted that despite declarative efforts to reopen the consulate, “Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and the American ambassador works and lives there.”
Beyond that, he said that the US hopes the final status of Jerusalem will be determined through direct negotiations between the parties.
I hate to break it to Ambassador Nides, but the “final status” of Jerusalem was decided some 3000 years ago, when it became the center of Jewish life, the place where Jews lived uninterruptedly for thousands of years. There have been updates to the story since, as the city changed rulers, but not its central significance to Jews. The last major change was in 1980, when the modern state of Israel formally annexed all of Jerusalem. Its “status” is not subject to “negotiations between the parties.” Sorry, Mr. Ambassador. No can do.
As for the Biden administration’s support for Israel more broadly, Nides characterized it as “unconditional.”…
“Unconditional”? Not if the Bidenites are willing to violate the Taylor Force Act and provide hundreds of millions of dollars to the P.A. despite its continuing to reward past, and incentivize future, terrorist acts through the “Pay-For-Slay” program that is Mahmoud Abbas’ proudest achievement. Not if it is willing to let the PLO, which has Israeli blood on its hands, reopen an office in Washington.
“Unconditional”? Not If the Biden Administration refuses to admit that Israel has a very strong claim to retain all of Judea and Samaria (a/k/a the West Bank), based on Article 6 of the Mandate for Palestine, which encourages “close settlement by Jews on the land.” What land? All the land that the League of Nations assigned to the Palestine Mandate for the Jewish National Home. That land extended from the Golan in the north to the Red Sea in the south, and from the Jordan River in the east to the Mediterranean in the west. Have the Bidenites read, and understood what the League of Nations’ Mandate for Palestine signifies? Are they aware that Article 80 of the U.N. Charter committed the U.N. to fulfill the requirements of any League of Nations mandates still remaining? Does Biden, does Blinken, does Sullivan understand that Resolution 242 of the U.N. Security Council allowed Israel to retain the territory it deems necessary in order to have “secure [i.e. defensible] and recognized boundaries”? I have an awful feeling that Ambassador Nides has paid no attention to, inter alia, the Mandate for Palestine, the Treaty of San Remo, Article 80 of the U.N Charter, and Resolution 242 of the Security Council. It’s time, Ambassador Nides, for you to hit the books, and burn the midnight oil.
“Some of the conversations are meant to calm your anxiety. If I were Israeli, I would be anxious too. I respect that with all my heart,” Nides said.
They’d be a little less anxious in Israel, Mr. Ambassador, If you’d do the right and handsome thing, and announce that “upon reconsideration, I intend to visit the five settlement blocs that Israelis keep telling me, will remain part of Israel, whatever else may be subject to negotiation. Yes, I’d like to see some things in the West Bank for myself. And I will.”
Impotent rage from the rais in Ramallah, feeling betrayed. Quiet satisfaction in Jerusalem. A highly desirable denouement.