Biden should work harder to unknot Palestinian-Israeli tangle

As one of his acts in the first few days into his administration, the newly-elected US President Joe Biden has reversed the previous Iran policy and is now looking forward to revive the nuclear deal with America’s erstwhile partner in the Gulf.

After over a month of waiting, much to the surprise of the observers, the US President held a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on 12th of March and the two leaders have discussed regional issues.

The most burning issue in the geo-politics of the day is Israel-Palestine tangle and it is the focal point in Middle East relations.

The power in the hands of US President is his discretion of continuing or over-turning the previous regime’s laws and policies. The new Democratic Party platform rejects annexation and expresses support for a Two-State solution and Palestinian rights. However, a closer look at his moves since the time of his campaign shows otherwise.

It’s true that the new Administration intends to reinstate critical US humanitarian aid to Palestinian refugees and will re-open the PLO mission office in Washington, DC. It also announced that it will rejoin the UN Human Rights Council from which the Trump Administration withdrew in protest of its scrutiny of Israel.

But the new Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, has made it clear that the Administration will not move US embassy from Jerusalem back to Tel Aviv. He said that it will maintain and celebrate Israel’s normalization agreements with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan without ensuring a single enduring concession for the Palestinians. It will continue to provide Israel with unconditional military support amounting to $3.8 billion annually which the Republican Trump Administration had stopped.

Furthermore, the Biden Administration also expressed concern over the International Criminal Court’s effort to exercise jurisdiction over Israeli officials to prosecute them for war crimes and is considering the Trump’s sanctions. Its stand is not yet clear on this.

On the other side, Biden’s effort for restoring the Israel nuclear and military prowess is clearly part of US Middle East policy to protect its own interest in accessing geo-political resources. So how is that the Biden administration reviving the Israel-Palestine issue? Merely, it is just Trump’s legacy of shrinking public space to discuss US Middle East policy and Biden is no better as it seems his Administration will continue it as a soft diplomacy plan.

Anyway, if Biden truly has something on his mind for Israel issue, then  some of the possible  steps it can take to resolve the issue are: Firstly,  it should restore the 1993 accords that designate borders and settlements as final-status issues to be negotiated and not prejudiced by unilateral actions like annexation.

Other steps should include restoration of American diplomatic relations with the Palestinians so that the administration works towards an eventual agreement that allows both people in Jerusalem and Palestine their self-determination. The US embassy should be reopened in East Jerusalem where it can serve more effectively its mission of outreach to Palestinians and not keep it in West Jerusalem.  Simultaneously, he may also encourage the Arab countries to restart their diplomatic engagement with Israel.

“US, as the ice-breaker in the Israel and Palestine issue, can actually restore the diplomatic ties between the two States (US and Israel) and end the long-winding conflict. This will open new vistas of development and other boiling issues of immigrants’ right violations can be solved. May be in the future, if relations are fully restored, then the two States can go greater heights in military and nuclear cooperation,” says Asif Husain Syed, a US-based political analyst.

Expansion and acceleration of illegal settlement activities in the occupied West Bank, continuation of demolitions, seizures of Palestinian-owned property and evictions remain a continuing cause of concern and stall a free Middle East engagement. As rightly pointed out by UN Secretary Antonio Guterres, the Palestine-Israel conflict resolution is key to sustainable peace in Middle East.

Fatima Hasan is a Hyderabad based journalist

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