White House to restore US ties with Palestinians, flipping Trump stance

WASHINGTON • The Biden administration will restore diplomatic relations with the Palestinian Authority, more than two years after previous president Donald Trump effectively ended them.

The action signals a return to a more traditional and even-handed approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict after a Trump administration policy that was heavily slanted towards Israel.

The shift, which will include a resumption of United States aid to the Palestinians, was announced on Tuesday in a speech by acting US ambassador to the United Nations Richard Mills.

Mr Mills also reaffirmed support for a "mutually agreed, two-state solution" between Israel and the Palestinians, "in which Israel lives in peace and security, alongside a viable Palestinian state".

And he called on the parties to refrain from unilateral actions, such as the annexation of territory and settlement activity by Israel, or incitements to violence by the Palestinians, that could make such an outcome more difficult.

Analysts and regional leaders say the prospects of an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement are dimmer than they have been in decades. The parties have all but ceased communications, Palestinian leaders summarily rejected a peace plan offered by the Trump White House last year, and the issue is not among President Joe Biden's top priorities.

But the American announcement is part of a broader return to previous US foreign policy practices, and an end to open hostility.

The policy shift was cheered by Palestinian leaders and supporters of a negotiated solution between Israel and the Palestinians.

"This is exactly the type of swift action the administration needs to take to restore American credibility as a diplomatic mediator between Israelis and Palestinians," said Mr Jeremy Ben-Ami, the president of J Street, a liberal advocacy group that supports an Israeli settlement with the Palestinians.

Mr Mills said the Biden administration would "take steps to reopen diplomatic missions that were closed by the last US administration", without offering specifics. In addition to closing the Palestinian Mission in Washington in September 2018, the Trump administration also closed the US Consulate in East Jerusalem.

Mr Mills also said Mr Biden intended "to restore US assistance programmes that support economic development and humanitarian aid for the Palestinian people".

While the Democratic Party has grown more critical of Israeli policies in recent years, Mr Biden's positions are more centrist and he is less quick to criticise the country than other Democrats.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 28, 2021, with the headline 'White House to restore US ties with Palestinians, flipping Trump stance'. Subscribe