Abbas pressuring for concrete US gesture during Biden visit

Palestinian sources tell Hebrew media that if the president comes with just a modest economic relief package, it would be better for him not to come at all.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

The Palestinian Authority (PA) is pressuring the Biden administration for concrete and significant gestures during the U.S. president’s upcoming visit to the region, saying that if they are not forthcoming, he may as well not come, Ynet reported Thursday.

According to the Hebrew news site, proof of the pressure can be found in PA President Mahmoud Abbas’ phone conversation with Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday. After Blinken initiated the call, Abbas criticized America’s silence “in the face of Israeli provocations that break international law,” the report stated.

According to the Palestinian Wafa news agency, Abbas told Blinken, “The American administration must turn its talk into actions, rather than making do with this policy of condemnation, denunciation and silence regarding these unilateral Israeli measures.”

The PA has harshly criticized the IDF’s weeks-long “Breaking the Wave” operation to arrest terrorists in Judea and Samaria, which has resulted in major clashes with terrorists, especially in the Jenin area. Abbas has also strongly condemned all recent Israeli police actions on the Temple Mount to stop Palestinian rioters from hurting Jewish visitors to the holy site.

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Abbas also discussed Palestinian criticism of the current U.S. administration, foremost of which is its failure to come through on a Biden campaign promise to reopen the American consulate in Jerusalem that served as Washington’s independent conduit to the Palestinians.

Two other issues on which the Palestinians demand action are the removal of the PLO from the list of U.S. terrorist organizations and the reopening of the PLO mission in Washington, which former president Donald Trump had ordered closed in September 2018.

While the Palestinian site reported that “the American administration will send a high-level delegation to prepare for Biden’s visit and discuss all the issues that President Abbas has raised throughout this phone call,” State Department spokesman Ned Price described the call only in generalities.

Blinken had talked of “the importance of Israelis and Palestinians working to maintain calm and de-escalate tensions,” and had “emphasized the importance of the U.S.-Palestinian relationship, and the Administration’s support for a negotiated two-state solution,” Price said.

Palestinian sources harshly criticized American policy to Ynet and Yedioth Ahronoth, telling the media outlets that if the president comes to Ramallah with a modest economic relief package in hand, it would be better for him not to come at all. According to them, a summit without a proper political gift will further weaken the Palestinian Authority and push it to the margins.

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Although Biden’s visit is expected to take place at the end of the month, Washington has yet to formally announce the president’s timetable.

Local political pundits attribute the administration’s hesitation to the Israeli government’s precarious position after it lost its majority in the Knesset. If early elections are called, which is a distinct possibility, Biden would not want to be seen as attempting to influence Israelis during the campaign period, especially as mid-term elections draw near in the U.S.