President Joe Biden reaffirmed America’s commitment to a two-state solution and the well-being of Palestinians while wrapping up the last day of his three-day trip to Israel before flying directly to Saudi Arabia. The President and his team met with leaders from the Palestinian Authority (P.A.) in Bethlehem in the West Bank, as Palestinian leaders were anxiously waiting to see whether President Biden would take a complete detour from former President Trump’s policies regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In the city of David, President Biden met with the ruling P.A. leader Mahmoud Abbas reiterating the United States’ commitment to a two-state solution on 1967 lines with land swaps mutually agreed upon by the Israeli and Palestinian governments. According to sources, the President stated that direct negotiations are needed to achieve an independent, sovereign, and viable Palestinian state alongside the Jewish state, with security, recognized borders and allowing both sides to live together peacefully.
The President went on to express that while the American position was that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, specific boundaries must be resolved by final status negotiations between the Palestinians and Israelis through peaceful negotiations. Regarding holy sites in Jerusalem, the President called on the current status quo to be maintained, keeping in place Jordanian control of the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the temple mount. The President urged the Palestinians and Israelis to respect the current laws regarding holy sites and for both sides to avoid unilateral measures to inflame tensions in the area.
“What we saw in East Jerusalem was an unnecessary slap in the face to the Israelis, while what we heard in Bethlehem was a half-hearted regurgitation of failed Obama-era doctrines proven to empower terrorists and undermine peace,” explained Richard Goldberg, a senior advisor at Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD).
“While it’s unlikely we see the Biden administration pay much more than lip service to a two-state solution going forward, the President’s decision to hand over huge sums of taxpayer money without first halting the Palestinian pay-for-slay program will likely fuel more terror attacks against Israel,” according to Goldberg.
Towards the end of his address with Abbas, President Biden discussed measures currently undertaken by America to support the Palestinian people and encouraged international cooperation to assist them. According to reports, senior administration officials would like to generate more progress toward reaching a peace agreement between Israel and Palestinians but have argued for a non-top-down approach.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been the longest-running conflict in the Middle East since the establishment of the state of Israel post World War II. After the war, the Jewish state faced its hostile Arabs neighbors including Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and others, where it single-handedly defended itself and expanded its borders. Facing outcry from the international community, Israel agreed in 1967 to retreat from the territory it had gained, losing its defensive positions against Arab neighbors resulting in what became known as the “Auschwitz lines.”
Many experts point out that when Israel agreed to the 1967 borders, the state faced attacks from Arab guerrilla fighters and was threatened significantly by its neighbors. When the Arab states invaded Israel during the Six-Day War, Israel once again defended itself, destroying the combined Arab armies while expanding its territory to the Sinai Peninsula, the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and most of the Golan Heights under Syria.
As the years went on, Israel withdrew from the territories it conquered, allowing the Palestinian Arab population to rule in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip under their own governments. In the West Bank, the P.A., formerly known as the Palestinian Liberation Organization (P.L.O.), has been ruled by Mahmoud Abbas since 2005, remaining in office for much longer than he promised. Since 2005, Abbas’s rule has led to more Palestinians impoverished, paid-terrorist attacks against Israelis, condemnation of the Israeli government for defending itself from Palestinian terrorists, and enriching himself with funds from the P.A. and international organizations.
The U.S. has maintained relations with the P.A. to find a solution between Israelis and Palestinians and counter the growing threat of radical Islamic terrorist organizations like Hamas and Islamic Jihad. However, many point out that Abbas has also supported terrorist attacks against Israelis and has had a history of Antisemitism and has been slow to condemn terrorist attacks from Hamas.
Some experts who have studied the Israeli-Palestinian argue that one of the reasons why negotiations between the two sides are not ongoing revolves around P.A.’s reluctance to recognize the Jewish state and its inability to halt terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians. Instead, Israel has continued to foster economic and military relations with Arab states to deter the threat of the Islamic Republic of Iran and its terrorist proxies in the region.