OpinionIsrael-Palestinian Conflict

Palestinians are back on the State Department docket

Normalization is no substitute for peace, yet peace can’t happen without it.

U.S. State Department Truman Building. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
U.S. State Department Truman Building. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
Yisrael Medad
Yisrael Medad is a researcher, analyst and opinion commentator on political, cultural and media issues.

At the U.S. State Department press conference on Feb. 2, a question was posed by Said Arikat of the Al-Quds daily newspaper. Incidentally, if you do not know, among other things this particular journal carries some very anti-Semitic caricatures, as well as other images not favorable to the United States.

His question:

… last Tuesday, U.S. envoy to the United Nations told the Security Council that the United States is going to restore aid to UNRWA, the work and relief agency, and will probably open the consulate in East Jerusalem as well as reopening the office here in Washington for the Palestinians. My question to you: Is there a timetable, one? And on UNRWA aid, considering that the United States was the largest contributor, so will that be retroactive? I mean, that’s close to like $900 million since 2018.

Retroactive? Those funds were withheld because of bad management, anti-Semitic promotion and terror-support that was confirmed in reports.

State Department spokesman Ned Price’s answer was:

The United States does intend to restore humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people. We’re not doing that as a favor, but because it’s in the interest of the United States to do so … the suspension of aid to the Palestinian people has neither produced political progress nor secured concessions from the Palestinian leadership. Of course, it has only harmed innocent Palestinians.

He added:

The United States will reinvigorate our humanitarian leadership and work to galvanize the international community to meet its humanitarian obligations, including to the Palestinian people.

Interestingly, Erikat’s own report on that exchange (here in Arabic) is headlined “US State Department Spokesman: Resuming support for the Palestinians is in our strategic interest.” Erikat added “strategic” for good measure, highlighting it in his tweet. A proper academic study of his reporting, perhaps, would be an interesting project for the future.

As for Price’s “innocent,” let’s leave that to the Hamas recruitment agencies, and those of the Islamic Jihad and additional terror groups in Gaza, which fire rockets at Israeli civilian targets, dig tunnels to facilitate the invasion of Israel, and send incendiary kites and balloon bombs aloft. But indeed, what interest is it to for the United States to continue a fiction (millions of refugees) so as to enable a non-productive economy (relying on aid handouts instead) and to ignore the Palestinian Authority’s continued policies of anti-normalization, diplomatic rejectionism, denouncing the Abraham Accords (see next question) and continuing terror incitement?

We come to the Nicholas Wadhams of Bloomberg who asked:

are you prepared to give the previous administration credit for the Kosovo-Israel deal, for the other Abraham Accords?

To which Price replied:

When it comes to the Abraham Accords and to your question, I believe this was something that Secretary-Designate [Tony] Blinken has spoken to, and he has spoken to the Abraham Accords as something that was welcome during the previous administration, something that indeed we hope to build on. The United States will continue to urge other countries to normalize relations with Israel, and we’ll look for other opportunities to expand cooperation among countries in the region.

adding

While we support normalization between Israel and countries in the Arab world, it’s also not a substitute for Israeli-Palestinian peace, and that’s very important. We hope that as Israel and other countries in the region join together in a common effort to build bridges and create new avenues for dialogue and exchange, these efforts contribute to tangible progress towards the goal of advancing a negotiated peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

Normalization is not a substitute, for sure, but without it, there definitely will not be peace. Look what’s happening around the Middle East with peaceful arrangements going hand in hand with economic benefits and a boost in the security needs of all peoples of the region faced by threats from Iran and Turkey, not to mention the Syrian morass.

In connection with that exchange, it would be good to review what Steve Postal has written:

the Biden administration is well on its way to reversing the significant gains in Middle East peace brokered by the Trump administration. By undermining the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Israel, and strengthening the Palestinian Authority and Iran, the Biden administration will greatly undermine prospects of peace in the region. The Biden administration will likely undermine other current and potential normalization agreements through the following:

Weakening relations with the UAE; strengthening Iran; strengthening the Palestinian Authority; potentially alienating Morocco; potentially ignoring Indonesia.

With new staffers coming on board (who I hope have read, or will read, Shany Mor’s The Return of the Peace Processors, Daniel Greenfield on Maher Bitar and Hady Amr) and others heading State Department units and divisions dealing with the Mideast, as well as future ambassadors and other administration positions, be prepared for some stormy waters ahead.

Yisrael Medad is an American-born Israeli political commentator and journalist.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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