There have been slight differences in the two US administrations but in practise very little has changed.
Former US President Donald Trump’s administration recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and gave a green light to Israeli expansion of illegal settlements. To top it off, he froze US aid to Palestinians which had been in place for decades.
Trump’s so-called peace plan, the ‘deal of the century’, backed a two-state solution but was heavily criticised for ignoring key demands of Palestinians, including the recognition of Israel occupied East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine.
During his presidential campaign, US President Joe Biden promised to support the Palestinians, which must have come as a relief to many Palestinians. The Palestinian Authority (PA) was also hopeful that Biden would bring greater justice to the path of the conflict.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas was one of the first leaders to congratulate Biden over his victory.
Just after Biden took office, a US policy memo titled “The US-Palestinian Reset and the Path Forward” suggested reattaching the “connective tissue” destroyed in recent years, reaffirming a two-state solution and restoring funding to Palestinians.
The Biden administration reassured Israel of steadfast support while stating that it is “deeply concerned” by the eviction of Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan neighbourhoods of Jerusalem, many of whom had lived in those homes for generations.
Ned Price, US State Department spokesperson stated, “It is critical to avoid steps that exacerbate tensions or take us farther away from peace. This includes evictions in East Jerusalem, settlement activity, home demolitions, and acts of terrorism.”
The State Department stated in several occasions that it is working with senior Israeli and Palestinian leaders to deescalate tensions in Jerusalem urging both sides to exercise decisive leadership and work cooperatively together to lower tensions, end the violence, and reinvigorate long-standing coordination mechanisms.
Recently, Israeli and Palestinian officials have met to discuss security issues but without any major development for the Palestinians.
Same but different?
Biden’s administration approved funding for Palestinian organisations to counter Covid-19 and empower the economy in an effort to regain the trust of the Palestinians. The US also provided United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) with $318 million in 2021 for Palestinian refugees.
For the first time in over a decade, Israel approved the legal status of some Palestinians who live in the occupied West Bank - which means those Palestinians passing through Israeli military checkpoints in the West Bank won’t be stopped by Israeli security forces. Some considered it a positive gesture by Israel.
All of those are positive developments but at the same time Israeli practices including settler violence, the expansion of settlements, home demolitions and eviction of families in Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhoods remain unabated.
“I didn’t see any difference between Trump and Biden. I see full blind support to the Israeli occupation and apartheid without implementing any of the promises Biden gave to the Palestinians,” Palestinian human rights activist Issa Amro told TRT World.
Amro adds that Biden promised to reopen the US Consulate in Jerusalem which didn’t happen and that the PLO office in Washington DC remains closed.
"On the internal Palestinian situation, Biden’s administration didn’t take any corrective action with the expired PA leadership which suspended the Palestinian elections. There is no pressure on PA over human rights violations and corruption.”
A Palestinian official close to PA President Mahmoud Abbas said that the 86-year leader is “outraged” at the slow pace of US policy toward the Palestinians calling them “liars for not keeping the promises they made to us.”
Biden refuses to meet with Abbas, according to sources in Ramallah, who said that Abbas cancelled his trip to the United Nations General Assembly in September, because efforts by the PA to secure a meeting for Abbas with Biden failed.
Those promises include reopening the Palestine Liberation Organization office in Washington, providing financial support to the PA, and reopening the US consulate in Jerusalem.
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh has warned US members of Congress that the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories could explode if Israel is not pressured to return to the peace process.
During a meeting with a delegation of 30 US lawmakers in Ramallah, Shtayyeh called on the legislators to form a special committee "to investigate the practices of persecution and apartheid carried out by Israel against the Palestinian people".