Last week, the Emirati paper the National received an exclusive copy of a four-page memo of the Biden administration detailing its vision to “reset” U.S. relations with the Palestinian Authority (PA). The memo shows that the Biden administration is rehashing bad ideas on the Israeli–Palestinian conflict to the detriment of Middle East peace.
The memo backs a two-state solution “based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed land swaps.” This is far less generous to Israel than what Trump offered when he proposed that Israel could exert sovereignty in approximately 30 percent of Judea and Samaria. The “reset” memo’s framework would reward the PA for failing to negotiate in good faith following President Trump’s offer. It will also be a non-starter for Israel, especially as Israel is poised to have an even larger right-wing majority as a result of Israel’s elections today.
The memo says the Biden administration is “planning a full range of economic, security and humanitarian assistance programmes, including through UN Relief and World Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).” The Trump administration had ceased funding UNRWA in 2018. UNRWA has employed members of Hamas, Hamas has used UNRWA facilities to store weapons, and UNRWA uses textbooks that promote anti-Israel, anti-Semitic, and jihadist themes. Refinancing UNRWA would mean rewarding terrorism.
The memo also indicates that negotiations contain “agreements” on “refugees.” This also has no support among the Israeli public. As the Heritage Foundation has pointed out, UNRWA “has evolved into a permanent institution providing services to multiple generations of Palestinian ‘refugees.’ ” UNRWA expanded what it considers a Palestinian refugee from the 600,000 people who originally fled the British Mandate of Palestine from 1946 to 1948 to that original number plus their descendants (5.3 million people). Allowing such refugees to return to Israel will mean the destruction of the country. Establishing a right of return for Palestinians also creates a double standard denied by every other people fleeing conflict, including the Jews who fled Arab lands, along with Vietnamese, Syrians, Libyans, Yemenis, Iraqis, and others.
The memo states that the Biden administration will “take a two-fold approach of maintaining and ideally improving the US relationship with Israel by deepening its integration into the region while resetting the US relationship with the Palestinian people and leadership.” Translation: the Biden administration will link progress on the Abraham Accords with future Israeli concessions to the Palestinians. This will likely slow any future normalization and détente with the Arab and Muslim world, as these countries will not act in their own self-interest because they will be waiting (indefinitely) for a green light from the Palestinians.
The memo says, “State and USAID are working towards a restart of U.S. assistance to the Palestinians in late March or early April.” Given that President Biden has nominated Samantha Power to lead USAID, Power will likely bring her hostile positions to Israel. Power previously supported the Obama administration’s refusal to veto UN Resolution 2334, which said Jewish neighborhoods in Judea and Samaria (including eastern Jerusalem) have “no legal validity” under international law. And the increased aid to the Palestinians will likely be given without asking for anything in return.
The memo also states that the Biden administration “plan[s] to announce $15 million in Covid-related humanitarian assistance.” The Palestinians will likely refuse such assistance or otherwise use it as a prop to defame Israel. As I have argued previously in The American Spectator, past Israeli offers of COVID relief were met with a defamatory campaign accusing Israel and the Jews of spreading COVID. The PA twice refused COVID assistance from the UAE in 2020, asserting their acceptance would legitimize the normalization of relations between Israel and the UAE. While Article VI of the Oslo Accords makes the PA (not Israel) responsible for the health and social welfare of the Palestinians, several Democratic politicians have criticized Israel for not providing vaccines to the Palestinians. Any COVID aid coming from the U.S. will likely be received by more slander towards Israel and botched implementation. A money pit indeed.
The memo mentions that the Biden administration supports “rolling back certain steps by the prior administration that … pose real barriers to a two-state solution, such as country of origin labeling.” Before the Oslo Accords, the “settlements” labeled their exports “Made in Israel,” but in 2016 the Obama administration threatened such products with fines. The Trump administration accepted such labels in December 2020. The labels apply to goods made in Area C of Judea and Samaria, which is recognized under the Oslo Accords as being under Israeli civilian and military control. Reversing such a decision goes against Israel’s claims to sovereignty in Judea and Samaria and results in boycotting goods from places that most Israelis believe will forever be a part of Israel.
The memo also says the Biden administration is negotiating with the PA to alter its stipends for those arrested by the PA, including terrorists’ “pay-for-slay” payments. But these changes are merely cosmetic. Rather than pushing for the complete elimination of funds to terrorists, the Biden administration is merely advocating for payments being based on financial need and not length of sentence.
The memo indicates that the U.S. “suffer[s] from a lack of connective tissue following the 2018 closure of the PLO office in Washington and refusal of Palestinian Authority leadership to directly engage with our embassy to Israel.” Here, the Biden administration is disagreeing with former President Trump’s decision to close the PLO office, blaming the Trump administration rather than the failure of the PLO to engage in good-faith peace negotiations. Since the PLO has failed to peacefully negotiate since, the Biden administration reopening the PLO office would give the PLO something for nothing.
Lastly, the drafter of the memo was Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Israeli–Palestinian Affairs Hady Amr. I have argued previously in The American Spectator that Amr’s views will likely create difficulties for Israel in the Biden administration, given his connections to Qatar and his willingness to discuss with Palestinian officials issues like Palestinians’ displeasure over President Trump’s U.S. embassy move to Jerusalem, closing the PLO office in Washington, and ceasing funding to the UNRWA.
The “reset” memo will not advance peace between Israel and the Palestinians but instead will drive the two parties further apart. If the Biden administration is serious about peace in the Middle East, it should capitalize on the progress of the Trump administration’s Abraham Accords. The Biden administration should work with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to broker four more normalization deals, which Netanyahu claims are possible. Strengthening the Abraham Accords will allow the U.S. and Israel to approach the Palestinian Authority from a position of strength, giving all parties the best chance of negotiating a durable peace.