In visit to Ramallah, US secretary of state pledges massive development and economic aid for Palestinians and to rebuild Gaza, reopening of Jerusalem consulate, upgrading of US-Palestinian ties
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken vowed Tuesday to restore ties with the Palestinian Authority and pledged financial aid to help rebuild the war-battered Gaza Strip and bolster the Egyptian brokered cease-fire between Hamas and Israel. He also insisted that Hamas, the Islamist group that rules the impoverished coastal strip, would not benefit from any aid.
Blinken’s meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, the seat of the PA government in the West Bank, comes after 11 days of heavy fighting in and around the Gaza Strip and southern Israel, and as unrest continues to grip east Jerusalem and the West Bank.
Blinken’s Mideast tour also will include Egypt and Jordan. He met with Israeli officials in Jerusalem earlier on Tuesday.
The top US diplomat says that Washington aims to reopen a consulate for Palestinians in Jerusalem, closed by the Trump administration.
Blinken also said during his visit to Ramallah that the Biden administration would notify Congress of its intent to provide an additional $75 million in development and economic aid to Palestinians.
He added that Washington also would disburse $5.5 million in immediate disaster assistance for Gaza and $32 million to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, or UNRWA.
Ties between Ramallah and Washington were downgraded during the tenure of former President Donald Trump.
The US consulate in Jerusalem long served as an autonomous office in charge of diplomatic relations with the Palestinians. Trump downgraded the consulate operations and placed them under the authority of his ambassador to Israel when he moved the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, to the consulate building located on the seam between west Jerusalem and the no-man’s land bordering east Jerusalem.
Trump’s move infuriated the Palestinians, who view east Jerusalem as occupied territory and the capital of their future state.
A new consulate serving the Palestinians would likely be opened in a US-owned property in east Jerusalem, such as the so-called America House on Nablus Road, which in previous years housed a US consulate serving the Palestinians.
The news of the Biden administration’s plans should be music to Abbas’ ears, but it was not so to dozens in Ramallah who protested Blinken’s visit while chanting slogans including “O, Abbas we don’t want American interventions.”
The PA president thanked Blinken, as well as US President Joe Biden and his “efforts” in helping to reach a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.
“We thank the American administration for its support to the State of Palestine and to UNRWA, this is something we greatly appreciate. We hope that the future will be full of diplomatic and political activities led by the United States and the international Quartet to reach a just, comprehensive and complete solution in accordance with international legitimacy. We thank the American administration for its commitment to the two-state solution,” said Abbas.
These US steps are seen as part of its efforts to boost Abbas in his rivalry with Hamas and on the international stage. Hamas’ popularity spiked among Palestinians following the latest 11-day devastating conflict between Israel and Hamas that killed more than 250 people, mostly Palestinians, and caused widespread destruction in an already impoverished Gaza.
Palestinians are outraged at the US backing of Israel during the recent short-lived conflict, and say that Washington can’t be an “honest broker” because of its support for Israel.
“We came here today to send a message to the American colonialist, that your absolute political, financial and military support to the Zionist state is part of an international war on our helpless people,” activist Ashraf Abu Aram told The Media Line.
Dr. Ghassan Khatib, a professor of political science at Birzeit University near Ramallah, told The Media Line that Palestinians have low expectations from the secretary of state’s visit.
“The issue of reviving the negotiations is beyond the expectations,” he said.
Khatib blames Israel for the stalled negotiations.
“The Palestinian people have no expectations regarding the political process because they understand that the political reality in Israel is completely non-compatible with the requirement for any kind of peace process,” he said.
Peace talks have been stalled since 2014, including over the status of east Jerusalem and Israeli settlements in the West Bank.