- Feb 19, 2021
'The National' obtains US official document for Palestinian ‘reset’
Four-page US memo details Biden administration's approach to relations with the Palestinian Authority and jump-starting the peace process
March 17, 2021
The US administration is looking to 'reset' relations with the Palestinians with a plan that includes $15 million in Covid-19 assistance and a rollback of several Trump administration positions that favoured Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank and did not prioritise the two-state solution, an internal memo reveals.
The official document, obtained exclusively by The National on Wednesday, was raised to US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken on March 1, by acting assistant secretary of state for near eastern Affairs Joey Hood.
It was drafted by deputy assistant secretary of state for Israeli-Palestinian affairs Hady Amr and his team.
The memo, The US Palestinian Reset and the Path Forward, is the most detailed proposal so far by the Biden team to rebalance relations with the Palestinians after four years of Donald Trump, who cut ties with Ramallah.
The US memo acknowledges new challenges in approaching the Palestinian situation.
“As we reset US relations with the Palestinians, the Palestinian body politic is at an inflection point as it moves towards its first elections in 15 years,” it says.
“At the same time, we [the US] suffer 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,” the memo says.
It mentions growing disparities between Israelis and Palestinians and outlines a “reset under way and the path ahead”.
The memo defines the US vision on the issue as one “to advance freedom, security, and prosperity for both Israelis and Palestinians in the immediate term which is important in its own right, but also as means to advance the prospects of a negotiated two-state solution”.
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The Trump administration's peace plan – unveiled at the White House in January 2020 – begrudgingly backed a two-state end goal for the conflict but was heavily critcised for ignoring key demands of Palestinian negotiators, including recognising east Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state.
The Biden administration memo recommends voicing US principles on achieving Israeli-Palestinian peace under a two-state solution framework “based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed land swaps and agreements on security and refugees”.
The new US team 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,” the memo says.
It lays out current efforts towards that goal, including Mr Amr re-establishing diplomatic contact with the Palestinian Authority that was cut under Mr Trump who shut the US consulate in Jerusalem and kicked Palestinian diplomats out of the US.
The memo says that Mr Amr held “listening sessions with key counterparts at Israel’s [Ministry of Foreign Affairs] and Defence on the US-Israeli-Palestinian relationship” and that “they welcomed the restart of US-Palestinian relations”.
A key pillar of the new policy involves restarting assistance to the Palestinians, with plans for new Covid-19 aid that could be announced as soon as the end of this month.
“State and USAID are working towards a restart of US assistance to the Palestinians in late March or early April,” the memo says.