U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, May 25, 2021. Reuters
A leading member of the Fatah movement’s central committee welcomed on Wednesday the decision by the United States to reopen its consulate in East Jerusalem.
Hussein Al-Sheikh said that the decision taken by the Biden administration is “deemed the most important decision taken by the new US administration” and “sends a clear message that East Jerusalem is part of the territories” that Israel has been occupying since 1967.
“The announcement on the reopening of the US consulate in East Jerusalem implies the collapse of the so-called Deal of the Century, touted by the former US administration, and serves as a ground for the restoration of normal relations with the US, so that it would function as an effective and influential actor to resume negotiations based on United Nations resolutions,” the Fatah official was quoted as saying to the Voice of Palestine radio.
Al-Sheikh – commenting on President Mahmoud Abbas’ recent phone conversation with US President Joe Biden and meeting with Washington’s top diplomat Antony Blinken on Tuesday – believed they are part of the Palestinian diplomatic endeavours against Israel’s expulsions of Palestinians from their homes, assaults against holy sites and colonization of the occupied territories.
Speaking next to Abbas in Ramallah on Tuesday, Blinken announced that the United States will restore the US consulate that serves the Palestinians in East Jerusalem as “an important way for our country to engage with and provide support to the Palestinian people.”
However, Blinken did not mention when this will officially happen.
Abbas thanked the Biden administration “for its commitment to the two-state solution [and maintaining] the status quo on the Haram al-Sharif,” as well as “for the preservation of [Palestinian] residents of Sheikh Jarrah.”
Biden has reversed many aspects of the Palestine policy adopted by Donald Trump, his predecessor. Trump closed the US Consulate in Jerusalem – which has been serving the Palestinians as a diplomatic mission since 1844 – stopped US funding for the UN Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA), recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s “undivided capital” and shut down the Washington office of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO).
Biden, on the other hand, in addition to re-emphasising US support for the two-state solution, has restored $235 million out of more than $300 million that the United States used to pay for UNRWA and vowed to reopen the PLO’s Washington office.
“As I announced yesterday, the United States is in the process of providing more than $360 million in assistance to the Palestinian people. This includes $38 million in new assistance to support humanitarian efforts in the West Bank and Gaza. This new assistance includes nearly $33 million for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in support of its West Bank and Gaza operations, and an additional $5.5 million to humanitarian partners,” Blinken said on Wednesday.
“Additionally, working with Congress, the State Department and USAID intend to provide $75 million in additional development and economic assistance over the next year that will support relief and recovery in the West Bank and Gaza. This funding will advance private sector growth and access to basic needs and services, such as providing health care and addressing food insecurity. Pending completion of congressional notification, another $10 million will support programs that support reconciliation work to reduce tension and violence over the long term,” he added.
Blinken’s meeting with Abbas was part of his regional tour in which he visited Israel, the occupied Palestinian territories, Egypt and Jordan.
The tour follows a recent Egyptian-brokered ceasefire that ended an 11-day Israeli military campaign on Gaza that – according to the Gazan health ministry – led to the death of more than 250 people and the injury of almost 2,000 others.
The campaign followed Israel’s crackdown – which Israeli settlers participated in – on Palestinian protesters and civilians in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, hindering their entrance to Al-Aqsa mosque compound during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan amid plans to evict them from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan neighbourhoods.
Both neighbourhoods are located in East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians want to have as the capital of their future state.