Biden visits Palestinians and Abbas ahead of Saudi Arabia trip


JERUSALEM — President Biden, devoting the final hours of his Israeli visit to restoring ties with the Palestinians severed by his predecessor, visited a Palestinian hospital in East Jerusalem on Friday before heading to the West Bank for a meeting with the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

The White House announced $316 million in new aid for the Palestinians, including $100 million for a hospital network that serves patients from the West Bank and Gaza. Another $200 million will go to the United Nations agency that supports Palestinian refugees, funding that was largely eliminated by Trump. Biden, who has pledged to renew his support for the Palestinians, began reinstating Washington’s contribution soon after taking office.

The administration also announced $15 million in emergency assistance to help the territories during grain shortages caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, as well as an initiative to accelerate the deployment of 4G technology. in the West Bank and Gaza.

Palestinians hold little hope in Biden’s visit to improve their lives

“It’s an honor to see first-hand the quality of care you provide to the Palestinian people,” Biden said after touring Augusta Victoria Hospital, the main advanced care facility available to residents of East Jerusalem, Jerusalem. West Bank and Gaza mostly. who need Israeli permission to go there.

“Palestinians and Israelis deserve equal measures of freedom, security, prosperity and dignity,” the president said, announcing new funding for the hospital. “And access to health care when you need it is essential to lead a dignified life.”

The president’s meetings with the Palestinians follow two days of warm embraces from Israeli officials, during which Biden made clear his support for the Jewish state and claimed the label of “Zionist.”

His reception on the other side of the security wall was less enthusiastic, reflecting disappointment that Biden had not done more to pressure Israel to resume peace talks and improve its treatment of Palestinians under occupation.

Some protesters in Ramallah held up “Biden Go Home” posters during a demonstration on Thursday. An Israeli advocacy group, B’Tselem, erected billboards near the 26-foot-tall separation wall in Bethlehem reading “Mr. President, this is apartheid,” a characterization Biden rejected.

Biden affirmed his support for a peace deal that would end Israeli occupation and create an independent Palestine, but also made it clear that the conditions were not right to make progress toward those goals. He once indicated his intention to reopen the American consulate in East Jerusalem, but he has yet to do so in the face of Israeli objections.

The president condemned a series of terror attacks that killed 15 in Israel last spring, but did not publicly mention two Palestinian-Americans who died in clashes with the Israeli military in the West Bank in recent months : An elderly man who died after being left in the cold at the roadblock and Shireen Abu Akleh, an Al Jazeera journalist shot dead in an Israeli raid. The United States has accepted the findings that the shot was most likely fired by an Israeli soldier.

Palestinians don’t see Biden as their champion, pollsters say.

“Palestinians see it as a positive thing that this president has restored some of the funding and talks with Palestinian leaders, but overall the feeling of this trip and the last year and a half is one of disappointment.” , said Khalil Shikaki, pollster and director. from the Palestinian Center for Policy and Polling Research. “The hope that he would be very different from Trump has faded. Now they see him as slightly different.

Palestinians expect Biden to pressure both Israel — to reduce settlements, ease the Gaza blockade and other reforms — and Abbas himself, who has refused to hold elections since he took office. his office in 2005. With the progressive wing of the Democratic Party increasingly aligning itself with Palestinian causes, many here expected Biden to engage more in the conflict than he did.

“He doesn’t even make as much as Obama,” Shikaki said. “The fact that they can’t even do something as small and symbolic as opening the consulate is seen as a real lack of courage, will or ability.”

Some Palestinians see Biden’s events in the West Bank, between his days in Israel and his move to Saudi Arabia, as a footnote to his real priority: deepening Israel’s ties with other Arab nations in the region. .

The Saudi government announced on Friday that it was opening its airspace to Israeli commercial flights, ending a traditional blockade that will save hours on flights between Israel and parts of Asia. Biden and Israeli officials hailed the shift as a step toward the kind of formal relationship with Israel that Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and other Arab states have embraced, despite the lack of progress toward a Palestinian state.


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