Palestinian minister: Biden moving too slowly to advance peace

UNITED NATIONS (AP) – Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki on Thursday criticized US President Joe Biden for moving too slowly to reverse all of the Trump administration’s unfavorable policies against the Palestinians and failing to use the special relationship of Washington to pressure Israel to drop “its rejection of a two-state solution and peace negotiations.

Malki told the UN Security Council that there was hope that the end of the administration of Donald Trump and the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “would be enough to pave the way for new momentum for the peace”.

But while the Biden administration has reversed several of Trump’s “illegal and ill-advised” policies, he said it was slow to act, particularly on the US commitment to reopen the US consulate in East Jerusalem, which would restore Washington’s main diplomatic mission for the Palestinians. in the disputed city.

After Biden took office a year ago, Palestinians thought the United States “could try to shift the Israeli position towards us,” Malki told reporters later. “But we saw that the Israeli position was able to shift the American position towards them a bit – and that’s really what troubles us a lot.”

The United States “still needs to ensure that the current Israeli government abandons its colonial policy and abandons its rejection of the two-state solution and peace negotiations,” Malki said. “This is an unacceptable position that must not be tolerated or excused and must be reversed.”

Biden won initial but cautious applause from Middle East analysts when he dismissed the Trump administration’s staunchly pro-Israel stance and tentatively embraced the Palestinians by restoring aid and diplomatic contacts. Yet the Biden administration has also retained key elements of Trump’s policies, including several that have broken with longstanding US positions on Jerusalem and the legitimacy of Israeli settlements that the Palestinians and the United Nations call illegal.

Malki said he had “a very open and frank discussion” earlier Wednesday with US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, including on US-Palestinian relations, the peace process, Palestinian expectations of of the United States and “what they are trying to do in the near future”. to see things move in the right direction.

He said the Palestinians were discussing with the US administration possible ways to remove restrictions imposed by Congress on the reopening of the Palestinian diplomatic mission in Washington.

Tor Wennesland, the UN envoy to the Middle East, told the council that six Palestinian men were killed by Israeli security forces, another died in unclear circumstances and 249 Palestinians were injured, including 46 children in the West Bank over the past month. He said 15 Israelis were injured in attacks by Palestinians.

Israel’s UN ambassador Gilad Erdan accused Malki of making ‘regurgitated accusations and baseless claims’, and ignoring the more than 200 ‘terrorist attacks’ carried out by Palestinians against Israel last month last.

These included 143 stone-throwing attacks, Erdan said while clutching a large boulder, as well as 20 attacks using grenades and Molotov cocktails.

Malki called on the Security Council to take urgent action to resolve the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict and salvage the two-state solution, pointing to Israel’s accelerated settlement building, demolition of Palestinian homes, confiscation of land Palestinians “and even the annexation of Palestinian lands”. .”

“In the absence of this sense of urgency, then prepare to attend the funeral of this solution, with all the consequences of such a death for the lives of millions of people, Palestinians and others,” Malki warned.

“The Palestinian people will survive, but the two-state solution may not,” he said. “What happens then? Will you convert to defenders of the solution to a State of freedom and equal rights for all between the river and the sea? These would then be the only options available.

Malki urged support for an international peace conference and echoed Russia’s call for a ministerial meeting of the Quartet of Middle East mediators — the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia — ‘as soon as possible to mobilize efforts to break the current impasse.

He said the UN, EU and Russia had agreed on a ministerial meeting but “we are still waiting for the approval of the American side”. He said the other three members of the Quartet should convince the United States of the importance of a ministerial meeting to advance the Middle East peace process.

Thomas-Greenfield, the US ambassador, made no mention of the Malki meeting or the Quartet in her briefing to the council, but she reaffirmed the Biden administration’s “strong support for a two-way solution.” States” and declared that “this year offers an opportunity to renew its commitment to achieving a political solution to the conflict.

The US envoy, who visited Israel and the West Bank in November, reiterated that Israel and the Palestinians “are locked in a spiral of distrust”.

“Israelis don’t believe they have a partner for peace, while Palestinians are trapped in despair born of a complete lack of political horizon,” she said.

To make progress, Thomas-Greenfield said both sides must refrain from unilateral moves that increase tensions and undermine efforts toward a two-state solution.

This means that Israel must refrain from annexing territories, settlement activities, demolitions and evictions “like what we saw in Sheikh Jarrah”, the Jerusalem neighborhood where Israel on Wednesday expelled Palestinian residents from a disputed property and demolished it, and Palestinians must stop inciting violence and compensate those imprisoned “for acts of terrorism”, Thomas-Greenfield said.

Israel’s Erdan accused the Security Council of “hypocrisy” and said that when the world and the Council in particular correctly apply its “moral compass, then we may well find the path to peace”.

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