U.S. announces restoration of relations with Palestinians

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A Palestinian woman checks the nylon cover on the roof of her house on a rainy day in a poor neighborhood of Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

CAMEROON – U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration announced Tuesday it was restoring relations with the Palestinians and renewing aid to Palestinian refugees, a reversal of the Trump administration’s cutoff and a key element of its new support for a two-state solution to the decades-old conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

Acting U.S. Ambassador Richard Mills made the announcement of Biden’s approach to a high-level virtual Security Council meeting, saying the new U.S. administration believes this “remains the best way to ensure Israel’s future as a democratic and Jewish state while upholding the Palestinians’ legitimate aspirations for a state of their own and to live with dignity and security.”

President Donald Trump’s administration provided unprecedented support to Israel, recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv, slashing financial assistance for the Palestinians and reversing course on the illegitimacy of Israeli settlements on land claimed by the Palestinians.

Israel captured east Jerusalem and the West Bank in the 1967 war. The international community considers both areas to be occupied territory, and the Palestinians seek them as parts of a future independent state. Israel has built a far-flung network of settlements that house nearly 700,000 Jewish settlers in the West Bank and Jerusalem since their capture in 1967.

The peace plan unveiled by Trump a year ago envisions a disjointed Palestinian state that turns over key parts of the West Bank to Israel, siding with Israel on key contentious issues including borders and the status of Jerusalem and Jewish settlements. It was vehemently rejected by the Palestinians.

Mills made clear the Biden administration’s more even-handed approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“Under the new administration, the policy of the United States will be to support a mutually agreed two-state solution, one in which Israel lives in peace and security alongside a viable Palestinian state,” he said.

Mills said peace can’t be imposed on either side and stressed that progress and an ultimate solution require the participation and agreement of Israelis and Palestinians.