The Palestinian foreign minister on Tuesday urged the Biden administration to reverse what it described as the prior administration’s “unlawful and hostile measures” in the region — as the U.S. pledged to renew relations with the Palestinians.
“Now is the time to heal and to repair damage left by the previous US administration,” Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki said in a meeting of the U.N. Security Council. “President Abbas has congratulated President Biden on his election, and expressed our hope for resumption of relations and positive engagements.”
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“We look forward to reversal of unlawful and hostile measures undertaken by the Trump administration and working together for peace,” he said. “We welcome the decision of new administration to join the international law-based order and hope that the U.S. will play an important role in multilateral efforts for peace in the Middle East.”
Separately, he said that “the last four years have tested our collective resolve and international consensus has endured and prevailed.”
The Trump administration drew the U.S. closer to Israel, with President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu enjoying a close personal relationship in particular. Trump played a key role in the formation of the Abraham Accords — a series of normalization agreements between Israel and Arab states.
It also proposed an Israeli-Palestianian peace deal, but it quickly fell by the wayside amid strong Palestinian opposition. At the U.N., the U.S. took a strong defensive stance toward Israel in an international body where the small democracy receives a great deal of criticism, particularly for its settlement activity. It notably moved the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in recognition of Israel’s claim on the holy site.
The Biden administration has indicated it wants to strengthen relations with the Palestinians, while keeping close ties to Israel. New Secretary of State Antony Blinken has praised the Abraham Accords.
Acting U.N. Ambassador Richard Mills said at the Security Council meeting that the policy of the U.S. under the Biden administration will be to support a two-state solution, while warning against unilateral action — including annexation, settlement activity and incitement to violence.
“In order to advance these objectives, the Biden Administration will restore credible U.S. engagement with Palestinians as well as Israelis,” he said. This will involve renewing U.S. relations with the Palestinian leadership and Palestinian people, relations which have atrophied over the last four years.”
Mills noted that Biden has promised to “restore U.S. assistance programs that support economic development and humanitarian aid for the Palestinian people and to take steps to re-open diplomatic missions that were closed by the last U.S. administration.”
It is likely that, among those steps, the Biden administration will renew funding to the U.N. Palestianian refugee agency (UNRWA) — from which the Trump administration withdrew funding over concerns it promotes an anti-Israel agenda.
Mills also indicated the Biden administration would follow the Trump administration in defending Israel against unjust attacks at the U.N.
“Under the Biden Administration, the United States will continue its longstanding policy of opposing one-sided resolutions and other actions in international bodies that unfairly single out Israel,” he said. “The United States will also work to promote Israel’s standing and participation in United Nations bodies and other international organizations.”
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The allegation that Israel is often the focus of U.N. institutions was on display again on Tuesday, when the meeting on the Middle East was dominated by discussion about the Israel-Palestinian situtation.
Israeli Ambassador Gilad Erdan asked why aggression by Iran was not the focus of the council’s agenda instead.
“Iran does not try to hide its intention of destroying the world’s only Jewish state. Spreading antisemitism, denying the Holocaust and even proposing legislation calling for Israel’s destruction by the year 2041,” he said. “How is it possible that the Iranian Parliament proposing to annihilate a member state is not at the top of this council’s agenda?”
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The Biden administration has indicated it wishes to take a less hostile approach to the body as seen under the Trump administration. Biden has also recommitted the U.S. to the Paris Climate agreement and the World Health Organization.
He has also suggested he will move to the U.S. back into the U.N. Human Rights Council, a move that has drawn criticism from former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley — who called the council a “cesspool of political bias.”
Biden’s pick for U.N. ambassador, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, is expected to be confirmed in the coming weeks.