Shireen Abu Akleh probe could harm Biden-Abbas meeting - analysis

Not holding Israel “fully and directly responsible” for death of Abu Akleh will negatively impact relations between Palestinians and US.

THEN-US vice president Joe Biden gestures as he walks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas after their meeting in Ramallah in 2010. (photo credit: REUTERS)
THEN-US vice president Joe Biden gestures as he walks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas after their meeting in Ramallah in 2010.
(photo credit: REUTERS)

Palestinian officials on Tuesday accused the US administration of undermining the credibility of the Palestinian Authority, which is facing sharp criticism from many Palestinians for putting its trust in the Americans regarding the investigation into the death of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh.

Washington’s refusal to hold Israel “fully and directly responsible” for the death of the Palestinian-American journalist will have a negative impact on relations between the Palestinians and the Biden administration, the officials predicted.

“The Biden administration deceived us.”

Palestinian Authority official

In Ramallah, there is already talk about a “serious crisis” between the PA and the Biden administration that could mar US President Joe Biden’s upcoming visit to Bethlehem and his meeting with PA President Mahmoud Abbas.

“The Biden administration deceived us,” said a senior official in Ramallah. “We thought they were going to hold an independent and professional investigation. Instead, they fully endorsed the Israeli narrative.”

Some Palestinians have urged Abbas to call off his planned meeting with Biden in protest of the US administration’s ongoing support for Israel.

 PALESTINIAN CHILDREN walk past a mural of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in Bethlehem. (credit: WISAM HASHLAMOUN/FLASH90) PALESTINIAN CHILDREN walk past a mural of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in Bethlehem. (credit: WISAM HASHLAMOUN/FLASH90)

Going ballistic 

“The people are very angry with the Biden administration because of its bias in favor of Israel,” the senior official said. “Now our leadership is under attack for handing the bullet [that was extracted from Abu Akleh’s head] to the Americans.”

The US State Department said ballistic experts determined the bullet was badly damaged, “which prevented a clear conclusion.” It said the US security coordinator who was in charge of the investigation concluded that although gunfire from IDF positions was likely responsible for the death of Abu Akleh, he “found no reason to believe that this was intentional, but rather the result of tragic circumstances during an IDF-led military operation against factions of Palestinian Islamic Jihad.”

After the results of the US investigation were published, many Palestinians said the PA made a big mistake by agreeing to cooperate with the US.

Other Palestinians, on the other hand, accused the PA of being in collusion with the Americans and Israelis to “exonerate” Israel and “conceal the truth” about the circumstances surrounding the death of the veteran journalist.

They claimed that the PA leadership had “sold the blood of martyr Shireen Abu Akleh in return for a meeting between Abbas and Biden.”

“The people are very angry with the Biden administration because of its bias in favor of Israel.”

Palestinian Authority official

Opposition to dialogue 

A public opinion poll published last week by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PCPSR) found that 65% of Palestinians are opposed to dialogue with the US administration under Biden.

According to another Palestinian official, the percentage of Palestinians opposed to dialogue with the Biden administration “can be put at more than 90% in the aftermath of the findings of the US investigation.”

The Biden administration, the official complained, has “proven that it can’t play the role of honest broker” in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict because of its “blind support and bias” in favor of Israel.

“The Biden administration has been lying to us from day one,” he said. “They did not fulfill most of the promises they made to the Palestinians, including reopening the US Consulate in Jerusalem and resuming financial aid to the Palestinian Authority. Now they have made matters worse by helping Israel evade responsibility for the assassination of Shireen Abu Akleh.”

The popularity of Abbas and the PA leadership among the Palestinians has been on the wane for several years.

According to the PCPSR poll, the level of dissatisfaction with the performance of Abbas stands at 73%. Moreover, a vast majority of 77% of the Palestinian public want Abbas to resign.

Abbas and the PA leadership are now facing the task of proving to their people that they are not “traitors” and that they did not conspire with Israel and the US to bury the case of Abu Akleh.

This week’s harsh denunciations of the US by the PA leadership are part of Ramallah’s effort to stave off the widespread criticism from its own people. However, the anti-US statements are also seen by some Palestinians as part of an attempt by the PA to extract concessions from the US administration on the eve of the Biden-Abbas meeting.

Abbas, according to these Palestinians, will demand that Biden “compensate” the Palestinians by fulfilling his administration’s promises. Abbas, they said, will warn the US president that the policies and measures of the US and Israel are strengthening Hamas and other extremists at the expense of the PA.