US, Palestinians see eye to eye on settlements - PA officials

PA President Mahmoud Abbas urged Washington to exert pressure on Israel to halt all 'settlement' activities and 'violent attacks' by 'settlers'.

 Israeli forces stand guard during a protest against Jewish settlements in the Jordan Valley on February 18, 2021. (photo credit: NASSER ISHTAYEH/FLASH90)
Israeli forces stand guard during a protest against Jewish settlements in the Jordan Valley on February 18, 2021.
(photo credit: NASSER ISHTAYEH/FLASH90)

As the Bennett government and the Biden administration appear to be at odds over the issue of settler violence, the Palestinian Authority is working to further improve its relations with the US, a Palestinian official in Ramallah said on Wednesday.

The official praised the Biden administration for taking a “tough stance on settlements and settler violence.”

“This is a positive development,” the official told The Jerusalem Post. “The US administration’s stance on settlements is consistent with the Palestinian position, United Nations resolutions, and international laws.”

PA President Mahmoud Abbas, who met in Ramallah earlier this week with US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland, emphasized the importance of strengthening relations between the Palestinians and the US.

Abbas expressed satisfaction with the “encouraging messages coming from the Biden administration,” and urged Washington to exert pressure on Israel to halt all “settlement” activities and “violent attacks” by “settlers” against Palestinians in east Jerusalem and the West Bank.

 Israeli settlers clash with Palestinians after throwing stones at houses on the edge of the Palestinian village of Burin, November 6, 2021 (credit: YESH DIN) Israeli settlers clash with Palestinians after throwing stones at houses on the edge of the Palestinian village of Burin, November 6, 2021 (credit: YESH DIN)

The Israeli government’s recent decision to approve the building of housing units in Jerusalem and the West Bank will destroy any chance for reviving the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and achieving a two-state solution, Abbas told the US official.

“The Biden administration shares our view that Israel’s settlement policy is an obstacle to peace and the two-state solution,” the official told the Post. The Biden administration’s policy toward settlements constitutes “a 180-degree turn” from the policy of the Trump administration, which was “in favor of settlements,” he pointed out. “But this administration is strongly opposed to unilateral moves, including settlement construction.”

However, in a recent survey, most ordinary Palestinians oppose renewing talks with the US under Biden, oppose a two-state solution, prefer a Hamas president and want Abbas to resign.

But underlying the PA’s importance to the Biden administration, US and Palestinian officials held a virtual meeting on Tuesday to renew the US-Palestinian Economic Dialogue (USPED) for the first time in five years.

“Participants recognized the importance of restored political and economic relations between the US government and the Palestinian Authority and pledged to expand and deepen cooperation and coordination across a range of sectors,” the State Department said in a statement.

“During the USPED, senior US and Palestinian officials discussed key topics, including infrastructure development, access to US markets, US regulations, free trade, financial issues, renewable energy and environmental initiatives, connecting Palestinian and American businesses, and addressing obstacles to Palestinian economy development.”

The two sides concluded the dialogue by agreeing to work on several crucial issues to advance the economic prosperity of the Palestinian people, according to the State Department statement, which added: “The US government outlined programs that could support the Palestinian Authority’s efforts toward financial issue, trade, and promoting foreign direct investment.”

The PA Foreign Ministry on Wednesday called on the Biden administration to “translate United Nations resolutions pertaining to the Palestinian cause into practical steps in order to oblige Israel to end its occupation of the lands of the State of Palestine, with its capital East Jerusalem.”

The ministry accused the Israeli government of planting “various forms of illegal and illegitimate settlements that are directly hostile to peace” and claimed that assaults by settlers on Palestinians have significantly increased.

“The Biden administration sees eye to eye with the Palestinian Authority about the settlements and settler violence, understands that the settlements aim to destroy the two-state solution... and that daily assaults [by settlers] on farmers and villagers pose a serious threat to security and stability.”

However, despite Ramallah’s satisfaction with the Biden administration’s attitude toward settlements, the Palestinians are hoping that the Americans “will move from words to deeds and force Israel to halt all settlement activities and rein in violent settlers,” the official added.

Additionally, the Palestinians are satisfied with the Biden administration’s policy of strengthening the PA and its urging of Israel to follow suit.

“The Trump administration treated the Palestinians as if they were an enemy,” the PA ministry official noted. “The current administration has adopted a completely different approach. They are talking to us with respect.”

NEVERTHELESS, 56% of Palestinians recently surveyed said they opposed a return to dialogue with the Biden administration, according to the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, even though 46% considered the US to be the party most able to convince the Palestinians and Israelis to return to the peace process.

The poll, among 1,270 Palestinians with a 3% margin of error, found that if presidential elections were held now, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh would receive 58% and Abbas 35% of the votes, little changed from three months ago, when Haniyeh received 56% and Abbas 35%. The results showed that 74% of the Palestinian public wanted Abbas to resign, up 4% since three months ago.

The results also showed that 59% of respondents opposed the concept of a two-state solution.

When asked about their preferences regarding a political solution for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict from among three specific solutions, 33% preferred the two-state solution, 16% a one-state solution (from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River) with equal rights to Jews and Arabs, 11% a one-state solution in which the status of the Palestinians would be the same as that of Arab-Israelis, and 32% preferred other solutions, such as “historic Palestine,” “full Palestine” or “independent Palestine.”