US ducks question on whether east Jerusalem is Palestinian capital

"There has been no change on our position in Jerusalem – and, of course, Jerusalem is a final status issue that is to be negotiated by the two parties."

The Arab East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Ras al-Amud is seen in front of the Dome of the Rock (photo credit: BAZ RATNER/REUTERS)
The Arab East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Ras al-Amud is seen in front of the Dome of the Rock
(photo credit: BAZ RATNER/REUTERS)
US State Department spokesman Ned Price on Monday ducked a question about whether the Biden administration considers east Jerusalem the capital of a future Palestinian state.
At a State Department briefing in Washington, he refused to comment about whether the United States would restore funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestinian refugees.
Price clarified that no high-level talks had occurred between US officials and the Palestinian Authority since President Joe Biden took office on January 20.
Biden has been cagey about some of his positions vis-à-vis the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But he offered some clarification last week when the US published its 2020 Country Reports on Human Rights, in which it affirmed the Trump administration’s 2017 declaration that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital.
The report did not say whether east Jerusalem is the capital of a future Palestinian state, even though the Biden administration has been clear that it supports a two-state resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has separately clarified that the US Embassy would remain in Jerusalem.
At the State Department briefing, Associated Press reporter Matt Lee attempted to pin Price down on ambitious elements of US policy regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“Do you still believe that a two-state solution would result in Palestinians having a capital in east Jerusalem?” he asked.
“These are not yes-no questions, Matt – just to clarify,” Price answered.
“Yeah, but it’s a yes or no,” Lee retorted.
“There has been no change in our position in Jerusalem, and, of course, Jerusalem is a final-status issue that is to be negotiated by the two parties,” Price said.
“But the previous administration declared, said, that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital,” Lee said.
“There’s been no change in our position in Jerusalem,” Price said.
He similarly had little to say when quizzed by another reporter about whether the Biden administration would restore funding to UNRWA, which former president Donald Trump eliminated. Under the Obama administration, the US had given an annual contribution to the agency of over $350 million.
Price affirmed that the US intended to provide the Palestinians with funding, noting that it had already pledged $15m. for COVID-19 pandemic assistance. But he would not commit to restoring UNRWA funding.
“We are looking at the ways we can provide assistance to Palestinians, including Palestinian refugees,” he added.
Price spoke about the Biden administration’s commitment to restore diplomatic ties between the US and the Palestinians, which were severed during Trump’s four-year term.
“We have been clear that it is a priority of this administration to engage the Palestinian people as well as the Palestinian leadership,” he said.
High-level conversations took place between the Trump administration and the PA.
But Biden has never spoken with PA President Mahmoud Abbas or PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh. Blinken has not spoken with PA Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki.
In contrast, Biden has spoken with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Blinken has held three conversations with Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi.