JERUSALEM – President Biden said Friday that now is not the time to resume peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, but insisted he remains committed to a two-state solution to their conflict and expressed hope that diplomatic agreements will be concluded in 2020 between Israel. Four Arab countries can give a new impetus to the peace process.
“Even if the ground is not ripe at this moment for the resumption of negotiations, the United States and my administration will not give up trying to bring the Palestinians, the Israelis, and the two sides together,” Mr. Biden said.
“At this moment, when Israel works to improve relations with its neighbors throughout the region, we can harness the same momentum to revitalize the peace process between the Palestinian and Israeli people,” Mr. Biden added, referring to a set of agreements known as the Abraham Accords, which were negotiated them under the Trump administration.
Mr. Biden made the remarks at a news conference after meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, at a bleak time for the Palestinians. The meeting was held in Bethlehem instead of Ramallah, the administrative center of power, to enable Mr. Biden to visit the Church of the Nativity, a fourth-century basilica located on a site where tradition says Jesus was born.
His comments came after Mr. Abbas called on Mr. Biden to help “create the climate for a political horizon for a just, comprehensive and lasting peace.”
“Isn’t it time to end this occupation?” Mr. Abbas said at the press conference. He added that “the key to peace and security in our region begins with recognition of the State of Palestine,” although Saudi Arabia – the most powerful Arab country – began gradual steps on Friday to normalize relations with Israel for the first time.
“The opportunity for a two-state solution along the 1967 borders may only be available today,” the Palestinian leader said. “But we don’t know what will happen next.”
After a hectic reception in Israel, it was a more tense morning for Biden, who was met with protests from Palestinians in Jerusalem and Bethlehem, hours before a scheduled flight to what could be an even more difficult standoff in Saudi Arabia.
In Bethlehem, Mr. Biden said his commitment to the goal of a two-state solution remained unchanged, saying: “Two states along the 1967 lines with agreed land exchanges remain the best way to achieve equal measures of security, prosperity, freedom, and democracy for the Palestinians as well as for the Israelis.”
Mr. Abbas has also pushed Mr. Biden to remove the PLO from the US terror list and reopen the US consulate to the Palestinians in Jerusalem and the PLO mission in Washington, both of which were closed under President Donald J. Trump.
The Palestinian leadership is divided between the Palestinian Authority, which administers parts of the West Bank, and Hamas, the armed Islamist group that wrested control of Gaza from power in 2007. Most Palestinians see little hope of reconciliation, Recent polling offers.
In Gaza, the blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt has entered its fifteenth year. One in four Palestinians was unemployed in 2021. Seven in 10 say they believe a Palestinian state is no longer possible due to the expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, according to June vote. Nearly 80 percent want the resignation of Mr. Abbas, the PA president, who faced the 2005 elections, and the vast majority sees both the PA and Hamas as corrupt.
Against this background, many Palestinians are frustrated with the Biden administration, with 65% opposed to dialogue between their leadership and the United States. While the Biden administration has often called for a two-state solution to the Palestinian conflict — and Mr. Biden repeated that call on Thursday — the perception among analysts is that he has not matched his words with deeds.
The White House announced on the eve of Mr. Biden’s visit Several financial measures It aims to improve Palestinian life, but it fell short of a political process to create a Palestinian state and left many measures in the Trump era in place.
In his remarks on Friday, Mr. Biden called on the Palestinian Authority to do more to clean its home.
“The Palestinian Authority has important work to do as well, if you don’t mind what I’m going to say,” Mr. Biden said. Now is the time to strengthen Palestinian institutions to improve governance, transparency, and accountability. Now is the time to unleash the amazing potential of the Palestinian people through greater participation and civil society to fight corruption, advance rights and freedoms, and improve community services.”