It’s been nearly a year and a half since the Biden administration assumed office, and so far, it has failed to fulfill its pledges to the Palestinians and to the Arab and Muslim community in the US, and it has displayed deep bias in favour of Israel.
After he assumed office, there were no high expectations from Joe Biden to launch any major or ground-breaking initiatives that will lead to ending the occupation or holding Israel accountable. But, at the very least, it was expected that he would overturn the Trump administration’s actions against the Palestinian people which undermined international law and the Palestinians’ national and civil rights.
Trump infamously broke away with decades of US foreign policy and international consensus, when he recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moved the US embassy there from Tel Aviv. He also shut down the PLO’s office in Washington, cut all humanitarian aid to the Palestinians, and shuttered the US consulate in Jerusalem, which for decades served as a de facto embassy for the Palestinians.
Despite Biden committing to undoing these dangerous anti-Palestinian steps during his presidential campaign, almost none have been reversed so far, nor does there seem to be any political will to.
”Israel is well-aware of Biden’s hands-off approach, and that it has been offered maximum latitude when it comes to its actions in the occupied Palestinian territories, and it’s been basking in the glory of the situation.”
The only move he has taken is restoring $500 million of the humanitarian assistance to the Palestinians that Trump had cut. Though this amount is a trivial sum in comparison with the $3.8 billion of annual military aid that his administration provides Israel.
Biden’s failures are catastrophic for Palestinians as well as international law. Trump’s pro-Israel ideological Middle East team, led by Jared Kushner and David Friedman, through pushing for and enforcing the aforementioned illegal pro-occupation measures, sought to skew the political landscape in Israel’s favour, and change the facts on the ground long-term in a way that would legitimise and embolden the occupation, and undermine Palestinians’ rights to their land and to self-determination.
The Biden administration has effectively accepted the new reality created by Trump, and given recognition to Trump’s political position at the expense of the pre-Trump US administrations. It has also effectively given legitimacy to Trump’s pro-occupation positions at the expense of the positions backed by international law and international UN resolutions.
The Biden administration has practically become an extension of the Trump administration on Palestine.
But following Trump’s policies in the region hasn’t stopped there. While the Biden administration led sanctions against Russia just days after it occupied Ukraine, it has hypocritically carried on with Trump’s project of opening up Israel – which leads a decades-old occupation of Palestine – to the Arab world, further undermining the Arab Peace Initiative which has long used Arab countries’ normalization with Israel as a condition and an incentive for it to end its occupation.
The Biden administration has so far sponsored multiple normalization-boosting sessions between Israel and Arab countries like the UAE and Bahrain, and is currently leading efforts to normalize ties between Saudi Arabia and Israel.
Moreover, the US administration, ever since its early months in office, has effectively sent a message to Israel that its occupation and its brutal actions towards the Palestinians are the last file on its agenda, a situation of which Israel has taken full advantage of.
Israel, in the past year and a half, has continued its creeping annexation of the West Bank, expanded settlements construction in and around Jerusalem, aggressively escalated demolition of Palestinian homes, escalated its raids on Palestinian homes in occupied Palestinian cities, and escalated its daily repression and violence against the Palestinian people in the occupied territories, among the latest and most prominent of which is the recent killing of Al-Jazeera Journalist Shireen Abu Akleh.
It has also outlawed six Palestinian human rights organisations under false allegations of links to ‘terrorism,’ to which Israel hasn’t presented any evidence.
The peak of Israel’s pushing the limits on the US impunity towards its policies was late last month on Israel’s so-called Jerusalem Day, a day where Israel celebrates the occupation of East Jerusalem, when the Israeli government allowed, and encouraged, over 70,000 Jewish settlers – an alarmingly high number compared to past years – to march through Jerusalem’s old city, with many were chanting ‘death to Arabs’ among other violent and racist chants and harassing Palestinians.
It also allowed on the same day, 2,600 Jewish settlers – an all-time high – to storm into Al-Aqsa Compound, heavily protected by Israeli police, with many were allowed to dance and perform Talmudic prayers, for the first time in decades and in violation of the status quo agreements, which could have led to an explosion in the occupied territories.
Israel is well-aware of Biden’s hands-off approach, and that it has been offered maximum latitude when it comes to its actions in the occupied Palestinian territories, and it’s been basking in the glory of the situation.
To add an insult to injury, the Biden administration not only has not taken any measure to hold Israel accountable, or at least curb its violations against the Palestinians, it’s been also actively working to offer Israel rewards despite its extreme and draconian practices.
Other than the heavily-critiqued annual military aid, the Biden administration continues to offer fully-fledged political and diplomatic support for Israel, especially in the international arena. For example, US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, on multiple occasions, criticised the ICC for conducting investigations into Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians.
Furthermore, the US recently removed the extremist ultranationalist Israeli group Kahane Chai – which its members carried out bloody attacks against Palestinians in the past – from its ‘terror’ list, in a move that emboldens the Israeli far-right.
Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) requests for Biden to nullify 1987 congressional legislation that characterises the PLO as a terrorist organisation, has been ignored by the Biden administration, despite the PLO’s radical change and commitment over the years in the direction of non-violence and diplomatic struggle.
And furthermore, when it comes to rewarding Israel, the US is currently actively working to include Israel in its visa waiver program.
This kind of special treatment for Israel is what encourages it to continue and further escalate its militaristic and settler-colonial actions against the Palestinians.
The Biden administration has, so far, been disastrous for the Palestinians. Alongside dangerously providing a de facto recognition of Trump’s pro-occupation measures, it has also combined dynamic support and impunity for Israel with total disregard for Palestinian rights. And it is something that must be criticised and condemned.