Day after Biden's UN envoy announced renewal of relations

PA official welcomes resumed US ties, but realizes Palestinians not 1st priority

Ahmad Majdalani tells The Times of Israel that Ramallah is already engaged in unofficial contacts with Washington, which he hopes will soon become official

US Vice President Joseph Biden (left) with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas ahead of their meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah, March 10, 2010. (AP Photo/Tara Todras-Whitehill)
US Vice President Joseph Biden (left) with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas ahead of their meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah, March 10, 2010. (AP Photo/Tara Todras-Whitehill)

A senior official in Ramallah on Wednesday welcomed the new US administration’s affirmation of its commitment to a Palestinian state and its announcement of renewed ties with the Palestinians.

“This is a confirmation of their commitment to the peace process and to the return of bilateral relations with the Palestinians,” the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Ahmad Majdalani said in a phone call. Majdalani, a member of the PLO Executive Committee, also serves as minister for social affairs in the Palestinian Authority.

But Majdalani said Ramallah understood that whatever promises were made at the United Nations, the Palestinians were unlikely to be the focus of the incoming Biden administration.

“We realize that the Biden administration is facing an enormous number of challenges,” Majdalani said, citing coronavirus and American domestic strife. On a regional level, he noted, Biden is likely to prioritize returning to the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran.

“Right now, our priority is simply to restore American-Palestinian relations, whether or not there’s a peace process,” Majdalani said.

In the first major public remarks on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by an official from the administration of newly elected US President Joe Biden, Richard Mills, the acting US ambassador to the United Nations, told the UN Security Council that Washington was committed to the establishment of a Palestinian state.

“Under the new administration, the policy of the United States will be to support a mutually agreed two-state solution, one in which Israel lives in peace and security alongside a viable Palestinian state,” Mills said.

Acting US Ambassador to the UN Richard Mills (Courtesy)

Mills added that Washington will reopen the diplomatic offices serving the Palestinians in the US and restore major aid allocations to the Palestinians — reversing Trump administration policies.

“In order to advance these objectives, the Biden administration will restore credible US engagement with Palestinians as well as Israelis,” he said. “This will involve renewing US relations with the Palestinian leadership and Palestinian people.”

Ramallah officially severed ties with Washington in 2017, when former president Donald Trump announced his intention to move the United States’ embassy to Jerusalem. Relations only grew worse during the remainder of Trump’s term.

Palestinians harshly criticized a peace plan put forth by Washington which they deemed lopsidedly pro-Israel and recent normalization accords between Israel and some Arab states. When Americans headed to the polls last November, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh publicly hoped for a Biden victory, saying that should Trump win: “God help us.”

Ramallah hopes that the Biden administration will reverse Trump-era policies. Majdalani told The Times of Israel that the two sides were already in contact as they negotiated a return to formal bilateral relations.

“There are informal channels between us and between President Biden’s administration. I expect those unofficial channels — which carry clear and precise communication between us and Biden’s team — to shortly become official,” Majdalani said, declining to elaborate on what had been discussed between the two sides.

Senior PLO official Ahmed Majdalani. (YouTube screen capture)

Majdalani added that a phone call between Biden and PA President Mahmoud Abbas would take place “soon.”

Jacob Magid contributed to this report. 

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