Palestinian-Americans said unable to get Biden to sharpen tone against Israel
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Palestinian-Americans said unable to get Biden to sharpen tone against Israel

Activists reportedly leading pressure campaign urging presumptive Democratic nominee to pledge to oppose annexation, condition aid to Jewish state

Democratic US presidential candidate, former vice president Joe Biden, takes off his mask before speaking during an event in Dover, Delaware, June 5, 2020. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Democratic US presidential candidate, former vice president Joe Biden, takes off his mask before speaking during an event in Dover, Delaware, June 5, 2020. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Palestinian-Americans have been pressuring presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden to change his campaign’s position to be more pro-Palestinian, but without success so far, according to a report Thursday.

More than 120 Palestinian activists in the United States have signed a “Statement of Principles” detailing their demands of candidates, the Reuters new agency reported, citing three unnamed people “familiar with the campaign’s thinking.”

The list includes conditioning aid to Israel on it ending “practices that violate Palestinian rights and contravene international law” and clarifying that there will be no recognition of Israeli sovereignty in the West Bank.

“We want to see Biden embrace the party’s progressives, who have recognized the shared struggle between Palestinians living under military occupation, and Black and brown Americans who face police brutality, systemic racism and injustice,” the report quoted Zeina Ashrawi Hutchison, a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in August, as saying.

However, the campaign isn’t gaining traction with the former US vice president’s camp, the sources were quoted as saying.

“The progressives want a full-throttle platform change — a pro-Palestinian flank, an anti-annexation flank — but there just isn’t appetite in the campaign so far,” one of them said.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (L) and PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh at a meeting of the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank city of Ramallah, May 19, 2020. (Alaa Badarneh/Pool/AFP)

Palestinian leaders are hoping Biden would significantly tone down Washington’s current pro-Israel policies, which have included recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving the embassy there, recognizing Israeli sovereignty in the Golan Heights and unveiling a Middle East peace plan that green-lights Israeli annexation of large swaths of the West Bank.

Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and 28 of the 45 sitting Democratic senators have all spoken out against the West Bank annexation plan in recent months.

Nineteen of them signed onto a letter in May to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his senior coalition partner, Defense Minister Benny Gantz, saying annexation “would have a clear impact on both Israel’s future and our vital bilateral and bipartisan relationship.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, center, and then-Tourism Minister Yariv Levin during a meeting to discuss mapping extension of Israeli sovereignty to areas of the West Bank, held in the Ariel settlement, February 24, 2020. (David Azagury/US Embassy Jerusalem)

However, Palestinian officials have complained that Democratic leaders have not taken a strong enough stance against Netanyahu’s annexation hopes.

In May, the Palestinian Authority’s envoy to the United Kingdom, Husam Zomlot, argued that Biden’s refusal to call for aid reductions to Israel effectively let Netanyahu know that he could carry out his plan without fearing harsh repercussions.

“It’s nothing that would actually dissuade Netanyahu from going ahead with annexation,” Zomlot said.

Israel’s ambassador to Washington, Ron Dermer, has been pushing the Trump administration to give Israel the green light to move forward, fearing that Biden might block the move if he’s elected, according to a Channel 13 report in May.

Under a coalition deal between Netanyahu and Gantz, Israel’s government could move forward with annexation, backed by the US, starting July 1. However, internal disagreements within the leadership both in Jerusalem and in Washington have led to a delay in announcing the move amid widespread international objection.

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