With the change of power just a few days away in Washington and the president-elect Joe Biden all set to take over from the incumbent president Donald Trump, it is going to be interesting to see how the new administration will view and approach the Israel—Palestine conflict. The conflict is seen as a serious security issue for Israel as well as the U.S. For the Palestinians, the unresolved conflict continues to deprive them of their cherished goal — an independent Palestine state.
The election of Joe Biden as a new U.S. president has raised hopes that his administration would work for world peace and consequently the people of Palestine could hope of justice and the resolution of the conflict. Hoping so, however, indicated a serious neglect of the national interest which guides the foreign policy of a nation. The upcoming Biden administration won’t be able to ignore America’s geopolitical interests and the strong influence of the Israeli lobby on U.S. policies. Since the birth of Israel some seventy-three years back through a United Nation’s resolution, America has been a staunch supporter and even defender of Israel’s policies and geopolitical interests.
During his entire time in office, the outgoing U.S. president Trump stood firmly behind Israel and walked an extra mile in placing the Zionist state in a more advantageous position — at the expense of Palestinian people. Trump recognized the entire territory of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and moved his country’s embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Despite the international community’s resentment, the Trump administration was unmoved and went on to recognize the settlements that Tel Aviv has been constructing on what is said to be the Palestinian territory.
What came as a big blow to the Palestinians was the Trump administration’s ‘deal of the century’ drafted by Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner. The Kushner plan — which limited the Palestinian territory to only 17 percent, gave everything Israel sought and made the formation of a separate Palestine state almost impractical — signified that the 1967 borders were no longer relevant, the UN resolutions notwithstanding. Finding that the Palestinians were hurt by the deal and they rejected it out rightly; President Trump punished them by cutting financial support to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA). The agency is mandated to take care of the displaced Palestinians. Not only did the Kushner plan receive little international support but also the president of the Palestinian Authority decided to cut links with the Trump administration; dozens of demonstrations by the Palestinians against the Trump administration’s moves went unheard.
Now all eyes are on the new U.S. administration under Biden which is due to take over on Jan. 20 but it is unlikely that Biden would like to reverse the moves that the Trump administration has made in favor of Israel. The president-elect has signaled that his administration would leave untouched the U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. This typical U.S. bias by the Biden team towards Tel Aviv might have shuttered the hopes of the Palestinians; yet, their leadership appears optimistic that the stalled peace process will be resumed during Biden’s presidency.
It is noteworthy that the Obama administration, during its last days in office after the successful election of Donald Trump in 2016, was the strong force behind the UN Security Council resolution 2334. Interestingly, the resolution denounced “all measures aimed at altering the demographic composition, character and status of the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967,” including ‘the construction and expansion of settlements’ and “the demolition of homes and displacement of Palestinian civilians.”
Additionally for the Palestinians, the chances are thin for a change in the U.S. policy towards Israel in view of the Biden team’s strong connections with the Jewish state. Kamala Harris offered her strong support to Israel during her appearance in the America—Israel Public Affairs Committee, the robust Israeli lobby in America. She has also condemned the Obama administration’s move of supporting Resolution 2334. The resolution has denounced Israeli’s illegal settlement activities.
The Biden administration can restart the peace process by urging on both sides to the Palestine crisis to come to the negotiation table. This can prove a confidence building measure and allow both parties to understand each other’s perspective as regards the conflict. All measures which disappoint the Palestinian people and demolish their hopes of securing an independent Palestine state need to be discouraged.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.
Sheikh Shabir Kulgami is a Kashmiri (Indian) political commentator, analyst and columnist. He writes extensively on South Asia.