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Biden reverses Trump policy on aid to Palestinians, fails to condemn recent terror wave against Israelis

President Biden reaffirmed his commitment to a two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians Friday and announced plans to bolster U.S. financial aid to the Palestinian people, reversing multiple policies implemented by former President Trump.

During a visit to the West Bank city of Bethlehem, after spending time with Israeli leaders in Jerusalem on Thursday, Biden met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and other top Palestinian officials before visiting the Church of the Nativity, the place Christians cite as the birthplace of Jesus.

“My commitment to that goal of a two-state solution has not changed,” Biden said standing side by side with Abbas at the presidential palace. “I do believe that in this moment when Israel is improving relations with its neighbors throughout the region, we can harness that same momentum to reinvigorate the peace process between the Palestinian people and the Israelis.”

During his comments, the president touched upon his administration’s plans to implement a series of economic and confidence building measures aimed at improving daily life for Palestinian people living in the West Bank and Gaza, but he stopped short of condemning Palestinian terrorism that has hampered peace efforts in the past and sparked countless rounds of violence with Israel.


Among the steps announced Friday, Biden said a renewed round of U.S. aid would go toward improving access to health care and technology for Palestinians, efforts to implement 4G networks in Gaza and the West Bank, which were blocked in the past due to Israeli security concerns, and funding people-to-people peace initiatives.

The president also said the U.S. would increase financial contributions to the controversial U.N. agency, UNRWA, that supports and advocates for Palestinian refugees, adding $200 million to its budget to become the largest donor country.


In 2018, Trump withdrew U.S. funding for the agency, which is often accused by Israel of being the only U.N. refugee agency that fails to resettle refugees, allowing the number of Palestinian refugees to grow and continue to perpetuate instability in the region. Israel also said the agency’s educational institutions promote terror against Israel.

In his comments Friday, Biden said that he had decided to reverse the policies of his predecessor and “resumed aid to the Palestinians…” so UNRWA “can continue its vital work of helping the most vulnerable Palestinians, especially Palestinian children,” he said.

Amir Avivi, CEO of the Israel Defense and Security Forum (IDSF), an NGO with 4000 members who were former officers in various Israeli defense organizations, told Fox News Digital that refunding UNWRA would not solve Palestinian suffering.

“It eternalizes the refugee status of Palestinians,” he said, adding, “It is the only U.N. institution that provides eternal and hereditary refugee status to one group, unlike any other group in the world.”

“The right thing to do, for the benefit of Palestinians as well as ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, would be a planned and gradual closure of UNRWA, not additional funding,” said Avivi.

U.S. President Joe Biden and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas review the guard of honor during a welcoming ceremony prior to their meeting at the West Bank town of Bethlehem, Friday, July 15, 2022. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

In his remarks, Abbas said that the Palestinians continue to respect international agreements while committing, “ourselves to renouncing violence and fighting terrorism in our region and the world.”

He also called upon Biden to remove the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) from the U.S. terrorism list, saying “We are not terrorists.” While also saying he looked forward to the re-opening of the PLO office in Washington, something the Trump administration had closed. 

Biden said that the U.S. would make a multi-year contribution of some $100 million to a group of six Palestinian hospitals in East Jerusalem. The president toured one of those hospitals, Augusta Victoria, early Friday while commending staff for their work providing services to some 50,000 Palestinian patients a year.

Biden’s stop in East Jerusalem drew criticism from some Israelis who noted that the Israeli flags were removed from his motorcade, and that he had not allowed Israeli officials to join him. Israel declared full sovereignty over Jerusalem following the Six Day War in 1967 and views the entire city, including Palestinian neighborhoods, as its undivided capital. Trump formally recognized Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem during his term and moved the U.S. embassy there from Tel Aviv in 2018.


Professor Eugene Kontorovich, who advised Congress and the Trump Administration on the Jerusalem recognition and the embassy move, said Friday that “Biden’s unaccompanied visit to August Victoria Hospital is a symbolic nod to those who want U.S. recognition of Jerusalem reversed.”

“Legally, it will have no effect, as recognition, once made, cannot be implicitly reversed,” he said. “Moreover, the U.S. recognition of Jerusalem has won such bipartisan buy-in that Biden can only pantomime displeasure with it, but not actually reverse it.”

In Bethlehem, Biden’s meeting with Abbas was overshadowed by the recent killing of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who was shot in May during clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants in the Palestinian town of Jenin in the West Bank.

Mourners hold a banner depicting slain Al Jazeera veteran journalist Shireen Abu Akleh as they walk from the Old City of Jerusalem to her burial site, Friday, May 13, 2022. Abu Akleh, a Palestinian-American reporter who covered the Middle East conflict for more than 25 years, was shot dead Wednesday during an Israeli military raid in the West Bank town of Jenin.(AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

In the room where Biden delivered his statement on Friday, a photograph of Abu Akleh, a prominent reporter for the Al-Jazeera network, was placed on an empty chair. Additionally, a large group of Palestinian journalists covering the press conference wore black t-shirts calling for Justice for Shireen. A U.S. probe last week into who killed Akleh determined that the Israeli military was likely responsible, but after examining the bullet that killed her, said a definitive conclusion could not be reached.

Referring to the journalist’s death, Biden said it was an “enormous loss to the essential work of sharing with the world the story of the Palestinian people.”

“I hope that her legacy lives on and that far more young people carry on her important work of reporting the truth and telling stories that are too often overlooked,” he continued, adding, “the United States will continue to insist on a full and transparent accounting of her death.”

The president now continues to Saudi Arabia where he will meet the Saudi King and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

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