Dec 22, 2021 - World

Palestinian leaders grow frustrated with Biden over consulate delay

Biden and Abbas in 2010. Photo: Uriel Sinai/Getty Images

National security adviser Jake Sullivan's visit to Ramallah on Wednesday to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas comes amid growing Palestinian frustration with the Biden administration.

Why it matters: President Biden vowed to restore the U.S.-Palestinian relationship after it was severed almost entirely during the Trump administration. But Palestinian leaders are disappointed that he still hasn't implemented his promise to reopen the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem, Palestinian officials tell Axios.

Between the lines: The Israeli government has strongly opposed the reopening of the consulate, which served as the primary U.S. diplomatic mission to the Palestinians before Trump closed it.

  • For now, the issue is on the back burner, though the administration continues to insist it will follow through.
  • The delay has made it more difficult to strengthen ties because the Palestinians are reluctant to engage with the Palestinian affairs unit in the U.S. Embassy to Israel, which absorbed the consulate's duties.
  • Palestinian leaders are also disappointed by the administration's lack of emphasis on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, the sources say.
  • Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland heard those grievances when she visited Ramallah last week and met with Abbas, a source briefed on the matter told me.

What to watch: The Biden administration is very concerned by the political and economic crises in the West Bank and the prospect of a possible collapse of the Palestinian Authority.

  • Nuland spoke to Abbas last week about the need for reforms and for a technocratic government. Abbas asked for more U.S. financial aid, the source briefed on the meeting said.
  • Yes, but: Biden is constrained by laws that prohibit aid to the Palestinian Authority as long as it is providing allowances to Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails and their families, a practice the Trump administration termed "pay for slay."
  • A senior Biden administration official told reporters ahead of Sullivan’s visit that he would raise the U.S. opposition to those payments with Abbas.
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