Jul 13, 2022 - World

Palestinians aren't expecting much from Biden's visit

Palestinians wave flags at a demonstration in Gaza in June. Photo: Mahmoud Issa/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
Palestinians wave flags at a demonstration in Gaza in June. Photo: Mahmoud Issa/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The Palestinian leadership has very low expectations for President Biden’s visit to the occupied West Bank on Friday, Palestinian officials say.

Why it matters: After the breakdown in relations with the U.S. during the Trump administration, the Palestinians had hoped the Biden administration would push diplomatic initiatives in their favor. But the U.S. has stalled on making good on key promises, including reopening the consulate in Jerusalem.

State of play: Palestinian officials pressed the U.S. in recent weeks to give them some diplomatic deliverables during the visit, like clearly stating the Biden administration’s parameters for an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, Palestinian and U.S. officials said.

  • Biden said Wednesday that even though he knows "it won’t happen in the near future, we will discuss ... my support for a two-state solution," as well as work on increasing Israel’s integration in the region.
  • The big deliverable the Palestinians will get during the visit is an announcement by Biden on $100 million in aid to Palestinian hospitals in East Jerusalem.

Driving the news: On Friday morning, Biden will visit the Augusta Victoria Hospital in East Jerusalem, where he will meet representatives of Palestinian civil society organizations.

  • The U.S. designated the visit as “private” and rejected Israeli requests to send a government representative to join the visit.
  • Between the lines: This was a subtle signal that although the Biden administration didn’t roll back Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, it doesn’t necessarily recognize Israeli sovereignty in the eastern part of the city.

Later on Friday, Biden will travel to Bethlehem for a meeting with President Mahmoud Abbas and a visit to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

What to watch: A big question is whether Biden will speak about the killing of Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh on the trip.

  • White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters that Secretary of State Tony Blinken spoke on the phone on Wednesday with Abu Akleh's family and invited them for a meeting in Washington.
  • The Abu Akleh family had sent a letter to Biden last week, protesting the findings of the U.S. security coordinator investigation into her case and asking to meet Biden during his visit to the region.
  • The investigation found that it was likely Abu Akleh was killed by unintentional Israeli fire, but the ballistics test of the bullet removed from her body was inconclusive.
  • Democratic Sens. Chris Van Hollen (Md.), Patrick Leahy (Vt.), Chris Murphy (Conn.) and Dick Durbin (Ill.) on Tuesday sent a letter to Secretary of State Tony Blinken criticizing the U.S. security coordinator’s investigation and claimed it does not meet Blinken’s call for “an independent, credible investigation.”
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