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Biden with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in 2010. Photo: Uriel Sinai/Getty Images

The Biden administration today laid out its policies on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and stressed its intention to renew ties with the Palestinian Authority.

Why it matters: The Trump administration dramatically changed U.S. policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. President Biden's policies, laid out for the first time today, will shift the U.S. back to the more traditional positions held by previous Democratic and Republican administrations.

Driving the news: The policy was presented by the acting U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Richard Mills, during a monthly meeting on the Middle East at the UN Security Council.

  • Mills said the Biden administration will support a two-state solution, which it sees as "the best way to ensure Israel stays a democratic and Jewish state."
  • He added that the new administration will base its policies on consultations with both sides — by contrast, the Trump administration hardly spoke to the Palestinians for three years.
  • Citing the large gaps between the Israeli and Palestinian leaders, Mills said the administration believes that its goal should be to preserve the possibility of a two-state solution in the future while focusing on improving the situation on the ground, mainly in Gaza.

Mills said Biden would encourage Israel and the Palestinians to avoid unilateral steps that will make a two-state solution harder to reach — like annexation, settlement building, the demolition of Palestinian homes by Israel, and the payments to terrorists from the Palestinians.

  • He said the Biden administration would renew ties with the Palestinian Authority, which boycotted Trump's administration after he moved the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.
  • Mills added that the U.S. would renew economic and humanitarian aid to the Palestinians and reopen diplomatic missions which were shut down by the Trump administration — like the PLO office in Washington and the U.S. consulate general in Jerusalem.
  • He added that the Biden administration would oppose one-sided or biased resolutions that single out Israel in international forums.

What’s next: Mills said Biden welcomes the normalization agreements between Israel and Arab countries but doesn't see them as a substitute for Israeli-Palestinian peace. He added that Biden would want to promote further normalization agreements in a way that would bolster the push for a two-state solution.

Go deeper

Jan 28, 2021 - World

Israel's chief epidemiologist creates diplomatic incident with UAE

Israeli travelers arrive in Dubai. Photo: Karim Sahib/AFP via Getty Images

A remark by Israel’s chief epidemiologist suggesting the opening of direct flights from Dubai to Tel Aviv had led to COVID-19 deaths in Israel resulted in diplomatic protests from the UAE, Israeli officials tell me.

Why it matters: Direct flights were one of the main fruits of the Israel-UAE peace treaty, and around 130,000 Israeli tourists have taken advantage by flying to Dubai since December.

Biden to announce sanctions, other efforts to address crisis in Cuba amid protests

Photo: Sarah Silbiger/UPI/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Biden will announce sanctions against one entity and two Cuban individuals this afternoon and provide details on his administration's efforts to improve internet connectivity in Cuba, a senior administration official said Friday.

Why it matters: After initially hoping to place the issue on the back burner, the White House has recently ramped up its focus on Cuba amid protests on the island and in the United States, congressional backlash and political pressure from the South Florida Cuban community.

  • The president is also expected to make announcements on remittances and plans for U.S. embassy augmentation, the official said.
  • The official noted that the administration is in talks with private sector providers about the possibility of providing wireless LTE communications to the Cuban people.
  • "Given the protest of July 11, it is important for U.S. diplomats to engage directly with the Cuban people and if we can do that in a way that ensures the safety of U.S. personnel, that is something that we will undertake," he said, noting that the president would announce more details later this afternoon.

The details: The president will meet today with Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), a Cuban-American, and House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), among other political and community leaders and artists.

  • Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), an outspoken voice on Cuban issues, is not expected to attend the meeting.
  • The meeting follows a series of engagements by Cedric Richmond and the Office of Public Engagement with the Cuban-American community, the official said.

What they're saying: "We're gonna do everything we can to keep Cuba on the front burner, so we can keep the conversation on the rights of the Cuban people and their rights to manifest peacefully," the official said on the call with reporters.

Be smart: Cuba is a tricky political issue for Democrats, who are split on the matter. The president was defeated by Donald Trump in South Florida during the 2020 election, and Democrats fear similar results, particularly in the upcoming midterms, if they mishandle the situation.

Go deeper: The newly announced sanctions today will follow already imposed sanctions against Cuban officials and entities allegedly responsible for human rights abuses during the government's crackdown on island-wide protests earlier this month.

1 hour ago - Health

DeSantis to bar Florida schools from mandating masks

Photo: Michael Reaves via Getty Images

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) said Friday he will issue an executive order "very soon" barring local school districts from requiring students to wear masks when they return to school next month, NBC News reports.

Why it matters: The spread of the Delta variant has led to a spike in new infections across the U.S., triggering another round of debate about COVID guidelines in schools.