If elected, Biden to restore Palestinian aid, reopen PLO office in Washington: Harris

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If elected US president, Joe Biden will restore economic assistance to the Palestinians and reopen the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) office in Washington, his running mate Kamala Harris said this week.

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“We will take immediate steps to restore economic and humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people, address the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Gaza, reopen the US consulate in East Jerusalem, and work to reopen the PLO mission in Washington,” Harris said in an interview with The Arab American.

The moves will reverse steps taken by US President Donald Trump’s administration.

Under Trump, the State Department cut more than $200 million in aid to the West Bank and Gaza, and $25 million in aid for Palestinians in East Jerusalem, in 2018. However, it did provide $5 million to the Palestinians to help them fight the coronavirus epidemic this year.

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Palestinian militant group Hamas’ control of Gaza was one of the reasons for cutting the funding, according to the State Department, which considers Hamas a terrorist organization.

The Palestinian Foreign Ministry has said the cut in funding threatens the lives of thousands of Palestinians.

The Trump administration also halted all US funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) – an estimated $360 million per year - saying that the organization was “irredeemably flawed.”

UNRWA, founded after the first Arab-Israel war in 1949, is currently under investigation for misconduct. The head of the agency resigned in 2019 due to allegations of corruption and mismanagement.

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It is unclear whether the Biden administration’s restoration of Palestinian humanitarian assistance mentioned by Harris will be through UNRWA or another mechanism.

Harris said a Biden administration would also reopen the US consulate in East Jerusalem, closed last year by the Trump administration.

Under Trump, the US embassy in Israel was moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, recognizing Jerusalem as the “united” capital of Israel.

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Palestinian, Arab, and other world leaders have long contended that East Jerusalem should be the capital of a future Palestinian state. Israel annexed East Jerusalem following the Arab-Israeli War of 1967, a move condemned by the UN and the international community.

Biden has said he will keep the US embassy in Jerusalem if elected president.

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