US President Joe Biden promised an additional $100 million to support Palestinian hospitals in East Jerusalem on Friday but offered no new proposals to revive the stalled political dialogue between Palestinian and Israeli leaders.
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Biden is expected to restate his backing for a two-state solution to the decades-long conflict when he meets Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas but there are no expectations of any major political breakthrough.
As he wrapped up the first leg of a Middle Eastern trip before departing for Saudi Arabia, Biden visited a hospital in East Jerusalem and pledged a multi-year $100 million package of financial and technical help.
But officials said he would not be bringing any fresh proposals to Abbas, who has been bitterly disappointed by what he sees as the US failure to live up to pledges on issues including re-opening its consulate in Jerusalem, closed by former President Donald Trump in 2019.
“…are practical realities on the ground that we are very mindful of so we have not come in with a top-down plan, but we have always said that if the parties are ready to talk, and we think they should, we will be there, right beside them,” a senior administration official said.
Even before his visit, Palestinian leaders had accused Biden’s administration of prioritizing Israel’s integration into a regional security arrangement with Arab countries above their concerns, including self-determination and continued Israeli settlement building in the occupied West Bank.
Biden administration officials have rejected Palestinian charges of inaction, pointing to a reversal of the funding cuts and diplomatic freeze imposed by Trump.
“There was really no connection whatsoever, no discussions with the Palestinians, funding had been entirely severed, there was really no prospect of any political discussions of any kind,” the official said.
He said the move to deepen Israel’s regional integration was not “an end run around that fundamental issue.”
With little prospect of political progress, the focus is likely to be on the new funding and technical assistance measures Biden announces.
As well as the money for East Jerusalem hospitals, he will announce measures to upgrade telecoms networks in the West Bank and Gaza to high speed 4G standards by the end of 2023 and other measures to ease travel between the West Bank and neighboring Jordan.
In addition, there will be a separate $201 million funding package provided through the UN relief agency UNRWA to help Palestinian refugees.
A two-state solution with an independent Palestinian state sitting alongside the existing state of Israel has long been the favored solution for the international community. But it has appeared an increasingly distant prospect, with hardening attitudes and waning support on both sides.
On Thursday, both Biden and Lapid voiced support for the two-state model. But with Israel heading for elections in November and little backing for stopping the expansion of Israeli settlements on West Bank land that Palestinians want for a future state, immediate prospects for an agreement appear remote.
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