The United States plans to reopen the diplomatic missions for the Palestinians, US envoy Richard Mills told the UN Security Council on Tuesday, as he described the Trump administration policy steps that would be overturned now that President Joe Biden was in the White House.
Biden plans to take “steps to reopen diplomatic missions that were closed by the last US administration,” Mills said. His words marked the first official confirmation of such a move.
He did not name the institutions he was referencing, but its presumed he spoke of the PLO mission in Washington the US Consulate General in Jerusalem, both which had provided direct lines of communications between the Palestinian Authority and Washington.
“The Biden administration will restore credible US engagement with Palestinians as well as Israelis.
“This will involve renewing US relations with the Palestinian leadership and Palestinian people, relations which have atrophied over the last four years. President Biden has been clear in his intent to restore US assistance programs that support economic development and humanitarian aid for the Palestinian people,” Mills said.
He was the first representative of the newly inaugurated Biden administration to address the UNSC and to describe its approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He spoke at the UNSC monthly meeting on the conflict, held virtually, with the participation of foreign ministers from the 15-member body.
Mills emphasized the importance of preserving the viability of a two-state resolution to the conflict, even in the absence of a peace process.
“The US will urge Israel’s government and the Palestinian Authority to avoid unilateral steps that make the two-state solution more difficult,” Mills said.
Mills set out the Israeli steps the US frowned on, “such as annexation of territory, settlement activity [and] demolitions.”
In comments that appeared to be leveled against the Palestinians, Mills said the US discourages “incitement to violence [and] providing compensation to individuals in prison for acts of terrorism.”
Overall, he said, the contours of the Biden administration’s approach is a two-state resolution to the conflict mutually agreed upon by Israelis and Palestinians. But at no point did he reference the pre-1967 lines or what the boundaries of that two-state resolution might be.
This vision is the best way to ensure Israel’s future as a democratic and Jewish state while upholding the Palestinian people’s legitimate aspirations for a state of their own and to live with dignity and security, Mills explained.
He noted that the Israelis and Palestinians were far apart when it came to the resolution of core issues and that trust was at a low point.
“These realities do not relieve member states of the responsibility of trying to preserve the viability of a two-state solution, particularly the humanitarian crisis in Gaza,” Mills said.
Under the Biden administration the US will continue its long-standing policy of opposing one-sided resolutions and other actions in international bodies that unfairly single out Israel,” he said.
The US will work to promote Israel’s standing and participation in UN bodies and other international organizations, Mills said.
The Biden administration welcomes the Israeli-Arab normalization deals and will urge other Arab and Muslim majority countries to follow suit.
“We recognize that Arab-Israeli normalization is not a substitute for Israeli Palestinian peace,” Mills said.
“It is the hope of the US that normalization can proceed in a way that unlocks new possibilities to advance the two-state solution,” Mills said.
Many of the countries whose representatives spoke called for a renewed and serious Israeli-Palestinian peace initiative, including the revival of the Quartet – composed of Russia, the US, the UN and the European Union, which had been largely dormant during the Trump administration.’
Russia called for a ministerial meeting that included not just the Quartet, but foreign ministers from Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Israel and the Palestinian Authority. It also reissued Moscow’s long-standing offer to host an international peace conference.
PA Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki, who also spoke at the meeting, said that the Palestinians were ready to work with the Biden administration.
He also called for international protection for the Palestinians from settler violence and accused Israel of not providing the PA with COVID-19 vaccines.
Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan charged that Malki’s accusations with regard to the COVID-19 vaccines were a “blood libel” against the Jewish state adding that they were “false and grotesque.”
He noted that Israel has worked closely with the UN to help Palestinians combat the pandemic including providing equipment and training.
“According to the international agreements, the Palestinian Authority is responsible for the healthcare of its own population. .. They informed Israel they intend to purchase vaccines from the Russian government and Israel has announced it will facilitate their transfer. These are the facts,” Erdan said.
“Anyone who joins the Palestinian campaign of lies either doesn’t know the facts or is motivated by politics or antisemitism,” he added.