RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) — The Palestinian foreign minister on Thursday attacked the Biden administration as weak and passive in the Middle East, as violence between Israel and the Palestinians surges to its highest levels in nearly two decades.
The comments by Riad Malki reflected the Palestinian frustration with U.S. President Joe Biden, who initially won plaudits from the Palestinians when he rejected the Trump administration’s unabashedly pro-Israel stance. But Biden so far has done little to follow through on that vision
“I’m frustrated,” Malki told members of the Foreign Press Association, an organization representing international media outlets in Israel and the Palestinian territories. “It seemed that (Biden) wanted to change all policies Trump has taken, but not when it comes to Palestine.”
Pressured by Israel’s far-right government, increasingly isolated in the Arab world and running out of money, the Palestinian Authority is confronting what analysts say could be its greatest threat to its existence.
Malki said the Biden administration has been mealy-mouthed about the expansion of Jewish settlements, the escalation of Israeli military raids in the West Bank that have killed a growing number of Palestinians and the daily abuses of the open-ended Israeli occupation.
He also lashed out at Biden’s failure to to reverse several measures taken by the Trump administration that Palestinians saw as undermining their quest for statehood.
“We have a weak (U.S.) administration when it comes to Palestine,” he said.
The U.S. has not reopened its consulate to the Palestinians in Jerusalem, which was closed under President Donald Trump. The Palestinian diplomatic mission in Washington, also closed under Trump, remains shuttered. The U.S. State Department also hasn’t rescinded a Trump administration decision to grant legitimacy to Israeli settlements or reversed other policies that broke with long-standing U.S. positions on Jerusalem.
“We reengaged with the administration hoping that they would have the strength and the courage to move forward,” Malki said. “They did not.”
Malki acknowledged he had no hope for long-stalled peace talks to resume under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ’s far-right coalition, which includes hard-line Jewish settler leaders openly hostile to the Palestinian Authority.
In the absence of American attempts to play peacemaker in the region, the Palestinians have considered involving China as an alternative diplomatic power on the world stage, he said.
Chinese President Xi Jinping met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Beijing earlier this summer to discuss the pursuit of a two-state solution to the conflict.
“If peace talks happen in the future, which I doubt, why not include China?” Malki said. “China is giving signals they want to help.”
Meanwhile, the Biden administration is pushing for the normalization of relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel, dispatching his national security adviser to the kingdom last week for talks with the powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The opening of diplomatic relations between Israel and other Gulf Arab states, including the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, in 2020 enraged Palestinian leaders and put them on the defensive politically.
Malki expressed hope that Saudi Arabia wouldn’t follow suit in brokering a deal that would boost Israel’s standing in unprecedented ways.
“I hope that the Saudis … will not yield to any kind of pressure or intimidation coming from the Biden administration,” he said.