JERUSALEM – President Biden said Friday that now was not the time to restart peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, but insisted he remained committed to a two-state solution to their conflict and expressed hope that diplomatic agreements sealed in 2020 between Israel and four Arab states could give a new impetus to the peace process.
“Even if the ground is not ripe at this point to restart negotiations, the United States and my administration will not stop trying to bring the Palestinians and Israelis and both sides closer together,” Mr. Biden said.
“At this time, when Israel is improving relations with its neighbors throughout the region, we can build on that same momentum to reinvigorate the peace process between the Palestinian people and the Israelis,” Mr. Biden added, referring to a joint of agreements known as the Abraham Accords, which were negotiated under the Trump administration.
Mister. Biden made the comments at a news conference after meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at a somber time for the Palestinians. The meeting was held in Bethlehem rather than Ramallah, the authority’s administrative center, to allow Mr. Biden to briefly visit the Church of the Nativity, the fourth-century basilica that stands on a site where tradition holds that Jesus was born.
His comments followed a call from Mr. Abbas for Mr. Biden to help “set the scene for a political horizon for a just, comprehensive and lasting peace.”
“Isn’t it time for this occupation to end?” Mister. Abbas said at the news conference. “The key to peace and security in our region begins with the recognition of the state of Palestine,” he added, despite the fact that Saudi Arabia, the most powerful Arab country, began taking gradual steps on Friday to normalize relations with Israel. for the first time.
“The opportunity for the two-state solution along the 1967 borders may be available only today,” the Palestinian leader said. “But we don’t know what will happen next.”
After an exuberant reception in Israel, it was yet another tense morning for Mr. Biden, who was met with protests by Palestinians in Jerusalem and Bethlehem, hours before a scheduled flight to what could be even more tense encounters in Saudi Arabia.
In Bethlehem, Mr. Biden said his commitment to the goal of a two-state solution had not changed, saying: “Two states along 1967 lines with mutually agreed land swaps remains the best way to achieve equal measures of security, prosperity, freedom and democracy for Palestinians. as well as Israelis.”
Mister. Abbas also pushed Mr. Biden to remove the Palestine Liberation Organization from the US terrorism list and reopen the US consulate for the Palestinians in Jerusalem and the PLO mission in Washington, which were closed under the presidency of Donald J. Trump.
The Palestinian leadership is divided between the Palestinian Authority, which administers parts of the West Bank, and Hamas, the Islamist militant group that wrested control of Gaza from the authority in 2007. The Palestinian majority sees little hope of reconciliation, recent poll shows.
In Gaza, a blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt is in its fifteenth year. One in four Palestinians was unemployed in 2021. Seven in 10 say they believe a Palestinian state is no longer feasible due to the expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, according to a June report. poll. Nearly 80 percent want the resignation of Mr. Abbas, the authority’s chairman, who last faced an election in 2005, with the vast majority seeing both the authority and Hamas as corrupt.
In this context, many Palestinians are frustrated with the Biden administration, with 65 percent opposed to dialogue between their leaders and the United States. While the Biden administration has often been called for a two-state solution to the Palestinian conflict — and Mr. Biden repeated that call Thursday — the perception among analysts is that he has not matched his words with actions. .
On the eve of Mr. Biden’s visit, the White House announced various financial measures it was intended to improve Palestinian life, but stopped short of a political process to create a Palestinian state and left several Trump-era measures in place.
In his remarks on Friday, Mr. Biden also calls on the Palestinian Authority to do more to clean its own house.
“The Palestinian Authority also has an important job to do, if you don’t mind my saying so,” Mr. Biden said. “Now is the time to strengthen Palestinian institutions to improve governance, transparency and accountability. Now is the time to unleash the incredible potential of the Palestinian people through increased engagement and civic society to fight corruption, promote rights and freedoms, and improve community services.”
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