Palestinian factions mock Biden's declarations during visit to the PA

Palestinian factions mock Biden's declarations during visit to the PA
A PLO executive committee member ironically congratulated "the US president and his team for their success in their new job at the Palestinian ministry of civil affairs".
4 min read
West Bank
18 July, 2022
Biden announced financial aid to Palestinians during the highly-secured meeting with Abbas in Bethlehem. [Qassam Muaddi/TNA]

US president Joe Biden's recent visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority provoked bitter responses among Palestinian opposition factions, who heavily criticised the three-day tour and its outcome.

The reactions followed Biden's meeting with the Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem, scheduled for one hour, then extended for more than three hours, including a brief, heavily secured visit to the Church of Nativity.

The city's main roads were cleared, with the Palestinian security forces deploying around1,500 force members to secure the visit.

Meanwhile, dozens of Palestinians protested Biden's tour at the entrance of the Dheisheh refugee camp in the southern part of the city.

Palestinian police / Qassam Muaddi
Palestinian Authority deployed some 1500 security forces to secure Biden's visit to Bethlehem [Qassam Muaddi/TNA]

Protesters held black flags and Palestinian flags, pictures of the Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh - killed by Israeli forces in May - and banners denouncing US policy and the Israeli occupation.

In a press conference at the end of his meeting with Abbas, Biden reaffirmed the US' "commitment to the two-states-solution" while repeating what he had said in Jerusalem two days prior: that the two-states-solution was "unlikely in the near -term".

Speaking to Palestinian journalists in the PA headquarters in Bethlehem, who all wore T-shirts showing the face of Shireen Abu Akleh, Biden said the US will focus on "conducting an independent investigation" into her killing as he struggled with pronouncing her last name. 

Biden emphasised the US humanitarian help to the Palestinian people, referring to the US funding of food security programs for Palestinians. The US president also announced a $US 200 million aid to the Palestinian refugee agency, UNRWA.

Biden also said his administration discussed with Israel allowing the use of 4-G technology by Palestinians. Simultaneously, Israel greenlit the agreement of 5,000 family reunions for Palestinians living in the country without residency status, which has to be approved by Israel.

Palestinian protest Biden visit / Qassam Muaddi
Dozens of Palestinians protested Biden's visit to Bethlehem [Qassam Muaddi/TNA]

In an early reaction, the PLO executive committee member and Secretary General of the left-wing Palestinian People's Party, Bassam Salhi, ironically congratulated "the US president and his team for their success in their new job at the Palestinian Ministry of Civil Affairs".

The ministry, headed by Hussein Al-Sheikh, coordinates civil matters controlled by the Israeli occupation, such as family reunion requests and cross-border trade.

"Biden's [only] success was to announce Israel's acceptance of granting Palestinians family reunions, 4-G technology and opening the border crossing," Salhi added.

Palestinian protest Shireen Abu Akleh / Qassam Muaddi
Biden said the US will focus on "conducting an independent investigation" into Shireen Abu Akleh's killing [Qassam Muaddi/TNA]

For its side, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - PFLP, in a press release on Friday, described Biden's meeting with Abbas as merely "a public relations meeting".

"Biden did not commit to any rights of the Palestinian people, which the US administrations have always been hostile to," PFLP's statement said.

"The PFLP warns that the financial aid announced by Biden should not be promoted as a change in the US stand towards the Palestinian cause," the statement added. "These aid packages share ground with the Israeli vision of an economical solution as the best way to handle the Palestinian question." 

Hamas expressed similar positions. "Biden's visit to Bethlehem carried nothing but more bias towards Israeli occupation and silence on its settlement and racist policies," the group's statement said. 

The group considered Biden's visit "sought to ignore the Palestinian people's rights while bolstering Israel's integration in the region." Hamas urged the Palestinian Authority to "abandon the useless doctrine of political compromise".

Palestinian protest PA security / Qassam Muaddi
Palestinian factions criticised Biden's 'bias towards Israel' and accused him of ignoring Palestinian rights [Qassam Muaddi/TNA]

On Saturday, Biden participated in a summit that included six Arab Gulf countries, Jordan and Egypt, that capped off his Middle East tour.

At the summit, Biden said that the US will "not walk away from the region" and "remain fully engaged in the Middle East and will not cede influence to other world powers".