Former Us President Donald Trump gradually halted aid to Palestine in 2018 and shut down the Palestinian representative office in Washington.
US President Joe Biden resumed humanitarian assistance to Palestine, allocating $15 million in aid to Palestinians, a move that was welcomed by Qatar on Friday.
“[Qatar] affirmed that the US’ move would alleviate the suffering of the Palestinian people and support the Palestinian efforts aimed at confronting the Covid-19 pandemic in the West Bank and Gaza Strip,” said Qatar’s foreign ministry [MOFA] in a statement.
US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield announced on Thursday that the restoration of aid aims to back “programmes that support economic development and humanitarian aid for the Palestinian people” in the West Bank and Gaza.
“This assistance is also supporting emergency food assistance programming in communities facing food insecurity, which has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic,” said the US Department of State in a statement.
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh welcomed the US initiative, describing it as “an important step in the right direction to reshape the relationship with the US administration, which had stopped during Trump’s rule of the White House”.
The resumption of aid comes after the former Trump administration stopped humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian Authority [PA] as well as the UNRWA, which it previously described as an “irredeemably flawed operation”. In 2018, the US government shut the Palestinian delegation’s office in Washington.
The US also withheld $65 million from the annual aid total of $365 million, leaving the organisation unable to provide adequate support to Palestinians in need, nor pay its 13,000 staff members.
Consequently UNRWA struggled, especially after gradual funding cuts, calling for more international intervention to help cover its budget at the time. Qatar, together with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and several others have provided more than $200 million in funding.
Shift in policy
The latest decision comes as part of major shifts in US policies following a transition from Trump to Biden.
Prior to the latest US elections, speculations suggested the Biden administration would continue America’s decades-long support for its key ally Israel by continuously providing it with military assistance.
In a pre-win statement, Biden himself said he opposed the controversial Trump-proposed Deal of the Century that would have seen widespread annexation of Palestinian territories.
“Israel needs to stop the threats of annexation and stop settlement activity because it will choke off any hope of peace,” he said last year.
Trump used every opportunity to grant Tel Aviv legitimacy – whether through cutting off aid to Palestinians, recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, or through the so-called Deal of the Century.
As a result, Palestinians were sidelined in discussions and decisions related to the ongoing occupation of Palestine. Now, Biden is attempting a delicate balancing act to cater to both a local and global stage.
“Domestically, Biden is trying to prove that the US has maintained its pre-Trump policies towards the Palestinian,” Ihab Maharmeh, researcher at the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies and editorial secretary of Siyasat Arabiya Journal, told Doha News.
“Internationally, the new administration is re-introducing the US to the global community as the country in favour of the two state solution rather than strictly being pro-Israel like the former president by ensuring the presence of both the Israeli and Palestinian side on the same table to resolve the ongoing conflict,” he added.
However, while the Biden administration has presented its support of a unilateral approach by including both the Palestinian and Israeli factions in peace discussions, it still shields Tel Aviv from accountability.
In a statement released earlier in March, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the US opposes the International Criminal Court’s [ICC] decision to open an investigation into Israel’s war crimes in Palestine.
“The ICC has no jurisdiction over this matter. Israel is not a party to the ICC and has not consented to the Court’s jurisdiction, and we have serious concerns about the ICC’s attempts to exercise its jurisdiction over Israeli personnel,” Blinken said in a statement.
“The Palestinians do not qualify as a sovereign state and therefore, are not qualified to obtain membership as a state in, participate as a state in, or delegate jurisdiction to the ICC,” he added.