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Conservatives, pro-Israel groups express opposition to Biden admin’s Palestine aid

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The United States plans to restore over $200 million in aid to Palestinians, after large funding cuts made under the Trump administration.

“[We] plan to restart U.S. economic, development, and humanitarian assistance for the Palestinian people,” said Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a statement on Wednesday.

Included in that aid is $75 million in economic and development assistance for the West Bank and Gaza and $150 million for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), a U.N. agency that supports over five million Palestinian refugees throughout the region.

While the move garnered support from various Western allies of the U.S. and pro-Palestine advocates, Israel along with many conservative and pro-Israel groups and individuals have expressed staunch opposition to the decision.

“We believe that this UN agency for so-called refugees should not exist in its current format,” said Gilad Erdan, Israel’s ambassador to the U.N.

“I am deeply troubled by recent decisions from the Biden Administration to turn a blind eye to behavior by the Palestinian Authority,” Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.) said in a statement.

The senator also criticized the move to give money to UNRWA, which he said “does little more than subsidize a corrupt regime and a status quo in the West Bank and in Jordan” when it comes to the Palestinians and that it “has been historically antagonistic to Israel and an impediment to peace.”

“Mr. Secretary, I support aid to Palestinians but your decision to give $150 million to UNRWA without any conditions is a mistake,” international human rights activist and lawyer Hillel Neuer tweeted in response to Blinken. “Even the Swiss foreign minister said: ‘UNRWA has become part of the problem. By supporting UNRWA, we keep the conflict alive. It’s a perverse logic.'”

“I’m sure Hamas and the PA dictators are also only more than ‘pleased’,” tweeted Arsen Ostrovsky, another lawyer and political analyst who deals with international human rights.

“How will you and @POTUS ensure this money will not be spent to reward the murders of Jews with lifelong salaries?” StopAntisemitism.org tweeted.

“How will you ensure that the money goes to humanitarian assistance & not terrorism and incitement? What protocols do you have in place for this especially knowing the money has been misused for decades? What will you do to reduce the number of refugees instead of adding to it?” tweeted Shoshanna Keats Jaskoll, an activist who has written for various Israeli outlets such as The Jerusalem Post and The Times of Israel.

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @DouglasPBraff.

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Biden Administration Sacrificing Saudi-Israel Deal on Altar of Palestinian Statehood

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Iran kicked out one-third of its nuclear inspectors. The Biden administration is on the verge of getting Iran to release five hostages in exchange for unfreezing $6 billion of Iranian cash, and potentially five Iranian prisoners held in US custody. As Iran is on the march, a breakthrough in Middle East peace can’t come fast enough.

The best way to check Iranian ambitions in the region would be the normalization of relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel. While such a deal would be “tectonic,” the Biden administration is destroying the prospects for normalization because it continues to be obsessed with linking the deal to Palestinian nationalism.

More than any of the known Palestinian demands to date, the Biden administration is fixated on Palestinian statehood. And the administration continues to browbeat Israel on that point. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has recently claimed that both Saudi Arabia and the Biden administration view a two-state solution an important piece to any deal. Previously, Blinken told Israel’s minister of strategic affairs, Ron Dermer, that Israel would be “misreading the situation” if it doesn’t think that significant concessions to the Palestinians would be required to broker a Saudi-Israel deal. White House National Security Council spokesman Jake Sullivan also told Dermer that that Israel will need to give significant concessions to the Palestinians so that the Biden administration can sell the deal to Democrats in Congress.

One unconfirmed Saudi press report stated that the Saudis have walked away from talks, due to concerns that Israel wouldn’t agree to placate the Palestinians. However, both an American and an Israeli official have asserted that that report is false.

What is more likely is that the Saudis are taking a pragmatic, not absolutist, approach to a Palestinian track. According to an unnamed Arab official who is familiar with recent talks between Saudi Arabia and the Palestinian Authority (PA) earlier this month, Saudi Arabia is now communicating to the PA that it is willing to abandon the two-state solution as a pre-condition for normalization between Saudi Arabia and Israel, and that the PA needs to acclimate its demands to that fact. Additionally, Saudi Arabia has proposed to re-start aid to the PA, halted since 2016, in efforts to get the PA to at least tacitly support normalization.

The Israeli response to Palestinian nationalism is much more publicly opposed. Israeli National Security Advisor Tzachi Hanegbi has rejected the idea of Palestinian statehood as part of the deal. Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich said the concept of Israeli concessions to the Palestinians as a part of normalization is “a fiction” as such a deal “has nothing to do with Judea and Samaria [commonly referred to in the West as the ‘West Bank’].”

Israel’s hostility to Palestinian nationalism is well founded. As the Oslo Accords turn 30 years old, the so called “peace process” has failed to bring peace to Israel, as Israel has had to defend itself against at least five warsand countless smaller violent conflicts against the Palestinians since 1993. PA President Mahmoud Abbas continued to show his true bigoted face with a recent anti-Semitic diatribe, part and parcel of the systemic anti-Semitism and incitement to violence of the PA.

The Biden administration continues to stand in the way of Saudi Arabia’s normalization of relations with Israel, as it continues to pursue maximalist demands on Palestinian statehood. This is a non-starter for Israel, and not a top concern for Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia, like Israel, is primarily focused on using the deal to leverage its strength against Iran – as Saudi Arabia is looking to secure US support for advanced weapons, a NATO-like alliance, and civilian nuclear energy. In order to make a sustainable counterweight against Iranian aggression, the Biden administration must jettison its demands for Palestinian statehood, and at the very least answer Saudi concerns with a serious counter-offer. Failure to buttress Israel, Saudi Arabia and our Gulf allies will likely result in a resurgent Iran.

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