Before Joe Biden’s first visit to Jerusalem as US president, Washington’s ambassador to Israel said his team would try to pressure Israeli officials to make concessions to the Palestinians.
But Ambassador Thomas Nides spoke of ensuring that Palestinians have access to economic benefits such as 4G internet, not of throwing US diplomatic weight to revive the peace process that has been dying since 2014.
Biden’s first tour of the Middle East since entering the White House last year begins in Israel on Wednesday, and he is expected to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem on Friday in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
Relations between Washington and the Palestinians improved under Biden, after falling to an all-time low among his predecessor, Donald Trump, a staunch supporter of Israel.
In addition to the ability to provide high-speed Internet, the visit could also testify to the return of U.S. funding for hospitals in occupied East Jerusalem that have historically served the Palestinians.
But some Palestinians say they are tired of U.S. diplomacy focusing more on economic benefits than the core issues of the seven-decade conflict.
“It would be good to have the fourth generation,” said Muhammad Mustafa, the former deputy prime minister and former chief executive of Paltel, the largest telecommunications operator in the Palestinian territories. Like the issue of Jerusalem, sovereignty or like freedom. “
Mustafa believes that “Israel believes that people will forget the bigger picture.”
Hamas expects nothing
Mustafa believes that the promise to provide the fourth generation network “4G”, emphasized by the new US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides in an interview with “The Times of Israel”, will provide immediate support for the activities of Palestinian companies.
Palestinians are currently being forced to either buy Israeli cell phone cards or struggle with slower 3G connections.
Mustafa says that “the Israeli operators have a large share of the Palestinian telecommunications and broadband market,” adding that “this will be an opportunity to give it back to the Palestinian companies.”
Mustafa points out that “the Israelis think that if they give us the fourth generation network, they will get us quiet on other matters,” emphasizing, “We are interested, but we also want bigger things.”
Israel was led until July 1 by former Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, a right-winger who opposes the Palestinians’ main demand for state capture.
Bennett has adopted an approach known as “conflict mitigation” that seeks to defuse tensions by improving economic opportunities in the West Bank and the beleagured Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.
One of the key things he did within this approach was to increase permits for Palestinians, including those from Gaza, to seek better-paying jobs in Israel.
Asked about expectations of Biden’s visit, Hamas official Bassem Naim said: “We do not expect anything.”
Prime Minister Yair Lapid, the centrist who succeeded Bennett, supports a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
But he will assume his duties until the elections scheduled for next November are organized, and therefore it is seen that he does not have sufficient room for maneuver to launch daring peace initiatives.
When Lapid visited Paris last week, French President Emmanuel Macron declared that “there is no alternative to resuming political dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians.”
Senior Israeli officials told AFP that Lapid was “open” to meeting Abbas, but not for the time being to launch a new peace initiative.
Money supports the occupation
Biden claimed in an article in the Washington Post last weekend that his administration had reallocated nearly $ 500 million to support the Palestinians after Trump cut funding.
But while Israeli authorities have promised to welcome Biden with a sea of flags to Jerusalem, there is little festive anticipation in the West Bank.
For Sam Bahour, a prominent Palestinian-American businessman in the West Bank, indifference to Biden’s visit goes beyond the recent fluctuations in the Israeli government.
He added: “The Biden administration has fallen into the Israeli trap, this trap fragments all Palestinian rights under international law, and then it is used as cards as if they are making concessions to the Palestinians.”
He believes that supporting Israeli initiatives in the West Bank is simply “throwing money at the occupation.”
Bahour emphasizes that the Palestinians can handle the slower internet, but they cannot handle survival without establishing a state.
“We do not need a fourth generation network (…) what we need is for the fourth generation Palestinians not to live under military occupation,” he said.