Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced Tuesday that the Biden administration will reopen its Consulate General in Jerusalem — restoring ties with Palestinians that had been downgraded by the Trump administration — and seek $75 million from Congress to provide development and economic assistance to Palestinians.Speaking after his meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Blinken said the United States would also provide $5.5 million in immediate disaster assistance for Gaza and $32 million to United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).
The consulate long served as an autonomous office in charge of diplomatic relations with the Palestinians. But former President Donald Trump placed them under the authority of his ambassador to Israel when he moved the embassy to Jerusalem.
Trump’s move infuriated the Palestinians, who view east Jerusalem as occupied territory and the capital of their future state.
Blinken did not give a precise date for reopening the consulate.
“As I told the president [Abbas], I’m here to underscore the commitment of the United States to rebuilding the relationship with the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian people, a relationship built on mutual respect and also a shared conviction that Palestinians and Israelis alike deserve equal measures of security, freedom opportunity and dignity,” he said.
Blinken is in the region to help shore up the cease-fire last week that ended a devastating war 11-day war between Israel and Hamas that killed more than 250 people, mostly Palestinians, and caused widespread destruction in the impoverished coastal territory. He promised to “rally international support” to aid Gaza after the war while keeping any assistance out of the hands of Hamas.
The truce that came into effect Friday has so far held, but it did not address any of the underlying issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, something Blinken acknowledged after meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“We know that to prevent a return to violence, we have to use the space created to address a larger set of underlying issues and challenges. And that begins with tackling the grave humanitarian situation in Gaza and starting to rebuild,” he said.
Blinken will not be meeting with Hamas, which does not recognize Israel’s right to exist and which Israel and the U.S. consider a terrorist organization.
Blinken addressed the larger conflict, saying “we believe that Palestinians and Israelis equally deserve to live safely and securely, to enjoy equal measures of freedom, opportunity and democracy, to be treated with dignity.”
But the top U.S. diplomat faces the same obstacles that have stifled a wider peace process for more than a decade, including a hawkish Israeli leadership, Palestinian divisions and deeply rooted tensions surrounding Jerusalem and its holy sites. The Biden administration had initially hoped to avoid being drawn into the intractable conflict and focus on other foreign policy priorities before the violence broke out.