Without expectations and with indifference. This is how the Palestinians have received Joe Biden, who, after meeting with the president of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), Abu Mazen, has become the first US president to land in Saudi Arabia on a direct flight from Israel. In contrast to the effusiveness of the Israeli Prime Minister, Yair Lapid, Biden has found this Friday with the seriousness of both Abu Mazen, who urged him to reactivate the route of the Palestinian State with the capital East Jerusalem, and, hours later, of the crown prince Saudi Mohamed Bin Salman whom he greeted when not long ago he wanted to see him as an outcast.

The third day of his first presidential tour in the region has started with a private visit and without Israeli escorts to the Augusta Victoria Hospital in East Jerusalem, occupied by Israel in the 1967 war. Biden has not reversed Donald Trump’s decision to transfer the embassy to Jerusalem, but the suspension of economic aid to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) and the Augusta Victoria Hospital.

“I am pleased to announce that the United States will contribute an additional 100 million dollars to support these hospitals and their teams that work for the Palestinian people,” Biden said at the health center visited by his wife Jill in 2010 and 2016. He also announced 200 million dollars for UNRWA. “Your historic visit from him is a brave declaration of support for the Palestinian people,” Dr. Fadi Atrash, who runs the center that cares for Palestinians from the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem, told him.

In neighboring Bethlehem, Abu Mazen has waited for him, who, as rais, has treated George W. Bush, Barak Obama, Trump and now Biden. The meeting between these two veteran leaders (the host is 87 years old and the guest 79) marks the breaking of the boycott of the US Administration that Abu Mazen imposed at the end of 2017 in response to Trump’s announcement on Jerusalem.

“After 74 years of Nakba and occupation, isn’t it time for the occupation to end and for the steadfast Palestinian people to once again achieve their freedom and independence?” asked Abu Mazen, who said reaching out to Israel for talks of peace stalled since 2014. He has also asked Biden to reopen the consulate in East Jerusalem as promised and remove the PLO from the list of terrorist groups.

“My commitment in favor of the two-state solution based on the 67 borders with the exchange of territories as the best way to achieve security and prosperity has not changed,” Biden replied, although he later admitted that “the ground is not ripe” for negotiation.

“The pain and frustration can be felt, but the United States will not stop trying to bring the two sides closer together. The Palestinian people deserve a state,” Biden said. How? While he has advised the Palestinians to take advantage of the momentum of the Abraham Accords, Abu Mazen has vindicated the old paradigm that vetoes Israel’s integration until the conflict is resolved: “The key to peace and security in the region is the recognition of a Palestinian state”.

The ANP has not hidden its discomfort towards the United States due to its recent conclusions of the forensic and ballistic analysis after the death of the Palestinian-American journalist, Shireen Abu Akleh, which does not establish if the bullet that ended the life of the reporter of Al Jazeera on May 11 while covering an Israeli raid in Jenin came from soldiers or militiamen. Her report stated that it “probably” came from the area of ​​the Israeli military and was not intentional. Abu Akleh was present on posters hanging in Bethlehem, on the black T-shirts of Palestinian journalists and at the meeting between Abu Mazen and Biden in which he has assured that he will continue to insist on completing a transparent investigation of her death “which is a huge loss”.

In Palestinian eyes, Biden is a “blessing” compared to Trump, but in practice he has simply turned on the tap and resuscitated the idea of ​​a Palestinian state without any initiative to make it a reality. Negotiation is almost impossible today. While the Palestinian side remains divided (Gaza from Hamas and the West Bank from Al Fatah) and Abu Mazen is highly criticized for not calling elections since 2006, Israel is guilty of electoral excess (in November they will be the fifth since 2019) that do not allow a stable government .

The normalization of relations between Israel and Arab countries, the Saudi challenge and the Iranian nuclear project parked the Palestinian cause on Biden’s agenda. Just four hours into a four-day tour that ends this Saturday in Saudi Arabia. Before his arrival in Jeddah, Riyadh has announced that airlines from all over the world can enter its airspace. What is not included in the laconic announcement is what is important: also the Israeli companies, despite not having diplomatic relations. Beyond the step towards full normalization that still seems far away, the decision shortens three hours and makes flights to the Far East cheaper. In exchange, Israel has accepted the cession (necessary according to the agreement with Egypt) of the two islands Tiran and Sanafir in the Red Sea to Saudi Arabia. In the Middle East, nothing is free.

Nor will the greeting be free – brief, serious and with the fist not only due to the coronavirus protocol – between Biden and Bin Salman in Jeddah before the former’s meeting with King Salman bin Abdulaziz this Friday night. Gone is the CIA report that pointed to the powerful crown prince as being responsible for the brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018 at the Saudi embassy in Istanbul.

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