The US has reversed one aspect of the Trump administration’s foreign policy in Palestine; humanitarian aid will be resumed with a $15 million grant for vulnerable Palestinian communities in the occupied West Bank and Gaza. “Our engagements all have the same aim: to build support for a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” the US Representative to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, declared. Given that Washington used to give $350 million pa to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) before Trump stopped the support in 2018, this is a very limited “engagement”.
And it’s very selective support. Moreover, it comes as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is opposing the Palestinian Authority’s recourse to the International Criminal Court for justice over Israel’s war crimes. Such crimes, and the context of occupation in which they are carried out, contribute to humanitarian aid for the Palestinian being a necessity.
More importantly, humanitarian aid remains tied to the two-state compromise. Now that the US has returned to international consensus over the defunct paradigm, restoring humanitarian aid may be considered the next, logical step, only there is nothing logical about pursuing a strand of diplomacy that spells loss unless it results in a gain for Israel.
PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh welcomed the resumption of humanitarian aid as “an important step in the right direction.” However, Palestinians still have no political direction and the PA is merely speaking about its standing in the diplomatic arena. Following restored humanitarian aid, the next step will most likely be renewed diplomatic relations. The PA will then feed upon the illusion that it is an important negotiating partner. Perhaps it is, in terms of “negotiating” the sell-out of what remains of Palestine to the Zionist colonial project.
For ordinary Palestinians, of course, it is a different story. The resumption of humanitarian aid within the context of the two-state compromise only sustains Israeli colonialism, while allowing the Palestinian people the necessary means for daily survival. Resuming the two-state cycle of humanitarian aid in return for acquiescence to the two-state illusion is not a better option than the so-called “deal of the century”. Both have generated loss, and the PA is merely favouring one form of loss over another.
To what extent can such a move be welcomed? Humanitarian aid to promote peace is a recipe for failure, given its reinforcement of the power dynamic bolstered by the billions of dollars that Israel gets each year from the US. It would be understandable if the PA spoke of humanitarian aid in terms of alleviation, but not as an “important step in the right direction” when Israel is not facing any punitive measures for advancing its illegal settlement expansion, for example.
It is to be expected that the US selectively lauds its meager support for Palestine, especially when, in contrast to the Trump administration, US President Joe Biden is yet to face significant scrutiny. For the PA to emulate the US rhetoric, however, is a different story. It seems as if the Ramallah authority is far more interested in asserting its earlier and premature, overtures to Biden even before the new foreign policy was revealed, despite the fact that the politics of humanitarian aid are a mere convenience for the international community in its process of aiding Israel to colonise what is left of Palestine.