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Biden to Reengage With Palestinians    02/24 06:22


   WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Biden administration is moving slowly but surely 
toward reengaging with the Palestinians after a near total absence of official 
contact during former President Donald Trump's four years in office.

   As American officials plan steps to restore direct ties with the Palestinian 
leadership, Biden's national security team is taking steps to restore relations 
that had been severed while Trump pursued a Mideast policy focused largely 
around Israel, America's closest partner in the region.

   On Tuesday, for the second time in two days, Biden's administration 
categorically embraced a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian 
conflict, something that Trump had been purposefully vague about while slashing 
aid to the Palestinians and taking steps to support Israel's claims to land 
that the Palestinians want for an independent state.

   The State Department said Tuesday that a U.S. delegation attended a meeting 
of a Norwegian-run committee that serves as a clearinghouse for assistance to 
the Palestinians. Although little-known outside foreign policy circles, the 
so-called Ad Hoc Liaison Committee has been influential in the peace process 
since Israel and the Palestinians signed the Oslo Accords in 1993.

   "During the discussion, the United States reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to 
advancing prosperity, security, and freedom for both Israelis and Palestinians 
and to preserve the prospects of a negotiated two-state solution in which 
Israel lives in peace and security alongside a viable Palestinian state," the 
State Department said in a statement.

   "The United States underscored the commitment to supporting economic and 
humanitarian assistance and the need to see progress on outstanding projects 
that will improve the lives of the Palestinian people, while urging all parties 
to avoid unilateral steps that make a two-state solution more difficult to 
achieve," it said.

   U.S. participation in the meeting followed a Monday call between Secretary 
of State Antony Blinken and Israel's foreign minister in which Blinken stressed 
that the new U.S. administration unambiguously supports a two-state solution. 
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is close to Trump, has eschewed 
the two-state solution.

   Biden spoke to Netanyahu last week for the first time as president after a 
delay that many found suspicious and suggestive of a major realignment in U.S. 
policy. Blinken, however, has spoken to Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi 
twice amid ongoing concern in Israel about Biden's intentions in the region, 
particularly his desire to reenter the Iran nuclear deal.

   In Monday's call, Blinken "emphasized the Biden administration's belief that 
the two-state solution is the best way to ensure Israel's future as a Jewish 
and democratic state, living in peace alongside a viable and democratic 
Palestinian state," State Department spokesperson Ned Price said.

   The Trump administration had presented its own version of a two-state peace 
plan, though it would have required significant Palestinian concessions on 
territory and sovereignty.

   The Palestinians, however, rejected it out of hand and accused the U.S. of 
no longer being an honest peace broker after Trump recognized Jerusalem as 
Israel's capital, moved the U.S. embassy to the city from Tel Aviv, cut off aid 
to the Palestinian Authority, closed the Palestinian diplomatic mission in 
Washington and rescinded a long-standing legal opinion that Israeli settlement 
activity is illegitimate under international law,

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