What the PA expected the Biden Administration to do, and why those expectations have only been partially realized
|PA expectation||What needs to happen and who needs to do it|
|Restore US aid to the PA||PA must stop rewarding terrorists and stop using the ICC to attack Israel|
|Renew US aid to UNRWA||Problematic, but done|
|Cancel the designation of the PLO as a terror organization||PLO must stop inciting, promoting and rewarding terror and expel its terrorist members|
|Reopen the PLO offices in Washington DC||Same as cancelling the designation of the PLO as a terror organization + use the offices to promote peace. PLO must also show that it is still a relevant organization.|
|Reopen a US consulate in Jerusalem, solely for the Palestinians||The Palestinians have no say whatsoever. Entirely dependent on Israeli permission|
During his recent meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas thanked the US for the renewal of the US aid to United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and reiterated the PA expectations of the Biden Administration.
“I am pleased to welcome US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken on his visit to Palestine… I also thank the US administration for the support it has provided to the Palestinian people, especially to UNRWA…
We stress the importance of implementing what President Biden's administration believes in, including its commitment to the two-state solution, ending settlement construction and settler violence, preserving the historical situation in Al-Aqsa Mosque, preventing unilateral actions, reopening the US Consulate in Jerusalem and abolishing US laws that consider the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) as a terrorist organization.”
[Official PA news Agency, WAFA March 27, 2022]
Abbas also thanked the US for “providing half a billion in humanitarian aid to the Palestinians last year.”
Blinken reportedly responded by affirming “the administration's commitment to achieve a two-state solution of Palestine and Israel living side by side in peace and security.”
The leadership of the Palestinian Authority was cautiously optimistic when (then) Presidential candidate Joe Biden beat the sitting (now ex-) President Donald Trump in the 2020 United States elections. While maintaining the stance that the US is “not an ally” of the Palestinians, the PA’s optimism was based on the Biden election platform, which seemingly promised to unconditionally reverse many steps taken by then President Trump.
In an interview just days after the elections, US Palestinian Council Vice President John Dabeet discussed the engagement between Biden’s senior foreign policy advisors, such as later-to-be US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and the Palestinian representatives. In the interview, Dabeet listed the promises Biden had already ostensibly made:
Official PA TV host: “What is your list of priorities in the Palestinian expatriate community?”
John Dabeet: “We have received promises from Biden’s senior advisors that in the near future, after Biden will be sworn in and become the president of the US, we will be in contact with the senior advisors in order to have constant dialogue and say things explicitly. But allow me to return to part of your question, and that is: What have we obtained so far from Biden? We will say things explicitly, we have obtained a number of points on this matter, such as: Biden will work to restore the funding to UNRWA; Biden will work to restore the funding to the Palestinian people quickly; Biden promised us to open a Palestinian representation in Washington; Biden promised us to reopen the American consulate in Jerusalem; Biden gave us the right to participate in the [BDS anti-Israel] boycott campaign in the US, and this is a great thing because under [US President Donald] Trump’s administration, many attempted to formulate a number of laws that criminalize any one of us who participates in the boycott and the boycott campaign.”
[Official PA TV, Nov. 7, 2020]
After Biden assumed his position as US President, PA Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh declared that while “American administration is not an ally of the Palestinian people,” he too expected to see a number of developments, “relying on the words” of President Biden:
“I have said, the American administration is not an ally of the Palestinian people, it has interests. If it would examine its interests carefully, it may see matters differently. We are not relying on them. What did they say? They said: We want to open the PLO office [in Washington.] We want to restore the money. We want to open a consulate… What we are relying on are the words of this man [US President Joe Biden] in press interviews, in his election platform, and in the Democratic party platform. This is what we are saying: We do not rely much on- But that is what the party is saying, and that is what the elected president has said, and we are taking these things seriously.”
[Facebook page of PA Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh, Jan. 22, 2021]
In a later interview, Shtayyeh explained that he and other senior Palestinian leaders had held discussion with the Biden administration and that the contacts were based on one principle:
“We want the American administration to uphold its commitments to reopen the American consulate in East Jerusalem, to reopen the PLO office in Washington, and to renew the aid, including to UNRWA and to the hospitals in Jerusalem…. We want bilateral relations with the US, and not [relations] based on the connection with Israel.’
[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, March 17, 2021]
Alongside these expectations, Shtayyeh added:
“The Palestinian leadership expects an American order that will consider the PLO as a prime partner in the peace process, which means the revocation of all the hostile laws including a law that considers the PLO to be a ‘terror organization.’”
[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, March 17, 2021]
Indeed Palestinian expectations were not entirely unwarranted, since some of them were already included in the Democratic Party/Biden election manifest as outlined in the “Joe Biden and the Arab American Community: A plan for Partnership”:
“As President, Biden will take immediate steps to restore economic and humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people, consistent with U.S. law, including assistance to refugees, work to address the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Gaza, reopen the U.S. consulate in East Jerusalem, and work to reopen the PLO mission in Washington.”
[Biden election manifest]
Having said that, it would appear that the PA leadership erroneously assumed that nothing was required of the PA and that the Biden administration intended to ignore or amend longstanding US legislation, passed with broad bi-partisan support, in order to implement the steps.
The following is an analysis of each commitment and the steps required by the PA to realize them.
Restore aid to the PA
While it is erroneously claimed that former President Trump halted the US aid to the PA, in reality it was then PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah who wrote to the US Secretary of State saying that “In light of these developments, the Government of Palestine respectfully informs the United States Government that, as of January 31st, 2019, it fully disclaims and no longer wishes to accept any form of assistance referenced in ATCA [Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act]”
Since then, ATCA was replaced with alternative legislation and the PA is now again graciously willing to accept US aid.
For the most part, US bilateral aid to the Palestinians is divided into three categories: Aid provided for International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement (INCLE); aid provided for Nonproliferation, Anti-terrorism, Demining and Related Programs (NADR); and Economic Support Fund (ESF) aid, which accounts for the vast majority of the aid.
However, two pieces of US legislation directly impact the ESF aid.
Passed in January 2014, under the administration of then President Obama, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2014 blocked ESF aid to the PA if the Palestinians “initiate an International Criminal Court (ICC) judicially authorized investigation, or actively support such an investigation, that subjects Israeli nationals to an investigation for alleged crimes against Palestinians.” The same provision has been adopted every year since, most recently as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2022, which became law on March 15, 2022.
In 2018, the PA petitioned the ICC to open an investigation against Israel. In March 2021, the ICC prosecutor opened a “judicially authorized investigation”. As Palestinian Media Watch has shown, the PA is “actively support[ing]” that investigation.
In parallel to the ESF limitations incurred by the PA’s ICC investigation, the Taylor Force Act (TFA) also blocks ESF aid for the direct benefit of the PA.
Every year, the PA spends hundreds of millions of shekels/dollars paying rewards for terror. The payments are divided between salary payments to imprisoned and released terrorists and payments to wounded terrorists and the families of dead terrorists – so-called “Martyrs”.
TFA conditions the ESF aid on the PA abolishing its terror reward payments.
While the PA has adopted numerous measures to conceal the payments, PMW has conclusively shown that the PA continues to defy TFA, and it is estimated that in 2021, the PA spent no less than 841 million shekels ($270.75 million) on its terror reward payments.
These two circumstances prevent the PA from receiving US aid. In order to receive the ESF aid allocated by the US administration, all the PA would have to do is request that the ICC close its investigation against Israel and stop rewarding terrorists.
Renew aid to UNRWA
While US law does not limit the amount of aid the administration can give to UNRWA, the law requires that prior to the initial obligation of funds the Secretary of State report to the Appropriations Committees on a number of subjects. As PMW has already shown, there are serious concerns that UNRWA does not meet the minimum standards set out in US law in order to qualify for aid.
A recent statement issued by Nidal Al-Azza, the director of the vehemently anti-Israel BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights, claimed that UNRWA has been asked by the US not to teach some materials that include aspects of incitement:
“UNRWA has been asked [by America] not to teach some of the lessons [to Palestinian refugees] that deal with the wall and settlement. They view this as an element of incitement. Also some of the lessons that deal with the prisoners and the way they are presented. According to their criteria this incites to violence and the like, and also lessons about historical Palestine (i.e., all of Israel and PA). It is forbidden to teach about Haifa and Jaffa (i.e., Israeli cities) and the original Palestinian cities before the Nakba (i.e., establishment of Israel). They are forcing the Zionist criteria or the Zionist narrative on the Palestinian people and the Palestinian identity.”
[Official PA TV News, Feb. 3, 2022]
One of the preconditions for US aid to UNRWA, set out in the Consolidated Appropriations Acts, requires the Secretary of State to report to the Committees on Appropriations on whether UNRWA is “taking steps to ensure the content of all educational materials currently taught in UNRWA-administered schools and summer camps is consistent with the values of human rights, dignity, and tolerance and does not induce incitement.”
Since, according to the Badil, the US is still trying to curb the incitement in the UNRWA taught materials, this clearly demonstrates that the Secretary of State could not have honestly reported that UNRWA is meeting the funding prerequisite proscribed by the law.
Moreover, recent reports have exposed the fact that the European Union has withheld aid donations to the PA for many months, because of the content of the PA schoolbooks.
Discussing the matter, PA Minister of Foreign Affairs Riyad Al-Malki clarified:
“The European Union (EU) is still preventing the arrival of the monetary aid to the State of Palestine’s treasury, and that there is no breakthrough of any sort on the topic. This is because [the EU] adheres to its position to change the [PA] curriculum before renewing the aid, which was halted two years ago
[Donia Al-Watan, independent Palestinian news agency, March 21, 2022]
As PMW has already shown, the PA schoolbooks are also used in the UNRWA schools.
In other words, while the EU is adamant that the content of the PA schoolbooks is highly problematic, US Secretary of State Blinken appears to still have given the required confirmation that UNRWA is taking steps to ensure the content of all educational materials currently taught in UNRWA-administered schools – including materials the PA forces UNRWA to use and that is clearly problematic –and does not conform with the demand that it be “consistent with the values of human rights, dignity, and tolerance and does not induce incitement”.
Following that assurance, in April 2021 the US administration pledged $150 million to UNRWA. This pledge was followed by two additional pledges of $33 million and $135.8 million.
Cancel the designation of the PLO as a terror organization
Passed in 1987, the Anti-Terrorism Act designated the PLO and its affiliates as a terrorist organization.
The PLO is an umbrella organization for a number of different Palestinian organizations. At least one of the PLO member organizations, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), is a US and internationally designated terror organization. It was the PFLP terrorists who planted a bomb near a popular spring and detonated it as 3 members of the Schnerb family passed by. 17-year-old Rina Schnerb was murdered in the attack and her father and brother were seriously injured.
The most dominant member of the PLO is Fatah. Fatah is headed by Mahmoud Abbas, who is also the head of the PLO and PA Chairman. While Fatah, per se, is not a US designated terror organization, its military wing, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades - responsible for the murder of hundreds of Israelis - is in fact a US designated terror organization.
In February 2022, Israeli security forces neutralized three terrorists from the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades who had already carried out six terror attacks and were preparing to carry out another imminent attack.
Instead of disavowing them, PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas embraced the terrorists and called to “dish out to them [Israel] twice as much as we’ve received” – i.e. to murder Israelis.
In addition to the current, active involvement of its member organizations in terror, the PLO also serves as the primary mechanism through which the PA pays the terror rewards referred to in the TFA and described above.
For many years, the PA openly paid the terrorist prisoners and released terrorists directly from the PA Ministry of Prisoners’ Affairs. In order to hide those payments from the international community, the PA ostensibly disbanded the Ministry, replacing it with the PLO Commission of Prisoners’ Affairs. As PMW exposed, the PA now transfers hundreds of millions of shekels/dollars every year to the PLO, for the purpose of paying the monthly terror rewards to the terrorist prisoners and released terrorists. The second part of the PA terror rewards - the payments to the wounded terrorists and families of dead terrorists - have for years been made through the PLO Families of the Martyrs and Wounded Institution.
Before the US rescinds its designation of the PLO as a terror organization, the PLO and all its members and affiliates must stop engaging in terror, must stop murdering Israelis, and must stop rewarding terrorists.
Reopen the PLO offices in Washington DC
One of the provisions of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1987 included the prohibition of opening or maintaining any PLO office in the US.
From 1993 through 2018, successive US administrations waived the prohibition regarding the offices of the PLO, after the State Department concluded that functions of the offices “would advance U.S. efforts to promote peace between Israel and the Palestinians, and that barring the PLO from engaging in these activities would interfere with U.S. diplomacy.” [Legal opinion of the US State Department, “Statutory Restrictions on the PLO’s Washington Office”, Sept. 11, 2018]
In 2018, the State Department concluded that the “PLO had failed to use its Washington office to engage in direct and meaningful negotiations on achieving a comprehensive peace settlement and, therefore, closing the PLO’s Washington office would serve the foreign policy interests of the United States.” [Legal opinion of the US State Department, “Statutory Restrictions on the PLO’s Washington Office”, Sept. 11, 2018]
The reopening of the PLO’s offices is further complicated by the PA’s initiation and active support of the ICC investigation.
In order for President Biden to use his waiver, as previous administrations have done, the Consolidated Appropriations Act requires that the President show that the Palestinians have not “initiated or actively supported an ICC investigation against Israeli nationals for alleged crimes against Palestinians.”
As discussed previously, and as PMW has exposed, since the PA manipulatively initiated an ICC investigation against Israel, it has been actively supporting that investigation conducting scores of meetings and providing never ending materials to the ICC prosecutor.
The discussion whether to reopen the PLO offices in Washington is further complicated taking note of the continued loss of internal Palestinian recognition of the PLO as the representative of the Palestinians. As PMW recently exposed, while in the past the PLO was widely accepted as “the sole representative of the Palestinian people,” today only 51% of Palestinians see the organization in that role.
In order for US to reopen the PLO offices in Washington, the PLO must first rid itself of its terror members, stop serving as a mechanism through which terrorists are rewarded, put an end to the ICC investigation against Israel, and positively prove that it intends to “use its Washington office to engage in direct and meaningful negotiations on achieving a comprehensive peace settlement.” Additionally, the PLO must prove that it has regained the support of the Palestinian people and that the organization is truly capable of representing, at the very least, a vast majority of the Palestinians.
Reopen a US consulate in Jerusalem, solely for the Palestinians
The US Jerusalem Embassy Act repeatedly stresses the unity and indivisibility of Jerusalem as Israel's capital: “In 1967, the city of Jerusalem was reunited during the conflict known as the Six-Day War … Jerusalem has been a united city administered by Israel… Jerusalem should remain an undivided city… recognized as the capital of the State of Israel.”
Significantly, the Jerusalem Embassy Act explained that declaring Jerusalem the united capital of Israel was merely recognizing what was already its authentic status: “Each sovereign nation, under international law and custom, may designate its own capital. Since 1950, the city of Jerusalem has been the capital of the State of Israel… From 1948–1967, Jerusalem was a divided city and Israeli citizens of all faiths as well as Jewish citizens of all states were denied access to holy sites in the area controlled by Jordan. In 1967, the city of Jerusalem was reunited… Jerusalem has been a united city administered by Israel, and persons of all religious faiths have been guaranteed full access to holy sites... The United States conducts official meetings and other business in the city of Jerusalem in de facto recognition of its status as the capital of Israel. In 1996, the State of Israel will celebrate the 3,000th anniversary of the Jewish presence in Jerusalem since King David’s entry… Jerusalem should remain an undivided city… Jerusalem should be recognized as the capital of the State of Israel.”
When the American Embassy was opened in Jerusalem in May 2018, the US Consulate, which was superfluous in the unified Jerusalem, was closed.
Exposing why the PA attaches such importance to reopening the consulate, PA PM Shtayyeh recently explained:
“The message from this [Biden] administration is that Jerusalem is not one [united Israeli] city and that the American administration does not recognize the annexation of Arab Jerusalem by the Israeli side. We want the American Consulate to constitute the seed of a US embassy in the State of Palestine.”
[Facebook page, PA PM Muhammad Shtayyeh, Sept. 14, 2021]
Just days after PMW exposed Shtayyeh’s scheme to divide Jerusalem, US Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources Brian McKeon appeared before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and acknowledged that the Biden administration would “need the consent of the host government [Israel] to open any diplomatic facility."
Since Israeli agreement to the opening of such a consulate would be tantamount to agreeing to the division of Jerusalem, no Israeli government would be empowered to make such a decision without first changing the Israeli Law the declares the Jerusalem the undivided capital of Israel.
But while the opening of the US consulate in Jerusalem is solely in the hands of the Israeli government, the other Biden promises could be realized by the Palestinian leadership abandoning its destructive policies, forsaking terror and its policy of rewarding it, and embracing real peace.
The following are longer excerpts of some of the items quoted above:
Headline: “President Abbas affirms commitment to international references as he welcomes US Secretary of State”
“President of the State of Palestine Mahmoud Abbas affirmed today his commitment to the international peace references, as he received US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken at the presidential headquarters in Ramallah.
During the meeting, the President stressed that the priority should always be a political solution that ends the Israeli occupation of the land of the State of Palestine on the pre-1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital, and with a fair resolution of all permanent status issues, including the refugee issue, under the auspices of the International Quartet and in accordance with international legitimacy resolutions.
The President said, "I am pleased to welcome US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken on his visit to Palestine. This is an opportunity to brief him on the latest developments. I also thank the US administration for the support it has provided to the Palestinian people, especially to UNRWA."
He stressed the State of Palestine's commitment to international law and signed agreements, to peaceful popular resistance, and to joint work with the global community, including the United States, in combating terrorism in our region and the world.
He continued: "We stress the importance of implementing what President Biden's administration believes in, including its commitment to the two-state solution, ending settlement construction and settler violence, preserving the historical situation in Al-Aqsa Mosque, preventing unilateral actions, reopening the US Consulate in Jerusalem and abolishing US laws that consider the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) as a terrorist organization.
The President continued, "The current events in Europe have shown flagrant double standards, despite the crimes of the Israeli occupation that amount to ethnic cleansing and racial discrimination, as recognized by human rights organizations. Israel, which acts as a state above the law, has never been held to account, and its unilateral measures will soon push us into implementing the decisions of the Palestinian Central Council [of ending security coordination with Israel…].
"What is happening in Palestine cannot be tolerated. International law cannot be divided, and we wonder whether the domination of the Israeli occupation authorities over the Palestinian people and the violation of their legitimate rights, can continue without taking measures that lead to the end of this occupation," added President Abbas.
Meantime, the President congratulated our Palestinian people on the success of the local elections that took place yesterday in a democratic atmosphere, saying: “We had hoped that these elections would take place in the Gaza Strip, where the election was blocked by the Hamas authorities, despite the group's participation in the election in the West Bank. We express our deep regret over Israel’s continued prevention of the Palestinian presidential and legislative elections in East Jerusalem."
On the other side, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken affirmed the administration's commitment to achieve a two-state solution of Palestine and Israel living side by side in peace and security.
He affirmed that the United States is committed to rebuilding its relations with the Palestinian Authority and with the Palestinian people, and that it has focused its efforts on finding tangible ways to improve the quality of life for Palestinians, including funding for the UNRWA, and providing half a billion in humanitarian aid to the Palestinians last year.”
[Official PA news Agency, WAFA, English edition, March 27, 2022]
Official PA TV, live coverage of the US presidential elections
US Palestinian Council Vice President John Dabeet: “For the first time in the history of the main political parties in the US, there is communication with the Palestinian-American expatriate community at the highest levels…
We met with [US presidential candidate Joe] Biden a number of times. We met with the senior foreign policy advisors like [former US Deputy Secretary of State] Mr. Tony Blinken. We spoke in general, and we said that sometimes we may not agree on some of the issues, but the opportunity that has been given to us to discuss with them and work with them is a significant positive point in our favor and an excellent beginning for us. In most of the conversations with them of course we don’t agree on every point. I want to again state that our activity as a Palestinian-American expatriate community will begin today. The main work and the basic work need to begin today.”
Official PA TV host: “What is your list of priorities in the Palestinian expatriate community?”
John Dabeet: “We have received promises from Biden’s senior advisors that in the near future, after Biden will be sworn in and become the president of the US, we will be in contact with the senior advisors in order to have constant dialogue and say things explicitly. But allow me, my dear sister, to return to part of your question, and that is: What have we obtained so far from Biden? We will say things explicitly, we have obtained a number of points on this matter, such as: Biden will work to restore the funding to UNRWA (UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East; see note below –Ed.); Biden will work to restore the funding to the Palestinian people quickly; Biden promised us to open a Palestinian representation in Washington; Biden promised us to reopen the American consulate in Jerusalem; Biden gave us the right to participate in the [BDS anti-Israel] boycott campaign in the US, and this is a great thing because under [US President Donald] Trump’s administration, many attempted to formulate a number of laws that criminalize any one of us who participates in the boycott and the boycott campaign.”
[Official PA TV, Nov. 7, 2020]
US President Donald Trump's administration announced on Aug. 31, 2018 that it was immediately cutting all $360 million of annual American funding to UNRWA (UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East). Explaining the decision, the US State Department said, "The fundamental business model and fiscal practices that have marked UNRWA for years – tied to UNRWA’s endlessly and exponentially expanding community of entitled beneficiaries – is simply unsustainable and has been in crisis mode for many years. The United States will no longer commit further funding to this irredeemably flawed operation."
The move came after the US froze two planned payments to UNRWA in early January 2018 for more than $100 million, and the US administration spoke about the need to reexamine and conduct a reform of the UN body. This occurred after the PA refused to negotiate with Israel and cut diplomatic ties with America following US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital on Dec. 6, 2017.
Video posted on the Facebook page of PA Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh; Interview of Shtayyeh with the London-based Al-Araby TV
PA Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh: “Our national project is connected to elections. The Palestinian people’s democratic life is connected [to elections]. Elections are not the only picture of democracy in any society, but they are among the most important reflections of democracy in any society… Elections are not foreign to the Palestinian people. We have held student elections, municipal elections, and chamber of commerce elections, and we have held national elections three times in the period of the PA – in 1996, 2005, and 2006. The most important thing for me is that 53% of the Palestinian people have not participated in any election process in the past – and it is important that people express their opinion at the ballot boxes and that there be true political participation.”
Al-Araby TV interviewer: “As [PA] minister of interior, are there guarantees for holding clean and transparent elections? In other words, if the Hamas Movement wants to begin its election campaign in the West Bank, is this allowed?”
Muhammad Shtayyeh: “Of course. People are coming to the elections. We are accepting all of this. Therefore, time will be allocated to all of the registered factions on official [PA] TV [and they will be able to hold] rallies, but in the framework of what is possible given the health situation in the country…
Israel has said that it is committed to implementing the [Oslo] Accords that were signed. One of the most important clauses in the accords that were signed is that the Palestinian people on the Palestinian lands – the West Bank including Jerusalem – will participate both in submitting candidacies and in voting. And therefore, we want- In another few days we will have a meeting with all the consuls of the European states, and we will ask them to pressure Israel to allow our people in Jerusalem to participate.”
Al-Araby TV interviewer: “Do you know what the Israeli government’s opinion is regarding [PA] elections being held in Jerusalem?”
Muhammad Shtayyeh: “As of now we don’t know what the Israeli side’s opinion is. Frankly, we are not asking the Israelis when we want to defend democracy, but we will demand that Israel facilitate the holding of elections.”
Al-Araby TV interviewer: “But its position was clear in 2019, and therefore the elections were postponed when it refused to hold them in Jerusalem.”
Muhammad Shtayyeh: “All in all, in 2019 the problem was not only with the Israeli side. Actually, in 2019 we sent the Israelis a letter that we want to hold elections and they did not respond. But in the end, after a number of states intervened, Israel said that they have- and there was a different opinion regarding this matter.
We must not be hostages. Palestinian democracy need not be a hostage of the mood of [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu or of the Israeli government.”
Al-Araby TV interviewer: “I want to present you with a question that the Palestinian street is asking today: Will [PA] President Mahmoud Abbas be Fatah’s candidate in the presidential elections?”
Muhammad Shtayyeh: “President Mahmoud Abbas is the Fatah candidate for the presidency, and I think that we have a consensus on this matter. In general, the president represents this legitimacy, and we are leaving the matter with him. But in general, for me personally, the president is my candidate… and I think that all my brothers in the [Fatah] Central Committee think the same. But in the end, this depends on the president himself, if he wants it. We hope so. If he wants it, he’s welcome to it. Allah willing, he will want it.”
Al-Araby TV interviewer: “The prisoners’ cause: At the beginning you refused to accept the tax money [as long as it had been] deducted or cut by the Israeli side, or the Israeli occupation, but afterwards you accepted the tax money in full despite Israel’s insistence on the deduction (refers to Israel’s Anti “Pay-for-Slay” Law to deduct PA terror salaries; see note below -Ed.). There are those who would say, or would ask the PA and the government: Have you abandoned the prisoners, and what are the alternative solutions for them?”
Muhammad Shtayyeh: “Madam, you know and all the people watching your show know for certain that we are fully committed. We have not abandoned the prisoners, and we will not abandon the prisoners. The prisoners’ cause is a sacred cause. They have rights, and we must protect this. That is on the one hand. On the other hand, Israel and the US imposed sanctions on us due to our commitment to the prisoners. In any case we will protect the sanctity of this cause. The prisoners’ cause has two parts – one is political, which is with the Americans, the Israelis, and so on, and if the connections with the Americans develop this will require a discussion. But the most important thing is that there are financial rights for the prisoners. We will remain committed to them in every way.”
Al-Araby TV interviewer: “You have spoken about establishing a bank that may-”
Muhammad Shtayyeh: "The bank is not for the prisoners. The bank is not for the prisoners. The bank is for development and investment. Transferring the problem from the commercial banks to a governmental bank will not solve the problem. What we want is to solve the problem in its political aspect. From our perspective the prisoners’ issue is a national honor, honor of the struggle. In general, we- There is Israeli incitement that the issue of paying the salaries- Okay, we are paying canteen [allowances] to the prisoners who are in the prisons. If we are late by a day or two the Israelis start to say: Why didn’t you pay the canteen [allowances] of [the prisoners]-”
Al-Araby TV interviewer: “It will be deducted.”
Muhammad Shtayyeh: “It will be deducted and the like. In any case, in the clause [regarding] the prisoners, we are fully committed towards our brothers. They have rights, and we have an obligation towards them, and we will fulfill it…
We know that the American administrations, and I noted this to you in a previous answer, the American administrations in general, whether Democratic or Republican, relate to Israel on a basis of ‘If it didn’t exist we would have had to invent it.’
That’s how it is regarding [the American] administrations, because Israel is an American interest in the Middle East, an American interest. Israel’s existence is an American interest. Therefore, we are not relying-
And I have said, the American administration is not an ally of the Palestinian people, it has interests. If it would examine its interests carefully, it may see matters differently. We are not relying on them. What did they say? They said: We want to open the PLO office [in Washington.] We want to restore the money. We want to open a consulate… What we are relying on are the words of this man [US President Joe Biden] in press interviews, in his election platform, and in the Democratic party platform. This is what we are saying: We do not rely much on- But that is what the party is saying, and that is what the elected president has said, and we are taking these things seriously.”
[Facebook page of PA Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh, Jan. 22, 2021]
Israel's Anti "Pay-for-Slay" Law - Israeli law stating that the PA payments to terrorists and the families of dead terrorists is a financial incentive to terror. The law instructs the state to deduct and freeze the amount of money the PA pays in salaries to imprisoned terrorists and families of "Martyrs" from the tax money Israel collects for the PA. Should the PA stop these payments for a full year, the Israeli government would have the option of giving all or part of the frozen money to the PA. The law was enacted by the Israeli Parliament on July 2, 2018. During the parliamentary vote, the law's sponsor Avi Dichter said: “The Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee received much help in its deliberations... from Palestinian Media Watch who provided us with authentic data that enabled productive and professional deliberations, nuances that are very difficult to achieve without precise data.” [Israeli Parliament website, July 2, 2018] In accordance with the law, as of September 2021 Israel’s Security Cabinet had ordered the freeze of 1.857 billion shekels ($580.15 million) - the sum equivalent to the PA payments to terrorists in 2018, 2019, and 2020.
PA Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh regarding the renewal of Palestinian-American contacts
“[PA] Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh… said…regarding the renewal of Palestinian-American contacts, that he and a number of senior Palestinian officials, including Head of Civil Affairs [in the PA and Fatah Central Committee member] Minister Hussein Al-Sheikh, held contacts with the new American administration led by [US President] Joe Biden. The prime minister emphasized that these contacts ‘are based on one thing: We want the American administration to uphold its commitments to reopen the American consulate in East Jerusalem, to reopen the PLO office in Washington, and to renew the aid, including to UNRWA (UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East) and to the hospitals in Jerusalem.’ He added: ‘We want bilateral relations with the US, and not [relations] based on the connection with Israel.’
Shtayyeh said that the Palestinian leadership expects an American order that will consider the PLO as a prime partner in the peace process, which means the revocation of all the hostile laws including a law that considers the PLO to be a ‘terror organization.’”
[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, March 17, 2021]