Late last week, the Biden administration announced that it would reopen the American Office of Palestinian Affairs in Jerusalem, reversing a move by the former president Donald Trump. Benny Avni reports:
The new office would be housed in the same building where the consulate for Palestinian affairs used to reside. The building is in the western section of the city, which is predominantly Jewish. The American embassy is also situated in the western part of the capital. The move . . . is bound to anger Israeli officials and their supporters in Washington. It also might well violate the Jerusalem Embassy Act, a 1995 bipartisan law that dictated the move of the American embassy to the Israeli capital from Tel Aviv.
Several American presidents cited security considerations for keeping the embassy in Tel Aviv before President Trump finally obeyed the law in 2018 and relocated the embassy to Jerusalem. Contrary to predictions that this would lead to riots in Arab countries, the embassy move opened the way to a new round of peacemaking that was followed by the Abraham Accords.
King Salman of Saudi Arabia has long insisted any warming of relations between his country and Israel is linked to progress toward the formation of a Palestinian state. He pushes for implementing the Saudi-sponsored Arab Peace Initiative, signed at Beirut in 2002. . . . Washington’s latest gesture, signaling to Palestinians that they could have parts of Jerusalem as their capital, might well be designed to satisfy the aging king’s demand, and a return to the Arab initiative. It would also signal a return to the Washington establishment’s received wisdom that, like the Arab plan, posits that no new peace between Arab countries and Israel can be achieved as long as the Israel-Palestinian dispute remains unresolved.