Protest against Israeli assassination of Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. Photo credit: Alisdare Hickson/Flickr, Creative Commons License.
President Biden’s trip to Saudi Arabia, Israel and the Palestinian West Bank in July undermines his administration’s professed commitment to advancing human rights in its foreign policy.
The trip gives the Saudi regime a pass for its authoritarianism at home and its violent attacks against Yemeni civilians, and it violates Biden’s campaign pledge to make Saudi Arabia a pariah for its brutal assassination of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a US resident.
The trip will provide tacit support for Israel’s apartheid rule over the Palestinian people and its brutal 55-year military occupation, while violating Biden’s campaign pledges to promote freedom for the Palestinian people and to reestablish diplomatic ties with them.
Here are five important issues that are likely to be ignored by Biden on his trip to Israel:
1. Israeli Government Violence against Palestinians & Palestinian Americans
- Israel’s daily violence–injuring and killing civilians, destroying homes, imposing blockades, checkpoints, etc.–harms all Palestinians, including Palestinian Americans.
- Just this year, Israeli troops killed two Palestinian Americans–retiree Omar Assad and journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. Israeli settlers gravely injured Palestinian American Nasif Abdel Jaber.
➡️ Members of Congress should press President Biden to respond to and support congressional demands for independent, US investigations of Israel’s killing of Omar Assad and Shireen Abu Akleh.
Learn more: Weapons to Israel | IMEU Policy Backgrounder
2. Israel plans to force Palestinians out of their homes and steal their land
- Israel is forcibly removing 1,000+ Palestinians from their homes in the Masafer Yatta region of the Palestinian West Bank - the largest Israeli expulsion of Palestinians since 1967.
- Israel is also advancing plans to forcibly remove Palestinians from several neighborhoods in occupied East Jerusalem, including Silwan and Al-Walaja.
- Israel has advanced plans to construct 4,500 new settler housing units, including ones deep within the Palestinian West Bank, and is furthering plans for building a new settlement in the E1 area east of Jerusalem, effectively cutting the West Bank in two.
➡️ Members of Congress should call on President Biden to insist that Israel immediately halt plans to commit war crimes of forcible expulsion and colonization of occupied land.
They should press him to respond to recent congressional letters that the US ensures that Israel does not proceed with expulsion and colonization plans in Masafer Yatta, Al-Walaja, E1, Wadi Foquin, and Sheikh Jarrah.
Learn more: Israeli Settlements | IMEU Policy Backgrounder
3. Biden’s visit will promote the Abraham Accords: Trump-era weapons deals with repressive regimes that significantly undermine US claims to support human rights.
- According to Trump administration official General Miguel Correa, these weapons deals were meant to isolate the Palestinian people–to place them “on an island,” in his words–to better solidify Israel’s apartheid rule.
- Although Saudi Arabia is not expected to officially join the Abraham Accords during Biden’s visit, the president’s direct flight from Israel to Saudi Arabia is being viewed as an important symbolic step by Israel in promoting ties between the two countries.
➡️ Members of Congress should oppose the DEFEND Act, which would deepen US complicity with repressive regimes in the Middle East.
Learn more: Abraham Accords Isolate Palestinians, Solidify Israel’s Apartheid Rule | IMEU Policy Analysis
4. Biden’s trip could endorse Israel’s discrimination against Palestinian Americans by allowing Israel admission into the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) as it imposes new draconian restrictions on Palestinian Americans’ freedom to travel.
- The VWP provides nationals of participating countries with visa-free access to the US provided that the participating countries provide reciprocal treatment to US citizens.
- Israel’s decades-long pattern of discriminatory entry policies against Palestinian Americans renders it ineligible to join this program.
- In July, Israel is set to implement draconian new restrictions that will severely limit the rights of Palestinian Americans to visit, live, work, study, and teach in the occupied West Bank, making Israel’s ineligibility for this program even more clear.
➡️ Members of Congress should press President Biden to respond to congressional concerns about Israel’s ineligibility to join the Visa Waiver Program and its new restrictions on the rights of Palestinian Americans to enter the West Bank.
Learn more: Israel Is Not Eligible for Visa Waiver Program | IMEU Policy Analysis
5. Biden’s trip will underscore his broken campaign pledge to restore full diplomatic relations with the Palestinian people and reopen the US Consulate in Jerusalem.
- The Biden administration has incorrectly claimed that the Israeli government’s permission is needed to change the name of the US’ own diplomatic facility.
- This argument does not hold water: though a largely meaningless gesture, the State Department recently renamed the diplomatic mission the Office of Palestinian Affairs.
➡️ Members of Congress should demand that the Biden administration fulfill its pledge to reopen the US Consulate in Jerusalem, reestablish full US diplomatic relations with the Palestinian people, and end the Trump-era policy of subsuming US-Palestinian relations within the embassy to Israel.
Learn more: The Importance of Reopening the US Consulate in Jerusalem | IMEU Policy Analysis