In Ramallah, the seat of President Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian Authority, unlike the preparations seen in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem, no employee sweeps the streets, rolls out red carpets, or decorates the main thoroughfares with flags before Joe’s visit. Biden in the West Bank, territory occupied by Israel since 1967.
The American president must land Wednesday evening in Israel, spend the day Thursday in Jerusalem and go briefly Friday to Bethlehem (south) where he must meet Mr. Abbas.
Last week, during the visit to France of the new Israeli Prime Minister Yaïr Lapid, Emmanuel Macron affirmed that there was “no alternative to a resumption of political dialogue between the Israelis and the Palestinians”. .
The French president also expressed “his availability to contribute to the resumption” of the peace process, which has stalled since 2014, and “to mobilize the international community in its favor”.
In the process, senior Israeli officials told AFP that Mr. Lapid was “open” to meeting Mr. Abbas, but not to embark on a new peace process for the moment.
– “Reduce” the conflict –
The watchword of the Israeli authorities is now to “reduce” the intensity of the conflict, despite the attacks and operations carried out since March, by focusing on improving the economic conditions of the Palestinians.
The Biden administration has at the same time resumed its dialogue and its aid to the Palestinians, cut under the presidency of Donald Trump, and could announce new commitments in this direction this week.
One of the key issues is access to 4G. At present, the approximately three million Palestinians in the occupied West Bank must resign themselves to low-speed internet with 3G, or buy Israeli SIM cards used there by the more than 475,000 settlers.
4G will not resolve the conflict, but could benefit the Palestinian economy, notes Mohammed Mostafa, former Deputy Prime Minister and ex-boss of PalTel, the largest telecom operator in the Palestinian Territories.
“Israeli operators hold a large share of the Palestinian telecom market. This (4G) would be a good way to strengthen Palestinian companies”, even to create jobs on the spot, he explains to AFP.
In a recent interview with the Israeli press, the new American ambassador to Israel, Tom Nides, declared that he wanted to work so that all Palestinians could have “4G or 5G on their mobiles”.
“It would be nice to have 4G, but it’s clearly no substitute for settling bigger issues like the status of Jerusalem, Palestinian sovereignty and freedom,” said Mohammed Mostafa.
The Palestinians want to make the eastern part of Jerusalem, occupied since 1967 and annexed in 1980 by Israel, the capital of the state to which they aspire.
“Israelis say to themselves: we are going to give you 4G and you are going to keep quiet about the rest. We are interested in 4G, but we also want the rest”, adds Mr. Mostafa.
– 4G or “Fourth generation” –
For Sam Bahour, an influential businessman from the occupied West Bank, “the Biden administration has fallen into the Israeli trap of undermining the fundamental rights of the Palestinians, to then use them as an asset as if they were making concessions” .
“To be really honest, we don’t really need 4G. What we need is for a fourth generation of Palestinians not to live under military occupation,” he told AFP.
The Israeli government has increased the number of Israeli work permits issued to Palestinians over the past year to a total of 150,000, including 14,000 in the Gaza Strip. This Palestinian enclave of 2.3 million inhabitants, under Israeli blockade, is controlled by the armed Islamists of Hamas, considered a terrorist organization by Washington.
Work permits, coupled with better wages in Israel, are a breath of fresh air for the economy of Gaza, an impoverished territory plagued by unemployment of around 50% and which is recovering from a deadly war in May 2021 with the Hebrew state.
What does Hamas expect from Joe Biden’s visit? “Nothing”, answers AFP Basem Naïm, a senior official of the movement.