US President Joe Biden is planning a visit to Israel in June. Still, a recent report claims that while here, he will visit the eastern section of Jerusalem in a clear message of support for establishing a Palestinian capital in the Jews’ eternal capital.
CNN reported on Monday that the President’s office had announced unfinalized plans for the visit to the eastern section of Jerusalem. The president may visit Al Makassed Hospital, located on the Mount of Olives. It is the largest Palestinian medical center in Jerusalem. Nearly 80% of the hospital employees are residents of the West Bank who have special permits to enter Israel.
No US president has ever visited this section of Jerusalem. This stands in stark contrast to President Trump, who prayed at the Western Wall. In addition, the Biden administration had pledged to reopen a consulate for Palestinians in the eastern section of Jerusalem after Trump closed the consulate when he moved the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Barry Shaw, a Senior Associate at the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies, criticized Biden’s decision:
“He has demanded that he will not be accompanied by any Israeli official but will meet members of the Palestinian Authority who have been permitted to administer certain hospitals and schools in east Jerusalem but who insist that their capital will be in Israel’s undivided and sovereign capital, Jerusalem, even though their government and administrative…offices are in Ramallah.”
“This is a devious way for Biden and his State Department to get back at Israel and drive a wedge into Israel’s legitimate and exclusive sovereign rights over its Jerusalem capital, following Israel’s refusal to allow the State Department to open a US consulate there to serve Palestinians.”
“This visit…is likely to damage US-Israel relationships in a very profound way. While Biden is prepared to visit Jerusalem and meet Palestinian officials, his White House has publicly opposed the building of Jewish homes in Judea. Both over this issue and that of Iran, the gap is widening between Jerusalem and Washington.”
In an article about the president’s possible visit to the Palestinian hospital, the J-Post cited a PA official in Ramallah as saying that the presidential visit would be seen as a fulfillment of the US administration’s commitment to the two-state solution.
The official added that a Biden visit to east Jerusalem would also be seen as a revocation of former US President Donald Trump’s 2017 recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
However, the visit itself would be “insufficient and meaningless unless it is followed by other steps by the Biden administration, such as reopening the US Consulate in Jerusalem,” he added.
An official from the hospital was quoted as saying that Biden’s visit would be a powerfully symbolic gesture of unity with the Palestinian fight against Israel.
“We have also been treating many Palestinians killed or injured by the Israeli army and police,” the source added. “That’s why many people identify us with the Palestinian cause.”
The author, Khaled Abu Toameh, wrote:
“While a Biden visit to the Palestinian hospital may not necessarily undermine Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem, it would nevertheless send a message to the Palestinians that the US administration recognizes east Jerusalem as the future capital of a Palestinian state.”
“If it takes place, the visit will also signal to the Palestinians that Trump’s decisions and measures regarding Jerusalem, as a whole, are null and void.”
Toameh cited a Palestinian political analyst, who told the J-Post, “There would be a lot of symbolism in such a visit, especially if it takes place without the presence of the Israeli security forces. This would be a very powerful message from a US president to Israel and the rest of the international community that the Americans consider East Jerusalem an occupied city and don’t recognize Israeli sovereignty over it.
Biden is currently meeting with Jordanian King Abdullah in Washington to discuss Palestinian violence on the Temple Mount. The king is demanding that the Waqf be given total control over the Temple Mount.
The hospital has been the focus of controversy as some 1,000 employees have not received their salaries for the past three months amid an ongoing financial crisis due to the failure of the Palestinian Authority to cover the hospital’s debts.
In 2004, a 35-year-old female from Gaza applied for and received permission to cross into Israel to undergo an operation at Al Makassed Hospital. Hamas instructed her to use the opportunity to carry out a terrorist attack in Jerusalem. After obtaining permits from the Al Makassed Hospital, which permitted her to cross the border from Gaza into Israel, she remained in the hospital where she waited for a Hamas operative to direct her in carrying out the attack. The security forces arrested her before she managed to carry out her plan.