U.S. Ambassador to Israel Thomas Nides on Wednesday said it is his guiding principle to advance a two-state solution with the Palestinians because failure to do so is making it difficult to ensure his “North Star” of “maintaining Israel as both a Jewish and democratic state.”
Speaking to reporters at a briefing in Jerusalem, Nides noted that U.S. President Joe Biden “articulated very clearly his support for a two-state solution” on his recent trip to Israel, and that “every speech that I give, Secretary [of State Antony] Blinken gives, that the president gives, that [Vice President] Kamala Harris gives, all reference that.
“In order to push for a two-state solution, we need to be doing things to help the Palestinian people,” said Nides. This primarily entails improving economic conditions.
“We can’t lose the Palestinian street,” he continued, naming this as one of the reasons Biden visited a hospital in the eastern part of Jerusalem during his trip to Israel in July.
Nides also encouraged Israeli authorities to work towards enhancing freedom of movement for Palestinians, including through the Allenby Bridge crossing with Jordan, and by providing them with a more sophisticated cellular-communications network.
He simultaneously hailed Biden’s decision to restore economic aid to the Palestinian Authority, to the tune of $500 million annually, after former President Donald Trump had cut funding to Ramallah, primarily over its “pay-for-slay” policy of disbursing monthly stipends to terrorists jailed in Israel and to the families of those killed while perpetrating attacks on Israelis.
Nides called for an end to the terror payments, along with Jewish construction in Judea and Samaria and what he described as “settler violence,” all of which he suggested were impediments to peace.
The ambassador acknowledged the significance of the Abraham Accords for peace, but he nevertheless contended that the Palestinians had not benefited from the agreements that two years ago normalized relations between Israel and a number of Arab countries.
Nides also focused on the impending Iran nuclear deal, reiterating the Biden administration’s oft-stated commitment to preventing the Islamic Republic from obtaining nuclear weapons. He reiterated recent statements that the United States would “not tie Israel’s hands to defend itself” against Tehran’s aggression.
He stressed, however, that Washington was intent on resolving the Iranian nuclear standoff through diplomatic means, even as the talks in Vienna seem to be breaking down.
To this end, he conceded that there were some in the Jewish state and abroad who believe that the U.S. president “doesn’t have Israel’s back,” pointing mainly to widespread opposition to the revival of the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.
Nides insisted that despite any policy differences, “U.S. support for Israel is an unbreakable tie.”