Mahmoud Abbas to Address J Street Conference in Bid to Keep Palestinians on Biden's Agenda

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Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas heads a leadership meeting at his headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas heads a leadership meeting at his headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah in 2020Credit: Alaa Badarneh,AP

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will deliver a prerecorded address to J Street’s annual conference, a signal of the determination among progressives to place the Palestinian issue at the forefront of U.S. policy.

Abbas will thank President Joe Biden for resuming assistance to the Palestinians cut off by President Donald Trump, according to The Times of Israel, which first reported Abbas’ plans, as well as criticize what he will say are Israeli obstructions to peace, including settlement expansion.

J Street, a liberal Jewish Middle East policy group, is spearheading a bid to keep Biden to his promise of restoring U.S. relations with the Palestinians, and to advance from there to the resuscitation of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

Ahead of the conference, J Street's President, Jeremy Ben-Ami, tweeted on Friday that the organization is "interested in whether confederation provides a creative way to get" to a two-state solution, indicating a fresh approach from the advocacy group.

This comes in light of reports that Biden, while eager to roll back Trump’s marginalization of the Palestinians, is not enthusiastic about returning to the Obama-era focus on getting to a peace deal unless the initiative comes organically from the Israelis and Palestinians. Foreign policy progressives, led by J Street, are determined to keep Israeli-Palestinian peace an administration initiative.

Then-U.S. Vice President Joe Biden speaking at the J Street gala in 2016Credit: Screenshot

The J Street conference, which will be held virtually Sunday and Monday, will feature leaders of Israeli parties advocating for Palestinian engagement and top progressive Democrats in Congress. Also, senior administration officials, including UN Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield and Cedric Richmond, the top Biden official directing outreach to minority and special-interest groups.

The conference also will feature an award for former President Jimmy Carter, a sharp critic of Israel’s Palestinian policies. J Street confirmed this week that it was backing a bill in Congress that would seek oversight to ensure that Israel is not spending U.S. assistance on detaining Palestinian minors, destroying Palestinian homes or annexing territory.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said this week that the Biden administration is committed to expanding the Abraham Accords, the Trump-brokered normalization agreements last year between Israel and four Arab states. The Huffington Post reported this week that Rep. Michael McCaul, the senior foreign policy Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives, told AIPAC last week that the Trump administration had a policy of marginalizing the Palestinians.

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