U.S. President Joe Biden's administration held off Tuesday on using the term "Occupied Territories" in an annual human rights report, a formulation abandoned by staunchly pro-Israel predecessor Donald Trump.
Under Trump, the State Department's reports on human rights starting with the edition released in 2018 have listed "Israel, West Bank and Gaza" and not "Israel and the Occupied Territories" — a semantic shift seen as rejecting an international consensus that Israel is an occupying force.
For the first report under Biden, which covers events in 2020, the State Department did not revert to earlier language but downplayed the significance.
"Language in this report is not meant to convey a position on any final status issues to be negotiated between the parties to the conflict, including the specific boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem, or the borders between Israel and any future Palestinian state," it said.
Lisa Peterson, the acting top State Department official on human rights, said that the report's authors continued to believe it was better to assign geographic names.
"That's in line with our practices generally. We also believe it is clearer and more useful for readers seeking information on human rights in those specific areas," she told reporters.
Trump made the landmark move to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital and later recognized the Jewish state's sovereignty over the Golan Heights.
Former secretary of state Mike Pompeo also said the United States did not agree with the global consensus that Israeli settlements in the West Bank are illegal.
Pompeo's successor under Biden, Antony Blinken, has said that the United States will keep its embassy in Jerusalem but has also called for greater efforts to support the Palestinians, including through humanitarian aid.
Last week, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield announced that Washington will restore financial aid to the Palestinians, halted by former president Trump.
She said that the U.S. will be sending $15 million to support vulnerable communities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip with COVID-related issues.
"President Biden is restoring U.S. assistance programs that support economic development and humanitarian aid for the Palestinian people," Thomas-Greenfield said speaking at a UN Security Council briefing on the situation in the Middle East.
"This urgent, necessary aid is one piece of our renewed commitment to the Palestinian people," she added.
"The aid will help Palestinians in dire need, which will bring more stability and security to both Israelis and Palestinians alike. That’s consistent with our interests and our values, and it aligns with our efforts to stamp out the pandemic and food insecurity worldwide."