Joe Biden has appointed a new special representative for Palestinian affairs, a significant improvement in relations with Ramallah as the US diplomatic mission in Jerusalem, closed by Donald Trump in 2019, has yet to reopen.
The White House informed Congress on Tuesday that it had promoted Hady Amr, previously deputy assistant secretary of state for Israeli-Palestinian affairs, to the new Washington-based post, Axios and The Times of Israel reported.
Amr will work closely with the assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs and with diplomats from the Palestinian Affairs office based in Jerusalem, according to media reports.
The move comes amid deteriorating conditions in the occupied West Bank: 2022 is already the deadliest year for Palestinians living in the territory and in annexed East Jerusalem since 2005, with more than 130 Palestinians killed in the fighting.
It is understood that Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas was initially hesitant to accept the idea of a new special representative role when it was proposed earlier this year, fearing that it does mean that Biden’s campaign promise to reopen the US consulate in Jerusalem would not materialize.
US officials, including Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides, have repeatedly stressed that Washington remains committed to reopening the Jerusalem mission and a two-state solution to the decades-long conflict.
Amr, 58, an American of Lebanese origin, worked as an economist and foreign policy analyst before joining the Clinton administration’s defense department. Since 2014, he has intermittently held roles related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and is held in high regard by Israeli and Palestinian diplomats.
During a visit to the region last week, Amr reportedly urged corruption-ridden PA officials to undertake serious reforms to bolster its legitimacy, and told Israeli officials they needed to do more to support the PA, amid fears that the de facto Palestinian governing body is losing control of towns in the northern West Bank. For the most part, Israel and the PA coordinate on security issues.
Israel must also follow through on recent pledges to improve living standards and strengthen struggling economies in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to help quell the violence, Amr reportedly said.
Israel’s new far-right religious government, led by Benjamin Netanyahu, is unlikely to be keen on fulfilling the promises of the previous administration.