Joe Biden has appointed a new special representative for Palestinian affairs, a major improvement in relations with Ramallah, despite the fact that the US diplomatic mission in Jerusalem, which was closed by Donald Trump in 2019, has yet to reopen.
The White House informed Congress Tuesday that it had promoted Hady Amr, formerly deputy assistant secretary of state for Israeli-Palestinian affairs, to the newly created Washington-based role, Axios and the Times of Israel reported.
Amr will work closely with the assistant secretary of state for the Near East and with diplomats from the Jerusalem-based office for Palestinian affairs, the reports said.
The move comes amid deteriorating conditions in the occupied West Bank: 2022 is already the deadliest year for Palestinians living in the area and annexed East Jerusalem since 2005, with more than 130 Palestinians killed in fighting.
It is clear 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 it would mean that Biden’s campaign promise to consulate in Jerusalem would not be established.
US officials, including Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides, have repeatedly emphasized Washington’s continued commitment to reopening the Jerusalem mission and to a two-state solution to the decades-long conflict.
Amr, 58, a Lebanese-American, worked as an economist and foreign policy analyst before joining the Clinton administration’s Defense Department. Since 2014, he has occasionally held positions related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and is held in high esteem by Israeli and Palestinian diplomats.
During a visit to the region last week, Amr reportedly urged officials of the corruption-ridden PA to implement serious reforms to bolster its legitimacy, and told Israeli officials they needed to do more to get the PA afloat. amid fears that the de facto Palestinian government body is losing control in towns in the north of the West Bank. For the most part, Israel and the PA coordinate security issues.
Israel must also follow up on recent pledges to improve living standards and strengthen struggling economies in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to help quell the violence, Amr is said to have said.
Israel’s incoming far-right religious government, led by Benjamin Netanyahu, is unlikely to be eager to follow through on the previous administration’s promises.