Nov 22, 2022 - World

Scoop: U.S. creates special representative post focused solely on Palestinian affairs

Hady Amr meets with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (R) meets Hady Amr (L) in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah on May 17, 2021. Photo: Handout/Palestinian Presidency/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

The Biden administration notified congress on Tuesday that it has appointed Hady Amr as a new special representative for Palestinian affairs, a senior State Department official said.

Why it matters: The move is an upgrade in U.S.-Palestinian relations. It is the first time the U.S. has created a Washington-based position at the State Department that is solely responsible for Palestinian Affairs.

  • It's also a promotion for Amr, who served in the last two years as deputy assistant secretary of state for Israeli-Palestinian affairs.

Driving the news: The senior State Department official said Amr will work under the authority of the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs.

  • The U.S. diplomats at the Jerusalem-based Office of Palestinian Affairs will work closely with the special representative. 
  • “The Washington-based Special Representative for Palestinian Affairs will engage closely with the Palestinians and their leadership and, together with Ambassador [Thomas] Nides and his team, continue to engage with Israel on Palestinian-related issues," the State Department official said.

Behind the scenes: Two U.S. and Palestinian officials said this move was several months in the making.

  • Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had reservations about it at first, but in recent weeks made it clear that the Palestinian Authority agreed with the decision and will work with Amr, according to the Palestinian source.
  • The State Department notified the outgoing Israeli government about the move and also updated incoming Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his advisers in advance, the U.S. official said.

Between the lines: The creation of the new post is also meant to upgrade the U.S.-Palestinian relationship and diplomatic representation as much as possible given the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem, which served as the U.S. diplomatic mission to the Palestinians, has yet to reopen, according to a U.S. official.

  • “As the President reiterated in Israel and the West Bank, we remain committed to re-opening our Consulate General in Jerusalem and to the vision of a two-state solution," the State Department official said.
  • Former U.S. special envoy for Israeli-Palestinian peace Martin Indyk told Axios the move sends a signal to the Palestinians of their importance at a time when the Jerusalem Consulate remains closed and there's no Palestinian Liberation Office office in Washington. The Trump administration closed the Washington PLO office in 2018.
  • “Because Hady is known and trusted by the Secretary of State and other senior officials, he will have access and influence at the highest level," Indyk said.

The big picture: Indyk stressed that the move is an upgrade at a time of serious deterioration in the situation in the West Bank.

  • He added that Amr 's challenge will be bolstering the Palestinian Authority and encouraging it to undertake serious reforms “without which the West Bank will become increasingly unmanageable."
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