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Hady Amr (L) with PA President Mahmoud Abbas. Photo: Palestinian Presidency/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty

The State Department's top official on Israeli-Palestinian issues will travel to Jerusalem on Sunday for talks with the new Israeli government and Palestinian officials, Israeli officials tell me.

Why it matters: This will be the first visit by a senior U.S. official since the formation of the new Israeli government and also comes as the Palestinian Authority is going through a deep domestic political crisis over the killing of political activist Nizar Banat by security forces.

During the weeklong visit, Hady Amr, the deputy assistant secretary of state for Israeli-Palestinian affairs, is expected to meet officials from the Israeli Foreign Ministry, Prime Minister’s Office and Ministry of Defense.

  • In Ramallah, he is expected to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and other government officials.

Between the lines: One reason for the trip, Israeli officials say, is to allow Amr to discuss the new Israeli government's policies on the West Bank and Gaza.

  • Specifically, he is expected to raise the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip and the new UN mechanism to transfer money to Gaza while circumventing Hamas.
  • Israeli officials also expect him to raise the Israeli military's demolitions of homes in the West Bank, a practice the Biden administration recently criticized.
  • State Department spokesperson Ned Price said Thursday that Secretary of State Tony Blinken had raised the issue with a senior Israeli official. "Punitive demolitions exacerbate tensions at a time when everyone should be focused on principally ensuring calm," Price said.

In Ramallah, Amr is expected to discuss Banat's death and the ensuing crackdown by security forces on protesters, many of whom have been calling for Abbas to resign.

  • The Biden administration has criticized the PA both in private and in public since Banat's death, which came as security forces arrested him last month.
  • U.S. officials have called for a transparent investigation and pressed Abbas and his aides to move ahead with reforms.

The State Department didn’t respond to questions about Amr’s trip.

Go deeper

Oct 13, 2021 - World

Biden's new Iran dilemma

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi. Photo: Majid Saeedi/Getty Images

The Biden administration is grappling with a new dilemma as nuclear negotiations with Iran remain frozen: whether more pressure on Iran would help push the Iranians back to the 2015 deal, or lead Iran to escalate its nuclear program, U.S. and Israeli officials told Axios.

Why it matters: The Iranian nuclear program has made significant advances in recent months that will be difficult to roll back — and that could potentially undercut the benefits of salvaging the 2015 accord, particularly if a deal isn’t reached soon.

Nathan Bomey, author of Closer
4 mins ago - Economy & Business

Biden’s face mask campaign requires more imports from China

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

American mask manufacturers are getting whiplash, having gone from sleepy sector to mission-critical industry overnight — only to see sales collapse before now being suddenly in demand again.

Why it matters: As the highly contagious Omicron variant of COVID-19 rages, health experts now say Americans need legitimate N95 or KN95 masks to best protect themselves — not widely available fakes or less effective cloth masks.

20 mins ago - World

Scoop: Ukraine tells senators post-invasion sanctions are no help

Zelensky. Photo: Johanna Geron/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told U.S. senators visiting Kyiv this week that waiting to impose sanctions on Russia until after an invasion is of no use to Ukraine, according to four sources familiar with the discussions.

Why it matters: The Senate is currently working on a major sanctions package to deter Russia from attacking Ukraine. Democrats and Republicans are united in their support for Ukraine, but divided over whether it would be more effective to sanction Russia now to signal resolve, or hold up the threat of future sanctions to demonstrate the high costs of an invasion.