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

The State Department’s point person on Israel-Palestine warned Israeli officials during his talks in Jerusalem this week that the Palestinian Authority is facing dangerous economic and political crises, three Israeli officials told me.

Why it matters: The Palestinian Authority is going through a deep legitimacy crisis after the postponement of the parliamentary elections and the death of a political activist in the custody of Palestinian security forces.

  • The situation has been exacerbated by a financial crisis largely driven by the coronavirus pandemic.

Driving the news: Hady Amr, the deputy assistant secretary of state for Israeli-Palestinian affairs, arrived in the region on Sunday, meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s aides and senior government officials in Ramallah before meeting Israeli officials in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

  • Israeli officials who attended the meetings with Amr or were briefed on it told me he stressed that he came back from Ramallah very concerned. “I have never seen the Palestinian Authority in a worse situation," Amr said, according to Israeli officials.
  • The Israeli officials added that Amr told them that the combination of the financial and political crises puts the Palestinian Authority in a very precarious situation.“It is like a dry forest waiting to catch on fire," he said, according to sources.
  • The State Department declined to comment.

The big picture: Amr proposed several measures the Israeli government can take to help the Palestinian economy and the Palestinian Authority’s budget, and ultimately strengthen its standing in the occupied West Bank.

What’s next: A source familiar with Amr’s talks told me that he stressed to both Palestinian and Israeli officials that he isn’t going to press them or beg for them to take steps and they will have to work it out themselves. “If you want the U.S. to help, we will be happy to do it."

Go deeper

Palestinian President Abbas to reshuffle government amid growing backlash

Abbas (R) with Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh at a Cabinet meeting. Photo: Majdi Mohammed/AFP via Getty

Ramallah — Amid growing domestic criticism, Abbas is planning to reshuffle the Palestinian government and replace a number of ambassadors and governors.

The intrigue: A senior Palestinian official told me the changes would include appointing a new minister of the interior and a new minister of endowments, the officials responsible for the security forces and for religious affairs and Muslim holy sites, respectively.

Jul 28, 2021 - World

White House raised NSO spyware concerns with Israel

Photo: Joel Saget/AFP via Getty

The White House raised concerns with Israeli officials about reports that spyware from Israeli firm NSO was used to spy on journalists, human rights activists and opposition figures in several countries around the world, Israeli officials tell me.

Why it matters: The Israeli government gave NSO export licenses to sell its Pegasus spyware to several countries. Media reports about abuse of the technology have already created uproar in Congress and in several European countries, and Israel fears a possible diplomatic crisis.

Jul 28, 2021 - World

Scoop: Israel weighs a return to UNESCO

Jerusalem’s Old City, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Photo: Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty

The Israeli government is weighing rejoining the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, which Israel left in 2019 together with the U.S., Israeli officials tell me.

Why it matters: An Israeli return to UNESCO, which promotes the preservation of cultural sites around the world and holds educational programs, could help pave the way for the Biden administration to rejoin the organization — and help fend off criticism from Republicans.