US boosting Palestinian standing in State Dept. without reopening consulate

State Dept. official Hady Amr will act independently of the U.S Embassy in Jerusalem, providing the Palestinians direct access to the Biden administration.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

The U.S. is promising to take a “series of steps” to strengthen ties with the Palestinian Authority, including appointing Biden administration official Hady Amr to the role of special envoy to the Palestinians and having State Dept. officials working with the Palestinians report directly to him, the Times of Israel reported on Monday.

The report added that President Joe Biden has officially decided to shelve the reopening of an eastern Jerusalem consulate for Palestinians, despite a pledge to do so when he took office in November 2020.

Amr, who will work from Washington, will essentially act independently of the American Embassy in Israel, serving as go-between for the Palestinian Authority and U.S. government, providing the Palestinians with direct access to the Biden administration.

Before being tapped as special envoy to the Palestinians, Amr served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Israel and Palestinian Affairs.

A U.S. diplomatic official told the Times of Israel that this arrangement had already been a de facto practice for some time, but never formally announced.

The move somewhat reverses the policy of former President Donald Trump, who moved the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, closed the American consulate in Jerusalem and incorporated its services and management of Palestinian affairs under the embassy’s rubric. Viewing the move as a diplomatic downgrade, the Palestinians  refused to have any dealing with the State Department’s Palestinian Affairs Unit.

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The consulate, which was shuttered by the previous Trump administration, has served as a major point of contention between Israel and the American government.

The Israeli government has vehemently opposed the reopening of the embassy, while Palestinian officials have been increasingly vocal about the unfulfilled promise.

U.S Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources Brian McKeon conceded to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations in October that the U.S. would need Israel’s consent and diplomatic accreditation to reopen the building as a consulate.

Rebooting American-Palestinian relations was key component of Biden’s 2020 election campaign.

Biden is expected to visit Israel in June, although turmoil within Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s shaky coalition could delay or cancel the trip if early elections are called.