The Jerusalem Post
Biden likely to appoint Hady Amr as US consul-general to Palestinians
The Biden administration likely will appoint US Deputy Assistant Secretary for Israeli and Palestinian Affairs Hady Amr as the US consul-general to the Palestinians, multiple diplomatic sources said on Monday.
Amr would work out of a reestablished US Consulate to the Palestinians in Jerusalem, which US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced last month. Former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would oppose a consulate to the Palestinians in Jerusalem, which is sovereign Israeli land.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has an opinion on the matter but would not make any statements on it without coordinating with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, a source close to Bennett said. Lapid was just assuming office and needed time to formulate policy, his spokesman said.
The State Department would not confirm or deny Amr’s appointment or whether the issue of a consulate to the Palestinians in Jerusalem came up in Blinken’s congratulatory phone call with Lapid on Sunday night.
Amr is thought to be one of the main engines behind the Biden administration’s planned unconditional restoration of aid to the Palestinians via the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East and NGOs.
Last month, the Biden administration dispatched Amr to the region to encourage de-escalation between Israel and Hamas during Operation Guardian of the Walls.
He met with Defense Minister Benny Gantz, among other Israeli officials, as well as prominent Arab-Israelis.
Amr is the only Biden administration appointee focused on Israeli-Palestinian issues. The administration has yet to announce an ambassador to Israel or an envoy for peace talks, which many presidents appoint.
Amr was a policy analyst and economist who worked in the Clinton and Obama administrations, as well as the World Bank and World Economic Forum. He was the founding director of the Brookings Institution’s Doha Center in Qatar in 2008.
In the Obama administration, Amr worked on allowing 3G Internet networks in Gaza and getting humanitarian aid into Gaza during Operation Protective Edge in 2014.
Amr is seeking an incremental approach to improve the situation in the region because the Biden administration does not view an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement happening in the near future, Axios reported earlier this year. Israeli officials who have worked with Amr described him as pragmatic and focused on humanitarian issues.
But Amr has also faced criticism from pro-Israel voices, based on his writing from the early 2000s. He warned that Arabs “will never forget what the Israeli people... have done to Palestinian children. And there will be thousands who will seek to avenge these brutal murders of innocents.” He accused Israel of having a “crude objective of disgrace and revenge that has little to do with security.”
Another criticism has been of his leading the Doha Center, which is backed by Qatar, a leading supporter of Hamas. •
Israel had made peace with the United Arab Emirates last August. But after that, Ashkenazi met with his Emirati and Bahraini counterparts, and the Foreign Ministry worked on cultivating the relations.
“Jordan is an important strategic ally,” Lapid said. “King Abdullah is an important regional leader and a strategic ally. We will work with him and strengthen the relationship between our countries.”
He referred to “recent reports” about Jordan, likely a Washington Post report that claimed Netanyahu was involved in attempts to weaken Abdullah because he and former US president Donald Trump preferred to get closer with Saudi Arabia.
Lapid said he and Bennett would work together to “do whatever it takes to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear bomb.” With the US and Iran indirectly negotiating a return to the 2015 nuclear agreement, Israel must “prepare quickly,” he said.
“It was a bad deal,” he added. “I opposed it. I still oppose it. Israel could have, with a different approach, influenced it far more.”
Referring to the recent fighting between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Lapid said: “The world doesn’t always understand the conditions in which Israel operates. We’ll try to change that… Faced with the disgraceful propaganda against us, we will need to make clear to the world that we are fighting a sick terrorist organization that has no problem firing rockets from kindergartens and schools.”
Israel will respond forcefully to any rocket attack, Lapid said.
“Hamas is the only one responsible for the death of innocent civilians,” he said. “And still, it is not weakness to admit that our hearts break for every child who dies in conflict. Children don’t need to die in the wars of adults.”
The first foreign-policy issue Lapid addressed in his remarks was restoring relations between Israel and the Democratic Party in the US. Democrats are in the White House and control the Senate and House of Representatives, he said.
“I’ve warned against it more than once, but the outgoing government took a terrible gamble, reckless and dangerous, to focus exclusively on the Republican Party and abandon Israel’s bipartisan standing,” he said. “The Republicans are important to us. Their friendship is important to us, but not only the friendship of the Republican Party.”
Lapid said he spoke with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and they both think it is imperative to have US-Israel ties be based on mutual respect and improved dialogue.
He also called for strengthening ties with Diaspora Jewry.
“The support of Christian evangelicals and other groups is important and heartwarming,” he said. “But the Jewish people are more than allies; they are family. Jews from all streams – Reform, Conservative and Orthodox – are our family. And family is always the most important relationship and the one that needs to be worked on more than any other.”
Regarding relations with Europe, Lapid, who once called Sweden’s foreign minister an antisemite at a rally in Stockholm, quipped: “Shouting that everyone is antisemitic isn’t a policy or a work plan, even if it sometimes feels right.”
Lapid said he and French President Emmanuel Macron, with whom he has had a years-long friendship, exchanged text messages and that he spoke with EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell, and they agreed to deepen Israel-Europe ties.
Deputy Foreign Minister Idan Roll will lead the process of integrating the Strategic Affairs Ministry back into the Foreign Ministry, which will manage the fight against BDS and the delegitimization of Israel, he said.
Smiling warmly, Lapid told Foreign Ministry officials he really wanted his new job, and he made every effort to get it.
“I believe we will do great things together… I’m happy to be here with you,” Lapid said. “I’ve waited for this a long time.” •