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Hady Amr appointment ‘unlikely to bring genuine change,’ say Palestinian officials

WASHINGTON: Palestinian officials in Ramallah said that US President Joe Biden’s recent promotion of US State Department official Hady Amr as special US representative for Palestinian affairs falls short of their expectations of a more comprehensive engagement by the administration.

Amr, who previously served as deputy assistant secretary of state for Israeli-Palestinian affairs, will now focus on Palestinian issues as part of the State Department’s Bureau of Near East Affairs.

Palestinian leaders said the move is not enough to show the US is serious about its declared objectives of reopening the US consulate general in Jerusalem, which historically was considered as the de facto US embassy to the Palestinians, but was closed by former President Donald Trump in 2019.

Officials in Ramallah said that Amr’s appointment will not have any practical impact on the impasse between Israel and Palestinians, especially since Israel has shown no interest in engaging in meaningful peace talks.

Amr is unlikely to have an influence on the day-to-day situation in the occupied Palestinian territories, they added.

Palestinian leaders argued that the Biden administration is not following through with its own declared objectives of largely ending Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories, leading to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

However, a US State Department spokesperson told Arab News that the Washington-based Special Representative for Palestinian Affairs, which Amr now heads, will engage closely with the Palestinians and their leadership and, together with US Ambassador to Israel Thomas Nides and his team, continue to engage with Israel on Palestinian-related issues.

The spokesperson added that Amr’s appointment reflects the Washington administration’s “commitment to strengthening US engagement with the Palestinians.”

“The president reiterated that in Israel and the West Bank, we remain committed to reopening our consulate general in Jerusalem and to the vision of a two-state solution.”

Jibril Al-Rjoub, secretary general of the Fatah Central Committee, the governing party of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, told Arab News that it is important to know what Amr will do to advance the Palestinian issue in Washington, especially considering the current right-wing Israeli political environment.

“The real question for us as Palestinians is to know what Mr. Amr’s mandate will be in this new position, as Israel is moving toward more extremist policies against the Palestinians,” he said.

“Is Amr going to oversee and implement Mr. Biden’s stated policy objectives, or just give us yet another two years of running around in circles without any real results on the ground?”

Wasel Abu Yousef, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization executive committee, praised Amr and told Arab News that he is someone Palestinians can trust.

However, Abu Yousef argued that while Amr’s appointment may have symbolic meaning for the US administration, it changes little on the ground as far as Palestinians are concerned.

The Biden administration’s reluctance to make “tangible steps” toward Palestinians shows that it is interested only in “conflict management,” not a solution.

Jim Moran, a former US congressman from Virginia, said that he understands Palestinian frustration with the Biden administration and lack of enthusiasm for Amr’s appointment, but added “that’s because they simply don’t know how hard Amr has fought to get them representation in Washington.”

Moran said: “Amr has fought very hard to give the Palestinians representation and a voice in Washington.”

Amr had to overcome “insurmountable objections and obstacles by people in Washington who opposed this move,” he said.

“Amr is a genuine hero, and one who cares about the Palestinians and the Palestinian cause.”

A Palestinian Authority official who spoke to Arab News on condition of anonymity said that part of the problem the PA has with the Biden administration is that it has refused to take real action to undo steps taken by the Trump administration as part of his so-called “deal of the century.”

“The lack of action on part of the Biden administration tells Palestinians that Trump’s deal of century is still in force under the Biden administration.

“While Amr is highly respected within the Palestinian leadership, this appointment is not enough to make us think the Biden administration is serious about its commitment to the two-state solution.”

In 2017, Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel — an illegal move under international law — and moved the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem as part of the proposed deal.

The agreement envisioned granting Palestinians economic incentives and privileges inside a disjointed patchwork of territories within the occupied West Bank.