As Biden Takes Office, U.S. Embassy in Israel Briefly Adds 'West Bank and Gaza' to Its Twitter

'This is not a policy change or indication of future policy change,' embassy spokeswoman says

Judy Maltz
Judy Maltz
Screenshot of the U.S. Embassy in Israel's Twitter account, January 20, 2021.
Screenshot of the U.S. Embassy in Israel's Twitter account, January 20, 2021.Credit: Screenshot/Twitter
Judy Maltz
Judy Maltz

As the new U.S. administration took office on Wednesday after the inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, the official Twitter account of the U.S. Embassy in Israel also changed its name, from "U.S. Ambassador to Israel" to "U.S. Ambassador to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza" – but only for a few hours.

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Asked whether this might signal a shift in American foreign policy under Biden, an embassy spokeswoman said: "This is not a policy change or indication of future policy change."

The Twitter page's name was changed back shortly after. The spokeswoman stressed, "It was an inadvertent edit, and not reflective of a policy change."

Just under half an hour before Biden was sworn in in Washington, outgoing Ambassador David Friedman issued a final press release, saying nothing about the new president. Instead, it reported a visit to the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City Friedman made alongside his wife Tammy, senior advisor Aryeh Lightstone and Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch.

Ambassador Friedman intends to stay in Israel for the next few weeks. He owns an apartment in Jerusalem, as well as homes in New York and Florida.

Biden has yet to nominate a new ambassador to replace Friedman, who has been favored by Israel's settler right.

On Tuesday, Secretary of State-nominee Antony Blinken applauded in his confirmation hearing at the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations the Trump administration-brokered normalization agreements between Israel and several Arab countries, saying they made both Israel and the Middle East as a whole safer.

He added he hopes the Biden administration can build on them. "Whether we like it or not, or they like it or not, it's not just going away," Blinken said.

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