Palestinian, U.S. Officials Speak for First Time Since Biden Takes Office, Fatah Official Says

The U.S. intends to reopen Palestinian diplomatic missions shuttered by the Trump administration and restore U.S. aid to the Palestinians

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President Joe Biden signs a series of executive orders on climate change, in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, January 27, 2021.
President Joe Biden signs a series of executive orders on climate change, in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, January 27, 2021.Credit: Evan Vucci,AP

WASHINGTON - A Biden administration official spoke with a Palestinian counterpart on Monday, according to a Palestinian official. This would be the first public-facing and official contact between the U.S. and Palestinian governments in several years.

"Today, I had a phone-call with Mr. Hady Amr, Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Palestinian-Israeli file in the US State Department,we discussed bilateral relations,the latest current developments & politics," Hussein Al Sheikh, head of the General Authority of Civil Affairs and member of the Fatah Central Committee, tweeted. "It was a positive conversation. It was agreed to continue communication."

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A State Department official told Haaretz that they do not discuss the details of private diplomatic discussions, though Deputy Assistant Secretary Amr is making a range of introductory calls with Israeli and Palestinian counterparts as he assumes his new duties. Amr's position was announced by the State Department last week.

Amr has extensive experience working on Palestinian matters, previously working with U.S. special envoy Martin Indyk - focusing on Gaza and socioeconomics. He has also worked at the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security.

The U.S. intends to reopen Palestinian diplomatic missions shuttered by the Trump administration and restore U.S. aid to the Palestinians in order to create a stable environment, rather than strictly doing favors for Palestinian leadership, acting U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Richard Mills told the UN Security Council last week.

The Biden administration rejected allegations from Republican lawmakers that resuming U.S. aid to the Palestinians would violate the Taylor Force act, legislation that limits U.S. funding for the Palestinian Authority over its payments to convicted terrorists and their families.

Trump had shuttered the Palestinian diplomatic mission in Washington in 2019, saying that the Palestinian leadership had "not taken steps to advance the start of direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel."

Under Trump, the U.S. cut some $360 million in annual funding for the UN Relief and Works Agency, leading to tens of thousands of Palestinians no longer getting food aid or basic health services. Most of the money was supposed to support humanitarian and economic projects in the West Bank and Gaza, and was not meant to go directly to the Palestinian Authority. 

The U.S. government's development agency, USAID, has provided more than $5.5 billion to the Palestinians since 1994 for infrastructure, health, education, governance and humanitarian aid programs, all intended to underpin the eventual creation of an independent state.

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