US official, Palestinians speak in first government contact in years
February 12, 2021
(JNS) — Officials in the Biden administration and the Palestinian Authority held a discussion on Monday in what appears to be the first formal contact between the United States and Palestinians in several years.
U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Israeli and Palestinian Affairs Hady Amr spoke with Palestinian Authority Civil Affairs Commission chairman Hussein al-Sheikh on Monday with the two men agreeing to future dialogue.
“Bilateral relations were discussed, and the political situation and the latest current developments. It was a constructive conversation and further communications were agreed upon,” tweeted al-Sheikh.
State Department spokesman Ned Price confirmed the call in a news conference with reporters on Tuesday, saying that Amr “is making a range of introductory calls with the Government of Israel and Palestinian Authority counterparts as he assumes his new duties.”
Amr, who was appointed to the role by U.S. President Joe Biden, previously served as U.S. Deputy Special Envoy for Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations from 2014 to 201,7 working with a team under Secretary of State John Kerry that focused on key economic issues.
Al-Sheikh serves as one of P.A. leader Mahmoud Abbas’s most trusted aides and is in charge of Ramallah’s coordination with Israel.
While early on in the Trump administration, the United States and the P.A. were in contact, including in-person meetings between former U.S. President Donald Trump and Abbas, the Palestinians broke off ties following Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December 2017 and relocate the embassy there in May 2018. Relations continued to sour as Trump shuttered the PLO’s mission in Washington and cut aid to the P.A. over its funding of terrorists.
Yet during the campaign and since becoming president, Biden has promised to restore ties with the Palestinians.
While several senior administration officials have spoken with their Israeli counterparts since taking office, Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have not yet spoken.