In a move many view as a stab in the back to Israel and a pointed reversal of Trump-era policy, the Biden administration announced on Thursday that it was establishing what it called the U.S. Office of Palestinian Affairs in Jerusalem, a move critics argue serves only to embolden and encourage the sort of terrorism and unrest that has seen an uptick in recent weeks, as the Washington Free Beacon reports.
Confirmation came from the State Department that the new diplomatic conduit would operate independently of the American embassy in Jerusalem, and opponents of the decision contend that it strengthens U.S. links to the Palestinian government while also potentially violating the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995.
NPR noted that the change was announced ahead of a potential visit by President Joe Biden to Israel as well as to the West Bank, and though it is primarily bureaucratic in nature, it affords Palestinians an opportunity to engage with the State Department directly without having to involve the American ambassador.
The administration explained that the adjustment is designed to “strengthen our diplomatic reporting and public diplomacy engagement,” adding, “[w]e felt that it was important to reintroduce separate reporting lines to Washington on Israeli and Palestinian issues, by our respective teams on the ground that focus on these issues,” a not-so-subtle rebuke of the Trump administration’s initiatives meant to bolster ties with Israel.
Several veteran diplomats told the Free Beacon that the Biden administration is clearly working to weaken the impact of former President Donald Trump’s acknowledgment of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and opined that such a strategy will hinder the achievement of lasting peace.
David Milstein, who worked as a special assistant to former U.S. ambassador to Israel David Friedman explained, “Opening a diplomatic office to the Palestinians in Jerusalem after the U.S. recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, making it clear that Jerusalem is part of Israel, has the same disastrous consequences as opening a formal consulate.”
In Milstein’s estimation, the move is being made in order to “walk back the U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, erode Israel’s sovereignty over its capital city, and signal support for dividing Jerusalem. It is outrageous and shameful,” and, he added, “[m]embers of Congress should use every tool at their disposal to block implementation of this decision.”
Former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon was similarly angered by the move, saying, according to Fox News, “[t]he Biden administration is reverting to past failed practices. Although the announced changes are essentially bureaucratic in nature, with amendments to names and reporting lines, it is the symbolism of the move which hits home for some. It signals an upgrade in relations with the possibility of more fruitless promises to come.”
Arsen Ostrovosky, noted Israeli human rights attorney sees things in even starker terms, telling Fox News Digital, “the move, a direct challenge to Israel’s sovereignty…will only reward Palestinian intransigence and violence, as we have seen in past months,” something that the Biden administration, sadly, seems fully committed to doing.