Special Briefing via Telephone with Hady Amr, U.S. Special Representative for Palestinian Affairs
- The U.S. Special Representative for Palestinian Affairs Hady Amr will discuss his new role as the Special Representative and U.S. efforts to strengthen engagement with the Palestinian people and leadership.
MODERATOR: Thank you. Greetings to everyone from the U.S. Department of State’s Dubai Regional Media Hub. I would like to welcome our participants dialing in from the Middle East and around the world for this on-the-record briefing with Hady Amr, U.S. Special Representative for Palestinian Affairs. Special Representative Amr will discuss his new role as the Special Representative for Palestinian Affairs and U.S. efforts to strengthen engagement with the Palestinian people and leadership. Special Representative Amr will make opening remarks and take questions from participating journalists.
We are pleased to offer simultaneous interpretation for this briefing in Arabic. We request that everyone keep this in mind and speak slowly.
I will now turn it over to Special Representative Amr for his opening remarks. Sir, the floor is yours.
MR AMR: Thank you, Sam, and good morning, good afternoon, or good evening, everyone, depending on where you are. It’s a real pleasure to speak with you all today and take your questions in my new role as the U.S. Special Representative for Palestinian Affairs.
Off the top I want to recognize that it’s a real honor to serve as the U.S. government’s first representative to the Palestinian people and leadership. The creation of this role is unprecedented and elevates the Palestinian – Palestinian issues and our engagement on it. This move is completely consistent with the Biden administration’s commitment to strengthen U.S. engagement with the Palestinian people and leadership that we’ve launched into since day one, and even before taking office.
I want to continue to work out – I’m going to continue to work out of the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs here in Washington together under the leadership of Barbara Leaf. However, I expect to be making much more frequent trips out to the region, where I’ll work with our Jerusalem-based Office of Palestinian Affairs, Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides and his team, and the Palestinian Authority, the government of Israel, on Palestinian-related issues.
The Biden administration’s creation of the special representative position bolsters our ability to manage challenges in the Israeli-Palestinian relationship as well as bolstering the interests of Palestinians’ relationships with Israel and other partners in the region with whom I’ll be engaging as well.
I’d like to emphasize here that President Biden remains fully committed to a two-state solution, which he made clear in Jerusalem in May, and as he stated then, the administration supports two states along the ’67 lines where mutually agreed swaps remain the best way to achieve equal measures of security, prosperity, freedom, democracy, justice for Palestinians as well as Israelis.
President Biden further stated that the Palestinian people deserve a state of their own that’s independent, sovereign, viable, and contiguous, in addition to deserving to live – along with Israelis – safely and securely while enjoying equal measures of freedom, prosperity, and democracy.
Really, I can’t stress that line enough. Equal measures of freedom, equal measures of dignity, equal measures of justice are important in their own right and as a means to advancing a negotiated two-state solution.
I want to be clear that the U.S. also remains committed to reopening our consulate general in Jerusalem. We continue to believe that reopening the consulate would put the U.S. in the best position to engage with and provide support to the Palestinian people. We’re going to continue to discuss this issue with our Israeli and Palestinian partners. At the same time, we right now have a dedicated team of colleagues on the ground working in Jerusalem, in our Office of Palestinian Affairs, focused every single day on engagement with and outreach to Palestinians.
There’s a lot of work ahead of us, I know, but I look forward to listening and engaging with my interlocutors to hear their priorities and ideas to strengthen the U.S.-Palestinian bilateral relationship, and we’re going to do our best to lift up the lives of ordinary Palestinians so that they can be more free, more prosperous, and more dignified.
With that, I want to wrap up my opening remarks and turn it over to questions.
MODERATOR: Great. Thank you, sir. We will now begin the question and answer portion of today’s call. For those on the English line asking questions, please limit yourself to one question related to the topic of today’s briefing. Questions submitted in advance have been incorporated into the queue, and I will note that we did receive quite a few questions in advance and I would like to try to get to many of those because many of those are from our Arabic-speaking journalist colleagues over on our Arabic translation line. And so we will try to get through quite a few of those today.
Our first question is one of those pre-submitted questions, and it comes from Mr. Mohammed Eissa from the Dunya Al-Watan media outlet in the Palestinian Territories. And Mr. Eissa asks, “Special Representative Amr, how would you describe the current U.S. administration’s relationship with the Palestinian Authority, especially after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s earlier statement to the Russian president that the Palestinians do not trust the United States?” Over to you, sir.
MR AMR: Thank you for that question, and it’s a fair one. Look, what I’ll say is on that incident, the Palestinian leadership very, very clearly knows our views on it. I am focused on the future, however, and building the U.S.-Palestinian bilateral relationship, lifting up Palestinian lives to make them more equal with Israeli lives. Look, and I’ll just note that the U.S.-Palestinian relationship goes back to the 1800s when we opened our first diplomatic mission in Jerusalem. So we’re focused on the future and lifting up the lives of ordinary Palestinians.
MODERATOR: Thank you, sir. I’d like to get through another pre-submitted question from another journalist joining us on the Arabic line from the Palestinian Territories, and that is Mr. Walid Nasser from Ajyal Radio Network. And Walid asks, “Special Representative Amr, when will the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem and the PLO office in Washington reopen, in your expectations?” Over to you, sir.
MR AMR: Look, as I said in my opening remarks, we remain committed to reopening a consulate in Jerusalem. We continue to believe it can be an important way for our country to engage more deeply with the Palestinian people, and that we have a – right now, though, we have a really dedicated team of colleagues working out of our Office of Palestinian Affairs that’s focused on engagement and outreach with the Palestinian people and leadership. We’re going to continue to discuss the timeline for reopening our consulate general with our Israeli and Palestinian partners, and I’ll leave it at that. Thank you for your question.
MODERATOR: Thank you, sir. Our next question comes from the live queue, and it goes to Mike Wagenheim from i24 News. Operator, please open the line.
OPERATOR: Your line is open. Please go ahead.
QUESTION: Hady, thanks so much for taking the time to do this. It seems that the Palestinian Authority leadership initially was reluctant to accept the development of this office that you’re now leading before relenting. What circumstances made that change? What is the difference now in them willing to engage with this new office that you’re leading?
MR AMR: Thanks for your question. I’m not going to get into that beyond saying we are working on our own timeline to advance U.S. natural – national interests and priorities, and this seemed like the right time for us to advance things. I know that sometimes the press gets a hold of stories and creates things, but we’ve been working on our own timeline, and this was the time – this was the timeline that we wanted to use to roll this out. But thank you for your question.
MODERATOR: Thank you, sir. Our next question is another one of our many pre-submitted questions, and this question comes from Mr. Abd elraouf Arnaout from the Al-Ayyam daily newspaper in the Palestinian Territories. And Mr. Arnaout asks, “Special Representative Amr, what is the U.S. doing to prevent escalation in the West Bank, which some expect to intensify more after the formation of the Israeli government?” Over to you, sir.
MR AMR: Well, thanks for your question. We – first I’m going to say we are closely tracking every reported incident every day, and we are deeply aware of the tragic loss of life that we’re seeing in the territories. In terms of the new Israeli government, I’m not going to speculate on its composition and how it’s going to engage. And look, it’s really – while we’re going to stay engaged, I really want to stress in the first instance, it’s up to the parties on the ground to take the steps needed to de-escalate the situation. And look, again, we are going to stay focused on our goal of working towards and advancing towards equal measures of security, freedom, and justice for Israelis and Palestinians alike, and we’ll be engaging with the parties in that – with that as our kind of basis.
MODERATOR: Great. Thank you, sir. I’d like to do another one of our pre-submitted questions, from Nour Jubran from the Maan News Network in the Palestinian Territories. And Nour asks, “Special Representative Amr, how is the U.S. currently supporting Palestinians economically?” If you can talk a little bit about that. Thank you, sir.
MR AMR: Sure. Thank you, Nour. I really appreciate the question. First and foremost, the United States is now the world’s largest donor to UNRWA. We’ve given about $680 million to UNRWA over the last 18 months and we are going to stay committed to supporting that organization and their support to the neediest Palestinians.
Second of all, when the Biden administration took office in early 2021, we quickly restarted our economic assistance to the West Bank and Gaza. The vast majority of this assistance goes to civil society, the private sector, and NGOs, where we are seeking to lift up and enrich the lives of ordinary Palestinians. We continued with that assistance this past year, and next year we’re planning – in cooperation with Congress and consistent with U.S. law – to expand that assistance to almost $220 million.
Finally, I just got back a few weeks ago from a trip to Jerusalem and Ramallah where, in Ramallah, we held the first in-person U.S.-Palestinian Economic Dialogue in six years, where we met with leadership in the Palestinian private sector and the Palestinian Authority and came up with a list of numerous ways that we plan to work together over the course of the coming year to bolster the U.S.-Palestinian economic relationship and help grow the Palestinian economy. So thanks for your question.
MODERATOR: Great. Thank you, sir. We have time for a few more questions. Our next question is from the live queue and it goes to Ms. Suzy El-Geneidy from the Al-Ahram newspaper in Egypt. Operator, please open the line.
OPERATOR: Your line is open. Please go ahead.
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you. Thank you for this opportunity. Ambassador Hady Amr, you’ve mentioned that the United States is still committed to two-state solution. But after the Israeli elections and the Palestinians saying that they don’t have any partnership from the Israeli side now, do you think the two-state solution still exists or we should have new ideas to shift to try to resume the negotiations between the two parties? Thank you.
MR AMR: Thank you for that question. Look, I think what I’ll say is the President of the United States and the Secretary of State still believe that the two-state solution is the best way forward for Israelis and Palestinians to realize their aspirations. And they also believe that Israelis and Palestinians equally deserve – equally deserve – equal measures of freedom, of security, of prosperity, of justice, of dignity. And so what we are focused on is – in the immediate term – is lifting up and improving Palestinian lives while we also look for ways to restore a political horizon and return to a two-state solution. So I’ll just – I’ll just leave it at that. But thank you for your question.
MODERATOR: Great. Thank you, sir. Our next question is a pre-submitted question, and it comes from Hekmat Yosef from the Palsawa news outlet in the Palestinian Territories. And Hekmat asks, “What is Washington’s strategy in dealing with the Palestinian Authority in the coming weeks and months ahead?” Over to you, sir.
MR AMR: We are going to continue to – our – to build our relationship with the Palestinian Authority. On the economic level, I just referred to the U.S.-Palestinian Economic Dialogue, and we’re using that to strengthen our economic relationship. We’re also going to continue to engage with the Palestinian leadership to work to further de-escalate the situation on the ground. And we’re also going to engage with the Palestinian Authority on important reforms that we – reforms that we believe are important to make Palestinian society more vibrant and more free. And we’re also going to continue to engage with them at a senior political level where we hope to find ways to make progress. But I’ll just – I’ll just leave it at that. And thank you for your question.
MODERATOR: Great. Thank you, sir. We’ll go to a question from the live queue, and that question goes to Mr. Shawqi Mustapha from Qatar’s Lusail newspaper. Operator, please open the line.
OPERATOR: Your line is open. Please go ahead.
QUESTION: Hello, Mr. Special Representative. I have two questions. My first question: Is there any cooperation between Qatar and United States regarding to Palestinian issue, especially their (inaudible)? And my second question is: How do you see Qatar allow Palestine and Israeli to travel to Doha recently to attend the World Cup? Thank you.
MR AMR: Thank you for your questions. So first, I am in – I have over the past year or two been in very regular contact with the Qatari envoy to the Palestinian Territories, along with others, and we certainly work to make sure our policies are aligned, and that Qatar’s engagement with the Palestinians kind of aligns with U.S. policy. So yes, there is cooperation.
On the – look, the United States certainly welcomes the Qatar-Israel flights for the World Cup. I think we made an announcement to that effect. And I’ll note that Qatar, back in the day, I think about a decade ago, Israel used to have a liaison office in Qatar, I think during – about a dozen years ago. And so it’s just – it’s not surprising at all that Qatar, in its commitment to having an open World Cup, and Israel would come to an agreement for those flights.
Oh, I want to say one more thing, actually. We are of course very grateful for the support that the government of Qatar has given to the Palestinian people, the consistent support over the last many years, and alongside other nations. And we feel that the government is playing a very positive role in improving the quality of life for ordinary Palestinians.
MR AMR: Thank you, sir. We have time for maybe just a couple more questions. And again, apologizes to the many callers on our live queue; we did get quite a few questions today pre-submitted from the journalists over on the Arabic line, and I really want to try to get through some more of those.
And so I’ll do another pre-submitted question, and that comes from Charbel Barakat from Kuwait’s Aljarida newspaper. And Charbel asks, “Does the U.S. support holding Palestinian elections?” Over to you, sir.
MR AMR: Thank you for that question. The United States – the Biden administration has been clear all along that elections are a decision for the Palestinian people and leadership to decide. It’s their decision to have elections. We were very pleased to see the local elections that were held earlier this year. But again, democratic principles require that elections are decisions for the Palestinian people to decide.
MODERATOR: Great. Thank you, sir. We’ll go ahead and close this out with one final question, and that is also a pre-submitted question from Mr. Waleed Sabry Al Ghandour from Bahrain’s Al Watan newspaper. And Walid asks, “Special Representative Amr, how does the Abraham Accords contribute to bringing Palestinians and Israelis closer?” Over to you, sir.
MR AMR: Thank you so much. I think what I would say is that the Abraham Accords have certainly created an environment where Arab governments are – more Arab governments are more closely engaging with the government of Israel on – number one. But they are certainly – and we’ve been very clear on this – not a substitute for the quest for Israeli-Palestinian peace and to lift up Palestinian lives. So while the Abraham Accords have enabled Arab governments to more closely engage with the government of Israel and express their views, they are not in any way a substitute for the important work that needs to be done to lift up Palestinian lives and to advance Israeli-Palestinian peace.
MODERATOR: Great. Thank you, sir. So now, Special Representative Amr, if you have any closing remarks, I’ll turn it back over to you.
MR AMR: I’ll just say I really want to thank all of the journalists who participated in this call, and apologize to those who we didn’t have the time to get to. And I just want to make my own personal commitment that we – I’m going to – I want to make myself available for conversations as time permits because this is – this is a longstanding, important issue, and it’s important for there to be a U.S. dialogue with thought leaders such as yourselves across the region to engage on. So I just want to really thank all of you for investing the time to be on this call and ask all these questions.
MODERATOR: That concludes today’s call. I would like to thank U.S. Special Representative for Palestinian Affairs Hady Amr for joining us, and thank all of our callers for participating. If you have any questions about today’s call, you can contact the Dubai Regional Media Hub at DubaiMediaHub@state.gov. Information on how to access the English recording of this call will be provided by AT&T shortly. Thank you, and have a great day.