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Biden’s point man on Israeli-Palestinian conflict said due in Israel, West Bank

Hady Amr to make 1st visit since new gov’t formed in Jerusalem; is expected to discuss Gaza reconstruction, voice opposition to Israeli home demolitions, PA killing of activist

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US correspondent based in New York

US Deputy Assistant Secretary for Israel and Palestinian Affairs Hady Amr lands at Ben Gurion Airport on May 14, 2021 (US Embassy Palestinian Affairs Unit/Twitter)
File: US Deputy Assistant Secretary for Israel and Palestinian Affairs Hady Amr lands at Ben Gurion Airport on May 14, 2021 (US Embassy Palestinian Affairs Unit/Twitter)

The Biden administration’s point-man on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will travel to the region next week for meetings with officials in Jerusalem and Ramallah aimed at advancing Gaza reconstruction efforts, Axios reported on Friday.

US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Israeli and Palestinian Affairs Hady Amr will arrive on Sunday in Israel and return to the US on Thursday, Israeli officials told the news site.

The State Department did not respond to requests for confirmation of Amr’s visit.

It will be Amr’s second visit to the region as a Biden official, but the first since a new government led by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett was sworn in on June 13. Amr was last here in May, in the midst of an 11-day round of fighting between Israel and Hamas, during which the US engaged in quiet diplomacy to complement Egyptian efforts to broker a ceasefire.

Next week’s visit will come against a backdrop of criticism Washington has voiced on both Israelis and Palestinians — toward the former for carrying out a punitive demolition of the home of an alleged Palestinian-American terrorist, and toward the latter for the death of a political activist while in custody.

Amr is expected to continue raising the Biden administration’s concerns on both issues during his meetings next week.

The US has called for an investigation into the death of Palestinian Nizar Banat last month after what his family said was a violent arrest by PA security forces.

Palestinians hold posters depicting human rights activist Nizar Banat during a protest triggered by the violent arrest and death in custody of Banat, in his hometown of Hebron in the West Bank, on June 27, 2021. (MOSAB SHAWER / AFP)

And following Israel’s demolition of Muntasir Shalabi’s home on Thursday, State Department spokesman Ned Price said US officials, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, raised concerns over the matter with their Israeli counterparts.

“We attach a good deal of priority to this, knowing that the home of an entire family shouldn’t be demolished for the action of one individual,” Price said.

Shalabi is accused of killing an Israeli student in a May shooting attack.

In addition, the report said Amr will discuss a new proposed mechanism for transferring Qatari humanitarian funds to the Gaza Strip without Hamas benefiting from them.

An Israeli security delegation in Cairo notified Egyptian mediators that it will no longer allow the entrance of unmonitored Qatari cash into the Strip, an official familiar with the negotiations told The Times of Israel this week. The cash has been given to tens of thousands of impoverished families in addition to Hamas civil servants.

Instead, Jerusalem is demanding a new mechanism facilitated by an international observer such as the UN, that will see funds diverted away from the terror group entirely, the official said, while admitting that Hamas is almost certain to object to such a plan.

Axios said Amr will meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, but did not say whether he will meet with Bennett as well. Amr met with Abbas during his last trip, but not with then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, instead meeting with several cabinet ministers.

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