US point man on Israel-Palestinian conflict quits; official: ‘Should be a wake-up call’

Senior official says Andrew Miller’s departure different from that of more junior State Department figures, but others dispute that, saying he quit for ‘purely personal reasons’

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

Deputy Assistant Secretary for Israeli-Palestinian Affairs Andrew Miller (right) visits Turmus Ayya in the West Bank on August 1, 2023 (US Office of Palestinian Affairs)
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Israeli-Palestinian Affairs Andrew Miller (right) visits Turmus Ayya in the West Bank on August 1, 2023 (US Office of Palestinian Affairs)

The US State Department’s most senior official focused on the Israel-Palestinian conflict resigned on Friday, his office confirmed.

In informing colleagues of his decision to step down, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Israeli-Palestinian Affairs Andrew Miller cited a desire to spend more time with his family, who he has barely seen as the war in Gaza nears its ninth month, a second source said.

In breaking the story, The Washington Post framed the development as the departure of another State Department official disillusioned by US President Joe Biden’s refusal to take a harder line on Israel regarding the war in Gaza.

However, a senior State Department official who works significantly on the issue of Israel told The Times of Israel that Miller’s departure should be grabbing the attention of those in Jerusalem more so than those in Washington.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, explained that Miller is well-respected in Israel and is supportive of the US-Israel relationship.

“There’s no question that Andrew’s resignation should be a wake-up call for Jerusalem. If [the Israeli government is] creating an environment where people like him are resigning, they’re clearly doing something very wrong,” the senior US State Department official said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a plenum session and vote on reviving the ultra-Orthodox enlistment bill at the Knesset, Jerusalem, June 11, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Another State Department official speaking on condition of anonymity disputed that, saying, “this account is incorrect. Andrew resigned purely for personal reasons.”

The official differentiated Miller’s resignation from those of a handful of other State Department employees who specifically cited disagreements with the administration’s support for Israel in the war.

“The previous resignations have all been relatively junior and generally not people who held portfolios with significant influence on Mideast policy. Andrew, on the other hand, was the top State Department official completely dedicated to Israeli-Palestinian issues,” they said, while acknowledging that the White House is more in control of policy regarding the Gaza war between Israel and Hamas.

The senior US State Department official pointed to the video Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu published on Tuesday in which Netanyahu accused the US of withholding weapons shipments to Israel. The official argued that such conduct was causing Israel to lose the most nuanced voices in the administration.

“Those of us at senior levels in the administration see what in fact our policy is, and to hear Prime Minister Netanyahu completely distort what we know to be our actual policy — its deeply frustrating and it’s bad for Israel,” the official said.

The US has adamantly come out against Netanyahu’s claim, insisting that it has only withheld one shipment of high-payload bombs while all other transfers are moving forward on schedule. The premier amplified his criticism on Friday but still did not specify which shipments have been delayed.

“Prime Minister Netanyahu is actively working to drive a greater wedge between the US and Israel, and this leads people like Andrew to feel like they have no choice but to resign,” the official added.

Miller did not respond to requests for comment.

State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller (no relation) said in a statement, “Andrew brought deep experience and sharp perspective to the table every day. Everyone here is sorry to see him go, but we wish him well in his next endeavors.”

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