Biden’s Mideast point man in region amid tussle over home demolitions

US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Israeli and Palestinian Affairs Hady Amr was in the region Monday for meetings with Israeli and Palestinian officials, where he is expected to push the administration’s case against home demolitions.

Amr landed Monday and began his visit with meetings in Jerusalem and Ramallah. He is also scheduled to travel to Bethlehem and Tel Aviv, where he will speak with business leaders and members of civil society.

The visit comes after the Biden administration leveled serious criticism at Israel’s new government for the first time last week over the decision to raze the West Bank home of a Palestinian American terror suspect.

“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,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said Thursday.

He noted that US officials, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, raised concerns over the matter with their Israeli counterparts.

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

A Palestinian woman uses her phone to take a “selfie” outside the home of Palestinian-American terror suspect Muntasir Shalabi, which was demolished by Israel, in the West Bank town of Turmus Ayya, July 8, 2021. (Jaafar Ashtiyeh/AFP)

Israel’s government has pushed back, saying that it regards the home demolitions as a deterrent measure necessary for state security.

“We are doing what’s good for the State of Israel,” Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel of the New Hope party told the Kan public broadcaster Sunday.

“Sometimes we will disagree with the American administration, but on most issues, we will be on the same page,” he said. “What I am hearing is that the American administration wants to cooperate with the new government in Israel.”

Amr’s first visit as a Biden administration official came in May, during the 11-day conflict between Israel and Hamas, during which the US engaged in quiet diplomacy to complement Egyptian efforts to broker a ceasefire.

Amr, who will also meet with UN officials, is expected to 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.

On his first visit to Israel as secretary of state in May, Blinken affirmed President Joe Biden’s “personal” commitment to Israel’s security and said the US would take a lead role in the “urgent humanitarian reconstruction in Gaza” to ensure a better future for all sides.

In Ramallah, Amr is expected to discuss the death of Palestinian Nizar Banat last month after what his family said was a violent arrest by PA security forces.

The US has called for an investigation into the death of Banat, who was a frequent and outspoken critic of PA President Mahmoud Abbas.

Jacob Magid contributed to this report. 

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