The United States is restoring a line of communication for the Palestinians that had been canceled by the Trump administration.
The move, announced Thursday before a possible visit by President Joe Biden to Israel and the occupied West Bank, is bureaucratic in nature. But it means the Palestinians will deal directly with the US State Department in Washington rather than first go through the American ambassador to Israel.
The department has changed the name of the Palestinian Affairs Unit to the US Office of Palestinian Affairs. In a statement, the newly renamed office said the move was meant to “strengthen our diplomatic reporting and public diplomacy engagement.”
“We 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,” according to the statement, which also said the US was reinstating a system in place for decades before President Donald Trump's decision.
The move had been expected for months and the announcement had been postponed several times, The Associated Press reported.
But it falls short of Biden administration pledges — and Palestinian demands — for the US to reopen its consulate in Jerusalem, which for decades had functioned as a de facto US Embassy to the Palestinians.
The Trump administration shuttered that consulate in one of a series of controversial moves that favored Israel over the Palestinians. Those steps included recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital despite Palestinian claims that east Jerusalem become the capital of an eventual state, and moving the US Embassy to the holy city from Tel Aviv.