The official Twitter account of the U.S. Embassy in Israel changed its name following the inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris from “U.S. Ambassador to Israel” to “U.S. Ambassador to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza” — but changed it back hours later.
The change in title sparked an uproar on Twitter after the Washington Free Beacon first highlighted it. With speculation rife that it may indicate a shift in U.S. foreign policy under Biden, it was quietly changed back hours later. Adam Kredo, a reporter for Free Beacon who first broke the story, even speculated whether a U.S. envoy to Gaza would necessitate dialogue with leaders of the coastal enclave’s ruling Hamas a terror group.
BREAKING: Biden Admin Changes U.S. Ambassador to Israel into "U.S. Ambassador to Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza" — Day 1 policy shift signals new admin does not consider any parts of these areas as Israeli territory https://t.co/m3O6j2nO68 pic.twitter.com/lcfLqCtZuX
— Adam Kredo (@Kredo0) January 20, 2021
According to the Free Beacon, embassy officials speculated that the title was inadvertently changed by Twitter due to a technical glitch when the accounts were transferred over from the Trump administration, adding that it could not confirm the veracity of those claims.
Haaretz quoted an embassy spokeswoman as saying, “It was an inadvertent edit, and not reflective of a policy change.”
I’m ending my diplomatic mission the way I started: at the Western Wall praying for my family & for the United States, Israel and their unbreakable bond. pic.twitter.com/428ONk1y6a
— U.S. Ambassador to Israel (@USAmbIsrael) January 20, 2021
The Free Beacon cited Jonathan Schanzer, a veteran Middle East expert and vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, as saying the title change could signal that the Biden administration views Israel and the Palestinian territories in the West Bank and Gaza on equal footing.
In remarks that were made before the change was reversed, Schanzer said it “seems to imply all three territories are to be treated with equal recognition—and that might mark a significant change in policy.”
Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX) also responded to the change, posting on Twitter, “It’s incredibly troubling the administration made this controversial move on Day One, [without] consulting w/Congress. It also seems to fly in the face of comments made by Antony Blinken yesterday. I strongly urge the president to clarify this provocative move quickly.”
On Tuesday, incoming Secretary of State Blinken said that he would not seek to reverse the Trump administration’s historic relocation of the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. He also reiterated Biden’s commitment to returning to the two-state solution prized by the Obama administration, but acknowledged the difficulties.
“The best way and maybe the only way to ensure Israel’s future as a Jewish democratic state and to give the Palestinians the state to which they are entitled is through the so-called two-state solution, obviously a solution that is very challenged at this moment I think realistically it is hard to see near-term prospects for moving forward on that.”