Biden’s Assistant Secretary of State Urged Negotiations with Hamas

In this Sept. 19, 2014 file photo, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas gestures as he speaks during a media conference at the Elysee Palace in Paris. The Hamas militant group on Sunday, Sept. 7, 2017, said it has accepted key conditions demanded by its rival, President Mahmoud Abbas, including nationwide elections …
AP/Michel Euler

President Joe Biden’s choice for Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Israel-Palestine, Hady Amr, has urged including the terrorist organization Hamas in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

Amr has also warned Israelis and Americans they could face understandable terrorist reprisals for their policies and has worked for organizations funded by the government of Qatar, which has been accused of supporting terrorism. 

These details of Amr’s resume were laid out in extensive detail by Daniel Greenfield at Front Page Magazine on Wednesday. Greenfield saw Amr’s appointment as a grim, if unsurprising, omen of where U.S.-Israeli relations are headed under the Biden administration:

Hady Amr had accused Israel of “ethnic cleansing” and coordinated an organization that had accused Israel of “apartheid” making his appointment, like that of Maher Bitar, an anti-Israel activist appointed as the Senior Director for Intelligence on the NSC, a statement about the Biden administration’s hostile relationship to the Jewish State.

Amr’s job offer from Biden isn’t surprising. The Beirut-born Amr who grew up in Saudi Arabia had dived into politics as the director of ethnic outreach for Al Gore’s failed presidential campaign. And the Biden campaign listed Amr as one of its bundlers who fueled it with cash.

Greenfield wrote at length about Amr’s relationship with the Brookings Institution, a think tank funded by Qatar that has a long history of influencing U.S. policy on the Middle East. Qatar is not the only foreign power to finance a Beltway think tank – even Norway has one – but the Brookings Institution is among the most influential. 

Amr was the founding director for the Brookings Center in Doha, Qatar. Greenfield noted that one of Amr’s constant policy concerns in recent years was urging the United States to give Hamas a seat at the table in negotiations between Israel and Palestine, and Qatar is “a major state sponsor” of Hamas.

Qatar is allied with Iran, a terrorism-sponsoring state that expects to receive much better treatment under the Biden administration than it experienced under President Donald Trump. Greenfield noted Amr is also a proponent of the Muslim Brotherhood, the international Islamist network that lay at the heart of the years-long dispute between Qatar and other Arab powers. The Trump administration debated formally designating the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization, and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) reintroduced a bill to do so in December.

Greenfield quoted from a 2002 Amr op-ed published by UPI in which the future Biden administration member said he personally has not “advocated violence,” but understood why Palestinian militant groups would react violently against U.S. and Israeli policies, literally making a hoary “cycle of violence” argument that accepted terrorism as inevitable and placed a good deal of the blame on civilized nations for provoking it:

The last time I was personally involved in violence was in grade-school when some kid nastily pushed me around, stepped on my metal lunch box and I punched him in the nose. I have learned since then, that words carry more weight than punches.

But I have news for [then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon, and I have news for every Israeli: a very large proportion of the more than 150 million children and youth in the Arab World now have televisions, and they will never, never forget what the Israeli people, the Israeli military and Israeli democracy have done to Palestinian children. And there will be thousands who will seek to avenge these brutal murders of innocents, instead of wanting to move to Vermont like me in disgust and horror.

It frightens me to say this, but I also have news for my fellow Americans. Our weapons, our tax dollars and our blessings have enabled Sharon to perpetuate these brutal attacks against civilians. We too shouldn’t be shocked when our military assistance to Israel and our security council vetoes that keep on protecting Israel come back to haunt us. That’s just the way a large part of the Arab World sees it.

This line of thinking has been drearily commonplace among left-wing foreign policy analysts for decades, but it would seem problematic at a moment when the administration in power spent its first weeks declaring that political violence is completely inexcusable and the grievances of the perpetrators are irrelevant.

Amr was reportedly involved on Monday in the first official contact between the Biden administration and Palestinian officials. The U.S. State Department did not officially comment on the call, but Palestinian officials said it was “a constructive conversation, and further communications were agreed upon.”

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