BY LAURA KELLY – 01/20/21 04:20 PM EST
The Twitter account for the U.S. ambassador to Israel suffered a potentially explosive diplomatic revision on Wednesday, with officials saying its description was inadvertently changed to read that it represented the U.S. mission to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza.
The account’s description quickly reverted back to say that it represented the U.S. ambassador to Israel only, but drew swift condemnation from at least one GOP lawmaker and attention from conservative media.
Those who spotted the altered profile questioned whether the Biden administration was instituting a sweeping change in U.S. policy in how it deals with Israel, its settlements in the West Bank and territories under Palestinian control.
“It’s incredibly troubling the administration made this controversial move on Day One, w/o consulting w/Congress,” Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, wrote on Twitter in his first reaction to the profile change.
“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,” he added.
McCaul followed up with a tweet at 2:47 p.m., after the U.S. Ambassador Israel’s Twitter profile was restored, saying he was glad to see the situation was addressed and “was not a signal of the direction this administration plans to take towards its Israel policy.”
A spokesperson for the U.S. Embassy in Israel told NPR‘s Daniel Estrin that the name change was “an inadvertent edit, and not reflective of a policy change” and also did not indicate a future policy change.
The Washington Free Beacon, a conservative outlet in the nation’s capital, said the profile change contradicted statements from Biden’s pick for secretary of State, Antony Blinken, who said during his confirmation hearing on Tuesday that the U.S. would not move its embassy from Jerusalem.
It’s unclear how long the profile change stayed up. All Twitter accounts for government officials and departments changed hands at noon on Wednesday from Trump administration officials to officials with the Biden administration.
The Statement Department did not provide a comment on the account change.
President Trump’s ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, issued a final goodbye from the account at 11:51 a.m. The new head of the U.S. Embassy in Israel is Jonathan Shrier, who is in the role of Chief of Mission.
President Biden is expected to reestablish U.S. relations with the Palestinians that were severed during the Trump administration, which eliminated the position of U.S. consul in Jerusalem that was the primary point of contact with the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah in the West Bank.
Palestinians hope to establish an independent state in the West Bank and criticize the expansion of Israeli settlements in the territory as an illegal occupation.
The Trump administration in 2019 recognized Israeli settlements in the West Bank as part of Israel, in contravention to decades of U.S. policy that viewed the communities as inconsistent with international law.
The U.S. does not have relations with the Gaza Strip, which is run under the authority of Hamas, which the U.S. has designated a terrorist organization.
While the Biden administration is expected to reestablish diplomatic relations with the Palestinians, it is not likely to include an immediate push for a return to negotiations with Israel as part of efforts to establish a Palestinian state.
Source: The Hill