Shortly after Joe Biden was sworn in as president on January 20, the United States Ambassador to Israel briefly changed its name on Twitter to also include the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. It was changed back after a couple of hours. The change was not reflected on the website of the embassy.
Biden Administration makes shortest Ambassador title change in history.
At 1:00 PM Eastern. At 3:00 PM Eastern. pic.twitter.com/50ee0BeDoo
— Ron Nehring (@RonNehring) January 20, 2021
The change came shortly after outgoing Ambassador David Friedman sent out his final tweet. Biden has yet to nominate his successor, and his pick for secretary of state, Antony Blinken, is the midst of being confirmed. It is unclear who was responsible for the edit at the time.
The Jerusalem Post’s Lahav Harkov tweeted that a spokesperson for the embassy said that “It was an inadvertent edit, and not reflective of a policy change.” The Jerusalem Post also clarified that Biden will likely appoint “a consul to Palestinians, separate from the ambassador to Israel.”
Harkov added that “it was a Trump administration policy that Palestinians fall under the purview of the embassy to Israel. The initial name change is *the opposite* of Biden’s stated preferred policy. Blaming it on Biden makes no sense.” She speculated that the move seemed less like a policy change and “more like an overzealous social media manager.”
Also, the title on the embassy website wasn't changed, even though Friedman was removed from the website, further suggesting that there wasn't an actual policy change here, more like an overzealous social media manager.
— Lahav Harkov (@LahavHarkov) January 20, 2021
But Foundation for Defense of Democracies Vice President Jonathan Schanzer told the Washington Free Beacon that he worried that the name change was a sign of a policy shift. He noted that the change could highlight the fact “that the embassy in Jerusalem is the central clearinghouse for all things related to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. On the other hand, it also seems to imply that all three territories are to be treated with equal recognition — and that might mark a significant change in policy.”
International human rights lawyer Arsen Ostrovsky similarly tweeted that the name change was a “mere technicality. Also, not uncommon for Twitter to change government account names following elections.”
People, chill the hell down. The change in @USAmbIsrael handle name is not some dramatic policy shift. Is mere technicality. Also, not uncommon for Twitter to change government account names following elections. pic.twitter.com/yaDf16NRhG
— Arsen Ostrovsky (@Ostrov_A) January 20, 2021
A spokesperson for the embassy claimed that “it was an inadvertent edit.” The name of the ambassador’s office now reads “U.S. Ambassador to Israel.”
8/ From US Embassy: "It was an inadvertent edit, and not reflective of a policy change."
— Daniel Estrin (@DanielEstrin) January 20, 2021
The U.S. Ambassador to Israel's official Twitter account appears to have reverted to "U.S. Ambassador to Israel" after it was changed to “U.S. Ambassador to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza.” pic.twitter.com/TTNMBzdgbB
— Jackson Richman (@jacksonrichman) January 20, 2021
Andddd less than an hour later it's been changed back. pic.twitter.com/CB9czsPyCa
— Robbie Gramer (@RobbieGramer) January 20, 2021