Senior Biden Admin Official Refused To Meet With Israeli Ambassador During 2021 Hamas Conflict, Internal Emails Show

Samantha Power would not meet with ambassador until ceasefire reached

Samantha Power (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
February 12, 2024

A senior Biden administration official refused to meet with Israel's ambassador in 2021, during the last conflict with Hamas, until the Jewish state reached a ceasefire with the Iran-backed terror group, according to internal government emails reviewed by the Washington Free Beacon.

Samantha Power, the head of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), was asked to meet with then-Israeli ambassador Gilad Erdan in May 2021, when Hamas and other Palestinian terror groups were attacking Israel with missiles in protest of a court ruling that evicted six Palestinian families from an East Jerusalem neighborhood.

Power declined the meeting, internal government emails show, saying that Israel must first reach a ceasefire with the Palestinian terror groups before being granted a sit-down. The behind-the-scenes diplomatic drama reveals how the United States used back channels to pressure Israel into stopping its siege on Hamas militants—tactics that once again may be in play as the Biden administration pushes Israel into ending its current war on the terror group.

"The Administrator [Power] would like to take the meeting with the Ambassador [Erdan] but wants to hold until there is a ceasefire or resolution to the currently [sic] escalation of the conflict," a scheduler in Power's office wrote in a May 18 email to USAID colleagues working in the region, according to a cache of internal documents first obtained by the Center to Advance Security in America (CASA), a government watchdog group.

In recent weeks, the Biden administration has begun to walk back its robust support for Israel's war against Hamas, with Biden saying on Thursday that the Jewish state's response to the worst terror attack in its history is "over the top." The administration has also reportedly considered slowing down arms sales to Israel to pressure the Israeli government into reaching a ceasefire with Hamas.

Power's 2021 decision to punt on a meeting with a top Israeli official is being seen as evidence that the Biden administration's longstanding policy is to pressure the Jewish state when conflict with Palestinian militants breaks out.

"It's disturbing that the first instinct of the Biden administration when faced with engaging an embattled ally was to defer a meeting until their efforts to defend their homeland were placed on ice," CASA director James Fitzpatrick said in a statement. "Unfortunately, we saw many high-ranking Biden officials who sympathized with the Hamas 'cause' echo this game plan again in 2023 by demanding U.S. support or involvement be contingent on an Israeli ceasefire."

The emails show that the White House National Security Council signed off on a meeting between Power and the Israeli ambassador and held its own meeting with him earlier in the month.

Power, whose agency operates under guidance from the State Department, rejected the meeting.

Currently, the State Department is leading the charge to pressure Israel into a ceasefire, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken making several trips to the region in pursuit of this policy. Blinken has also accused Israel of trying to "dehumanize" the Palestinians during its war operations, and he recently issued sanctions on Israeli Jews who the American government says are committing violence against Palestinians.

A State Department spokesman declined to comment on the 2021 incident or respond to allegations that it is inappropriately pressuring Israel in order to appease far-left elements in the Democratic Party that have rebelled against the administration's more pro-Israel policies.

Power herself has come under fire in the past for pushing policies that critics view as anti-Israel.

In 2016, when she served as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under then-president Barack Obama, Power allowed the U.N. Security Council to pass a resolution condemning so-called settlement construction in Israel.

In her current role at USAID, Power has worked closely with the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), a humanitarian aid organization now known to work with Hamas. At least 12 UNRWA employees participated in Hamas's Oct. 7 rampage through Israel, and others helped the terror group imprison Israeli hostages.

While the United States temporarily suspended millions in taxpayer funding for UNRWA following these revelations, Power is working to unpause the agency's aid money.

During a visit to Michigan for meetings with activists on the Israel-Hamas war, Power reportedly said that the Biden administration "will not be abandoning UNRWA."