Dr. Saeb Erekat's Response to Jason Greenblatt: The Trump Administration, Peddling Israeli Extremism, Is Killing the Peace Process, Not Me

June 10, 2018

It has become quite evident that the current U.S. administration has become the main campaigner for Israel in crushing Palestinian national and human rights.

For the past few months, American officials have continued to voice their approval of the ongoing killing of Palestinian protestors in Gaza, of Israeli colonial settlement announcements, and of a new wave of racist Israeli laws (that not only discriminate against Palestinians living under Israeli occupation, but also against Palestinian citizens of Israel.)

In doing so, the Trump administration is, in fact, inciting against the very national and human rights of the people of Palestine. Peace in the Middle East can't be based on war crimes and violations of international humanitarian law, but rather by putting an end to Israel's 51-year long military occupation of Palestine. 

The "deal of the century" is nothing less than dictating illegal policies and further violations of international law, including the recent move of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. The Trump administration, by giving these acts credence, has promoted anarchy, undercut international treaties, and destabilized international organizations tasked with cleaning up Israel’s mess.

Whatever this Trump administration suggests for Palestine is not going to be remotely close to achieving a just and lasting peace, but rather a continuation and consolidation of Israeli colonialism and apartheid policies that continue to deny the people of Palestine their very right to exist in their homeland in freedom and dignity.  

Let's call the real problem what it is: Israel's settler-colonial occupation. The Palestinian struggle towards the realization of our inalienable rights should not be reduced to talking about Saeb Erekat or any other Palestinian leader. It's not about who is now leading the way toward ending Israel's occupation and achieving peace, but what the foundation is and the critical international principles toward reaching this end.  

Trump's Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt should have at the very least sent us a condolence message on the loss of tens of Palestinian lives and the injury of thousands in Gaza at the hands of Israeli snipers.

Instead, he chose to become the spokesperson for the Israeli occupation . He did that through his continued endorsement of Israeli talking points, and blaming Palestinian victims for their own death, injury, occupation, detention, forced displacement, and continued dispossession. 

If this is Greenblatt’s vision of a "realistic approach," then he cannot blame Palestinians for considering the current U.S. administration as an extension of Netanyahu’s right-wing extremist government, merely propping up settler-colonialism in support of a one-state apartheid reality.

Palestinians will continue to believe, resist, and insist that Israel's decades-long military occupation will eventually end – with or without Mr. Greenblatt.

His statements only serve as a distraction. Palestinian efforts to liberate Palestine from Israeli oppression is not about who constitutes the Palestinian leadership – the same leadership that is criticized by its own citizenry and press, such as the Al Qudsnewspaper that ran Mr. Greenblatt’s article in Arabic, in the same manner as in any democratic society – but about the Israeli occupation and those that help perpetuate Israeli oppression. Which is more than we can say for Israel, which continues to criminalize freedom of speech, but continues to garner U.S. support.

I once told a former U.S. envoy: "If Thomas Jefferson was to become the Palestinian president, Mother Theresa the Prime Minister, and Montesquieu the Speaker of Parliament, and if they all went on to demand the end of the occupation, two states on the 1967 borders and East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine, the three of them would be considered terrorists."

I never expected, though, that this stance would be embraced by U.S. officials. Now, in a blatant sign of interventionism, the Trump administration is in effect inciting against the Palestinian leadership for committing to principles of international law and UN resolutions. 

We would be naïve to expect anything less from the Trump administration. The president's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, wants the Palestinians on their knees; his ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, wants to delete the word "occupation" from State Department reports; and his ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, vetoes the international protection of Palestinian civilians, while leaving the U.S. standing alone and isolated from the rest of the international community.

All of this against the backdrop of targeted Israeli extrajudicial killings of over 130 Palestinians since March 30, mainly in Gaza, including 21-year-old Razan Najjar, a medic killed by an Israeli sniper while tending to wounded Palestinian civilians – this Israeli action alone is a violation of the Geneva Conventions.

Mr. Greenblatt promotes an agenda to systematically deny the rights of the Palestinian people, turning the Palestinian cause into a humanitarian issue. At the same time the U.S. has promoted action against UNRWA, the organization that provides services to Palestinian refugees, including almost 80% of the people living in Gaza.

He will never talk about the Palestinian right to self-determination, or about a political solution. He wouldn’t dare talk about a solution where Palestinians and Israelis are equal.

This is the rhetoric we are used to hearing from leaders of the right-wing Israeli settler movement, who fervently believe that Palestinians could have a better economic situation if Israel’s apartheid regime was consolidated across Palestine. It is not the rhetoric of a U.S. official tasked with supporting the interests of peace in the region.

In dozens of meetings we had with Mr. Greenblatt he refused to discuss substance: no borders, no settlements, and no two-state solution. Today, his role is nothing less than peddling Israeli policies to a skeptical international community, and then becomes upset when he's reminded of this.

To achieve a just and lasting peace, we need statesmen, not real estate. The insignificance of Greenblatt and the rest of Trump’s Middle East team is put in perspective when we reminisce over what the U.S. role in the region was once. The message of the Trump administration to the Palestinian people is that all compromises made for the sake of peace, including recognizing Israel over 78% of historic Palestine, shouldn’t have been made.

Mr. Greenblatt, Mr. Friedman, and Ms. Haley, among others, won’t be satisfied until Palestinians endorse Zionism, renounce their political rights, and sign onto apartheid.

It would be highly irresponsible to leave the future of world peace in the hands of President Trump’s envoys, and it is critical for the international community to step in before we see a total collapse of the decades of diplomatic and peace efforts which came before.

The parameters for a solution are known to everyone, despite Mr. Greenblatt’s refusal to accept them, as he backs Israel's unwillingness to implement its obligations. The problem is not in international law or UN resolutions, but in the failure of the international community to implement them in Palestine. Our demand remains the same: accountability for Israeli violations and protection for the Palestinian people.

Dr. Saeb Erekat is the Secretary General of the Palestine Liberation Organization and its Chief Negotiator


Back to top