For decades now, the Palestinians have been looking for an ‘honest peace broker’ to bring an end to their suffering through a negotiated peace agreement with Israel.
However, the image of US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman beaming as he snuck into a tunnel under the Palestinian Jerusalem neighbourhood of Silwan with a couple of sledge hammers to join a settler ceremony to open the tunnel finally exposed the US team as neither honest nor a broker. In fact the image showed a dishonest team of breakers of international law putting peace further and further into the future.
What were Friedman and President Trump’s Special representative for international negotiations doing in the name of the American people who they are meant to represent? My own fears about the US team which also includes Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor on the Middle East, were raised back in 2017 when I saw this picture.
I doubted then whether the Palestinians could expect any justice from that bunch of fanatical Zionists.
Events since then have justified my and others’ doubts, and more. In fact, there is no doubt in my mind now that when it comes to the Palestinian people, Mssrs Greenblatt, Freidman and Kushner, see them as a lesser people with no rights. And see historic Palestine as the land only for Jews. If they could find a way of removing all Palestinians, both citizens of Israel and occupied in the other parts, they would. Leaks of the “deal of the century” indicate that this is playing on their minds.
Trump’s team has not got a single day’s political or diplomatic experience between them but it is entrusted with cracking a tough nut – the Palestinian-Israeli conflict – which far more experienced individuals have tried and failed to crack. The others at least knew the limitations and kept to understandings that future administrations could work within if a change of leadership on either or both sides opened a window for peace.
However, this administration has shown itself to be committed to ensuring that they close windows that would be difficult to reopen by any future administration.
US embassy move
Take for example the first action they took. In December 2017, Trump recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and then moved the US embassy from Tel Aviv to the Holy city to coincide with Israel’s Independence Day celebrations on 14 May 2018. While Congress had passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act in 1995 to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s undivided capital and to move the embassy, successive US presidents resisted the move through the signing of a waiver every six months that continually postponed any action from being taken. Trump followed this tradition when the issue first came up during his presidency, but then signed an executive order to implement the Act at the second time of asking.
The argument was that this was the will of congress and he was simply implementing it. This was dishonest, as he could have continued to sign a waiver until the time was right and a political settlement to the conflict was clear. He was also dishonest in claiming that it would help bring peace. It has not and will not. The further dishonesty related to the claim that while he was recognising Jerusalem as the Jewish people’s undivided capital, the borders of Jerusalem would be determined through negotiations. East Jerusalem is illegally occupied as it is part of the territory that Israel occupied in 1967 and the endorsement of tunnels under Silwan through the sledge hammer of the US ambassador are an endorsement of Israel’s claims to the whole city.
Ambassador Friedman claimed his action should not be seen as a political move. However, taken alongside an image of him holding a poster of a Jewish temple in place of the Dome of the Rock Mosque demonstrate his dishonesty.
Friedman’s dishonesty extends to his claim that there is an “alleged occupation” rather than a real occupation. It beggars belief that anyone who knows the West Bank, the military presence, the checkpoints, the settler only roads can claim that it is only alleged. This dishonest diplomat demanded the US State Department stop using “occupied” when referencing the West Bank. After some resistance, the State Department acceded to his demand. When it came to a Palestinian state, Friedman was dismissive, asking what is a state? Friedman also stated recently that Israel has a “right” to annex parts of the West Bank. That too is dishonest, as the occupation of the West Bank is illegal and settlements are war crimes under international law.
It is strange that an ambassador, whose role is to implement and explain his country’s policies, is instead setting it.
The dishonesty extends to Jared Kushner, who claimed the Palestinians are incapable of governing themselves. He recently claimed that US policy on the conflict, which worked towards a two-state solution and considered the West Bank settlements as illegitimate was “old talk” and he did not want to hear it. In fact, his family had previously funded illegal Israeli settlements.
The architect of the “Peace to Prosperity” workshop, recently held in Manama, continued his dishonest talk when he claimed that his plan could turn Palestine into Singapore. He also claimed that a $50 billion investment was all that was needed to achieve this. His plan does not acknowledge once, the impact of Israel’s occupation of Gaza and the West Bank. Palestinians are capable of growing their economy if the occupation ended and they had control over their land, borders, natural resources and security.
Both Kushner and Greenblatt were dishonest in claiming that it was the intimidation by the Palestinian leadership that led to most Palestinian businessmen boycotting his failed workshop. They boycotted it because they understood the ploy to encourage them to forget about Palestinian rights in return for personal gain. Their message to him was loud and clear, “Palestine is not for sale”.
Greenblatt astonishingly claimed he had not found anything to criticise Israel for that “goes over the wire”. Any objective person would criticise a 52-year-old occupation, the building of illegal settlements, the siege on Gaza, the shooting to death of hundreds of civilians protesting at the Gaza fence and the list goes on.
Greenblatt also falsely claimed that Palestinian President Abbas was out of sync with his people in rejecting the American Manama workshop and forthcoming peace plan, when a recent poll showed three quarters of the Palestinians want Abbas to reject the plan with only four per cent saying he should accept it.
The reality is that the American team is dishonest to the extreme. At the heart of that dishonesty is a refusal to admit that what drives their efforts is not American interests, nor particularly Israeli interests. What drives them is their fanatical belief in Zionism. They are individually and collectively driven to deliver Zionism’s core aims of a Jewish homeland in Palestine and are prepared to use their official positions to do that.
If in doubt, ask yourself these questions:
How is it in America’s interest to recognise Jerusalem as only Israel’s capital, when world consensus is that it should be a shared capital and that East Jerusalem is occupied? How is it in America’s interest to close the American Consulate in East Jerusalem, which served Palestinians?
How is it in America’s interest to close the PLO Office?
How is it in America’s interest to eliminate the Palestinian right of return for Palestinian refugees and to work tirelessly to cancel their internationally recognised status?
How is it in America’s interest to recognise Israeli sovereignty over the illegally occupied Syrian Golan Heights?
How is it in America’s interest to end the funding of East Jerusalem hospitals?
The honest answer is that none of the above are in America’s interest but in the insert of Zionism. Before I am accused of using Zionist in exchange for Jew it is important to remind the readers that not all Zionists are Jews and not all Jews are Zionist. Christian Zionists, including US Vice President Mike Pence are just as guilty of the dishonesty portrayed when it comes to the Palestinian issue as Jewish Zionists.
An honest broker is badly needed for peace between Israelis and Palestinians, to repair the damage caused by this dishonest administration.