When Congressmen are less anti Palestinian than US Administration

by Daoud Kuttab

For years the US congress was known to be a bastion of pro Israeli sentiment. Voted in with huge funding from pro Israeli sources, congress has often, and still does, march to the orders of AIPAC, the powerful pro Israeli lobby.

The US administration on the other hand has often taken a more nuanced position trying to appear more balanced and considering larger US interests in dealing with the Palestine-Israel conflict.

Until now.

We now have a US administration that is much more pro Israel than even congress and some brave US representatives who dare question some of the Trump administration’s policies.

Exhibit one. The current team that is working on the Palestinian conflict. It is fine that they are all American Jews (Jared, Greenblatt and Friedman) but they are also Zionists and in fact they are right wing pro settlement Zionists.

Last week a delegation headed by Trump’s son in law Jared Kushner visited the area. Spent a lot of time in Israel meeting separately the Israeli prime minister, the Minister of Defense meeting with Israeli several Israeli families who lost loved ones in the conflict and even some Israeli writers. As has become his habit, Jason Greenblatt also visited the Western Wall again and made a prayer, we hope for peace there.

For his part Greenblatt visited the Maqassed Hospital in East Jerusalem and the Kushner-led team also made a visit to President Abbas which appears to have been a disaster by all press accounts.

A review of the tweets by Jason Greenblatt, reveals that he made 10 tweets about his meetings with Israelis and three on his meetings with Palestinians. (The tweets on Palestinians included his sharing an Iftar with Palestinian children, his compliment that the hospital staff providing him Kosher food and his meeting in Ramallah.)

What about statements. Greenblatt criticized the stabbing of a female Israeli soldier in occupied East Jerusalem but then he called the attack a “savage terrorist attack.” This statement contradicts standing US policies which only considers terrorism as “premeditated, politically motivated violence
perpetrated against non-combatant targets by subnational groups or
clandestine agents.”

The most important statement after the meetings in Ramallah was also bad for what it failed to say not talking about the two state solution and not condemning the settlement activities that the US team was greeted with when they arrived.

The meeting in Ramallah went wrong because the US team forgot their goal of pursuing peace between two opposing parties and adopted the Israeli talking points. A small bit of research would have shown Kushner and Greenblatt that the incitement talking points have been exhausted in research and a tripartite committee of Israelis and Palestinians and Americans was established but that the Israelis refuse to attend. On the support to prisoner families a little research would have revealed that the issue had been cleared by donors including the US and that Israel itself gives social benefits to families of Palestinian and Jewish prisoners who are accused of politically motivated killings (including the family of Yigal Alon). This was stated in an article by Palestinian Finance Minister Shukry Bishara in the Hill in 2016 and has not been disputed by Israel. So wasting the precious time on issues that were already dealt with reveals that either the US negotiators are not taking their mission seriously by doing basic research or that they know the facts and still chose to be the Israeli advocates.

Back in congress, another bizarre event unfolds when the Trump Administration’s ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley gave a testimony in congress June 27th . The discussion was about the UN ambassador vetoing the appointment of well respected former Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad who many in congress (from both parties) had high admiration for. In a heated exchange with a democrat and a republican Haley refused to budge from a strange position that she seems to have concocted namely that no Palestinian can be appointed to a high UN position until Palestine is recognized as a state. Haley whose major donor when she ran for office as governor of South Carolina was non other than the Casino owner Sheldon Adelson adopted a position that many in Israel would be ashamed to espouse.

The term honest broker has long been forgotten by Palestinians and supporters. What some are hoping for is for US mediators to do their homework, present reasonable bridging proposals and try to be fair. Unfair proposals and interventions might be pleasing to America’s Israeli friends but will not bring about peace nor will it begin any serious talk about an ultimate solution. If the Trump Administration is serious about its role in bringing about peace, it probably needs to lower expectations and then work diligently and fairly to hear from all sides and to refrain as much as possible for adopting one sides’ point of view even if it appears initially to be logical.

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