Wed, Feb 20, 2019 - Page 9 News List

Apartheid for the Palestinians is not peace

By Saeb Erekat

Since Dec. 6, 2017, US President Donald Trump’s administration has recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, closed the Palestinian mission in Washington, moved the US embassy to Jerusalem and defunded humanitarian support provided by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine (UNRWA), among other steps.

Yet we Palestinians are hounded by claims that the US really wants to pursue peace and that somehow the only problem has been our reluctance.

Nobody can claim that we did not engage Trump’s administration. We held almost 40 meetings during 2017, answered all questions and put forward our vision of peace based on the two-state solution, but the US envoys always refused to engage in matters of substance.

In fact, on the eve of a visit by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to Washington, the Trump administration broke its commitment not to take unilateral steps and announced the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Whatever the reason — ideological bias, lack of diplomatic experience, or both — the Trump team ended up destroying any prospects for the US to play a positive peace-making role.

People such as US Vice President Mike Pence, Ambassador David Friedman, envoy Jason Greenblatt and Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, are ideologically committed to Israel’s colonial-settlement enterprise.

Judging by Pence’s address to the Israeli Knesset last year, one could assume that Israel has a “divine mandate” to violate Palestinian rights.

By taking such positions, the Trump administration has brought about one main outcome over the past two years: strengthening extremists in our region.

To protect the prospect of a just and lasting peace, the Palestinian leadership has conducted meetings with leaders worldwide. We went to the UN Security Council calling for a peace initiative based on international law, the implementation of UN resolutions and the participation of several nations in facilitating the process.

For the Trump team, however, international law is “unrealistic.” Palestine seems to be regarded as part of a real-estate business — a property they can devalue by closing diplomatic missions, defunding UNRWA, canceling aid to Palestinian hospitals or withdrawing scholarships for Palestinian students.

They did not calculate that the Palestinian people have dignity and national pride, just like any other nation, and will insist on being treated accordingly.

Let us be clear: The two-state solution does not mean accommodating the illegal reality of Israeli settlements; rather, it means ending this colonial enterprise.

Refusing to mention the two-state solution, the statements of Trump’s team go in a different direction, more in line with Israel’s official position: one state and two systems.

No Palestinian, Arab, or responsible international leader would ever accept this design, as has been made clear in messages delivered by world leaders to the Trump administration.

Now, plans are afoot to “promote a future of peace and security in the Middle East” through a US-Polish conference in Warsaw, where Palestinians are not going to participate.

To be clear: Palestine has not mandated anyone to speak on its behalf. Despite US efforts to promote normalization of diplomatic relations between Arab states and Israel, no changes in the Arab Peace Initiative will be accepted.

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