Palestinian Envoy to U.S. Reportedly Briefs State Dept. on Hunger Strike, 'Dire Situation' of Prisoners

Senior diplomat Husam Zomlot reportedly briefs State Department official on prisoners' demand that Israel 'comply with international law' with respect to their treatment

Demonstrators rally in Ramallah in support of Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike in Israeli jails, April 17, 2017.
Demonstrators rally in Ramallah in support of Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike in Israeli jails, April 17, 2017. MOHAMAD TOROKMAN/REUTERS

The Palestinian Authority's newly appointed envoy to Washington, Husam Zomlot, spoke on Tuesday with a senior official in the U.S. State Department about the hunger strike announced by thousands of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. According to Palestinian media reports, Zomlot spoke with Michael Ratney, the diplomat currently in charge of the Israeli-Palestinian file at the State Department, about the reasons for the hunger strike and the demands raised by the prisoner leaders. 

The reports about the conversation between Zomlot and Ratney stated that the Palestinian envoy, who is considered one of the closest people to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, emphasized the "dire situation" of the prisoners. They also reportedly discussed the prisoners' demand that Israel "comply with international law" with respect to their treatment. Zomlot also handed Ratney a document summarizing these claims, which Ratney, according to the Palestinian reports, said he will pass to the senior ranks of the administration. 

Zomlot was officially appointed to be the chief of the PLO delegation in Washington by Abbas last month. Prior to taking on that role, he was one of Abbas' senior political advisers, a position in which he worked closely with Ratney, who was the United States' General Consul in Jerusalem from 2012 to 2014. 

Ratney is now part of a small team working under the Trump administration to promote new Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. At the same time, he continues to be in charge of the talks to end the civil war in Syria. 

Abbas is scheduled to visit Washington in the coming weeks, possibly as early as the first week of May. He spoke with President Donald Trump over the phone last month and the two agreed to meet soon and discuss ways to revive the peace process. Zomlot is working with the administration to prepare the upcoming meeting between the two leaders. Jibril Rajoub, a senior Palestinian politician and a member of Abbas' Fatah party, was also in Washington last week.