For more than two years, President Donald Trump's "Middle East Team" has not managed to propose a single initiative to get us closer to peace. Instead, it has taken a number of steps that have significantly worsened the situation on the ground.
Whether this has been triggered by the ideological biases, or the political inexperience, of those chosen to represent U.S. national interests in the Middle East, the Trump administration has proved its incapability to be part of any solution: instead, it has proudly become an integral part of the problem.
Last Friday Trump’s Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt made it all the way to the UN Security Council in order to justify the Israeli piracy over Palestinian funds, in what constitutes a further violation of a signed agreement.
Their strategy is clear: Normalizing Israel’s occupation over the land and people of Palestine. The tactics have already been played out by pro-occupation supporters: Blaming the victims.
This is how Jason Greenblatt claims, in a patronizing and disingenuous way, the U.S. decision to support the Israeli piracy of Palestinian funds: "It is because we care about the Palestinian people, and because we want a better, brighter future for their children that we seek to ensure the Palestinian Authority puts the interests of ordinary Palestinians first."
Suddenly, the same envoy that cheered the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, justified the killing of Palestinian civilians in Gaza, worked for the strangulation of UNRWA, normalized Israeli settlements and defunded Palestinian hospitals in Jerusalem, cares about the national interests of the Palestinian people.
If the Trump administration truly cares about the lives of "ordinary Palestinians," it would have uttered a single word in relation to Palestine: Freedom.
Instead its official have engaged in all kinds of exercises to empower their friends in the extremist Israeli government and to further the political agenda of apartheid for Palestine.
In fact, if there is one issue that has concerned "ordinary Palestinians" for decades, that is the reality of thousands of political prisoners, whose families receive funds from a welfare system established from before the Oslo Agreement was signed. This system was never questioned by any party.
However, the welfare of thousands of families has now become at tool for the Israeli government and the Trump administration to dehumanize Palestinians, while whitewashing the effects of the Israeli occupation over millions of Palestinian lives.
Such payments are a social responsibility; they also contribute to the costs of reinserting released prisoners back into society, among other important considerations.
This is a matter of national consensus. All Palestinian families have had a relative in an Israeli prison. In fact, since 1967, the Israeli occupation has imprisoned over 900,000 Palestinians. The vast majority have gone to military "courts" whose aim is to legitimize the arbitrariness of the occupation: The conviction rate in such kangaroo courts is almost 100%, including against children.
Just this past weekend, Israeli Occupation Forces raided Al Bireh, taking with them Mohammad Abu Musallam, a nine year old kid, after raiding his home overnight. A few days ago my colleague Khalida Jarrar was released from an Israeli prison. She had spent two years in jail without having any charges made against her.
This is the reality of the Israeli system of oppression that Mr. Greenblatt insists in praising. The combination between a strongly enshrined culture of impunity with the lack of protection for the Palestinian people gives Israel the capacity to continue violating our rights without fearing any kind of international sanctions. Instead, they have the United States praising and rewarding systematic Israeli crimes and violations, while others stand on the side without taking any concrete measures to revert the situation.
The Palestinian leadership has taken a position of principle by not accepting Israeli piracy. We either receive all the money that under signed agreements is legitimately ours, or we won’t accept it. No step will be taken that may legitimate such gangster-style tactics of the Israeli occupation.
Will this affect the functioning of our government? Yes. But this is a price that we are willing to pay for the dignity of our nation, particularly for the relatives of those who have been killed, injured or imprisoned during over 50 years of the Israeli occupation.
Last Friday, Jason Greenblatt stood alone in the UN Security Council trying to defend what no serious government would ever do: The blatant violation of a signed agreement. But this is not enough. The rest of the rest of the world should act to prevent the situation from further deteriorating.
There is a responsibility to protect the Palestinian people and to hold Israel accountable for its crimes and violations. Leaving the Trump administration to continue rewarding the Israeli occupation is an irresponsibility that has only managed to strengthen extremists, while further destabilizing our region.
Dr. Saeb Erekat is the Secretary General of the PLO and Chief Palestinian negotiator. Twitter: @ErakatSaeb
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