WASHINGTON — Three months before the U.S. State Department refused to grant a visa to senior Palestinian official Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, she was publicly invited to the White House by President Donald Trump's Middle East envoy to “speak in person” about the administration’s peace plan
Ashrawi, a PLO executive committee member and senior figure in Palestinian public relations, announced Monday evening that her U.S. visa application had been rejected, for the first time in decades. “It is official! My U.S. visa application has been rejected. No reason given,” she wrote in the first of a series of tweets, providing a list of reasons for her visa’s refusal, which she told Haaretz has not been explained to her by U.S. officials.
In response, a U.S. State Department spokesperson told Haaretz that while visa records are confidential, U.S. law “does not authorize the refusal of visas based solely on political statements or views if those statements or views would be lawful in the United States.”
This February, Jason Greenblatt — who is part of the small Trump administration team working on the Middle East peace plan — tweeted Ashrawi that she is invited to the White House. “Dr. Ashrawi — my door is always open to the PA and Palestinians to speak,” Greenblatt wrote in reply to several tweets in which Ashrawi criticized the Trump administration’s policies.
“In fact, I’ve met many Palestinians over the past 14 months and continue to,” he added. “I’m happy to meet anytime — you, Saeb [Erekat] and all your colleagues are ALWAYS welcome to visit me at the White House to speak in person,” Greenblatt concluded.
Greenblatt, it should be noted, has no control over whom U.S. visas are issued to, and the White House is not usually involved in these decisions, which are made by officers at U.S. diplomatic missions around the world.
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Ashrawi wrote in her tweet that she has met “every Secretary of State since [George] Shultz,” who held the post under the Reagan administration, and “every President since George H.W. Bush,” except for the present administration.
The Palestinian Authority has been refusing to engage with the Trump administration on any level since December 2017, when Trump announced his recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Greenblatt has stated several times in recent months that, despite this boycott, his team continues to engage with Palestinians who do not have an official role in the PA.
At a speech before the UN Security Council last week, Greenblatt said the administration will soon present its “vision for peace,” which he added will “lay out the core issues of the conflict in enough detail that everyone will be able to imagine what peace could look like.
“This is the right package of compromises for both sides to take in order to leave the past behind and start a new chapter, where there could be tremendous hope and opportunity in the region,” he said.