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21 September 2017

What novelty in the same tired, inefficient approach?

By: Daoud Kuttab
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For some time now, I have been following, through his Twitter account, the activities and meetings of US peace envoy Jason Greenblatt.
Now on the sideline of the United Nations General Assembly we are made privy to some of his ideas and thinking.
The net conclusion is not encouraging.
Greenblatt admitted in a speech chaired by the Norwegian Foreign Minister Borge Brenda that the Trump administration’s approach to solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is different and “departs from the usual Orthodoxy”.
But instead of offering something new and creative, the new approach presented at the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee is nothing more than a rehash of the worn out and utterly ineffective, useless, Israeli way.
To begin with, the assistant to the US president and the special representative for international negotiations says: “Instead of working to impose a solution from the outside, we are giving the parties space to make their own decisions about their future.”
This is the new approach.
There is absolutely no justification in such a long-debunked “benevolent” method.
The idea that a country with an annual budget of hundreds of billions of dollars and possibly the fourth most powerful military power in the world is allowed to freely make decisions on an occupied population is ludicrous and sad.
We see the results of this approach in the 50 years of occupation.
Greenblatt wants the Palestinian Authority to be better at collecting taxes and wants the world to help Palestine economically while his administration publicly supported a congressional bill that cuts off the small amount of money that the US is giving in support to the Palestinians, because the PA dares to provide stipends to families of its prisoners and martyrs.
For a negotiator to allow himself to be so clearly advocating the positions of one side (the powerful one) is shameful.
Israel does not care a bit whether Palestinian families get milk and bread money; it uses this trick, the same way it uses all other silly conditions, because it knows that Palestinian leaders simply cannot agree to it.
The Palestinian Basic Law, to which Israel and the US gave the green light, guarantees the right to take care of families of prisoners and martyrs.

Greenblatt wants more effort on treating wastewater, but makes absolutely no mention of the illegal settlements and the wastewater they are dumping on nearby Palestinian communities.
Ironically, while the US envoy talks about not imposing anything on either side (despite binding international resolutions that demand that) he has a full agenda of what America wants to see happening in Gaza.
Of course, he does not mention the decade-long illegal land, air and water siege on the population of Gaza, but he wants to impose changes in Gaza without even mentioning Israel and what it has done.
“Finally, the time has come to stop monitoring the situation in Gaza and start changing the situation in Gaza,” he said, sharply attacking Hamas without even a hint to Israel’s responsibility for the dire situation on the strip.
The Jewish American envoy makes sweeping statements, repeats the totally disproved Israeli claim that Hams uses funds, “including those provided by the international community to build terror tunnels, missiles and for other nefarious uses”.
Perhaps the scariest part in the speech delivered on the sideline of the UN General Assembly meeting by a senior US official is the fact that he appears to be taking for granted the permanency of the Israeli occupation.
Greenblatt hails the “crossing point at Jalameh/Gilboa as a model that should be replicated all along the West Bank and Gaza”.
There are major problems with this one statement.
First, it is “a military checkpoint” not “a crossing” point. And by calling this checkpoint a model, the peace envoy is sending to the Palestinians the message that the occupation that goes against international law and UN Security Council resolutions, which consider the occupation “unacceptable”, will be permanent.
Three phrases were never mentioned in the 1,600-word Greenblatt statement. He never used the word occupation, which puts him in agreement with his fellow Zionist colleague, David Friedman, who used the term “alleged occupation”.
He never mentioned the over 600,000 illegal Jewish settlers. And, of course, there is no talk about the two-state solution or any other political solution for Palestinians.
Greenblatt might repeat ad nauseam that “President Trump has made clear, the United States is deeply committed to achieving an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement”, but to any observer of the conflict, there is no way to achieve a peace agreement by simply talking about the need for the Palestinians to improve tax collection and solve the waste water problems, and by congratulating Israel for extending the hours King Hussein bridge was open during the month of Ramadan.

* A Palestinian columnist based in Amman, Jordan. - dkuttab@ammannet.net

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