Palestinians rejoice as US envoy quits

Palestinians rejoice as US envoy quits

AMMAN: Palestinians on Friday welcomed the shock resignation of US special envoy for Middle East peace Jason Greenblatt but warned that his extreme pro-Israeli policies were unlikely to go with him.

The senior adviser to American President Donald Trump, tasked with helping to deliver “the deal of the century” for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, is to leave his post, Washington announced.

Ibrahim Milhem, spokesman for the Palestinian government, told Arab News that repeated delays to the peace plan and the failure of meetings in Warsaw and Bahrain to secure agreement on it, were due to Palestinian opposition.

“Now one of the godfathers of the deal is resigning. This is the latest sign of the impasse that the Trump administration is facing because of his rejection of the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people,” he said.

Milhem called on Washington to change its path and “recognize the two-state solutions as the basis for security and stability in the region.”

It is not known if Greenblatt will remain in his position for the upcoming publication of the peace plan, fronted by Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner.

Bernard Sabella, an elected member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, told Arab News that Greenblatt’s resignation was not simply for personal reasons, as announced by the White House.

“If anyone were in his shoes as preparer of the deal, one would not quit before seeing to it that the plan was at least discussed with those involved. When a senior adviser in the position of Greenblatt resigns it needs to be seen as being taken for more than personal reasons.”

The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) welcomed the resignation of Greenblatt who it described as “an apologist for the (most) extreme hard-line government” in the history of Israel.

“They tried to bash the Palestinians into submission, to blackmail us to accept whatever their plan was. From the beginning it was doomed to failure,” PLO executive committee member Hanan Ashrawi told the AFP French news agency.

Meanwhile, Hamas said Greenblatt quitting was “good news” and a sign of the “failure” of the Kushner team’s peace plan.

Ghassan Abdallah, a civil society activist and founder of the Jerusalem-based Center for Applied Research in Education, told Arab News that the masbaha (hand-held bead counter) had broken and the beads had been scattered. “After keeping Palestinians busy with imaginary issues, the US play is over.”

Palestinian businessman Zahi Khouri said: “There is something cooking in Washington and Greenblatt is a secondary element to it.”

Khouri told Arab News that the envoy’s resignation might be connected to Iran. “There must be concerns by Greenblatt about a possible rapprochement between Iran and Trump,” he said.

Former mayor of Bethlehem, Vera Baboun, told Arab News: “The deal was never seen, but some of its aspects have been implemented.”

She noted the failure of Kushner’s Bahrain workshop which aimed to replace the right of sovereignty of a Palestinian state with economic incentives not even funded by Israel or the US. “They attempted to belittle our minds and our will and looked down at Palestinian and Arab identity as being inferior.”

Internationally, former US ambassador to Israel, Martin Indyk, praised Greenblatt as a “decent” man, tweeting that “he resigned because he couldn’t take the tension between what he believed was right and what he had to do for Trump and (Israeli premier Benjamin) Netanyahu.”

In reply to Indyk’s tweet, Israeli lawyer and peace activist, Daniel Seidmann, said that “his positions are morally reprehensible and intellectually dishonest.”

Seidmann noted that Greenblatt merely dealt with Palestinian “needs” and never recognized their “inalienable rights,” and that Israelis have “rights” while Palestinians have “aspirations.”

Former US ambassador to Israel, Daniel B. Shapiro, tweeted: “Every indication is that the Trump peace plan, if it’s ever released, will essentially greenlight unilateral Israeli annexation of significant portions of the West Bank, moving Israelis and Palestinians closer to the nightmare of a binational state. I wouldn’t stick around for that either.”

Shapiro’s comment received rebuke from Ali Abunimah, co-founder of the Electronic Intifada, who tweeted: “(Former US President Barack) Obama ambassador pretends to be for multiculturalism in the face of Trump’s racism but literally calls Jews and Palestinians not being racially segregated a ‘nightmare.’ Liberal Zionism = Liberal racism.”

However, Beirut analyst Michael Young said Greenblatt’s departure was unlikely to affect the fate of the US peace plan. “Greenblatt’s exit simply confirms that expectations about the plan succeeding have hit rock bottom. Perhaps Greenblatt showed the dangers of loving Israel too much.”

Young added: “The plan may have only been a smokescreen to adopt a strongly pro-Israel, pro-Netanyahu attitude in negotiations, and permanently undermine a two-state solution that would have required Israel to give up the land it occupied in the West Bank in June 1967.”

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