Palestinian diplomacy

If you don’t won’t or cannot represent your own nation and if you don’t won’t to or cannot refrain from threatening others especially when in their ally’s country, then you certainly don’t deserve to be considered a diplomat. Keep your mouth shut until you get what you want is the dictum of diplomatic discourse, and this has clearly been lacking in the PLO’s Washington D.C. office.

And this being the case, the government of the USA has taken steps to ensure that the Palestinian representative in Washington D.C. knows that his future is not as an acceptably accredited diplomat. The office is being closed. In turn the Palestinians are convinced that President Donald Trump is in cahoots with Israel. Yet the PLO Washington office that has been informed of its closure by President Trump shouldn’t be surprised. Its now 25 years since the Olso Accords that started the process for Palestinian autonomy and yet they have always been the least proactive about their own future.

Time after time American presidents have proposed blueprints for peace and time after time Palestinian leaders have found fault with them. For example, the view from Gaza, by the elected Hamas in governance there is to actively engage in acts of terror and violence rather than negotiation. Hamas has not opened one school in Gaza since it came to power over 12 years ago; schools are operated and financed by the United Nations UNESCO.

Not much better is the view from the West Bank by the elected Palestinian Authority who are apathetic, corrupt and refuse to constrain their own people. For example, in 2000 at the second Camp David Summit President Clinton and Israel Prime Minister Ehud Barak were shunned by PLO Yasser Arafat who rejected 96% of West Bank Territory and East Jerusalem as his capital. That was 18 years ago and since then Israel has faced the Second Intifada, suicide bombers, the stabbing and hit and run of civilians, substantial rocket attacks and the kidnapping and murder of teenagers. Is this what the PLO office in Washington D.C. represents?

I think the evidence shows that it is, so I agree with President Trump, there is no need for such an office and there is no need for a so-called Palestinian diplomatic representative. My view is not too different a reflection of the stance of many Palestinians who are also fed up. In the last 25 years there has been systemic dysfunction and decay of Palestinian governance in West Bank cities under President Mahmoud Abbas. Instead of developing the Arab West Bank towns, all of which are autonomous from any Israeli rule, and improving the lives of their Arab residents economically and socially President Mahmoud Abbas has chosen to devote his time and efforts in political rhetoric to fault America and Israel.

Despite what Abbas says, there is evidence that President Trump has tried over the last two years since he was elected to further Palestinian independence. Trump envoys Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt have visited the Middle East numerous times to discuss an American peace blueprint. They have tried to engage constructively when they had the chance with all sides.

In response Abbas has portrayed paranoid inner demons, worsening his predicament. So too has Saeb Erekat, the lead Palestinian negotiator. They have accused Trump of conspiring to topple the government in the West Bank. Instead of meeting with these envoys they have blamed the relocation of America’s embassy to Jerusalem as an excuse to boycott them and indeed any other US official. Instead of meeting Israeli officials and American mediators Abbas has insisted that Palestinian reconciliation must precede any ceasefire with Israel.

Abbas is in a self-denial mode showing the world that he has repeatedly failed to collaborate with Hamas and accuses everyone save himself of indiscretion. Famous is Palestinian procrastination and reasons why they cannot sit at the negotiation table for their own independence. For example, Abbas has suggested that Israeli rabbis are calling to poison Palestinian water, he has told the Palestinian National Council that the Holocaust befell the Jews because of their anti-social behaviors such as money-lending and that Trump gave Jerusalem to the descendants of pigs and apes.

The closure of the PLO office in Washington D.C. is indicative of non-existent Palestinian diplomacy and not a provocative Trump act. Civility is a fundamental enabler of diplomacy and yet Palestinian leaders want to make their situation even more hopeless by anti-diplomatic statements and actions of terror and violence. I have one piece of advice to both the successor of Abbas who is on his death bed and to any Palestinian who wishes to represent his nation as a diplomat. Don’t imitate your predecessor. Israel may then have a partner for peace and so hence a viable process might ensue.

About the Author
Dr Glen Segell is Fellow at the Ezri Center for Iran & Persian Gulf Studies, University of Haifa.
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