On Tuesday in Bethlehem, the Palestinians demonstrated the choice the Americans now face in their dealings with Fatah – the supposedly moderate PLO faction that controls the Palestinian Authority and the PLO. President Donald Trump and his advisers can play by Fatah’s rules or they can walk away.
On Tuesday a delegation of diplomats from the US Consulate in Jerusalem came to Bethlehem to participate in a meeting of the local chamber of commerce. When they arrived in the city, Fatah members attacked them. Their vehicles with diplomatic license plates were pelted with tomatoes and eggs by a mob of protesters calling out anti-American slogans.
After the Americans entered the hall where the meeting was scheduled to take place, some of the rioters barged in. They held placards condemning America and they shouted, “Americans Out!”
Some of the demonstrators cursed the Palestinians present, accusing them of treason for participating in a meeting with Americans. According to the news reports, the scene became tense and violent. The American officials beat a speedy retreat. As they departed the city, the Fatah rioters continued attacking their cars, kicking them and throwing eggs at them, until they were gone.
The attack on Tuesday was a natural progression.
On Saturday, Fatah members in Bethlehem-area UN camps convened to carry out a very public “people’s tribunal.” Trump and Vice President Mike Pence were tried for “racism” and “bias” against the Palestinians.
The “tribunal” found them guilty and sentenced the president and vice president to death by hanging. Their bodies, the “judges” decided, were to be burned.
In the event, the crowd burned effigies of Trump and Pence.
The implication of the “trial” was clear. Americans like Israelis should be killed.
The burning effigies themselves were a natural consequence of PLO and Fatah chief and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas’s call last month for Trump’s “house to be destroyed.”
That is, both the assault on the consular officers Tuesday and the riot on Saturday were simply Abbas’s followers carrying out his orders. He put the Americans in his crosshairs. And they are pulling the trigger – for now, with effigies and eggs.
It isn’t hard for Abbas to set his people against the Americans. Palestinians hate Americans.
As a 2014 Pew Survey showed, Palestinians are more anti-American than any people on earth. Seventy-six percent of Palestinians consider the US their enemy. Pakistan came in second place with 64% of respondents saying that the US is their enemy.
Palestinian anti-Americanism is notable given that the US has given more assistance to the Palestinians than any country other than Israel. Americans have spent the last 25 years pressuring Israel to make more and more concessions to the Palestinians.
In large part, anti-Americanism among Palestinians redounds to two things. First, incitement. For 25 years, the US-financed PA has used all the tools at its disposal to indoctrinate the Palestinians to hate America almost as much as they hate Israel.
Second, like the Iranian regime, the Palestinians view the US and Israel as two sides of the same coin. And indeed, their hatred for the US is the mirror image of Israelis’ love for it.
While the Palestinians topped the list of people who view the US as their enemy, Israel topped the list of nations that view the US as their partner. Ninety percent of Israelis view the US as their partner.
All Abbas needed to do was call for Trump’s house to be destroyed and mobs of Fatah members were only too happy to go into the streets and burn the president in effigy.
Trump, for his part, seems more than willing to walk away from the whole business. Over the past week Trump threatened to cut off all US aid to the Palestinians three times. In his appearance with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Davos last week, Trump made clear that he wouldn’t be overly upset if the peace process disappears.
“I can tell you that Israel does want to make peace,” Trump said.
The Palestinians, he continued, are “going to have to want to make peace too, or we’re going to have nothing to do with it any longer.”
When asked about the implications of his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital for prospects for peace, Trump turned to Netanyahu and said, “You [Israel] won one point, and you’ll give up some points later on in the negotiation, if it ever takes place. I don’t know that it ever will take place.”
Jason Greenblatt, Trump’s chief peace negotiator, seems less sanguine at the concept that the peace process is over.
At a meeting in Ramat Gan this week with ambassadors from EU member states, one of the ambassadors asked Greenblatt whether Jerusalem is still a subject for negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, or whether, as Trump said in Davos, the issue is settled and is in Trump’s words, “off the table.”
Greenblatt reportedly answered that Trump mischaracterized the situation at Davos. Jerusalem is still a topic for negotiation between the sides, as Trump made clear in his December 6, 2017, declaration recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Greenblatt said.
Greenblatt’s statements over the past several days paint a picture of an administration unclear on what to make of the Palestinian response to Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem. On the one hand, they continue to maintain that peace can only be based on reality and therefore, recognizing Jerusalem was necessary for peace to ever be achieved.
Along these lines, at his meeting with the European ambassadors, Greenblatt also told them that their insistent condemnation of construction in Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria as an obstacle to peace is wrong. Construction of housing in the settlements has no impact on prospects for peace, he insisted, rightly.
The last time any US envoy said anything approaching Greenblatt’s reported remarks was 2003.
But then, Greenblatt wouldn’t let go of the hope that the Palestinians are interested in cutting a peace deal.
Speaking in Brussels at a donor conference for the Palestinian Authority, Greenblatt repeated over and over that the US is committed to the peace process.
Then there was his fawning message to PA “Prime Minister” Rami Hamdallah, who participated in the conference.
The sole reason the conference in Brussels was convened was to raise tens of millions of dollars for Hamdallah to shove into bank accounts controlled by Abbas and his kleptocrat underlings. It would have been rather odd if Hamdallah wasn’t there to beg in person.
And yet, Greenblatt didn’t treat Hamdallah’s presence in the meeting room as no big deal. He didn’t call him out publicly for the dangerous assault by Fatah activists against US diplomats in Bethlehem the day before.
Instead Greenblatt gushed, “I am particularly pleased to see you Prime Minister Hamdallah – I hope, as a sign of the Palestinian Authority’s continued commitment to the process which we have undertaken together. Despite our differences, we remain committed to continue working together to use our best efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
Given the fact that the day before Fatah members attacked US diplomats in Bethlehem, and four days earlier they burned Trump and Pence in effigy, it would have been reasonable for Greenblatt to publicly excoriate Hamdallah and the PA for their actions.
The fact that Greenblatt failed to call him to account, but rather gushed at Hamdallah’s presence like a teenage girl over a rock star, shows that the Americans are still unclear why the Palestinians have taken a sword to their relations with Washington.
Greenblatt, like his colleagues at the consulate and the State Department, don’t understand what is happening because they think that the peace process is about negotiating. But that’s never been what the peace process has been about. If it were about negotiating then the Palestinians would have been held accountable for their breaches of every commitment they ever made to Israel. But they have never been held to account. Only Israel has been held to account.
Indeed, Israel has been attacked despite the fact that it has upheld all of its commitments.
Meantime, the Palestinians have never honored any of their commitments to Israel – or to the US. They never canceled or amended the PLO Charter that calls for Israel’s annihilation. They never ended their incitement to murder Israelis. They never ended their sponsorship or finance of terrorism. They never extradited terrorists who murdered Americans to the US to stand trial. They certainly never extradited terrorists to stand trial in Israel. Indeed, they have never recognized Israel’s right to exist.
As far as the Palestinians are concerned, the peace process is a process of unconditional Israeli surrender to all of their terms. The role of the US as the sponsor of the peace process is to coerce Israel to make concessions that together will lead to its unconditional surrender. And for the better part of the past quarter century successive US administrations have played by the Palestinians’ rules.
But then Trump showed up. When Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, he took something away from the Palestinians. That has never happened before. And now, reports that the administration is considering holding the UN’s Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA to the same definition of “refugee” as the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees means another Palestinian high card is in danger. If Trump carries out his threat, then the only Palestinians who will be eligible for refugee status will be the 20,000 Palestinians who left Israel between 1947 and 1949. In one fell swoop, Trump would wipe out the Palestinian demand to destroy Israel through mass immigration of five million foreign-born Arabs to its territory – in the framework of peace.
In an interview with Fox News, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat was asked what the administration can do to placate the Palestinians’ anger and convince them to renew their contacts with Washington. Erekat said the only thing the US can do is cancel its recognition of Jerusalem. Meaning only unconditional American surrender to Palestinian demands will bring America back into the PLO’s good graces.
At the entrance to Jericho a sign is hanging saying that Americans and dogs are not welcome. Signs on shop windows in Ramallah and Jericho inform all US and British visitors thinking of coming inside that they are required to apologize for their governments’ policies.
It’s time for Greenblatt to understand that the peace process is over. And unless Trump intends to humiliate himself and America and sell Israel down the river like his predecessors did, the peace process will not be resuscitated. The longer he and his colleagues pretend away the truth, the more they imperil themselves and empower a people that will be more than happy to move beyond eggs and tomatoes and effigies and banners.