Trump’s Mid­dle East en­voy Ja­son Green­blatt lays out ideas for ‘eco­nomic op­por­tu­ni­ties’

The National - News - - FRONT PAGE - JACK MOORE and JOYCE KARAM Wash­ing­ton

The Pales­tinian lead­er­ship is let­ting down its peo­ple by ob­struct­ing eco­nomic progress and sti­fling op­por­tu­nity for fear that they will lose in­ter­est in the cause of self-de­ter­mi­na­tion, US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s Mid­dle East en­voy writes ex­clu­sively for The Na­tional.

Ja­son Green­blatt has worked for 22 months on the US leader’s peace plan to strike the “im­pos­si­ble deal” and end the decades-long con­flict and, with those ef­forts, he is call­ing for a marked im­prove­ment in the lives of Pales­tini­ans to be led by their own politi­cians.

“Pales­tini­ans de­serve more from their lead­er­ship than po­lit­i­cal state­ments and bar­gain­ing po­si­tions. While wait­ing for a pos­si­ble po­lit­i­cal so­lu­tion, it is high time to build the Pales­tinian econ­omy and pro­vide Pales­tini­ans with the op­por­tu­ni­ties they de­serve,” he writes.

Tens of thou­sands of Pales­tini­ans, many labour­ers, travel to work in Is­rael ev­ery day, but Mr Trump’s top en­voy in the re­gion sug­gests many could be work­ing for some of the world’s big­gest tech com­pa­nies if the Pales­tinian lead­er­ship and res­i­dents of the West Bank weak­ened their staunch anti-Is­rael po­si­tions be­cause of the oc­cu­pa­tion that has been in place since 1967.

“The Pales­tinian lead­er­ship has bar­ri­caded their peo­ple from those op­por­tu­ni­ties. The Pales­tinian econ­omy needs ini­tia­tives now with­out de­ter­ring from Pales­tini­ans’ po­lit­i­cal as­pi­ra­tions,” he says. “Anti-nor­mal­i­sa­tion is a failed pol­icy that only hurts the Pales­tini­ans.”

The US en­voy risks fur­ther stok­ing Pales­tinian anger over the ac­cu­sa­tions that the lead­er­ship is stand­ing in the way of eco­nomic progress.

Of­fi­cials in Ra­mal­lah main­tain that it is Is­rael’s mil­i­tary oc­cu­pa­tion of East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and its set­tle­ment en­ter­prise in both ter­ri­to­ries, that is the big­gest ob­sta­cle to Pales­tinian pros­per­ity. The Is­raeli mil­i­tary re­stricts Pales­tinian move­ment with nu­mer­ous check­points, hin­der­ing move­ment for work, rights groups say. There are also about 400,000 Is­raeli set­tlers in the West Bank who live in their own out­posts un­der Is­raeli law and re­ceive state fund­ing. Pales­tini­ans say the net­work of out­posts is a de­lib­er­ate at­tempt to pre­vent the con­ti­gu­ity of any fu­ture Pales­tinian state.

Mr Green­blatt’s com­ments come as re­la­tions be­tween Wash­ing­ton and Ra­mal­lah are at their low­est ebb.

The Pales­tinian Au­thor­ity, which pre­sides over parts of the West Bank and is led by Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ab­bas, cut all ties to the US ad­min­is­tra­tion af­ter Mr Trump moved the US em­bassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, ef­fec­tively recog­nis­ing the city as Is­rael’s cap­i­tal.

Other de­ci­sions the US ad­min­is­tra­tion said were taken to bring the Pales­tini­ans to the ne­go­ti­at­ing ta­ble have only fur­ther alien­ated them. Wash­ing­ton cut all aid to the UN agency for Pales­tinian refugees, slashed fund­ing for East Jerusalem hos­pi­tals that serve sick Pales­tini­ans and closed the Pales­tinian mis­sion in Wash­ing­ton.

Yet Mr Green­blatt now puts the onus on the PA in the West Bank to open up the Pales­tinian econ­omy for the good of its peo­ple in­stead of adopt­ing po­si­tions that have failed to bring peace with the coun­try that oc­cu­pies the ter­ri­tory in ques­tion.

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