This week PLO Executive Committee member Dr. Hanan Ashrawi conducted a series of meetings in Washington D.C. in which she was accompanied by Palestinian Ambassador Maen Rashid Areikat, Chief Representative of the General Delegation of the PLO to the U.S.
Dr. Ashrawi first met with Anne Patterson, Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Near East Affairs, Frank Lowenstein, Special Envoy for Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations, Chris Henzel, Director of Israel-Palestinian Affairs, and Andrew Lederman, Political Officer of Israel-Palestinian Affairs.
Both parties discussed the latest political developments, and in the context of multilateral engagement, Dr. Ashrawi emphasized the importance of American support of the French initiative to organize an international peace conference.
In order for the conference to succeed, Dr. Ashrawi said that there must be clearly defined objectives, a concrete basis from which to begin, and a binding timeframe.
She also provided a brief assessment of the deteriorating conditions on the ground in Gaza, and stressed that the illegal siege of Gaza must end, and there needs to be a national unity government that has full control of Gaza.
In a separate meeting, Dr. Ashrawi met with Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon), and briefed him and his staff on Israel’s willful efforts to destroy the two-state solution, including its illegal settlement activities, settler violence and terrorism, extra-judicial killings, the withholding of Palestinian remains, home demolitions, the arbitrary detention of Palestinian men, women and children, Israeli unlawful actions at the Al-Haram al-Sharif, and settler attacks against Christian and Muslim holy sites, among other violations.
Dr. Ashrawi and Senator Merkley discussed the role of the U.S. Congress, and she stressed that there should be more voices in Congress to stand up for what is morally right and to work to end the military occupation.
She also raised the issue of the $159 million in fiscal year 2015 US assistance to the Palestinians currently being held by Congress Representatives Kay Granger (R-TX) and Ed Royce (R-CA); she urged Senator Merkley’s staff to coordinate with other Senate Appropriations offices in a bipartisan effort to pressure House Republicans to release the funds.
In her final meeting, Dr. Ashrawi met with Rob Malley, Special Assistant to President Barack Obama and White House Coordinator for MENA, and Steven Galpern, National Security Council Director of Israeli-Palestinian Affairs.
In the meeting that focused on the latest political developments in Palestine and the escalation of Israeli violations, Dr. Ashrawi asked for American support of future Palestinian initiatives calling for the United Nations to take a more significant role in ending the occupation and safeguarding the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people.
The discussion also focused on the issue of incitement, and Dr. Ashrawi stressed that the occupation is the ultimate form of incitement and that incitement comes directly from Israeli government officials who are never held accountable:
“Israeli incitement is a constant barrage of hateful language that dehumanizes the victim, and it frequently comes from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.”
Dr. Ashrawi also emphasized that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Palestinian officials remain committed to nonviolent resistance of the occupation and to working towards peace and justice on behalf of the Palestinians.
On March 12, Dr. Ashrawi will speak at the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund-Washington D.C. Chapter’s Second Annual Hope and Healing Gala in Vienna, Virginia.