By Daoud Kuttab/
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas made a strong intervention regarding what Palestinians want, and the genuine desire for peace through negotiations. In his thirty-three minute speech to the Security Council, Abbas repeated the word “peace” 35 times and the term “negotiations” fifteen times. Abbas went to great detail to show and reconfirm Palestinian participation in peace talks and continued willingness to “walk to anywhere” in order to accomplish peace and the rights of Palestinians.
Yet, despite this passionate plea, the American representative at the United Nations seems to have been listening to Carly Simon on her headphones rather than the actual speech of the Palestinian president. When it came to her chance to speak, Nikki Haley spent half of her nine-minute intervention attacking the victims rather than the aggressors. Halley seems to repeat verbatim the Israeli and pro-Israeli lines of people like Daniel Pipes, who has been calling on Palestinians to surrender in order for peace to prevail!
Haley says that the United Nations is to be blamed for the absence of peace, because exaggerated UN attention “has made the problem more difficult to solve”. Why? Because it stands up for the rights of people under occupation? And had opposed illegal and unilateral occupation, settlements and annexation?
But half way through her short intervention, Haley caught the world by surprise saying that she recognises that there is suffering in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Both sides have suffered, she said in what appeared to be counter-intuitive statement. But Nikki Haley’s understanding of the suffering of Israelis and Palestinians appears to be as crooked as that of her casino sugar daddy Sheldon Adelson and her favourite Israeli ally Benjamin Netanyahu.
“I don’t mean that there is no suffering,” she said. “Both sides have suffered. So many Israelis have been killed by suicide attacks,” she said, not acknowledging that the last suicide attack by Hamas was in 2011.
Haley then turned on the situation in the besieged Gaza strip, putting all the responsibility of the situation of Gazans on the oppression of Hamas without even mentioning the decade-long Israeli siege on Gaza.
Then, she made yet another “important” recognition. She said that the Palestinians in the West Bank have also suffered, where “too many have died”. The US envoy, of course, was not referring to a disease that has plagued the country or a major earthquake that has caused so many to die. She failed to say that those “many” Palestinians, who have died, were killed by occupying Israeli soldiers and illegal Jewish settlers.
The US ambassador to the UN, of course, boasted about America’s negotiating team sitting behind her in the Security Council session. Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt, both Zionist American Jews, have shown, as has Haley, plenty of sympathy and understanding for Israeli suffering, but have yet to be on the record as showing any sympathy for Palestinian children, like Ahed Tamimi, or the Palestinian farmers, whose trees have been destroyed by settlers or everyday Palestinians who are denied travel to and from Gaza for simple issues, such as health treatment or visiting family members.
The Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has taken a difficult path by continuing to insist on peace talks, while rejecting the US track that appears to be the only game in town. It would be great if Mahmoud Abbas’ idea of an international peace conference in the middle of 2018 can take place. It would be great if both sides can agree to stop all unilateral acts that can negatively affect the final outcome as Abbas has suggested. The problem with this idea is the simple fact that it takes two to tango.
Nikki Haley is probably right that if the Palestinian leadership wants to purse the negotiating path, it needs to engage with Americans and Israelis. The 65 days of boycotting the Americans has been long enough to send a clear and unambiguous message that Palestinians reject the US declaration on Jerusalem, and that the holy city and its long-term future is not “off the table”.
To get to an international conference where Russia, Europe and China are also sponsoring the talks, there is no path other than engaging with the Americans. If for no other reason, such engagement might help derail the disastrous “ultimate deal” that the Americans are planning to unveil soon.
The Palestinian decision to continue putting all the eggs in the negotiating basket is unlikely to produce results. But, if Abbas is serious about it, this means that there are compromises that need to be made, including climbing down from the high tree of total boycott of the Americans despite their insensitivity and lack of empathy.