WASHINGTON – Ever since President Trump chose last year to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, his administration has had no official contacts with the Palestinian Authority.
In the absence of official communication between the two sides, they have instead elected to argue with each other about their respective policies in the pages of Haaretz. Three weeks ago, the top Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, published an article in Haaretz slamming the Trump administration for its Jerusalem decision and for its broader Middle East policy. On Sunday, Trump’s special envoy to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Jason Greenblatt, shot back at Erekat in his own article, in which he accused Erekat of letting down the Palestinian people.
Erekat referred to Greenblatt and U.S. Ambassador David Friedman as “spokespeople for the Israeli occupation” and wrote that the administration’s reaction to the killing of demonstrators in Gaza was a “new ethical low for Greenblatt, Friedman and [U.S. Ambassador to the UN] Nikki Haley.”
Greenblatt hit back, accusing the Palestinian Authority of stifling other voices within Palestinian society who disagree with Erekat. “I have heard many Palestinian voices over the past 16 months and many don’t agree with Dr. Erekat or his approach,” he wrote. “Yet, the sad thing is that most will only meet and speak honestly and openly in private because they are afraid to speak publicly.”
The Trump administration has meanwhile been working on its Middle East peace plan for more than a year now, and is considering publishing it by the end of this month. Very few details of the plan have been reported, and the Palestinians have accused the administration of totally accepting the positions of Israel’s right-wing government and ignoring the Palestinian position on the core issues of the conflict. A White House official denied those claims in a conversation with Haaretz, claiming that the administration wants the plan to be “sellable” on both sides.