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How Much Longer Do We Palestinians Have To Put Up With These Clowns?

If Trump’s ill-fated “deal of the century” to achieve Middle East peace ever existed, it never stood a chance against the blunders that emerge when each of its three architects – Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, his bankruptcy lawyer turned U.S. Ambassador David Friedman, and his real estate lawyer Jason Greenblatt — opens his mouth.

Greenblatt has made a habit of tweeting about the “open minded” Palestinian businessmen – though there is just one Palestinian Uncle Tom known to date — who are willing to accept the Trump team’s economic bribes in exchange for our people’s right to self-determination.

Well, I’m one of those Palestinian businesspersons on the ground in Palestine and I can tell you that I, along with everyone in my business circles, am outright opposed to this American approach of trying to buy Palestinian political submission by promising billions of dollars disguised as investments to better Palestinian living conditions. (One can be certain that these are only ever promises based on past experiences with Secretary of State John Kerry and Quartet Head Tony Blair.)

But Greenblatt is not the only one to routinely insult our intelligence in this manner. In a fiasco-ridden interview last week, Jared Kushner questioned whether we Palestinians were capable of governing ourselves.

Not to be outdone, Friedman himself gave an exclusive interview to The New York Times which ran on Saturday. When asked by Times journalist David Halbfinger whether their “peace” plan envisions a Palestinian state, the U.S.’s Ambassador answered, “What’s a state?”

Could it be that a Senate-confirmed appointment for someone to be a U.S. ambassador to a foreign country does not know what a “state” is?

An ambassador’s primary job is to represent a state — in this case, the United States of America. Being at a loss as to what a state is should be grounds for immediate dismissal from office as someone unfit for such a post.

For the record – and for Ambassador Friedman, who apparently stands in need of educating on this front — according to international law and the 1933 Montevideo Convention, a state possesses a permanent population, a government, the capacity to enter into relations with other states, and, perhaps most confusingly for Ambassador Friedman, defined territory.

Maybe that’s why Ambassador Friedman struggles to define what a state is: He’s the Ambassador to a state that does not have “defined borders” – a fact he told the New York Times he wished to exacerbate when he said he believed in Israel’s right to effectively annex parts of the West Bank.

“Under certain circumstances, I think Israel has the right to retain some, but unlikely all, of the West Bank,” Friedman told Halbfinger, in another shocking moment.

That is called annexation and it is a war crime punishable by law. As Halbfinger noted, “Much of the world considers Israeli settlements there illegal and would view annexation as compounding the crime. Israeli critics, including a group of respected former military and national-security officials, warn that annexation could lead to violence and require the [Israeli] military to occupy Palestinian urban areas for the first time in decades.”

Friedman then went on to discuss the economic workshop in Bahrain. “There is almost no Palestinian business leader that wants to refrain from meeting with some of the largest sovereign wealth funds in the world, when the topic of the discussion is limited to giving money to the Palestinians,” he told Halbfinger. “I know firsthand, they want to come.” He went on to say that there was a “silent majority” of Palestinians who would support the Trump peace plan if not for the “real-life consequences” they could face from Palestinian officials.

US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman

US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman speaks during the AIPAC annual meeting in Washington, DC, on March 26, 2019. (Photo by Jim WATSON / AFP) (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images) Image by Getty Images

Nonsense. The opposite is the case: The Palestinian business community has never been as united as it is in opposition to the Trump team’s attempt to beautify the cages Israel has turned our cities into. The Palestinian private sector though does remain concerned that the political and financial pressures placed by the U.S. on the Palestinian leadership may cause them to reconsider and attend this farce event.

Instead of trying to sell Palestinians political pie in the sky, Friedman and company would be well-advised to read the list of 101 Israeli restrictions that I documented months ago which stifle Palestinian growth.

It is the Israeli occupation that stifles our economy. And no economic incentives can compete with a lack of fundamental freedoms.

It’s not shocking that a man like Trump, with his manifold crimes against the United States, would appoint a Middle East team with no respect for the rule of law, basic civil rights, or the dignity of the Palestinian people.

As a member of the Palestinian business community, all I can do is bear witness to their blunders and their lies, as we struggle to keep our businesses afloat.

Sam Bahour is a Palestinian-American business consultant from Ramallah/Al-Bireh in the West Bank. He is Board Chair of Americans for a Vibrant Palestinian Economy (AVPE) and serves as a policy adviser to Al-Shabaka, the Palestinian Policy Network and is co-editor of “Homeland: Oral Histories of Palestine and Palestinians” (1994). He blogs at @SamBahour


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