Greenblatt holds door open for east Jerusalem as Palestinian capital

France warns Wadi Hummus demolitions set dangerous precedent.

July 24, 2019 18:04
4 minute read.
US special envoy Jason Greenblatt at the UNSC Arria-formula meeting in New York

US special envoy Jason Greenblatt at the UNSC Arria-formula meeting in New York. (photo credit: SCREEN CAPTURE/UN WEB TV)

US special envoy Jason Greenblatt appeared to give a nod in the direction of east Jerusalem as a Palestinian capital, even as he assured the UN Security Council on Tuesday that Israel’s right to the city was above international law.

Initially he appeared to douse the idea of a Palestinian capital in east Jerusalem, which the Palestinians and the international community hold to be enshrined in UN resolutions and international law.

“The PLO and the Palestinian Authority continue to assert that east Jerusalem must be a capital for the Palestinians,” Greenblatt told the 15-member body that met in New York to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “But let’s remember: an aspiration is not a right,” adding, “Please do not read into that statement anything about the content of the political portion of the plan. That does not mean that the Palestinians can’t aspire to have a capital in east Jerusalem, with creative solutions that attempt to respect all three religions that cherish this incredible city. But if there is to be such a solution, only the parties themselves, through direct negotiations, can work this out.”

At the same, Greenblatt told the Security Council that the United States holds that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital.

“No international consensus or interpretation of international law will persuade the United States or Israel that a city in which Jews have lived and worshiped for nearly 3,000 years and has been the capital of the Jewish State for 70 years is not — today and forever — the capital of Israel,” he said.
Greenblatt clarified that “Jerusalem is a city of three world faiths,” and that freedom to worship there must be protected.

The US envoy spoke one month after the US unveiled the economic portion of US President Donald Trump’s peace plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The Trump administration does not intend to solely speak of economic peace for the Palestinians, Greenblatt said, and that a political plan is also necessary for success. A decision of when to publish that US plan would be made soon, he added.

Greenblatt urged the Palestinian leadership and the international community to keep an open mind about the plan. In the interim, he called on the international community to abandon the “constant drumbeat of tired rhetoric that is designed to prevent progress and to bypass direct negotiations,” which makes it hard to discuss Israeli-Palestinian peace.

Greenblatt debunked the idea of an “international consensus” with regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, noting that so much consensus had been achieved.

“International consensus is not international law,” Greenblatt said. “So let’s stop kidding ourselves. If a so-called international consensus had been able to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it would have done so decades ago. It didn’t.”

“International law” is also not the vehicle by which to resolve the conflict, he said, particularly given the vast differences in interpretation of law regarding the conflict.

“We will not get to the bottom of whose interpretation of ‘international law’ is correct on this conflict. There is no judge, jury or court in the world that the parties involved have agreed to give jurisdiction in order to decide whose interpretations are correct. A comprehensive and lasting peace will not be created by fiat of international law, or by these heavily wordsmithed, unclear resolutions,” said Greenblatt.

Trump’s peace plan is not “ambiguous” and “will provide sufficient detail so that people can see what compromises will be necessary to achieve a realistic, lasting, comprehensive solution to this conflict – the conflict that has robbed so much potential from Palestinians, Israelis and the region as a whole.”

Both Israelis and Palestinians will have to make “difficult compromises,” Greenblatt said.

He made no mentioned of the IDF demolition one day earlier of 12 West Bank Palestinian structures outside Jerusalem, but many of the UN member states who spoke at the Security Council denounced Israel for the demolitions, including the Palestinian Authority, the EU, Germany, the United Kingdom, China, France and Kuwait.

German Ambassador to the UN Christoph Heusgen took issue with Greenblatt’s words, noting that “international law is not futile.”

His country, Heusgen said, believes in the UN and the resolutions of its security council which it holds to be binding.

“For us, international law is not menu a la carte,” Heusgen said.

Peace is best served by observing international law, Heusgen said.

Russian Ambassador to the UN Vasily Alekseevich Nebenzya said the problem is not “lack of international consensus”, but utter US disregard for that consensus.

Does “the distinguished representative of the US understands how far he will go with such mediation with this kind of an approach?” Nebenzya asked.

There should be a multilateral rather than unilateral peace process to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he said.

“No unilateral measures can supplant the key principles of two states, land for peace and the Arab Peace initiative, nor can they change the status of the occupied territories, including the Syria Golan," Nebenzya said.

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