Palestinian envoy Zumlot: American public, not Trump, key to the future

The Palestinian Authority and U.S. administration are circumventing each other by conveying their messages directly to opposite publics

Husam Zomlot (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Husam Zomlot
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
The Palestinian Authority has adopted a new policy of transmitting its messages directly to the American public, which Ramallah believes is liable to ally with its cause. At the same time, this tactic allows the PA to circumvent the Trump administration, which it has boycotted since Washington's recognition in December of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.
Husam Zomlot, the PA's chief envoy to the United States, confirmed the new strategy during an interview this week with The Media Line on the sidelines of a West Bank conference focused on Palestinian-American relations.
Zomlot made clear that the Palestinian mission in Washington is seeking to strengthen its relations with the American people, rather than mend ties with the White House.
"We have been engaging America [using a] top-down [approach], but we must instead do so from the bottom-up," he contended, adding that the PA is already working with existing Palestinian organizations throughout the U.S. to achieve its aim.
Zomlot described the policy shift as a means of creating a "continuity of peace," one in which Palestinian rights are supported by a broad spectrum of the American populace.
"Recently, I arranged a tour [of the West Bank] for an American delegation of Orthodox Jewish rabbis so they could witness what is happening on the ground. I have seen changes among the American youth too," Zumlot asserted in reference to his numerous visits to U.S.
universities during which he felt as though he was meeting with "solidarity groups." In this respect, while Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has on numerous occasions been warmly received by Congress, Zumlot "bets" that this would not be the case on many American campuses.
"We also see changes in civil society, in churches, in the African and Latino communities as well as in the U.S. political arena. The media also has started competing with social media's dominance in telling the truth." Ironically, members of the Trump administration seem to be following a similar path.
This weekend, Senior Adviser Jared Kushner, Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt and Ambassador to Israel David Friedman co-wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post calling on the Palestinian people to find a way out of their “hopeless treadmill…[of] destruction, violence and human misery." The trio also called on Hamas to rejects violence and accept Israel’s right to exist.
“The world is moving forward, but bad choices are causing Palestinians to fall further and further behind,” the article read.
Last month, Kushner gave an exclusive interview to Al-Quds newspaper—the most popular Palestinian daily—in which he reiterated that President Donald Trump was willing to work with PA President Mahmoud Abbas; that is, if the PA chief was willing to play ball.
Kushner said that the White House's much-anticipated peace plan—which the PA has already rejected out-of-hand—would be ready “soon” and released to the Palestinian public if Ramallah does not change course. Indeed, he questioned whether Abbas has “the ability to, or is willing to, lean into finishing a deal.”
According to Zomlot, Kushner's statements were “an attempt to bypass the leadership in Palestine, which is going to fail. I personally visited different Palestinian cities and villages over the past three weeks," he conveyed to The Media Line, "and people are aware of the American attempts to liquidate their rights rather than actually achieve them.”
Zomlot similarly described an American diplomatic push geared towards rehabilitating the Gaza Strip as an attempt to drive a wedge deeper between the PA and Hamas. "If [Gazans] have a choice between their dignity and promises of money, they will definitely choose their dignity. Our case is political not charitable,” he said. "Any party trying to approach the Palestinians must visit [Abbas'] address and only that address."
Lior Akerman, an Israeli political and military analyst, noted that when governments communicate through the media, rather than speak directly to each other, it suggests that there is no reasonable prospect of reaching meaningful solutions.
"There is no trust between the U.S. administration and the PA, which in any case does not intend to move in any direction," he told The Media Line. "Currently, it's convenient for both sides to make declarations and refrain from actual action."