United States Ambassador to Israel David Friedman knocked the 1993 Oslo Accords and said his hand was open to the Palestinian people, when he spoke in Jerusalem on Thursday at a joint Israeli-Palestinian business forum sponsored by the Judea and Samaria Chamber of Commerce.
“To all the Palestinian friends who are here, the US is with you, the people of the US are with you, the President of the US is with you,” Friedman said.
He spoke of his support for the grassroots initiative that brings together settlers and Palestinian in the West Bank in joint business ventures, which was started last year.
“To my Israeli friends, I say the same. We are all with you, together to support you in new out-of-the-box thinking, to build a safe and more prosperous world for Israeli and Palestinians alike,” Friedman said.
The gathering comes at a time when there are no relations between the US and the Palestinian Authority. The US has cut most of its funding to the PA, and the PA in turn has rejected all US funding, including for humanitarian projects. In a climate with few opportunities for cooperation, Israeli-Palestinian public meetings are rare.
But on Thursday, Friedman’s comments made it seem as if settlers, who are often portrayed as a stumbling block to the peace process, are now leading the way in an arena with few opportunities for joint cooperation.
“There is far more that unites us than divides us,” Friedman said, adding that in the Bible, Isaac and Ishmael reconciled their differences. “Obviously, we should do no less,” he added.
Such initiatives as the economic one he discussed are not a substitute for a political resolution to the conflict, he said, adding the political process is more complex.
“To hold the Palestinian hostage to a political solution, when humanitarian and business efforts are right in front of us, is grave mistake and a grave disservice to the Palestinian people,” Friedman said. “We all recall the Oslo Accords of 1993. The Oslo Accords were signed the next year. There was an increase in terrorism four-fold.
“Why? Because pieces of paper do not make peace. Relationships make peace. Investments make peace. That is the kind of peace that is enduring,” Friedman continued.
He said that the political process will continue, and that the US is hopeful that there will likewise be progress on the political front. But a delay in political progress should not mean a delay in assistance to the “Jews and Palestinians in Judea and Samaria,” Friedman said.
“The Palestinian people deserve better,” he added. “Enough of the endless political bickering that has brought nothing but misery. Let us work together for all our people. Let us make real peace with each other.”