Key US official on Mideast peace addresses Security Council

May 22, 2019 - 2:23 pm

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — A key architect of the long-awaited U.S. plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace warned Wednesday that "nothing can be meaningfully fixed" until Gaza's Hamas rulers and Palestinian Islamic Jihad renounce their vows to destroy Israel and stop carrying out violent acts.

Jason Greenblatt, President Donald Trump's special envoy for international negotiations, said the first step to Palestinian safety and security is for the Security Council "to admit that Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad are the primary barrier to the dreams of those residents of Gaza who want to live in peace, raise their families and find meaningful work."

"When will the Security Council say this out loud?" Greenblatt said at the council's monthly Mideast meeting. "When will we clearly reject this terrorism?"

Greenblatt also told the council "it would be a mistake" for the Palestinians not to attend an economic conference in Bahrain in June that is part of the rollout of the White House peace plan because it will showcase a prosperous future for them if a political solution can be achieved.

The plan, which has been two years in the making, envisions large-scale investment and infrastructure work in the Palestinian territories. But the central political elements remain mostly unknown.

The Palestinian Authority has rejected the economic conference, saying any peace effort that ignores the Palestinian people's aspirations for an independent state is doomed to fail. The Palestinians want their new state in the West Bank, east Jerusalem — which they want as their capital — and Gaza, lands captured by Israel in the 1967 war. A senior Palestinian official has likened the White House plan to "financial blackmail."

The Palestinian demand for a two-state solution is supported by the U.N. and almost all of its 193 member-states, and it was reiterated at Wednesday's council meeting by the Palestinian deputy U.N. ambassador Feda Abdelhady-Nasser.

"No one can deny that we are in need of new efforts and new energy to overcome the suffocating political deadlock, least of all us," she said. "But 'new' cannot mean trampling the law or mocking and discarding the longstanding international consensus" on a two-state solution.

Abdelhady-Nasser added that Palestinian leaders can't accept improving the lives of Palestinians while Israel's "illegal occupation continues, nor have the Palestinian people endured decades of suffering and waited nearly half a century for freedom to resign themselves to 'limited autonomy.'"

Greenblatt also lashed out at the U.N. agency that helps 5.3 million Palestinian refugees, calling it "a band-aid" that is "running on fumes."

He said the U.S. decided to cut off all funding for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, known as UNRWA, because its "business model ... is inherently tied to an endlessly and exponentially expanding community of beneficiaries" and is an "irredeemably flawed operation" that "is in permanent crisis mode."

The U.S. reduced its $360 million annual contribution to UNRWA in 2017 to just $60 million in 2018 and nothing this year.

Greenblatt reiterated a U.S. proposal for host countries or international or local non-governmental agencies to take over services for the Palestinian refugees.

"We tried to begin that conversation before we cut our aid to UNRWA," he said. "No one wanted to engage in that conversation back then. We remain ready to begin that conversation now. It is time to start."

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