US Envoy, Palestinian Official Engage in New Fight over Peace Effort

The U.S.’s chief Mideast envoy and a key Palestinian official engaged in a sharp exchange of words Sunday over Israeli-Palestinian peace prospects and the role the United States is playing in trying to settle the decadeslong dispute.

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat set off the verbal warfare with a recent opinion article in Israel’s Haaretz newspaper in which he accused the U.S. of acting as “spokespeople” for Israel and assailed the U.S. for moving its embassy in Israel last month from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Israel claims Jerusalem as its capital, and the Palestinians hope to do the same if a Palestinian state is eventually created.

Erekat said the violence that left dozens of Palestinians dead in fighting along the Gaza-Israel border on the day the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem was opened “aptly demonstrates the complete U.S. and Israel denial of the Palestinian history of dispossession.”

Jason Greenblatt, U.S. President Donald Trump’s chief envoy to the Mideast, responded Sunday with his own opinion article in Haaretz, saying, “For far too long, the United States has turned a deaf ear to such words, but ignoring hateful and false words has not brought peace and it will never bring peace.”

Greenblatt added, “While some protesters were peaceful, many were quite violent. In fact, by Hamas’ own admission, more than 80 percent of those killed were Hamas operatives.”

The U.S. envoy said Trump’s order to relocate the American embassy to Jerusalem “was not, as Dr. Erekat baselessly claimed, part of a U.S. attempt to force an Israel-written agreement on the Palestinians.”

Greenblatt told Erekat, “We have heard your voice for decades and it has not achieved anything close to Palestinian aspirations or anything close to a comprehensive peace agreement.”

He added, “The notion that Israel is going away — or that Jerusalem is not its capital — is a mirage. The notion that the United States is not the critical interlocutor for the peace process is a mirage.”

Later Sunday, Erekat responded with another article, claiming that Greenblatt “in dozens of meetings” had “refused to discuss substance: no borders, no settlements and no two-state solution. Today, his role is nothing less than peddling Israeli policies to a skeptical international community, and then becomes upset when he’s reminded of this.”

U.S. officials say they plan to release their proposal for a Mideast peace plan in mid- to late June.

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