Is the US’s enabling of the PLO coming to an end?
Originally published by the Jerusalem Post.
Is the PLO’s long vacation from accountability coming to an end? How about the State Department’s? In 1987 the US State Department placed the PLO on its list of foreign terrorist organizations. The PLO was removed from the list in 1994, following the initiation of its peace process with Israel in 1993.
As part of the Clinton administration’s efforts to conclude a long-term peace deal between the PLO and Israel, in 1994 then president Bill Clinton signed an executive order waiving enforcement of laws that barred the PLO and its front groups from operating in the US. His move enabled the PLO to open a mission in Washington.
In 2010, then president Barack Obama upgraded the mission’s status to the level of “Delegation General.” The move was seen as a signal that the Obama administration supported moves by the PLO to initiate recognition of the “State of Palestine” by European governments and international bodies.
Whereas Obama’s PLO upgrade was legally dubious, the PLO’s campaign to get recognized as a state breached both of its agreements with Israel and the terms under which the US recognized it and permitted it to operate missions on US soil.
The operation of the PLO’s missions in the US was contingent on periodic certification by the secretary of state that the PLO was not engaged in terrorism, including incitement of terrorism, was not encouraging the boycott of Israel and was not seeking to bypass its bilateral negotiations with Israel in order to achieve either diplomatic recognition or statehood. Under Obama, the State Department refused to acknowledge the PLO’s breach of all the conditions of US recognition.
Angry at the administration’s facilitation of PLO breaches, in 2015 Congress mandated stricter and more precise conditions for continued operation of the PLO’s mission in Washington. Starting in 2016, the PLO was explicitly banned from advocating the prosecution of Israelis by the International Criminal Court. In 2015 the PLO joined the ICC with the explicit purpose of advocating the prosecution of Israelis. And in conformance with this purpose, in his speech before the UN General Assembly in September 2017, PLO/PA chief Mahmoud Abbas called for the ICC to prosecute Israelis for building communities in Judea and Samaria.
Given his experience with US administrations since Clinton, Abbas had every reason to believe that he would suffer no repercussions for his statement. No US administration had ever called the PLO/PA to account for its open breach of the terms of US recognition. So it isn’t surprising that Abbas and his advisers were utterly shocked when on Friday, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson sent a letter to the PLO mission in Washington informing PLO envoy Husam Zomlot that he could not renew certification of PLO compliance with US law in light of Abbas’s statement in September.
The only way for the mission to remain in place is if President Donald Trump certifies within 90 days that the PLO is engaged in “direct, meaningful negotiations with Israel.”
One of the primary functions of the PLO mission in Washington is to promote and fund the boycott movement against Israel – in contravention of the terms of its operation and the terms of its agreements with Israel.
In written testimony to the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa in February, Jonathan Schanzer of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies revealed that the mission is “said to be actively promoting campus BDS [boycott, divestment and sanctions] activity in the US.”
“PLO operatives in Washington, DC,” Schanzer said, “are reportedly involved in coordinating the activities of Palestinian students in the US who receive funds from the PLO to engage in BDS activism. This, of course, suggests that the BDS movement is not a grassroots activist movement, but rather one that is heavily influenced by PLO-sponsored persons.”
In April 2016, Schanzer informed Congress that the PLO consulate in Chicago is a major funder of the BDS campus group Students for Justice in Palestine. The chairman of the US Coalition to Boycott Israel, which among other things funds BDS, is Ghassan Barakat, an official at the PLO’s Chicago consulate. His colleague, Senan Shaqdeh, is a member of the coalition. Shaqdeh also claims to be the founder of Students for Justice in Palestine, the antisemitic BDS group that operates on campuses throughout the US.
As Schanzer noted, in 2014 Shaqdeh traveled to Ramallah to meet with Abbas and PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah.
Aside from the fact that the US has refused to hold the PLO accountable for its actions for a quarter century, the PLO has another good reason to be shocked by Tillerson’s letter: the US consulate in Jerusalem operates as almost a mirror to the PLO mission in Washington.
The US consulate in Jerusalem has the same status as an embassy. Like the US ambassador in Tel Aviv, the US consul general in Jerusalem reports directly to the State Department. He is not accredited to Israel. His area of operations includes Jerusalem and its environs within and beyond the 1949 armistice lines, including Beit Shemesh, Mevasseret Zion, Judea and Samaria.
Israeli citizens who live within the consulate’s area of operations are not permitted to receive consular and visa services from the embassy in Tel Aviv. Among the hundreds of thousands of Israeli Jews that are required to receive US consular services from the consulate rather than the embassy are tens of thousands of Jewish dual nationals.
And yet, as Yisrael Medad has exhaustively documented, the Jerusalem consulate maintains an effective boycott of both these dual nationals and Israeli nationals who live in its area of operation. All of the consulate’s activities for US citizens are directed specifically and openly toward “Palestinian residents of Jerusalem and the West Bank.”
Consul General Donald Blome similarly directs all of his efforts toward reaching out to the Palestinians, ignoring as a regular practice the millions of Jews who live in his area of responsibility.
The consulate also openly rejects the notion that Israel and Jews have ties to its area of operations. For instance, Blome went on a hike around Judea and Samaria in July where he effectively erased the Jewish heritage sites in the areas. The consulate echoed UNESCO’s Jew-free version of the history of the land of Israel in a press release that celebrated his walk along the “Masar Ibrahim Al-Khalil” trail in celebration of “the connection of the people with the land.” Jews were not mentioned in the press release. And the historical name of the route he took is “Abraham’s path.”
Scholarships to study in the US and jobs listed on the website are open to “Palestinian residents of Jerusalem and the West Bank.”
In other words, while the PLO missions are pushing the BDS agenda in the US, the US consulate in Jerusalem is implementing it on the ground in Israel.
Tillerson’s letter to the PLO mission on Friday came two weeks before Trump will have to decide whether or not to sign a related waiver. On December 1, Trump will either allow the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act to come into force or he will sign a waiver postponing the embassy move for yet another six months.
In a congressional hearing on the issue of moving the embassy to Jerusalem on November 8, Rep. Ron DeSantis said that transfer of the embassy may be delayed due to the Trump administration’s “efforts to pursue a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs.”
DeSantis argued that until the embassy is moved the Trump administration should take “incremental steps” that move it toward the goal.
Among the steps he advocated, DeSantis said “the American consulates in Jerusalem should report to the American embassy in Israel, not directly to the State Department.”
Tillerson’s letter to Zomlot was shocking because it represented the first time since 1993 that the PLO has been held accountable for its actions. The time has come for the State Department, too, to be held accountable for its behavior. And the best way to start this process is to follow DeSantis’s advice, subordinate the US consulates in Jerusalem to the US ambassador and end their boycott of Jews – US citizens and non-citizens – who live in the Jerusalem area, in Judea and Samaria.
Trump hails ‘big week’ for historic move; ‘Congratulations to all,’ he tweets ahead of May 14 opening
US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman gives a first glimpse of the new US embassy in Jerusalem on May 11, 2018, ahead of its opening on May 14 (Screenshot)
US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman on Friday gave a first glimpse of the new US embassy in Jerusalem, showing off workers erecting the official seal on the building and preparing for the opening ceremony.
“We are so excited,” Friedman said in a video posted on the embassy’s Facebook page. “We have the official seal of the United States embassy. We have the dedication plaque. They are covered right now, but on Monday they are going to be unveiled.”
‘Next time in Jerusalem,’ jubilant Barzilai yells after victory; ‘Toy’ marks Israel’s 4th win; hundreds jump in Rabin Square fountain to celebrate; PM calls her ‘best ambassador’
Netta Barzilai after winning the final of the 63rd edition of the Eurovision Song Contest 2018 at the Altice Arena in Lisbon, on May 12, 2018. (AFP/ Francisco LEONG)
Israel won the Eurovision song contest for the first time in two decades Saturday as singer Netta Barzilai clucked and bucked her way to the top of the international song contest with women’s empowerment anthem “Toy.”
Backed up by three dancers, her trademark side buns featuring stripes of pink dyed hair to match her pink-and-black outfit, Barzilai busted her way through “Toy” on stage in Lisbon, Portugal, punctuating her singing with her trademark eye rolls and chicken dance moves
Quoted by US president one day, hosted by Russia’s president the next, PM is on a high, including in the polls. But will this encourage his more divisive tendencies?
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier after the Victory Parade marking the 73th anniversary of the defeat of the Nazis in World War II, in Moscow, Russia, May 9, 2018. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
JTA — On Sunday, Benjamin Netanyahu began his week by meeting his Cypriot and Greek counterparts to finalize the commercial export to Europe of Israeli gas that he has pushed to exploit for about a decade.
On Tuesday, President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from nuclear deal with Iran was widely seen as a coup for Israel’s prime minister, a fierce opponent of the deal.
The same day Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed that Israel seized Iran’s archive of its military nuclear program in Tehran and spirited it to Israel, a video was posted of IDF soldiers singing Soltane Ghalbha, a traditional Persian love song – in Persian.
Taken together, the two events demonstrate the purpose of Netanyahu’s presentation.
Netanyahu’s detractors in the US and Israel called his presentation as a dog and pony show. “He didn’t tell us anything we haven’t known for years,” they sniffed.
Moreover, they insisted, Netanyahu’s presentation was actually counterproductive because he couldn’t show evidence that Iran is in breach of the nuclear deal it concluded in 2015 and so did nothing to persuade the Europeans to abandon the deal.
While US policy-makers are trying desperately to stabilize Afghanistan, a shift is being orchestrated by China.
The Chinese evidently see their role in Afghanistan as the “good cop” versus the U.S. role as “bad cop.” Like Pakistan, China seems to view the Taliban as the political opposition, not as a terrorist organization, and has offered itself as an intermediary to negotiate the departure of the U.S. and, thereby, be in a position to reap the economic and geopolitical benefits of Afghanistan as a client state of the China-Pakistan alliance.
Reuters/Ipsos set a new standard this week when it condemned its own polling as unreliably favorable to the president.
“This week’s Reuters/Ipsos Core Political release presents something of an outlier of our trend,” stated a paragraph that appeared before the press release on its latest polling even began.
“Every series of polls has the occasional outlier, and in our opinion, this is one. So, while we are reporting the findings in the interest of transparency, we will not be announcing the start of a new trend until we have more data to validate this pattern.”
For the sixth Friday in a row, protestors from Gaza came to Israel’s border with intentions to penetrate it. They come with scissors to cut through the fence, with burning tires, Molotov cocktails, slingshots with rocks, and kites with firebombs attached to them to destroy Israeli farmlands and villages.
This is not some peaceful demonstration akin to Selma in the 1960s when blacks were simply trying to sit together with whites at a lunch counter. The usage of the word “demonstrators” is a misnomer; these are “rioters.”
What would happen if the world took Pope Francis’ advice (via a tweet)? “Do we really want peace? Then let’s ban all weapons so we don’t have to live in fear of war,” said the pontiff.
While on the surface, the disappearance of all weapons might suggest the inability to do violence, in reality, it would mean the certain annihilation of the West as a civilization.
When a Philadelphia Starbucks manager called the police after two black men refused to leave, the chain of events ended with the burnt taste of the overpriced coffee chain colluding with anti-Semitism.
Starbucks reacted to the brief arrest by blaming the police, but Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross, who is African-American, initially said that his officers, “did absolutely nothing wrong”. But then he was forced to offer a bewildering apology to the arrested men, the officers and the entire city.
“It is me who in large part made most of the situation worse than it was,” he announced.
“Your threshing season will last until your grape harvest, and your grape harvest will last until the time you plant. You will have your fill of food, and you will dwell securely in your land” (Vayikra 26:5).
This blessing is promised to the People of Israel on condition that, as a unified nation, they observe the laws of the Torah and live by its spirit. Its promise is quite surprising. Not only will the Israelites have plenty to eat but, as the verse clearly indicates, the Jews will experience an overflow of food. The first season, when produce is brought to the threshing floor, will last until the days of the grape harvest, which in turn will continue into the planting season.