Peaceniks in Palestine

The PLO’s U.S. ambassador slams Mitt Romney’s leaked comments on the Middle East.


The leaked statements by Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney once again betray the dangerous relationship between U.S. domestic politics and U.S. national strategic interests. To be clear, this is not the first time U.S. presidential candidates and party institutions made statements contradicting long-standing U.S. policy to improve their electoral chances. The examples are too many to mention and they all end up back-pedaling once they assume office.

However, the damaging effects such statements have on U.S. credibility and its role as an honest broker are immense. The tragedy is that this kind of expedient politics — and the damage to U.S. standing in the world — keeps recurring. It is time for American politicians to show real statesmanship and focus on the next generation, not the next election.

Romney’s claim that Palestinians "have no interest whatsoever in peace" is, of course, false. Palestinians have endured exile and Israeli military occupation for more than six decades — they have the greatest stake in peace, and have gone to great lengths to try to achieve it. They have remained committed and engaged in the peace process since its inception in 1991. Despite discouraging policies by successive Israeli governments that undermined the peace process through settlement construction, grave human rights violations, and a lack of seriousness in negotiations, we stayed the course.

Romney’s call to manage the conflict rather than resolve it — in his words, to "kick the ball down the field" — is also contrary to long-standing U.S. policies, and a recipe for instability and tension in the region. The Republican candidate ought to remember that George W. Bush was the first American president to call for the establishment of a Palestinian state living side-by-side in peace and security with Israel. There is no better rebuttal to his allegation that we are bent on the "destruction of Israel" than our continued effort to join the United Nations as a full member state whose boundaries are defined by the lines that existed prior to the 1967 war. By defining our borders we are protecting the two-state solution, which Israel has repeatedly refused to do so.

It’s not only Republicans who throw logic out the window during election season when it comes to the Middle East. We all witnessed also the bizarre turn of events at the Democratic National Convention two weeks ago, in which a vote was taken three times to include language recognizing Jerusalem as the "capital of Israel" — despite resounding cries against the motion every time it was called. Why would Jerusalem and Palestine be an election topic for candidates running in U.S. elections? What interests do candidates serve by trying to impose a solution to very sensitive issues, which must be dealt with between the relevant parties? And what U.S. interests are preserved by giving Israel unconditional support and making its politicians even more intransigent? None.

The only way for the United States to preserve its credibility in a region full of turmoil and upheavals is to have the courage to hold Israel accountable to its actions. American politicians cannot continue to assign blame to Palestinians for Israel’s intransigence and lack of interest in peace. No election campaigns or political platforms could morally justify supporting a brutal military occupation that continues to exact a heavy toll on millions of Palestinians and violates their human rights on a daily basis. Standing up for your values, principles, and religion requires opposing oppression and injustice. This is the least the American people expect of their politicians.

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