Palestinian Ambassador On The U.S. Shuttering Its PLO mission
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
Twenty-five years ago today on the South Lawn of the White House under a bright sun, President Bill Clinton, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat signed the Oslo Accord.
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BILL CLINTON: Today, with all our hearts and all our souls, we bid them shalom, salaam, peace.
SHAPIRO: The agreement was a framework intended to guide the way to a peaceful existence between Israel and what was expected to be a future Palestinian state. Now 25 years later in something of an eerie symmetry, the Trump administration has ordered the closing of the Palestine Liberation Organization office here in Washington. Through four administrations, the Palestinian representative in that office has been the point of contact for the U.S. government.
The last man to head that office was Husam Zomlot. He was recalled in May when the Trump administration moved the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. And Mr. Zomlot joins us now from Ramallah in the West Bank. Thank you for your time today.
HUSAM ZOMLOT: Thank you, Ari, for having me.
SHAPIRO: What is your reaction to this move by the Trump administration closing the mission?
ZOMLOT: Well, it's dangerous and vindictive but unsurprising because it's in the context of many steps that this administration has taken that really reflects more of them executing blindly and a wish list of the current Israeli government headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. And regrettably things are very confusing at this point in time. The administration has no vision that we know of, has no peace plan that has ever been offered to us and is giving us contradictory signs. They want to talk to us, and they are complaining that we are not talking. And then they close our representation in Washington.
SHAPIRO: The Trump administration says it's taking these steps in order to motivate Palestinians to enter into peace negotiations with Israel. You call this blackmail and bullying. That sounds like it's having the opposite of the intended effect.
ZOMLOT: Of course, absolutely. If you really want to play the role of peacemaker and you want to maintain and keep your leadership on the peace process, then there are requirements. And none of these requirements match this administration. The first and the foremost requirement is trust - trust between you and the two parties that you are mediating between. Using the techniques and the tactics of the real estate business in New York that you want to actually offer the price of a building for $3 million when it's actually worth much more than that, then what you do? You start really making owner believe that they are losing an aspect after another. They lost the parking lot. They have no license. The tenants are leaving. Then you actually offer $3 millions to the $100 million. They are thinking in these terms with us.
SHAPIRO: You're saying President Trump is trying to apply principles from the New York real estate market to Middle East peace.
ZOMLOT: Yes, yes, yes. Otherwise it doesn't make any sense.
SHAPIRO: There was a time when you and your organization spoke optimistically about the prospects for peace under President Trump. You clearly feel differently now. What do you think the miscalculation was?
ZOMLOT: It was not a miscalculation. It was misinformation and disinformation by the Trump administration. President Trump called our president, President Abbas, in March. And in that call, he was - I mean President Trump - very positive. He said that he believes peace is possible and that a comprehensive, lasting agreement could be concluded. And he thinks he is the person who could do it. So we - our immediate reaction was positive of course. Now, we changed our position simply because we started getting hard evidence, a decision after another, a step after another that this administration is absolutely not interested in a peace deal, not interested in mediation. This administration is only interested in appeasing a foreign government, which is Israel.
SHAPIRO: Husam Zomlot is head of the Palestinian mission to the U.S. which the Trump administration has now closed down. Thank you very much for joining us today.
ZOMLOT: You're most welcome. Thank you.
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