Trump’s Mideast envoy: Peace impossible when Palestinians celebrate violence
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Trump’s Mideast envoy: Peace impossible when Palestinians celebrate violence

Jason Greenblatt tells American Jewish Committee Hamas is solely to blame for Gaza violence and should turn its attention to helping residents

Eric Cortellessa covers American politics for The Times of Israel.

US President Donald Trump's Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt addresses the American Jewish Committee's Women’s Leadership Board Spring Luncheon in New York on April 24, 2018. (Courtesy / Ellen Dubin Photography)
US President Donald Trump's Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt addresses the American Jewish Committee's Women’s Leadership Board Spring Luncheon in New York on April 24, 2018. (Courtesy / Ellen Dubin Photography)

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration’s Mideast envoy Jason Greeblatt lambasted the Palestinians before a Jewish audience on Tuesday, casting both Hamas’s “hostile actions” at the Israel-Gaza border and the Palestinian Authority’s support for terrorism as detrimental to peacemaking efforts.

“You can’t make peace in an environment where violence is practiced and celebrated,” he said to an American Jewish Committee luncheon reception in New York.

Over the last month, tens of thousands of Gazans, with the encouragement of the Hamas terror group that rules Gaza, have been undertaking weekly protests at the border. Some rioters have tried to damage the security fence and infiltrate Israel, while others have thrown Molotov cocktails and rocks, and burned tires.

The Israel Defense Forces has so far killed at least 40  Palestinians in the border clashes, according to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry. Israel does not confirm the numbers.

In his remarks, Greenblatt firmly blamed Hamas for the chaos and violence. He did not direct any criticism toward Israel, which much of the international community claims has responded disproportionately to the protests.

Palestinians prepare to set fire on an Israeli flag and portraits of US President Donald Trump and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during a protest at the border fence with Israel, east of Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza city, on April 13, 2018.(AFP PHOTO / Thomas COEX)

“Astoundingly, Hamas, the de-facto administrator of Gaza, can find no better use for its money than violence,” Greenblatt said. He also said Hamas could serve its people better in spending that money by “addressing the dire situation in Gaza, where unemployment is high, electricity service is sporadic, and sewage is flowing.”

He also castigated certain elements of Fatah’s rule over the West Bank.

Greenblatt, a former Trump Organization lawyer, said the Taylor Force Act, which Trump signed into law last month, “dramatically reduces US funds to the Palestinian Authority until they stop the abhorrent practice of paying stipends to terrorists and their families.”

The legislation is named after a former US army officer who was stabbed to death by a Palestinian terrorist while visiting Tel Aviv.

Beyond passage of that bill, Greenblatt extolled the ties between Washington and Jerusalem under the current president.

“The revitalization of US-Israel relations culminated in President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital,” he said.

Last December, Trump announced the recognition along with his plans to relocate the US embassy to the holy city. It will open in May.

US President Donald Trump visits the Western Wall, May 22, 2017, in Jerusalem. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

The move sparked an outcry from the international community and the Palestinians.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas has since refused to meet with Trump officials and has denounced their capacity to act as honest mediators in any peace talks. The Palestinians have also accused Greenblatt and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman of effectively being Israeli government spokespeople.

Nevertheless, Greenblatt said the administration was “deeply committed to achieving an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.”

“Past failures do not absolve us of the responsibility to try,” he added. “I ultimately believe there may be a clear path toward peace,” but that it would be “up to the parties themselves.”

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