Members of Congress,
As you are undoubtedly aware, a letter is circulating on the Hill seeking your signature. This letter, intended to be sent to President Obama, expresses disappointment in our Palestinian Leadership’s position vis-à-vis the UN General Assembly vote two weeks ago, and calls on the President to “express US disapproval” by shutting down the General Delegation of the PLO office in Washington DC. I would like to take this opportunity to urge you to think thoroughly about the implications of such action.
First, one needs to ask the question: who benefits from closing our office in DC and weakening the relationship between the US and the Palestinian people? The PLO is the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people everywhere, and is committed to a diplomatic resolution to the conflict based on two states, Palestine and Israel, living side by side in peace and security. Will shutting our office serve the cause of peace and stability ? Will it strengthen the US credibility in the Middle East during these tumultuous times? Will this increase US leverage and clout to influence and protect strategic US interests? The answer is no.
Second, history has shown time and again that the language of threats, financial pressure, and punitive measures simply does not work. Withholding our Economic Support Funds (the majority of which goes towards humanitarian assistance and development work) as Congress has been doing over the past year, or threatening to shut down our office will not lead to changes in the Palestinian position. Engagement and dialogue is the only way to express the views of Congress. Biased and one-sided resolutions cannot contribute to an atmosphere that is conducive for a political resolution to the conflict.
Third, an overwhelming majority of Americans support a two-state solution and believe the US should play a significant role in reaching a just, comprehensive, and lasting peace in the region. An end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the larger Arab-Israeli one, is a U.S. national security interest. The Palestinian people and their leadership are strongly committed to this goal.
Finally, allow me to point out a fact that may escape some of you: the genie is already out of the bottle; it cannot be put back in. There is no action that can be taken by anyone, Congress included, to change our UN status. The world spoke in a unified voice; Palestine is now recognized as a non-member State at the UN. I therefore ask you to look at this as an opportunity to build on and to move forward. Palestinians have a lot to gain from peace for we know exactly what it means to be under a brutal Israeli military occupation for the last 45 years. We also know what it means to be denied our freedom, human rights and dignity. We are ready to engage and start a genuine process that will lead to the establishment of a sovereign and independent Palestine next to Israel. But, it takes two partners to do that not only one. Achieving peace will bring about security and stability to all the peoples and states of the region.
Members of Congress
I hope you take time to think thoroughly about what is being asked of you in the circulating letter. I sincerely hope you take this opportunity to build bridges instead of burning them. We believe in open channels of communications and in dialogue, as I trust you do too. The US was built on diversity and differing views. We sure can disagree but to express your disagreements by applying pressure serves no one’s interests. On the contrary, they make things much more complicated and difficult. In the meantime, the General Delegation of the PLO to the US is willing and ready to engage members of Congress, the same way they engage with others representing Israeli views, in order to create a better understanding of the Palestinian position.
Maen Rashid Areikat
Chief Representative of the PLO to the United States