JERUSALEM (JTA) — U.S. special Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt fired back after Palestinian official Saeb Erekat circulated a letter to foreign diplomats stationed in Ramallah, accusing the American diplomat of being a mouthpiece for Israel.
“Saeb Erakat’s personal attack on me is a symptom of the difficulties in the path to peace. Saeb knows there’s no truth to his accusation. This outburst, like all his recent outbursts, is merely intended as a distraction from the important work that lies ahead,” Greenblatt said in a tweet on Friday, a day after the letter was circulated to foreign diplomats in the seat of government of the Palestinian Authority.
A second tweet read: “But this empty, self-indulgent rhetoric won’t stop us from trying. Saeb: It’s time to time to roll up your sleeves and get to work. Or, you can continue to run in circles, and get pretty much nowhere! Shabbat Shalom/Salam!”
In his letter dated April 12, Erekat said that Greenblatt has “assumed the role of spokesperson of the Israeli Authorities.” Haaretz first reported on the letter.
“It is clear that those who do not consider that the lives of Palestinians and Israelis are of equal value cannot possibly promote any plan that will be remotely close to a just and lasting peace,” Erekat wrote. “It is clear that those who do not consider that the lives of Palestinians and Israelis are of equal value cannot possibly promote any plan that will be remotely close to a just and lasting peace,” Erekat wrote in the letter to diplomats. “Rather, the Trump administration continues to adopt Israeli positions that aim to perpetuate the denial of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people.”
Prior to the April 6 protests by 20,000 Palestinians on the border between Israel and Gaza, the second weekend of “March of Return” protests, the U.S. State Department issued a statement in Greenblatt’s name. The statement said that the United States “strongly urges protest leaders to communicate loudly and clearly that protestors should march peacefully; should abstain from all forms of violence; should remain outside the 500-meter buffer zone; and should not approach the border fence in any way or any location.”
The statement also said that the U.S. “condemn leaders and protestors who call for violence or who send protestors – including children – to the fence, knowing that they may be injured or killed. Instead, we call for a renewed focus by all parties on finding solutions to the dire humanitarian challenges facing Gazans.”
In March, Greenblatt in a statement to reporters said that said Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas must choose between “hateful rhetoric” and peace after Abbas described the U.S. ambassador to Israel as the “son of a dog.”