WASHINGTON (JTA) — President Donald Trump’s top Middle East envoy affirmed the right of Palestinians “to protest their dire humanitarian circumstances” in the Gaza Strip adding that they should do so at a safe distance from Israel’s border with the strip and with no violence.
“Palestinians in Gaza have the right to protest their dire humanitarian circumstances,” Jason Greenblatt said on Twitter late Thursday. “Organizers & leaders should focus on that message, not stoke the potential for more violence with firebombs & flaming kites, and must keep a safe distance from the border.” He referred to reports of violent provocateurs among the protesters.
There was no affirmation of the Palestinian “right” to protest in Greenblatt’s previous pronouncement on the protests, on April 5; Instead, it was a stern caution to 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.”
Saeb Erekat, a top Palestinian negotiator with whom Greenblatt is friendly, said recently that Greenblatt’s statements only consider Israeli sensibilities. Greenblatt had said earlier there was “no truth” to Erekat’s accusation.
On three successive Fridays, Palestinians have gathered on the border with Israel, demanding passage to lands inside Israel they claim their ancestors owned and protesting Israel’s blockade of the strip, which they blame for the humanitarian crisis there. Israel blames Hamas, the terrorist group controlling the strip, saying that its continued arms buildup and digging of tunnels beneath the border require stringent Israeli control of the border areas. More than 30 Palestinians have been killed and hundreds injured in the protest.
Greenblatt has been working intensely for a year to revive the Middle East peace talks. The Palestinians backed away from the effort to revive the talks in December after President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Husam Zomlot, the Palestine Liberation Organization envoy to Washington, has since then been on a speaking tour explaining why the Jerusalem recognition drove the Palestinians away from the talks, most recently this week at the annual conference of J Street, the liberal Jewish Middle East lobby.
In his tweets, Greenblatt addressed Zomlot’s J Street speech, saying he agreed with aspects of it.
“Husam Zomlot put forth 2 important quotes this week: ‘Investing in the cause of peace is not by words but by deeds’ & ‘The future is not shaped by those who merely witness it; the future is shaped by those who author it,'” Greenblatt said. “I agree & we must work together to try to reach a peaceful future for Israelis & Palestinians.”
Greenblatt in his tweets once again said that the Palestinian Authority should control Gaza, which is currently controlled by the Hamas terrorist group.