An interview with Husam Zomlot, the Palestinian Authority ambassador to Washington.
“You didn’t take Jerusalem off the table. You took the table altogether.”
Husam Zomlot is the Palestinian front man in Washington. Born in a Gaza refugee camp, he has a doctorate in economics from the University of London and was a research fellow at Harvard’s Belfer Center. Now in his mid-forties, he represents a new generation of Palestinian politicians.
Last spring, he arrived in the United States on a wave of optimism that President Trump would reinvigorate peace negotiations, led by his adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Zomlot had unusual diplomatic access to Kushner and others in the White House.
But relations between the United States and the Palestinian Authority plummeted to their lowest point in a quarter century — since the historic Oslo Accord, in 1993 — after Trump’s decision, on December 6th, to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the U.S. Embassy there.
The announcement enraged the octogenarian Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, who declared that Washington was no longer an honest broker of peace. Abbas is refusing to see Vice-President Mike Pence during his visit to Israel on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday.
On the eve of Pence’s trip, Zomlot reflected on the state of diplomacy. The interview has been edited and condensed for length.
After Abbas’s speech, what is the state of the peace process?
He did not say that “I don’t want negotiations.” He said, “I want negotiations, I want it now. But the table should not be an American table only.” We will not go back to the old business that allowed the U.S. to be the sole arbitrator and sole mediator for twenty-six years. The sixth of December [was] a reversal, a walking back, a reneging from a very clear promise. Therefore, that game is no longer possible.
You didn’t take Jerusalem off the table. You took the table altogether. No one, no Palestinian, would ever be able to sit on that table. Good luck!