Palestinian leaders have condemned senior US officials for blaming Hamas for the suffering of Gaza’s population and presenting an argument which entirely excludes Israel’s position as the occupier.
In an opinion piece published by The Washington Post on Friday, the two US officials in charge of Washington’s Middle East policy – Jared Kushner, who is US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, and Jason Greenblatt – along with David Freedman, the ambassador to Israel, blamed Hamas for the poverty and unemployment in Gaza over the past 70 years, attributing it to “corrupt and hateful leadership”.
“Despite the billions of dollars invested for the benefit of Palestinians in Gaza over the past 70 years, 53 percent of the people there live below the poverty level, and the unemployment rate is a crippling 49 percent,” the article, titled Help is at hand for Palestinians, it’s all up to Hamas, read.
“The Palestinians of Gaza are stuck in a vicious cycle where corrupt and hateful leadership has provoked conflicts leading to reduced opportunities and the poverty and hopelessness that follow,” it added.
In response, officials in the besieged Gaza Strip said on Friday that the US had lost its regional credibility and prestige for ignoring Arab and Palestinian positions and blindly following Israeli ones.
Palestinians also pointed out that blaming solely Hamas – which has governed Gaza since 2007 – for the besieged territory’s problems while absolving Israel of its role in perpetuating the suffering of the people of Gaza is “disingenuous”.
“Greenblatt and Kushner were mere spokespersons for the Israeli occupation,” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri wrote on Twitter, blasting the US officials for their support for Israel.
He added that their statements in the opinion piece showed “how shallow this American administration is”.
In an earlier post on Twitter, Abu Zuhri called Greenblatt a “liar” for previously blaming Hamas for destroying Gaza’s electrical grid, which he said was destroyed by the Israeli army.
While currently under a 12-year Israeli-Egyptian land, sea and air blockade, which has reduced its economy to a state of collapse, the Gaza Strip was under direct Israeli military occupation from 1967 until 2005.
Before that, the coastal territory was controlled by Egypt, which ruled it by a military decree from 1948 until the Israeli occupation in 1967.
Over two million Palestinians are packed into the Gaza Strip, often referred to as “the world’s largest open-air prison”.
Although Hamas, Israel and the US have established indirect communication channels through Qatari and Egyptian officials, mainly to pass messages and ideas about Washington’s plans for Gaza, it remains unclear if the current political and military standoff between Hamas and Israel can be resolved any time soon.
Hamas officials said previous overtures made by Greenblatt and Kushner to the group through Arab mediators only focused on economic issues and never discussed a wider solution that would culminate in ending the Israeli occupation or meeting the Palestinians’ demand to establish an independent state.
Amid rising tensions, Israeli forces on Friday killed four Palestinians, including three Hamas members, and wounded more than 120 people taking part in weeks-long protests along the fence with Israel, according to health officials in Gaza.
The Israeli army said one of its soldiers was also killed after gunfire near the fence.
“Peace will provide opportunity to break this stalemate, and peace will be achieved only by embracing reality and dismissing a flawed ideology. Life could significantly improve in short order for the Palestinian people if Hamas allowed it,” the US officials said in the Washington Post piece.
A former senior American official, however, said he does not see a solution on the horizon given the wide gulf between the positions of Hamas and Israel.
“It’s not illogical to focus on ending the war between Israel and Hamas. The problem is there is little chance that either side can find a mutually acceptable formula to do so,” former assistant US secretary of state PJ Crowley told Al Jazeera.
“The existing politics on both sides precludes making any significant concessions,” he added.
Palestinian officials in Ramallah also blamed the American officials for “acting as if they were Israeli spokespeople”, which they said has hurt the US standing and credibility in the region, especially among the Palestinians.
“This American administration’s blind support for Israeli policies will end up [with] no one in the region taking it seriously,” said Wasel Abu Yousef, a Ramallah-based official with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).
Kushner and Greenblatt have been tasked with reviving the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process. They are expected to present a plan about what Trump has referred to as the “deal of the century”.
Yet, Abu Yousef said the current US thinking regarding the Palestinian-Israeli conflict has no chance of succeeding.
He added that Hamas is part of the Palestinian people, and the US must first try to end the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Jerusalem, as well as the blockade of Gaza which would help bring peace and prosperity to the region.
“No one in the Arab world will accept the American plans which stipulate that the Palestinians must give up Jerusalem and agree to whatever Israel dictates,” he said.
Follow Ali Younes on Twitter: @ali_reports