NPR / January 31, 2021
As the Biden Administration renews diplomatic relations between the U.S. and the Palestinians, NPR’s Lulu Garcia-Navarro speaks with Riyad Mansour, Palestinian Ambassador to the United Nations.
LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
U.S. policy in the Middle East is taking another sharp turn. Last week, the Biden administration said it would resume diplomatic relations with Palestinian leaders and restore contributions to a U.N. agency which provides aid to the Palestinians. The new administration also emphasized U.S. commitment to the, quote, “two-state solution,” which envisions a sovereign and separate Palestine and Israel. It is a rejection of the heavily pro-Israeli approach of the Trump administration. But after four years of being frozen out, what’s the state of Palestinian attitudes towards the U.S.? Riyad Mansour is the Palestinian ambassador to the United Nations, and he joins us now. Welcome to the program, sir.
RIYAD MANSOUR: Thank you very much for having me.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Ambassador Mansour, under President Trump, the U.S. recognized Israel’s claim to Jerusalem as its capital, moved its embassy to Jerusalem, a city the Palestinians also claim as their capital. The U.S. also presented a peace proposal that left Israeli settlements in the West Bank in place. In your view, where have those policies left the Palestinians?
MANSOUR: Those policies created so much damage to the aspirations of the Palestinian people to actualize their inalienable rights to self-determination, independence of their state. And the Trump administration tried over the years to convince the international community, including in the Security Council, to abandon the global consensus based on international law to the vision of President Trump. Luckily, the international community rejected that and supported the global consensus on how to resolve this issue.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Well, the new secretary of state, Antony Blinken, says the U.S. will not move the embassy back to Tel Aviv from Jerusalem, and the Biden administration does recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Several Arab countries now have relationships with Israel also, and Palestinians were not part of those negotiations. Is the Palestinian position weaker now? I mean, there have been substantial shifts that do not look like they will be rolled back.
MANSOUR: Well, you see, the new administration said many things, and they said they are still committed to the two-state solution. And they also said progress must be based on consultation with both sides and their consent.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Do you see the issue of Jerusalem as something that is now a fait accompli? I mean, with not only the United States but several other countries moving their embassies to Jerusalem, does that not make it more difficult?
MANSOUR: It makes things difficult, and it’s complicated. We are honouring and respecting international law and Security Council resolutions. It is also that Jerusalem is one of the issues for final status negotiations. In addition to all these things, the Biden administration said that they want to re-establish diplomatic relations with the Palestinian leadership and their people. Our understanding – that doesn’t mean only having our office reopened in Washington, D.C., but also reopening the United States consulate in East Jerusalem, which deals directly with the Palestinian people and reports directly to the state department. But we need, through diplomatic channels, to discuss all these issues and to propose certain steps that could be taken while we are moving forward in the direction of opening doors for peace.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Do you feel more optimistic now, with this new administration, that negotiations will restart, and the claims of the Palestinian people will be fully looked at by the United States in a way that, perhaps, they were not in the last four years?
MANSOUR: Definitely, you know, we hope, and we expect that these four years ahead of us will definitely be different than the four years behind us. But we also realize that there are so many big issues on the plate of the Biden administration that require some time. But that means that we should engage, through a quiet diplomacy, to raise all the questions that we should raise and try to find answers to them collectively in preparation for more of an active engagement with all of our partners in order to have a collective approach, not only an approach in which one party to be the shepherd of the process. And these are encouraging signals that would allow us to learn from the lessons of the past and to avoid the mistakes of the past and to move forward in a creative, different way.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: That is Riyad Mansour, Palestinian ambassador to the United Nations. Thank you very much.
MANSOUR: You’re very welcome. Thank you for having me.
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