© 2024 WXPR
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Palestinian Ambassador To The U.S. Discusses New U.S. Embassy In Jerusalem


Well, let's bring in the voice of Husam Zomlot. He is the Palestinian ambassador to the U.S. here in Washington, and a key adviser to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. And he's here in our studios today. Husam Zomlot, thanks for coming in.

HUSAM ZOMLOT: Thank you, Mary Louise.

KELLY: I want to ask what went through your mind as you watched the events in Jerusalem unfold this morning and that plaque being unveiled at the new U.S. embassy there?

ZOMLOT: Could not be worse. It simply could not be worse. The act itself of moving the embassy is an act that goes against the U.S. role as a peacemaker, an act that simply recognizes a legality - the legality of the seizure of land by force and military occupation.

KELLY: Although practically speaking, does much change for Palestinians today? There already was significant U.S. business in a consulate in Jerusalem.

ZOMLOT: Of course, but that consulate was serving the Palestinian people. That consulate was representing America to Palestinians. And...

KELLY: You feel that's no longer the case, as of today?

ZOMLOT: We feel that America has reneged on its own legal commitments, reneged on international law. There was a U.N. Security Council resolution that stipulated clearly that no country should move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem until a final status agreement. And the U.S. voted for that resolution, so the U.S. was supposed to be the leader and the champion of peace and democracy.

And to see today that more - tens of people lost their lives being shot by the Israeli military forces, and then the leader of the free world is not even saying a word. This is not a good day for America, nor for the rest of the world.

KELLY: You and I have spoken before. I interviewed you that day back in December when President Trump said he was going to do this - made this announcement that the embassy would move, and you were skeptical about the role that the U.S. could play as mediator going forward. Where do you land today?

ZOMLOT: More skeptical, simply because the role of the mediator requires one more important thing, which is being neutral and having a vision and the framework. And we no longer know - what is the U.S. vision? The Trump administration did not announce its support of the two-state solution.

KELLY: President Trump did weigh in, though, today with a video message. It was played at the embassy ceremony, in which he said the U.S. remains committed to trying to bring peace to the Middle East.

NPR, today, interviewed the U.S. ambassador to Israel, who talked about the peace proposal that the Trump administration has been working on and that that remains an active mission within the Trump administration.

ZOMLOT: Well, this is rhetorical, and peace sounds nice and sounds good to say. But in effect, the act today was a blow to any prospects for peace. Jerusalem is at the very heart of any peaceful agreement. President Trump has gave up the two-state solution and gave in to the extremist fanatics in Israel. And...

KELLY: To be clear, when we interviewed the U.S. ambassador this morning on NPR, he said the U.S. would be open - would be happy with a two-state solution if that is what Israelis and Palestinians on the ground decide.

ZOMLOT: The word if means that they give it to the Israeli prime minister and the government. And the Israeli government is very clear. They are not interested in a two-state solution. They're interested in the colonization of whatever is left of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

KELLY: So what is the next move for Palestinians? It's very clear you're not happy with what has unfolded today, but it's the reality now. It's happened. Where do you go from here?

ZOMLOT: Well, we will continue our march towards our rights. Our rights are enshrined in international law.

KELLY: But, I mean, when you say you will continue your march, what does that mean?

ZOMLOT: It means that our mass-peaceful protest, as is happening today, and it means that Israel must respect international law and universal values. It has ransacked our humanity today by shooting peaceful civilians, killing dozens and dozens and injuring thousands. And...

KELLY: You're referring to violence in Gaza today.

ZOMLOT: Yes...

KELLY: The Israeli army fired and killed dozens of Palestinian protesters.

ZOMLOT: ...In Gaza and Jerusalem and in the West Bank - not only in Gaza. We will continue these peaceful protests, and we will also continue working with our international partners to adhere to international standards and to implement international resolutions.

KELLY: Some of those protesters have been throwing stones. There are questions about whether they have been entirely peaceful. But let me ask you, is the message from the Palestinian leadership that they should be - that these protests must be in a peaceful vein?

ZOMLOT: People everywhere, be it in Palestine, in America or elsewhere, have the right to peaceful protest. And they - you do not simply open fire on mass numbers of people, killing children. Up until I got here, there were six children shot in the head - children. So, of course, Israel has a responsibility. And Israel has been made above the law for all these years, and there is no accountability. It's about time that there are consequences to this.

KELLY: You and I sit here on a day of very dramatic developments, whatever your views on the path forward for the Middle East - pomp and ceremony in Jerusalem, dozens being shot and killed in Gaza.

Are you hopeful, I mean, personally hopeful that five years, 10 years from now, you and I might be sitting here having a really different conversation about a Middle East that is more at peace than it is now?

ZOMLOT: I am. I am very hopeful, you know?


ZOMLOT: And I have - because I have a photo in my office of a few Palestinian children, girls and boys, carrying the flag of Palestine and running joyfully, smiling, almost in a playful mood - innocent mood.

But that photo reminds me that, you know, tanks and F-16s and armies that Israel has thanks to the U.S. assistance can sustain the situation this much, but it cannot win against the nation. You cannot defeat mothers and grandfathers and taxi drivers and lawyers. You can't.

And the Palestinian people have been - really have lost many battles, but they have not lost the war. And I believe that we will win the war because this war is just about very logical rights. And this nation is so clenching in its rights for all these years.

There has been so many massacres. I don't want to quote how many massacres, including today's massacre in Gaza. But the people of Palestine did not stop the march. The idea that we will give up our rights is simply unrealistic.

KELLY: Let me press you one more time then to be specific on what Palestinians' next move will be to move us away from the current situation and toward a more positive future. Specifically, what's your next move?

ZOMLOT: I think our next move should be one word, multilateralism, because we have tried bilateralism for a long time. Israel was not interested.

KELLY: So you're saying, from where you sit, the model of a U.S. mediator bringing Israelis and Palestinians to the table is gone?

ZOMLOT: It's over. It's over.

KELLY: It needs to be more multilateral, more countries involved.

ZOMLOT: It's over. Today was not about peace or about law. Today was not about the U.S. status. All that is gone. Today was only about few ideological fanatics who only see a zero-sum, who only think the Palestinian people can vanish. So the solution is multilateralism, internationalism. You'll see much more action in our side towards empowering and respecting internationalism.

KELLY: That is Husam Zomlot, Palestinian ambassador to the U.S. here in Washington. Thanks so much. One of many voices we're hearing from tonight as our Mideast coverage continues.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Up North Updates
* indicates required