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Mustafa Barghouti: Trump Pick for Ambassador to Israel Giving the Green Light to Israeli Extremists

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As President-elect Donald Trump picks David Friedman to be the next U.S. ambassador to Israel, we look at President Obama’s record dealing with the Israel-Palestine crisis. We speak to Mustafa Barghouti, leader of the Palestinian National Initiative and a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Mustafa Barghouti, if you could talk about what this means for U.S. policy towards Israel, which goes to what was President Obama’s—I mean, he’s still in office for a few more weeks—policy towards Israel and what it’s accomplished, and what you’re concerned about or hoping will happen in the next presidential term?

MUSTAFA BARGHOUTI: Well, to be frank with you, unfortunately, both Mrs. Clinton and Trump were totally biased to Israel. And Mr. Obama also, in practice, was biased to Israel. Unfortunately, one of the gravest mistakes that were made in the world and in the Middle East was that President Obama, whom we had very big hopes in when he was elected, did not fulfill his promise of demanding and pushing for complete and total freeze of settlement activities, that he promised in his speech in Cairo in his first year in the White House. The fact that he retreated, under Netanyahu’s pressure and Israeli pressure, has caused a big harm in the Middle East and to the Palestinian-Israel issues. And in my opinion, Mr. Trump is no different, of course: He’s coming biased to Israel.

But now we are facing a much more dangerous path. We are facing a situation where such appointments like the appointment of Mr. Friedman, like the talk of some aides of Mr. Trump that settlements are not—do not represent an obstacle to peace, and the fact that he’s talking and his aides are talking about moving the embassy to Jerusalem are all perceived as a green light by Israeli extremist and racist groups, including racist ministers in the Israeli government, like Naftali Bennett and others, to advocate the annexation of the West Bank, the killing of the two-state solution, the destruction of the possibility of peace in the region. That’s why this is totally irresponsible. When you appoint a person like Mr. Friedman, who is participating, who had participated already, in the crime of supporting settlements with his money and his support, he is practically a participant in the crime or violation of international law. This would mean that they are sending a very negative message that the United States cannot even play a partial role, neither in the Quartet or in the so-called peace process or anything like that. This is very risky and very dangerous. And I am sure it will represent also a threat to the American interest itself, because so many countries in the world will take notice of what’s happening. And if the United States prefers this course, it would be hurting the interests of the American people themselves.

I want to relate to what you have just said about the support of Palestinians in American camps. Of course, we see very powerful, strong campaigns of people in solidarity, not only with Palestinians, but with the cause of justice and freedom in Palestine. And they are supporting the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions campaign, the BDS, and others. And it shows a shift and a change in the public opinion in the United States, because people realize the reality that Israel is an occupier. It has held the longest occupation in modern history, for more than 50 years. And it has created a system of apartheid, which they cannot accept. But all in all, I think if I was a Jewish person, if I was an American Jewish person, I would worry very much about those people, who are extremists, racists and not only populists, but they also use a fascist approach to presenting their policies. These people can become anti-Semitic also. They will be anti-Semitic not only against Palestinians, but also against Jewish people themselves. And that is a very dangerous course that one has to be very careful about.

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