Jason Greenblatt
Jason GreenblattReuters

Jason Greenblatt, the US Representative for International Negotiations, responded on Wednesday to claims by Palestinian Authority (PA) “prime minister” Mohammad Shtayyeh, who said the PA is on the verge of collapsing.

“PM Shtayyeh is wrong, the PA isn't ‘in a collapsing situation,’ the PA caused the situation. Time for the PA to step-up & take responsibility for their people & the economy. The PA can't continue to blame the US & everyone else for a situation they caused,” tweeted Greenblatt.

Shtayyeh made the comments in an interview with The New York Times, claiming the PA is staring at what could be its own demise, blaming mainly the Israeli government’s decision to offset the PA’s payments to terrorists from the tax money it collects on behalf of the PA.

In response to the Israeli decision, the PA announced it would not take the partial sum of the funds from Israel, and PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas later reiterated that he would not accept partial payment of tax transfers owed by Israel nor would he end the financial support for the families of terrorists imprisoned in Israel or eliminated while carrying out attacks.

Shtayyeh also attacked as “blackmail” the Trump administration’s yet to be unveiled peace plan. The US will lay out the economic component of its Middle East peace plan on June 25 and 26 in Bahrain.

The PA cabinet leader blasted the Trump administration for talking of improving the PA economy after it had eliminated hundreds of millions of dollars in United States aid to projects in both Judea and Samaria and Gaza, to the UN agency for “Palestinian refugees” (UNRWA), and to hospitals in eastern Jerusalem.

“These same people are the ones who have been working on the drying up of the financial resources of the Palestinian Authority,” he told The New York Times.

Shtayyeh claimed that the Bahrain workshop was doomed to go the way of other attempts to promote an “economic peace” or improve Palestinians’ quality of life, from the Reagan era to the Obama administration. “Nothing has materialized,” he said. “And now this Bahrain conference. It will be born dead. Nothing will come out of it.”

So far, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have agreed to attend the Bahrain conference, and Qatar reportedly plans to as well. Shtayyeh suggested that others who agree to participate might do so only because of American coercion.

“We hope that Arabs don’t go,” he told The New York Times. “Now, we know also that there are countries who are under serious pressure. Some can afford the pressure, and some cannot afford the pressure.”

Asked why the PA did not defy expectations and attend the Bahrain conference, if only to disprove Israeli and American critics who call them rejectionist, Shtayyeh claimed the PA was not invited, while arguing that to participate in any part of the Trump process would be to fall into a trap.

“We know the political agenda,” he said. “They are saying no to refugees. They are saying no to Jerusalem. They are saying no to two states. They are not respecting ’67 borders. And if this economic track is part of the overall package, what are we accepting? If we are there, people will use our presence there to capitalize on that.”

“The United States is doing a very dangerous thing,” continued Shtayyeh. “We and the Israelis have agreed that Jerusalem is a negotiation issue. Now the United States is taking it off the table…The Americans didn’t even make one single statement against these settlements, and they are saying they are there to stay.”

“We are not rejectionist,” he said. “Our problem is that we know. There are so many people who are blind, but we know — we know where they are taking us. I will tell you, this American design of this blackmail strategy, it will never yield. There are people who think, in Washington, unfortunately, that Palestinians have to be defeated, so they surrender, so they accept.”