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Congressman Keith Ellison to +972: ‘The U.S. may not be able to mediate this dispute’

Congressman Keith Ellison (D-MN) (photo: Ami Kaufman)

“It has occurred to me that maybe the U.S. is not capable of mediating this dispute,” Congressman Keith Ellison (D-MN) told +972 Magazine this week, in response to a question on the failure of Israelis and Palestinians to reach a comprehensive peace deal after 20 years of U.S. mediated talks.

“It’s hard to mediate something when you say you’re on the side of one of the participants. But the facts are we’re actually also on the Palestinian side,” added Ellison, the first Muslim to be elected to U.S. Congress. “I don’t believe that America is a neutral broker, but I think it’s the best we’ve got. The problem is that there aren’t too many countries that are willing to step up to the plate. If Britain, France, Germany want to get in this, they can. I don’t think anyone is pushing them out of helping them solve this problem… [Furthermore] this conflict has a lot of American interest, because there are many Israelis with family roots in America.”

As he sat on his desk next to an open Qur’an, Congressman Ellison told of the high hopes he has for the latest round of talks and for Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent efforts to negotiate a deal. “I think that this latest round is good for pragmatic reasons: they got both sides to agree that for nine months – ‘let’s go at it’. I think you’ll agree that it was a big deal for Israelis when those 104 prisoners were to be released. Because some of those people had killed folks. But for the Palestinians this was also a big deal. These are people who were willing to risk it all for the sake of a Palestinian state,” says Ellison.

When asked about the fact that even during peace talks Israel continues to build in the West Bank, Ellison maintains that even though America disagrees with this policy, there is nothing it can do about it. “Do we have the power to stop it? I don’t believe that we do. Israel is a sovereign country that does what it wants. I don’t believe that Israel is a client state of the United States. Israel does as it pleases even when America disapproves. Look at the annexation of East Jerusalem. We still don’t put our embassy there because we don’t agree with that. We don’t recognize East Jerusalem as Israel. But I do believe that these settlements are ruining any chance for two states,” says Ellison.

“There are a number of differences of opinion,” he adds. “For example, Israel probably wanted us to hit Iran, but we were just not going to do that, because that would be a real problem.”

Ellison also draws hope from comparing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to others that have been solved and that are “much older than this one.” He also mentions the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative as an example of willingness on the Arab side to reach a compromise. When confronted with the fact that Israel has yet to reply to that initiative, Ellison responded: “Well, I don’t believe Israel has to reply.”

His only skepticism comes when identifying the forces in play that he believes are interested in obstructing the process. “The problem is not the people at the table. The problem is the people sitting behind the people at the table. Those people are always accusing the people at the table of selling out,” he concluded.

Related:
Dan Rather to +972: U.S. reporting on conflict is Israel-centric

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  • COMMENTS

    1. aristeides

      Gee, I wonder why people would accuse others of selling out? Maybe if Congress, including Ellison and the rest of the black caucus, would stop selling out to Israel, there might be some progress towards peace.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Jonny

      “Do we have the power to stop it?”

      I believe the US has about $3 billion a year’s worth of leverage. Also the fact that the US vetoed a UN resolution on settlements that was a copy of stated US policy is an indication that the US has the power but refuses to use it.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Danny

      “Do we have the power to stop it? I don’t believe that we do. Israel is a sovereign country that does what it wants. I don’t believe that Israel is a client state of the United States.”

      I don’t know if I should laugh or cry. I think I’ll laugh because Ellison is being so overtly disingenuous with this statement that it borders on comedy. He knows full well that Israel is NOT a sovereign country because if it wasn’t for American money, weapons and UN security council vetoes, Israel would not exist for very long. Israel owes its sovereignty to U.S. support, and if the U.S. wanted to get Israel to do something, it could easily go about it by reminding Israel of that fact.

      My guess is that if a Republican was sitting in the White House now, Ellison would be singing a totally different tune.

      Reply to Comment
    4. The previous 3 comments have said most that needs to be said. I’d add, though, that the USA could push things along gently by urging the EU to step up trade boycotts (BDS) — even poerhaps on all Israeli goods and services — rather than (as Kerry seems to hyave done) urging EU to suspend its oh-so-mild boycott of Israelis doing business in the OPTs.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Richard Witty

      From the same interview, you could have accurately stated the headline:

      “US Mediation, the best of any in the world”.

      Reply to Comment
      • Can’t wait for the next Richard Witty headline critique! Seems to be your latest hobby.

        Reply to Comment
    6. Richard Witty

      It is how you frame what you want your readers to see.

      That choice is an important one.

      Keith Ellison did say “nothing is perfect, not even close, but the US is the best that anyone is doing now.”

      Deserves thanks, not condemnation.

      Reply to Comment
      • Thanks for the journalism lessons! Don’t know how I got through 15 years in MSM without you Richard!

        Reply to Comment
    7. Richard Witty

      I am a citizen expressing my opinion.

      It scares me when I read in the Washington Post a headline that seems to differ from the content. It scares me when I read in 972 a headline that seems to differ from the content.

      Not you.

      Do you like the headlines in the JP or Yediot?

      I am the treasurer for a not-for-profit newspaper currently, mostly on the business side with no influence or intention to influence editorial decisions.

      At the same time, I am very proud of the way we form our headlines. We are serving a more general public than 972.

      But, I think that should be an open question at 972 as well, of how you want your journalism to serve, of whether you want a small tent or a large tent.

      I’m sure that you’ve discussed that.

      I can tell you that your tent is increasing in numbers as criticism of Zionism is more widespread with generational change.

      But, that the range of perspectives that are reading 972 is not widening.

      And, it needs to if you want any substantive social change to occur.

      Reply to Comment
      • My headline is fine Richard. This will be my last comment on the issue.

        Reply to Comment
    8. Richard

      Congressman Ellison once said “Osama Bin Laden no more represents Islam than Timothy McVeigh represents Christianity.” That’s weird, because, I remember seeing pictures of UBL on sale in Tahrir Square not too long ago, but haven’t seen any McVeigh trinkets in the States so far.

      Reply to Comment
    9. Richard Witty

      For me the headline was successful in grabbing my interest to read further.

      I was genuinely surprised to read that Congressman Ellison was not fundamentally critical of either Obama’s policies, or US role in the world.

      I believe that he was slated to vote for the Syrian military authorization, which also surprised me.

      You are taking offense at inquiry. There was not condemnation of your headline.

      Reply to Comment
    10. David

      The only occupiers are the Arabs who are squatting on Jewish land. If they are that unhappy, why aren’t they leaving for Jordan or Turkey as Syrians and Iraqis have?

      Reply to Comment
    11. Elvis B. Love

      Sensitive much, Kaufman?

      Reply to Comment
      • Who’s asking?

        Reply to Comment

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