Saeb Erekat’s Life Was Dedicated to Preventing Peace

Nov. 16 2020

Saeb Erekat, who served as one of the PLO’s leading negotiators from the 1991 Madrid peace conference through the talks between Mahmoud Abbas and Ehud Olmert in 2007-8, and remained one of the group’s most prominent spokesmen, died last week of complications related to COVID-19. In an article for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, seven American former foreign-policy poohbahs—including the would-be peacemaker Dennis Ross and the Obama-administration Middle East adviser Robert Malley—joined together to eulogize Erekat, writing that he “deeply believed in dialogue and reconciliation with Israelis, eschewed violence, and lived his life accordingly.”

Sarah N. Stern offers a contrary perspective:

In 2008, Erekat was again [the] lead negotiator for Abbas when the negotiations fell through with Olmert, who made the Palestinians an offer that included unprecedented concessions, including in the West Bank and in eastern Jerusalem, where Olmert proposed placing some of the most sensitive holy sites under international control. He described the offer to give up Israeli control of the Old City as “the hardest day of his life.” All of those exceedingly generous offers were turned down.

When it came to the Trump administration’s “Peace to Prosperity Plan,” which set up a specific map delineating the borders of a two-state solution, Abbas was counseled by Erekat not even to meet with the U.S. representatives Jared Kushner, Jason Greenblatt, or David Friedman to discuss it, despite the fact that the [plan] called for an independent Palestinian state, and would have pumped $50 billion into the Palestinian economy.

After the plan’s introduction in January, there was an uptick in violence. Erekat linked the violence directly to Trump’s plan, saying, “Those who introduce plans for annexation and apartheid and the legalization of occupation and settlements are the ones who bear full responsibility for deepening the cycle of violence and extremism.”

And there you have it: a “man of peace” and skilled negotiator who considered a generous proposal a justification for murderous terrorism.

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Ehud Olmert, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Peace Process, Saeb Erekat


Leaked Emails Point to an Iranian Influence Operation That Reaches into the U.S. Government

Sept. 27 2023

As the negotiations leading up to the 2015 nuclear deal began in earnest, Tehran launched a major effort to cultivate support abroad for its positions, according to a report by Jay Solomon:

In the spring of 2014, senior Iranian Foreign Ministry officials initiated a quiet effort to bolster Tehran’s image and positions on global security issues—particularly its nuclear program—by building ties with a network of influential overseas academics and researchers. They called it the Iran Experts Initiative. The scope and scale of the IEI project has emerged in a large cache of Iranian government correspondence and emails.

The officials, working under the moderate President Hassan Rouhani, congratulated themselves on the impact of the initiative: at least three of the people on the Foreign Ministry’s list were, or became, top aides to Robert Malley, the Biden administration’s special envoy on Iran, who was placed on leave this June following the suspension of his security clearance.

In March of that year, writes Solomon, one of these officials reported that “he had gained support for the IEI from two young academics—Ariane Tabatabai and Dina Esfandiary—following a meeting with them in Prague.” And here the story becomes particularly worrisome:

Tabatabai currently serves in the Pentagon as the chief of staff for the assistant secretary of defense for special operations, a position that requires a U.S. government security clearance. She previously served as a diplomat on Malley’s Iran nuclear negotiating team after the Biden administration took office in 2021. Esfandiary is a senior advisor on the Middle East and North Africa at the International Crisis Group, a think tank that Malley headed from 2018 to 2021.

Tabatabai . . . on at least two occasions checked in with Iran’s Foreign Ministry before attending policy events, according to the emails. She wrote to Mostafa Zahrani, [an Iranian scholar in close contact with the Foreign Ministry and involved in the IEI], in Farsi on June 27, 2014, to say she’d met Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal—a former ambassador to the U.S.—who expressed interest in working together and invited her to Saudi Arabia. She also said she’d been invited to attend a workshop on Iran’s nuclear program at Ben-Gurion University in Israel. . . .

Elissa Jobson, Crisis Group’s chief of advocacy, said the IEI was an “informal platform” that gave researchers from different organizations an opportunity to meet with IPIS and Iranian officials, and that it was supported financially by European institutions and one European government. She declined to name them.

Read more at Semafor

More about: Iran nuclear deal, U.S. Foreign policy