Sidelining Hanan Ashrawi is another blow to peace

Having devoted her career to achieving an equitable solution for her people, her US visa refusal is deeply disappointing

(FILES) In this file photo taken on February 24, 2015 Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) executive committee member Hanan Ashrawi speaks during a press conference in Ramallah. The senior Palestinian official has been refused a visa for the United States, she said on May 13, 2019, amid worsening relations between the two sides. Ashrawi, a longtime aide to Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, announced on Twitter she had been turned down without being given a justification.
 / AFP / Abbas MOMANI
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On Monday, senior Palestinian negotiator Hanan Ashrawi announced via Twitter that she had been denied a visa to visit the United States. As a longtime member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation's executive committee, she went on to explain, she has met every single US secretary of state since George Shultz took office in 1982, and every US president since George H W Bush, who was first elected in 1981. With her daughter and grandchildren living in Washington DC, Mrs Ashrawi also has family ties to the US.

Having devoted her career to achieving a peaceful and equitable solution to the plight of her people, it is deeply disappointing that she should be treated in such a way. However, it is not surprising.

Mrs Ashrawi is a staunch opponent of the Trump administration, whose policies have had gravely detrimental effects on Palestinians. Last year, the US chose to relocate its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Shortly after, it slashed $200 million in aid to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees. Then, in March, it recognised the occupied Golan Heights as Israeli, sparking concerns that the West Bank, Eastern Jerusalem and Gaza could soon face the same fate.

In February US envoy to the Palestinian-Israeli peace process Jason Greenblatt tweeted: "Dr Ashrawi – my door is always open to the Palestinian Authority and Palestinians to speak." That door has now been slammed shut. "This is part of a pattern", Mrs Ashrawi told The National. "There is no logical reason why they should deny me a visa".

Since Mr Trump took office, US policies have consistently favoured Israel and ignored the rights of Palestinians. Against this backdrop, the Palestinian Authority now refuses to enter into dialogue with the White House and has already dismissed its as-yet-unrevealed Middle East peace plan. As a result, the perfect environment now exists for militant groups to present themselves as Palestine’s only hope for the future. Sidelining high-calibre diplomats such as Mrs Ashrawi can only make matters even worse.