By Natasha Mozgovaya
The American Task Force on Palestine (ATFP) had been a key link between the Palestinian leadership and the U.S. administration in recent years, especially due to the lobby’s moderate political stance, and as a result of the friendship between the lobby’s head, Dr. Ziad J. Asali, and Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.
However, the sound relationship between the PA and the ATFP began fraying over efforts by the head of the Palestinian delegation to the U.S., Ma’an Erekat, to distance the pro-Palestinian lobby.
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad
Those tensions increased dramatically, additionally, over the Palestinian bid for statehood at the UN late last month, a move Asali openly criticized for its potential to mire relations with U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration.
While the ATFP’s official stance was neutral, the lobby’s head published an article critical of the Palestinian move in the UN; ATFP director general Ghaith al-Omri, speaking to Haaretz at the time, said the statehood bid could lead to violent riots in the West Bank, adding that it was up to the PA to manage the expectations they raised among Palestinians.
The ATFP was severely criticized by Palestinian activists for their view on the PA move, with some saying that the lobby lost its reason for existence.
Referring to the growing rift with the U.S. lobby, Palestinian journalist Daud Kutab wrote that the Palestinian diaspora had become both a blessing and a curse for the Palestinian cause, adding that, in some places, some members of the disapora were “hostages of local politics,” acting as “representatives of their local governments and not of the Palestinians.”
On Thursday, the Politico website revealed that uneasy relations between the PA and the ATFP reached a new low, after Ma’an Erekat informed the pro-Palestinian lobby that the Palestinian leadership was severing ties with the group over what he called their lack of support for the Palestinian bid at the UN.
According to some Palestinian sources, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is the one who asked the PLO representative to sever ties with ATFP.
However, as the dust settles over this latest crisis, it seems that the person in the most uncomfortable position is Fayyad, who had already approved his participation in the ATFP’s annual gala evening, expected to take place in Washington next week.
The event is usually attended by prominent members of the Palestinian immigrant community, Arab diplomats, U.S. officials, as well as several prominent members of the Jewish community. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was the keynote speaker in last year’s event.
See Related: Palestinian Statehood Bid Archive