The Cable

PLO official: Rick Perry is a "racist"

A top Palestine Liberation Organization official responded to Texas Gov. Rick Perry's scathing criticisms of the PLO on Tuesday by telling The Cable that Perry's comments were "discriminatory and racist."

Perry hosted a pro-Israel rally in New York on Tuesday morning, during which he repeatedly accused President Barack Obama of "appeasement" of the Palestinians and of bungling three years of Middle East diplomacy. He also called for the closing of the PLO mission in Washington, and the cutting off of U.S. aid to the Palestinian leadership as punishment for their drive to seek member-state status at the United Nations.

But the part of Perry's remarks that really angered the PLO's Washington representative, Maen Rashid Areikat, was when Perry said, "The Obama policy of moral equivalency, which gives equal standing to the grievances of Israelis and Palestinians, including the orchestrators of terrorism, is a very dangerous insult."

"I was appalled by what he said about ‘moral equivalence,' that there shouldn't be moral equivalence between Israelis and Palestinians. This amounts to taking a discriminatory and racist position," Areikat said in a Tuesday interview with The Cable.

"I thought the fundamental principles of the United States were to support people who are seeking freedom and liberty and justice and the Palestinian people are doing exactly that," Areikat continued. "To try to give the impression that there's no moral equivalence between the struggle of the Palestinians and the Israelis is really something that requires condemnation. It is really surprising and unacceptable."

Areikat also said that Perry had no authority to call for the closing of the PLO office in Washington, and that doing so would amount to cutting off the relationship between the United States and the Palestinian people.

"Is he really contemplating that the United States loses its leverage in an important region in the Middle East? If he wants to close down the PLO office in Washington he is calling on the United States to call off its relationship with the Palestinian people, who are a crucial player in this conflict. So is that something that is in the interest of the United States? I don't think so."

"I thought he was an expert on creating jobs. I didn't know he was an expert on Palestinian-Israeli affairs," Areikat quipped.

The Cable also asked Areikat for the latest on the behind-the-scenes efforts by the United States and other members of the Middle East Quartet to come up with a statement that would bring the Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table.

CNN reported today that U.S. and EU officials are discussing a plan by which Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas would deliver a letter to the U.N. Security Council seeking full Palestinian statehood, but not force a Security Council vote. The letter would be paired with a statement by the Quartet setting out the path forward for negotiations.

Areikat said the PLO was not involved in those discussions and would not be dissuaded from seeking a Security Council vote on its bid for full member-state status at the United Nations. He said the Palestinians still intend to submit their format request for full member-state status to the Security Council on Friday, and hope to have a vote on the issue "within a few days."

"We have made the decision to go to the U.N. Security Council, a decision made by the Palestinian leadership and announced last Friday by the President [Mahmoud Abbas]. And this is our position, we have made it clear this is what we are doing," he said.

Former Congressman Robert Wexler told The Cable today that the U.S. strategy at this point is to try to shift attention away from the U.N. Security Council and focus on what happens after this month's diplomacy, with an eye toward minimizing the damage and the fallout.

"The approach is to ratchet down the expectations and to create a sober follow-up process...and engaging the Israelis and Palestinians to make the day after a constructive day, rather than a destructive day," Wexler said. "I think in the 11th hour sober minds will prevail and a Quartet statement will emerge."

There are still a lot of possibilities about what could happen after the Palestinians file their letter with the Security Council and nothing is set in stone, he said. "The bottom line is it's still worth pursuing negotiations and diplomacy to either avoid the train wreck, or at least mitigate the damage it might cause."

"At some point, if the Palestinian leadership wishes to achieve its objective of a viable, demilitarized Palestinian state, then they will have to negotiate with the Israelis," Wexler said.

And like Areikat, Wexler wasn't happy with Perry's comments either. He told Politico today that Perry's idea to end security assistance to the Palestinians was careless and foolish.

"If we actually did what Governor Perry advocates, Hamas would benefit greatly and the Israeli people would pay in blood, as would the Palestinian people," he said. "I wonder if he read his own speech before he started talking."

Michael Nagle/Getty Images

The Cable

Hoss Cartwright joins CSIS

Retired Marine Corps Gen. James "Hoss" Cartwright, the former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has joined the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) as the first chair of a new program in defense policy studies.

"There is no one better suited than General Cartwright to serve as CSIS's inaugural Defense Policy Studies Chair," said CSIS counselor and trustee Harold Brown in a release. "General Cartwright has always put America's security first and I am delighted that he will continue to help shape policies and influence decisions to make us all safer and more secure." 

CSIS is led by former Deputy Secretary of Defense John Hamre, and former Sen. Sam Nunn is the chairman of the board of trustees. Other trustees include former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, former National Security Advisor Zbigniew K. Brzezinski, former Defense Secretary William Cohen, former National Security Advisor Jim Jones, and former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft.

Cartwright's new chair is named in honor of Harold Brown, who served as secretary of defense from 1977 until 1981 in President Jimmy Carter's administration. Like Brown, Cartwright built a reputation throughout his career for being critical of the Defense Department bureaucracy and pushing for policies that other high-level officials disagreed with. Cartwright's 2009 advocacy for a smaller surge in Afghanistan than that requested by his bosses, Adm. Mike Mullen and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, led to a falling out between him and the Pentagon leadership.

President Barack Obama had promised Cartwright a promotion to chairman of the Joint Chiefs, but later reneged when a whisper campaign against Cartwright -- reportedly coming from within the Pentagon -- made the choice politically difficult.

In an interview with The Cable just before leaving the Pentagon, Cartwright said that he had no regrets about his time at the Pentagon, and he rejected contentions that he broke the chain of command by working around Gates and Mullen.

"Well, you know, in someone's eyes, maybe I broke the chain of command. But from the standpoint of the law, no. And so I'm very comfortable with where I was," he said. "My advice wasn't always taken, but it always at least informed the debate, which was my measure of merit. That people were so strongly against it at times, well shoot ... these are big decisions."

"America will be forever indebted to General Cartwright for his many years of distinguished service," Hamre said in the release. "His thoughtful leadership, keen intellect, and his commitment to making the world a better place are of great value to CSIS."