PALESTINIAN Authority President Mahmoud Abbas took to the international stage on Tuesday to call for a conference to advance peace efforts amid a falling out between the Palestinians and the Trump administration.
“We call for the convening of an international peace conference in mid-2018, based on international law and relevant UN resolutions, with broad international participation including the two concerned parties, and the regional and international stakeholders,” Abbas said in a 30-minute-long speech to the UN Security Council.
Abbas’s speech comes amid ongoing tensions between the Palestinians and Washington that stem from President Donald Trump’s announcement in early December that the United States will recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move its embassy there from Tel Aviv.
As a result of the move, Abbas has said he no longer considers the United States to be an “honest broker” and has called for an alternative to the US-led process.
“It has become impossible today for one country or state alone to solve a regional or international conflict,” he said. “It is essential to establish a multilateral international mechanism emanating from an international conference.”
The PA leader also took aim at the Trump administration’s threats to cut off aid to the Palestinians. He additionally cited the administration’s decision to slash funding for UNRWA, while criticising Trump for threatening to shutter the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s offices in Washington.
He added that Palestinians would step up efforts for full membership at the United Nations.
“We will come to this council. We were rejected last time,” stated Abbas. But “we will come again and call for” full membership.
Following his remarks, Abbas quickly left the chamber and did not stay for follow-up remarks by the US and Israeli delegations.
“I’m sorry that he declined to stay in the chamber to hear remarks of others,” said Nikki Haley, US ambassador to the United Nations.
Similarly, Danny Danon, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, noted that the Palestinians need real leadership – “leadership that will speak to Israel and not run away from dialogue”.
“When you speak before international forums, you speak of peace,” said Danon, adding, “When you speak to your people in Arabic, you convey a different message.”
“Mr Abbas has refused to meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and sit at the negotiation table,” the Israeli envoy said.
“Rather than driving just 12 minutes between Ramallah and Jerusalem,” Danon said, “he has chosen to fly 12 hours to New York to avoid the possibility of peace.
“Mr Abbas, you have made it clear that you are no longer part of the solution, but part of the problem.”
In her remarks, Haley took aim at Palestinian chief negotiator Saed Erekat, who told her earlier this month to “shut up” over her criticism of Abbas.
“I will decline the advice I was recently given by your top negotiator, Saeb Erekat. I will not shut up,” she said. “Rather, I will respectfully speak some hard truths.”
Haley criticised the UN Security Council for holding another session on this issue, saying, “This session on the Middle East has been taking place each month for many, many years. Its focus has been almost entirely on issues facing Israelis and Palestinians, and we have heard many of the same arguments and ideas over and over again. We have already heard them again this morning.”
She added, “It is as if saying the same things repeatedly – without actually doing the hard work and making the necessary compromises – will achieve anything.”
The US ambassador said the Trump administration “stands ready” to work with the Palestinians.
“Our negotiators are sitting behind me,” she said. “But we will not chase after you.”
Shortly after the speech, the White House said it is still moving forward with a Middle East peace plan, spearheaded by Trump’s Mideast advisers, Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt, while calling Abbas’s speech “old talking points and undeveloped concepts for each of the core issues”.
“[We] will continue working on our plan, which is designed to benefit both the Israeli and Palestinian people,” said White House spokesman Josh Raffel.
“We will present it when it is done and the time is right.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu similarly remarked that Abbas’s speech offered “nothing new”.
Said Netanyahu, “He continues to run away from peace, and continues to pay terrorists and their families $347 million.”