Palestinian, US and Israeli officials trade accusations at UN meeting

Abbas left the UN chamber following his speech, in an apparent snub to US and Israeli officials.
February 21, 2018
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaks at the United Nations Security Council, in New York on February 20. (AFP)
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaks at the United Nations Security Council, in New York on February 20. (AFP)

LONDON - Palestinian, United States and Israeli representatives levelled accusations at each other during a heated UN Security Council session on February 20, casting further doubt on the prospects of the stalled peace process.

The charges began when Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas called for an international peace conference to be held mid-2018 in which the US would not be the main mediator.

“The United States has contradicted itself and contradicted its own commitments and has violated international law and the relevant resolutions with its decision regarding Jerusalem,” Abbas said, in reference to the Trump administration’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December.

“So, it has become impossible today for one country or state alone to solve a regional or international conflict without the participation of other international partners,” he added.

The Palestinian leader accused Israel of seeking to discard the two-state solution, which he said his government was still committed to.

“Israel is acting as a state above the law. It has transformed the occupation from a temporary situation as per international law into a situation of permanent settlement colonisation and has imposed a one-state reality of apartheid. It has closed all doors to realizing the two-state solution on the basis of the 1967 borders,” said Abbas.

“We are determined to remain committed to the political, diplomatic, legal path, far from violence, and through political negotiations and dialogue, which we have never rejected,” said Abbas.

In an apparent bid to counter Israel’s claims of millennium-old ties to the land, Abbas underscored the Palestinian people’s relationship with the same land.

“We are the descendants of the Canaanites, who lived in the land of Palestine 5,000 years ago and continuously remained there to this day,” he said. “Our great people remain rooted in its land. The Palestinian people built their own cities and homeland and made contributions to humanity and civilisation.”

Abbas left the UN chamber following his speech, in an apparent snub to US and Israeli officials.

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, replying to an absent Abbas, said the Trump administration was offering “an outstretched hand… but we will not chase after you.” She said the US would not reverse its decision to move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Haley added that Palestinian leaders have a choice between “absolutist demands, hateful rhetoric and incitement to violence” and “negotiation and compromise.”

Abbas received even stronger criticism from Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon, who accused the Palestinian leader of “once again running away” from peace negotiations.

“Mr Abbas, you have made it clear with your words and with your actions that you are no longer part of the solution,” Danon said. “You are the problem.”

Following the meeting, the office of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu issued a statement saying: “Abbas didn’t say anything new. He continues to run away from peace and continues to pay terrorists and their families $347 million.”

Not all criticism directed at Abbas came from supporters of Israel, however. Some Palestinians said Abbas he was appeasing Israel, while some political analysts called his statements political posturing.

Will Marshall, president and founder of the Progressive Policy Institute, a Washington think-tank, said Abbas’s speech could be a “gambit” that “has more to do with perpetuating the PA’s lease on power in the West Bank than winning recognition of a Palestinian state.”

Analysts were also quick to slam the Israeli side following the meeting, with Israeli journalist Barak Ravid pointing out on Twitter that while Abbas’s speech was “moderate,” Danon’s was “harsh and rejectionist.”

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stressed there was no alternative to the two-state solution. “There is no Plan B,” he said.  “It is simply impossible to square the circle of a one-state reality with the legitimate national, historic and democratic aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians.”