UNITED NATIONS, 6 FEBRUARY 2020 — Jared Kushner, the United States point-man on Middle East peace, tried to persuade United Nations Security Council members on Thursday to back his plan for re-starting talks between Israelis and Palestinians amid doubts that the proposal is either fair or workable.
The discreet, lunchtime meeting, which was held away from U.N. headquarters at the U.S. mission, occurred against a backdrop of violent clashes in the West Bank and mounting Palestinian fears that the Trump administration’s plan is just cover for an Israeli land grab.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is headed to the U.N. on February 11, hoping to rally international support behind a draft Security Council resolution that condemns Israeli plans to annex West Bank settlements, which is expected to face to a U.S. veto.
Kushner’s visit was widely viewed as part of an effort to blunt Abbas’ New York appearance and to persuade members of the 15-nation body to drop long-held positions on the peace process, which he presents as unrealistic dogma and a roadblock to negotiations.
Speaking with reporters on Thursday, U.N. diplomats appeared unwilling to abandon the established norms of deal-making between Israelis and Palestinians. France’s U.N. ambassador Nicolas de Riviere said the view from Paris “remains the same”
“We support the two-state solution, with Jerusalem as the capital of the two states,” said de Riviere.
“This is the only pragmatic way to resolve the issue.”
Belgium’s UN ambassador Marc Pecsteen told reporters of a “useful meeting” in which Kushner, U.S. President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor, was quizzed by diplomats and responded with “explanations and clarifications” about the plan.
Still, it remains unclear whether the Trump administration’s re-framing of the peace process will persuade Washington’s allies in Europe and the Arab world to tolerate some type of Israeli land grab, even while their stated positions remain unchanged.
Some 5,700 miles away, at least three Palestinians were killed in the occupied West Bank and 16 Israelis were hurt on Thursday amid a surge in violence from Palestinians angered by the U.S. plan and anxious that Israeli politicians will come good on talk of annexation.
U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq said on Thursday he was “concerned about the levels of violence in Israel and throughout the Palestinian communities” and was hoping for “leaders on all sides” to “ensure that the populations act with restraint”.
At the White House on January 28, U.S. President Donald Trump unveiled his long-awaited plan for Middle East peace, accompanied by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu but with no Palestinian envoy present.
The peace plan has had a mixed reception. Palestinians say it denies them the long-held goal of establishing their own country, while many Israelis applaud Trump’s decision to recognise Israeli sovereignty over West Bank settlements and the Jordan Valley.
The proposal makes other concessions to Israel, including the creation of a Palestinian capital in Abu Dis, a suburb to the east of Jerusalem. The Palestinians have long sought the whole of East Jerusalem and to control territories that have been held by Israel since a war in 1967.
Netanyahu has promised to carry out the annexation of Israeli settlements in the West Bank before Israel’s March 2 election, but has since backtracked amid reports that the White House expressed reservations about the timing.
The plan has been rejected by the Arab League and the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell rejected parts of the proposal, saying that it broke with “internationally agreed parameters”.
U.N Security Council members Tunisia and Indonesia have circulated a draft resolution that “stresses the illegality of the annexation of any part” of occupied Palestinian territories and “condemns recent statements calling for annexation by Israel” of these lands.
In order to pass, a resolution needs nine votes in favor and no vetoes from permanent members the U.S., France, Russia, China and Britain — meaning Washington can scupper any document that gets beyond the nine-vote threshold.
The Palestinians could also propose a General Assembly resolution, where they may well secure a majority of votes in the 193-nation hall, but could only claim that as a moral victory as such documents are not legally binding.
Ahead of that visit, U.S. and Israeli diplomats have sought to close down the Palestinian leader’s options at the U.N. Washington’s U.N. envoy Kelly Craft warned that the visit would do “nothing but repeat the failed pattern of the last seven decades”.
In a statement, Israel’s ambassador Danny Danon said the Palestinians must “decide whether to continue down the path of rejection and continue to raise protests in the UN, or to come to the negotiating table”.