UNITED NATIONS, 11 FEBRUARY 2020 — Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas rejected the Trump administration’s plan for Middle East peace on Tuesday and urged the United Nations Security Council to help chart a new course for cutting a deal with his Israeli neighbours.
Addressing diplomats in New York, Abbas proposed an “international mechanism” to replace the Americans as a sole, honest broker, after Washington on January 28 unveiled a peace plan that was tipped heavily in Israel’s favor.
Still, the Palestinians struggled to get enough support in the 15-nation chamber to call for a vote on a draft resolution condemning Israeli settlement building, even as Israel is reportedly devising maps with the US on how much land in the West Bank they can annex.
In his 36-minute address, Abbas called for the expansion of the Middle East Quartet — a grouping of the US, the UN, the European Union and Russia that was in the past a player in peace talks but has been sidelined in recent years.
“I call on the international Quartet and I call on the members of the UN Security Council to hold an international conference for peace,” Abbas said in New York.
“Any other country can join the Quartet … to be honest, the US alone cannot be the sole mediator. Among the Quartet, you are more than welcome. However, as the sole mediator, we will not accept. We have tried this now and honestly we cannot accept it again.”
Abbas blasted a US peace plan that left Palestinians with a “Swiss cheese” territory of “inland islands”, saying that some 13 million Palestinians were calling on the international community for a “just peace, that is all”.
The Palestinian leader, also known as Abu Mazen, held up letters and documents in which, he said, 300 former Israeli military officiers, 107 US lawmakers and 12 senators has rejected a deal that would effectively “put an end” to Palestinian hopes of statehood.
Abbas was set to hold a press conference later Tuesday with Ehud Olmert, a former Israeli Prime Minister, which was expected to underscore Israel’s political drift rightward in recent years and a government that is unwilling to make concessions to the Palestinians.
In a Haaretz article Tuesday, Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat fleshed out Palestinian plans, outlining an “umbrella group of a number of peace-loving countries to facilitate a meaningful peace process” that is based on past UN resolutions, not the new US proposal.
“Palestine is offering the world a serious proposal to achieve a just and lasting peace,” wrote Erekat. “We are calling upon the international community to make sure that a rules-based world order, and third party responsibility, is the only way forward for everyone.”
Washington’s UN envoy Kelly Craft said the US proposal was not a “take it or leave it” offer to the Palestinians, but was rather the “beginning of a conversation” that offered a way to break a decades-long impasse in negotiations.
“I’m optimistic all council members will give this approach a fair hearing rather than revert to the old habits that have not produced and cannot produce the peace that we all seek,” Craft told diplomats.
Speaking with reporters, Israel’s UN ambassador Danny Danon said the Palestinians were more interested in delivering fiery speeches in New York than engaging in serious peace talks in either Washington or Jerusalem.
“Abbas is well versed in the art of doublespeak. He comes here to the UN, he pretends to be committed to peace, but he remains committed to incitement back home. Before he left, Abbas, encouraged Palestinians to riot and engage in violence against Israelis,” said Danon.
Diplomats had been expected to vote on a draft resolution, which was co-sponsored by council members Indonesia and Tunisia and backed by the Palestinians, that would have declared the US plan in violation of international law.
After lengthy negotiations and concerns from the US and other council members, the Palestinians reportedly decided against putting the draft document up for a vote, with Erekat tweeting on Monday that negotiations were still underway.
Nikolay Mladenov, the UN’s Middle East peace envoy, warned that a “possible annexation of territory in the West Bank or similar moves, would have a devastating impact on the prospect for a two-state solution” and would “close the door to negotiations”.
Against a backdrop of violence and Palestinian deaths in the West Bank, Mladenov said it was “hard to envision a comprehensive agreement” right now, but that it was “time to hear proposals on how to move the process” back to a “mutually agreed mediation framework”.
US President Donald Trump on January 28 released a long-awaited plan that envisions a disjointed, demilitarized Palestinian state, subject to Israeli control over its security, with tracts of desert in return for arable land on which Israeli settlers now live.
The Palestinians seek all of the West Bank and east Jerusalem — areas captured by Israel in a 1967 war — for an independent state and the removal of many of the estimated 700,000 Israeli settlers who built homes on those areas.
But under terms of the “peace vision” that Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner worked on for some three years, all Israeli settlers would remain in place, and Israel would retain sovereignty over these settlements as well as the strategic Jordan Valley.