Abbas Leaves UNSC After Palestinian Statehood Call Rather than Hear US Response
AFP 2018/ Jewel SAMADMiddle East02:08 21.02.2018Get short URL
During a speech before the UN Security Council (UNSC), Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas walked out on US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley’s rebuttal to his speech – provoking a sharp rebuke from the Washington rep.
The main subject of Abbas’ Tuesday speech was a call for the UN to formally recognize Palestinian statehood. “I call upon members who have yet to recognize the state of Palestine to do so. In the future, we will intensify our efforts to achieve membership in the United Nations,” he said.
“To solve the Palestine question, it is essential to establish a multilateral international mechanism emanating from an international conference,” Abbas added, also saying he hoped “to find a way out of the stalemate and crisis we are in.”
He concluded his address by warning — or threatening — that there may be violence in Palestine if the US does not restore the funds they stopped paying into the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
“If you end your assistance, they become terrorists or refugees in Europe,” Abbas said. “It’s either that or you continue to support UNRWA until the crisis ends. We are ready to begin negotiations. We beg you to help us so that we may not commit an act that goes against our beliefs and your beliefs.”
Scheduled to speak after Abbas was Haley — but Abbas left the room before she could begin her speech. Haley told the absent Abbas that she knows that he “was very unhappy with the decision to move our embassy to Jerusalem. You don’t have to like that decision. You don’t have to praise it. You don’t even have to accept it, but know this — that decision will not change.”
She added that the US offers an “outstretched hand” to the Palestinian people but “we will not chase after you.”
UNRWA, which provides humanitarian relief for Palestinians and has typically had a combative relationship with the Israeli government, relies significantly on Washington money. Middle East Eye reported that the US contributed over 80% of UNRWA’s income in 2017 — income that was significantly slashed in January 2018 when the Trump White House froze $65 million of planned donations.
“We pay the Palestinians HUNDRED OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS a year and get no appreciation or respect,” US President Donald Trump tweeted at the time. “With the Palestinians no longer willing to talk peace, why should we make any of these massive future payments to them?”
While the issue of Israel has frequently caused divisions between the US and other UN members, the rift has become particularly wide since Trump announced the embassy move in December 2017. The holy city is already the de facto capital of Israel, but Palestinians consider East Jerusalem to be their capital city under Israeli occupation.
Fourteen of the 15 Security Council members passed a resolution to condemn the embassy move, which the US vetoed. A few days later, the General Assembly voted 128-9 with 35 abstentions and 21 no-shows to condemn the embassy relocation. Haley blamed this condemnation on the UNSC’s “gross bias” against Israel.
Of the UN’s 193 members, 136 recognize Palestinian statehood, including permanent UNSC members China and Russia. The other three UNSC permanent members — the US, France, and the UK — do not, along with most EU countries.
At present, Palestine has maintained non-member observer status in the UN since 1992. To become a full member of the UN, the UNSC must vote unanimously in favor of it — something that seems virtually impossible so long as the US remains a permanent member.