United Nations: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is coming to the UN Security Council later this month to respond to the Trump administration’s declaration of Occupied Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and Israel’s expansion of colonies - a rare appearance reflecting escalating tensions over peace prospects.
Kuwait’s UN Ambassador Mansour Al Otaibi, the council president for February, told a news conference Thursday that his government invited the Palestinian leader to address its monthly Mideast meeting on Feb. 20 and believes it will be “important” and “beneficial” for members.
Arab foreign ministers met last month, he said, and “there is an Arab movement to push forward the peace process” and “to oppose the Israeli violations, especially those pertaining to Jerusalem and the colonies.”
Abbas usually attends the annual gathering of world leaders at the General Assembly in September, but his decision to speak to the UN’s most powerful body at a regular monthly meeting attended by ambassadors is an indication of the deepening rift between Israel and the United States on one hand and the Palestinians and their Arab and European supporters on the other.
It follows President Donald Trump’s announcement in December unilaterally declaring Occupied Jerusalem to be Israel’s capital which has created reverberations through the region and countered decades of US foreign policy and international consensus that Jerusalem’s status should be decided in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
The Palestinians have pre-emptively rejected any peace proposal floated by the Trump administration amid concerns it would fall far below their hopes for an independent state in the West Bank, Occupied East Jerusalem which they want as their capital and Gaza, lands captured and occupied by Israel in the 1967 war.
Their demand for a two-state solution is supported by the UN and almost all of its 193 member-states.
That possibility appeared to be dealt a new blow when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday that Israel will retain security control over the Palestinians as part of any future peace deal.
Since taking office, Trump has distanced himself somewhat from the two-state solution favoured by his predecessors for the past two decades saying he would support Palestinian independence only if Israel agrees.
His administration is considered to be the most pro-Israeli in US history.
The Palestinians are also angry at the Trump administration’s announcement last month that it is withholding $65 million of a planned $125 million funding installment for UNRWA, the UN agency that helps an estimated 5 million Palestinian refugees.
The Palestinians say this is tantamount to blackmail and blaming the victim for failure to come to the negotiating table.
The administration also made clear that additional US donations will be contingent on major changes by UNRWA, which has been heavily criticised by Israel for taking positions critical of Israel.
Kuwait is the Arab representative on the Security Council and as president it decides its programme of work for the month. Ambassador Al Otaibi said there were no objections among members - including the United States - to the proposed agenda.
He also announced that the council will hold an informal meeting Feb. 22 on the Palestinians where former US president Jimmy Carter, former UN humanitarian chief Jan Egeland and former UNRWA chief Karen Abu Zeid have been invited to attend.Such meetings are held outside the councils and members are not required to attend.
Carter bridged wide gaps between the rigid Egyptian and Israeli leaders, Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin, leading to the Camp David accords in September 1978.
Al Otaibi said Carter has followed the Palestinian question for a long time, his position against Israeli colony expansion is well-known, “and we believe that he does a role to play, he can give his opinion, and that’s why we decided to invite him.”
He said it’s still unclear whether Carter will attend, or whether Abbas will stay to participate.