Despite likely US veto, Palestine to take Trump plan to UN Security Council

Palestinian demonstrators burn tyres during a protest in the southern Gaza Strip against the Trump plan (AFP)

The National  /  January 30, 2020

Protests continued in the West Bank against the peace plan announced on Tuesday night.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will speak in the UN Security Council in the next two weeks about the US Middle East peace plan, his UN envoy Riyad Mansour announced.

Mr Mansour said he hoped the 15-member Security Council would vote on a draft resolution on the Palestinian-Israeli peace plan unveiled by US President Donald Trump on Tuesday.

The announcement has sparked protests in the West Bank and occupied territories, and in neighbouring states.

But the US is certain to veto any such resolution, diplomats said, allowing the Palestinians to take the draft text to the 193-member UN General Assembly.

There a vote would publicly show how Mr Trump’s peace plan has been received internationally.

“We will try our best with our friends to have the strongest possible draft resolution and to receive the strongest and largest possible voting in favour of that resolution,” Mr Mansour said, standing alongside Tunisian UN Ambassador Moncef Baati, who is serving a two-year term on the Security Council.

“Of course, we would like to see a strong, large opposition to this Trump plan.”

He said Mr Abbas would “put before the entire international community the reaction of the Palestinian people and leadership against this onslaught against the national rights of the Palestinian people by the Trump administration”.

Israel’s UN mission signalled on Tuesday that it was preparing for the Palestinians to pursue action at the world body, saying it was “working to thwart these efforts and will lead a concerted diplomatic campaign with the US”.

The Palestinians could push the Security Council to condemn the plan or parts of it, such as an Israeli move to apply jurisdiction to West Bank settlements and recognition of that by the US.

A US veto of such a resolution would allow the Palestinians to convene an emergency special session of the General Assembly to discuss the issue and vote on a similar resolution.

Its resolutions are non-binding but carry political weight.

The assembly held an emergency special session in December 2017, at the request of Arab and Muslim countries, on Mr Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

At that meeting the Assembly adopted a resolution calling for Mr Trump’s declaration to be withdrawn.

Days earlier, a similar draft text had been vetoed by the US in the 15-member Security Council.

A total of 128 countries backed the General Assembly resolution, nine voted against and 35 abstained. Twenty-one countries did not cast a vote.

Mr Trump had threatened to cut off financial aid to countries that voted in favour.

Under a 1950 resolution, an emergency special session can be called for the assembly to consider a matter “with a view to making appropriate recommendations to members for collective measures” if the Security Council failed to act.

The Palestinians followed the same path in June 2018. The assembly condemned Israel for excessive use of force against Palestinian civilians, adopting a resolution with 120 votes in favour, eight against and 45 abstentions.

The resolution was put forward in the assembly by Arab and Muslim states after the US vetoed a similar resolution in the council.

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrived in Moscow on Thursday to meet President Vladimir Putin about the US deal and planned to take an Israeli woman who had been jailed in Russia home.

Mr Netanyahu told Mr Putin as they met for talks in the Kremlin that he wanted to discuss the plan and hear his opinion.

“You are the first leader I am speaking with after my visit in Washington for Trump’s deal of the century,” he said.

“I think there is a new opportunity here, maybe even a unique opportunity, and I’d like to discuss it with you and hear your insights.”

Mr Putin did not talk about Mr Trump’s plan in his opening remarks, and Russian officials so far have refrained from comment.

It was a careful stance reflecting the Kremlin’s desire to maintain warm ties with Israel and its hopes for a rapprochement with Mr Trump’s administration.

On Wednesday, Mr Putin pardoned Naama Issachar, 26, who was arrested in April at a Moscow airport in transit from India to Israel.

Russian authorities said more than 9 grams of hashish were found in her luggage. She was convicted and sentenced to seven and a half years in prison.

Mr Putin asked Mr Netanyahu to give his regards to Ms Issachar and her mother.

“I would like to thank you on behalf of all the people of Israel for granting a pardon to Naama Issachar,” Mr Netanyahu said.

“This moves all of us and our gratitude is on behalf of all Israeli citizens, from the heart.”

He said relations between Russia and Israel were now “the best they have ever been”.

Issachar got on the plane with Mr Netanyahu and sat with him and his wife on the way home.