Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was in New York on Tuesday to lobby support for the Palestinian opposition to the initiative for a settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli struggle offered in late January by US President Donald Trump.
Abbas, according to a Washington-based diplomatic source, was scheduled to hold a joint press conference with Ehud Olmert, the former Israeli prime minister, at which they would deliver a joint statement denouncing the Trump initiative as unhelpful to the cause of Middle East peace.
Despite appeals for him to cancel the event, Olmert held a very short press conference with Abbas after the Palestinian leader addressed the UN Security Council (UNSC).
In statements made prior to his meeting with Abbas and the brief press conference, Olmert said that while he would not object to the Trump deal he thought the US president should accommodate Abbas given the Palestinian leader’s commitment to peace.
Olmert reiterated the same line during the press conference. The former Israeli prime minister avoided direct criticism of the Trump plan and instead said only a two-state solution could be the basis for real peace in the Middle East while noting that the Trump deal makes reference to a Palestinian state.
In 2007 Abbas and Olmert met at Annapolis for peace talks sponsored by US President George W Bush but failed to reach an agreement.
Abbas underlined the wish of Palestinians to reach peace on the basis of the two-state solution and greeted Olmert as “a true friend”.
Meanwhile, the Palestinian delegation to the UN headquarters in New York decided not to table a resolution against the Trump initiative for a vote at the UNSC. The resolution, co-sponsored by Indonesia and Tunisia, both temporary members of the UNSC, had been denounced by the US.
The draft resolution, which was openly critical of the Trump initiative, cost the Tunisian permanent representative to the UN his job.
Al-Moncef Al-Baati was removed from his post for having failed to consult sufficiently with Tunis or with the Arab group in New York over the draft resolution.
The Tunisian presidency said the resolution “only seemed to help the Palestinian cause without doing so in fact” and was drafted in a way that made it impossible to pass.
The Palestinian delegation in New York refused to concede it had dropped the resolution. On Tuesday it insisted the resolution was still the subject of consultations between members of the UNSC.
Abbas spoke to the UNSC to reiterate the Palestinians’ continued opposition to the Trump offer.
In his statement Abbas said the so-called deal of the century was “an American Israeli agreement” that “adopts unilateral positions” in the face of international law and against all Palestinian rights violated by Israeli occupation.
Abbas continued, “I am here to affirm my wish for peace — and only for peace.”
Abbas reminded the UNSC of the positions adopted by the Arab League, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, the EU and the UN secretary-general all of which underlined the need to abide by international law and relevant UNSC resolutions for peace in the Middle East to become a reality.
Abbas said the Palestinian people are determined to see a Palestinian state and described the Trump offer as “a pre-emptive attempt on the part of the US and Israel to liquidate the Palestinian cause”. He called on the Security Council to exclude the deal from the terms of reference of the Middle East peace process.
Abbas added that the Palestinians would oppose any imposition of the plan.
Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu said earlier this week that he is preparing to annex Palestinian territories which the Trump plan handed to Israel.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 13 February, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.