Abbas Taking on Trump at the UN Will Have Haley to Contend With
(Bloomberg) -- Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will denounce President Donald Trump’s decision to move the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem before a gathering at the United Nations next week.
But Abbas can expect a swift and forceful response from U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley -- a staunch proponent of the move who has already defended it before the world body.
The United Nations Security Council address by Abbas on Feb. 20 will be the first time the Palestinian leader will come face-to-face with an American official since Trump’s Dec. 6 announcement that the U.S. would formally recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Abbas has already made known his displeasure over moving the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem by canceling a planned meeting with Vice President Mike Pence, saying that the U.S. had disqualified itself as a mediator for peace in the Middle East. It’s a sentiment widely shared at the UN, where the General Assembly voted 128 to 9 on Dec. 21 to condemn Trump’s actions on Jerusalem.
Haley made her views known before that vote, vowing to “take names” of all who sided against the U.S. Afterward, she held a defiant thank-you reception for the 65 countries that voted with the U.S., abstained or managed to be no-shows for the vote.
“This is an uncomfortable situation for Haley, but in a sense both Haley and Abbas have a shared interest in a highly publicized smackdown that plays well with their respective political bases,” said Richard Gowan, a UN expert with the European Council on Foreign Relations.
Haley didn’t object when Kuwait, acting as the Security Council’s president for February, proposed inviting Abbas to speak, presumably because she would have been outvoted if she had. Still, she’s unlikely to pass up the chance to respond directly when Abbas participates in what otherwise would the Security Council’s routine monthly discussion on the Middle East.
During the monthly debate in January, Haley said Abbas “indulges in outrageous and discredited conspiracy theories” that don’t reflect “a person with the courage and the will to seek peace,” Haley said. “To get historic results, we need courageous leaders.”
Haley also pushed for a cutoff in American aid to the UN agency that aids Palestinians, and got the State Department to slash $65 million from a scheduled $125 million in payments.
Abbas, 82, is fighting to raise millions for the agency to make up for the U.S. cuts. He’s pressing anew for nations to recognize a Palestinian state, and he’s vowing to preemptively reject a promised peace proposal from the Trump administration amid concern it would dash hopes for a two-state solution.
The aim is to isolate the Trump administration, said Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian ambassador to the UN.
“He will come with a message of urgency to the Security Council not to continue being paralyzed but to play the role that it should play in the quest for the maintenance of international peace and security,” Mansour said. “He will ask the Security Council to shoulder its responsibility.”
Abbas “wants to internationalize the peace process,” said Robert Danin, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and a former State Department official. “But without the U.S. there is no viable peace process.”
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