Why the U.N. Rejected Trump’s Middle East Peace Plan
By Joseph Klein
United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Mladenov, predicted that the Middle East peace plan proposed by President Trump on January 28th will not become the basis of negotiations between Israelis and the Palestinians. The plan “does meet every single red line that Israel has put in place for negotiations, but stops very far from addressing the concerns of the Palestinian side,” Mladenov said. A statement issued by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres’ spokesman last Tuesday declared that the UN “remains committed to supporting Palestinians and Israelis to resolve the conflict on the basis of United Nations resolutions, international law and bilateral agreements and realizing the vision of two States – Israel and Palestine – living side by side in peace and security within recognized borders, on the basis of the pre-1967 lines.” (Emphasis added)
Defining the highly insecure pre-1967 lines as the internationally recognized border between Israel and an independent Palestinian state would give the Palestinians what they have long demanded. Why should the Palestinians bother negotiating with Israel if the United Nations and the so-called “international community” are completely in their corner and consider anything less than agreeing to the Palestinians’ demands as illegitimate? No wonder Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is seeking to address the UN Security Council later this month on the Palestinians’ rejection of the Trump Middle East peace plan. “We say 1,000 ‘no’s to this deal,” Abbas declared on the day the plan was announced. “Trump, Jerusalem is not for sale. Our rights are not for sale. Your conspiracy deal will not pass,” he added. Members of the Hamas and the Islamic Jihad terrorist organizations attended Abbas’ speech in Ramallah. Abbas claimed that he and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh agreed to stand together as a unified front.
The Palestinian representative to the UN, Riyad Mansour, said that the Palestinians intend to have a draft resolution submitted to the Security Council supporting their rejection of the Trump peace plan. Knowing the U.S. will certainly veto such a draft resolution, the Palestinians are hoping to use the UN as usual to isolate the United States and Israel diplomatically.
“Of course we would like to see a strong, large opposition to this Trump plan,” Mansour told reporters, standing alongside Tunisian Ambassador to the UN Moncef Baati, who is currently serving a two-year term on the 15-member Security Council. No doubt after the Security Council draft resolution is vetoed, the Palestinians and their friends will run to the General Assembly, where they can count on many anti-U.S., anti-Israel votes to supposedly “legitimize” the Palestinians’ rejectionism. According to Mansour, Abbas will use his visit to the UN to “put before the entire international community the reaction of the Palestinian people and the Palestinian leadership against this onslaught against the national rights of the Palestinian people by the Trump administration.”
U.S. Ambassador to the UN, Kelly Craft, warned the Palestinians last Friday that complaining about the U.S. peace plan to the UN would only “repeat the failed pattern of the last seven decades.” She asked rhetorically, “why not instead take that displeasure and channel it into negotiations?” The reason is that the Palestinians have successfully weaponized the United Nations as their diplomatic propaganda arm of choice. The UN’s apparent outright dismissal of the Trump peace plan is playing right into the Palestinians’ hands. It typifies the UN’s reckless pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel bias.
United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Mladenov, for example, completely ignored major concessions offered to the Palestinians in the plan, which is built around the principle of a two-state solution that incorporates a step by step pathway to an independent Palestinian state. These concessions include (1) providing the Palestinians with territory reasonably comparable in size to the territory of the West Bank and Gaza pre-1967, (2) a capital in a portion of East Jerusalem that could bear the name already used by the Palestinians, Al Quds, and (3) transportation links allowing efficient movement between Gaza and the West Bank, as well as throughout a future Palestine. Approximately 97% of Palestinians in the West Bank will be incorporated into contiguous Palestinian territory. The plan does not call for uprooting any Israelis or Palestinians from their homes. In areas of the West Bank that are not contemplated to be part of the State of Israel, according to President Trump’s Middle East peace plan, Israel will not build any new settlement towns, expand existing settlements, or demolish any structure existing as of the date of the plan. The plan also provides for significant economic assistance to the Palestinians.
Even assuming, for the sake of argument, that President Trump’s peace plan is as one-sided as its critics have charged, there is still no reason to completely dismiss its relevance to advancing direct negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians. The plan represents, at the very least, the most detailed and comprehensive description of the concessions the Israelis are willing to offer, accompanied by a map of territorial borders the Israelis believe they can safely accept in recognizing an independent Palestinian state. The Palestinians insist on a Palestinian state with borders based on the pre-1967 lines that Israel considers to be indefensible. Those are two negotiation positions, far apart as they are, that can still serve as starting points for further discussions directly between the parties. Although the Palestinians are so dug into their position that such discussions would most likely end without success, not even trying to get the Israeli and Palestinian leaders together to negotiate, starting with their respective current positions, is certainly doomed to failure and more violence.
UN Security Council Resolution 242, which is still in effect, did not state that Israel had to give up all of the land it took away from Jordan after Jordan had attacked Israel. The November 22, 1967 resolution called for withdrawal of “Israel[i] armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict.” Several previous drafts of the resolution, which were rejected, had included a phrase specifically calling for “withdrawal from all the occupied territories.” (Emphasis added) The parties to the territorial dispute were supposed to negotiate for themselves the final borders. The resolution affirmed the “political independence of every State in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force.” (Emphasis added)
Efforts made since the adoption of Resolution 242 by the Security Council, General Assembly, and other UN forums to convert, by the stroke of a pen, the pre-1967 lines into “secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force” are invalid on their face. These UN bodies do not have the legal authority to decide the territorial borders between disputing parties except with the consent of those parties. Israel does not consent to the UN’s blessing of the Palestinians’ border design based on the pre-1967 lines. Israel has its own map. Only the direct parties to the dispute have standing to try to negotiate a resolution of their dispute. Israel is ready to do so. The Palestinian leadership refuses to do so unless they are guaranteed in advance the result they want.
At the January 29th press briefing by the spokesperson of the Secretary General at UN headquarters in New York, the spokesperson was asked whether the Secretary General would be open to encouraging direct negotiations, using as starting points the Palestinians’ definition of what the appropriate border should be as one pole position and the borders set forth in President Trump’s plan as the other. The spokesperson would not answer the question, instead just saying that the UN has made calls for direct talks with the parties. When pressed to provide a more specific answer to the question, he responded, “I don’t want to have to repeat what I’ve just said, so I won’t.”
These non-answers demonstrate in a nutshell why the UN has long since lost its moral authority to act as an honest broker in direct negotiations between the Palestinians and Israel. The UN has become the Palestinians’ enabler, encouraging them yet again to miss an opportunity for genuine peace.