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

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will speak in the United Nations Security Council in the next two weeks about the US Middle East peace plan, Palestinian UN envoy Riyad Mansour announced.

Mr Mansour told reporters he hoped the 15-member Security Council, at the same meeting that Mr Abbas would address, would vote on a draft resolution on the Israeli-Palestinian peace plan unveiled by US President Donald Trump on Tuesday.

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

Palestinian demonstrators burn tyres during a protest against the US brokered Middle East peace plan, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on January 29, 2020. AFP

Palestinian demonstrators burn pictures depicting US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and repsentations of US and Israeli flags during a protest in the southern Gaza Strip January 29, 2020. Reuters

Palestinian demonstrators in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on January 29, 2020. AFP

Palestinian students take part in a protest in the southern Gaza Strip January 29, 2020. Reuters

A Palestinian demonstrator argues with Israeli forces during a protest in Jordan Valley in the Israeli-occupied West Bank January 29, 2020. Reuters

A demonstrator holds up a cane and a Palestinian flag in Jordan Valley in the Israeli-occupied West Bank January 29, 2020. Reuters

Palestinians clash with Israeli security forces following a protest in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, 29 January 2020. EPA

Palestinians clash with Israeli security forces following a protest in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, 29 January 2020. EPA

Palestinians clash with Israeli security forces following a protest in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, 29 January 2020. EPA

Palestinians clash with Israeli security forces following a protest in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, 29 January 2020. EPA

Israeli security forces monitor Palestinian demonstrators protesting near the West Bank village of Tubas, near the Jordan Valley, in the occupied West Bank on January 29, 2020. AFP

Palestinians clash with Israeli security forces following a protest in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, 29 January 2020. EPA

Palestinians clash with Israeli security forces following a protest in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, 29 January 2020. EPA

An Israeli border policeman fires tear gas during clashes with Palestinian demonstrators following a protest in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, on January 29, 2020. AFP

However, the United States is certain to veto any such resolution, diplomats said, allowing the Palestinians to take the draft text to the 193-member UN General Assembly. Here 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. He did not give details of what might be in the text.

"Of course, we would like to see a strong, large opposition to this Trump plan," he said with Tunisian UN Ambassador Moncef Baati, currently serving a two-year term on the Security Council, standing beside him.

He said Mr Abbas would use his visit to the United Nations in New York 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."

Israel's UN mission signalled on Tuesday that it was preparing for the Palestinians to pursue UN action, saying in a statement that it was "working to thwart these efforts, and will lead a concerted diplomatic campaign with the US."

The Palestinians could push the UN Security Council to condemn the American peace plan or elements of it such as an Israeli move to apply jurisdiction to West Bank settlements and the planned recognition of that by the United States.

A US veto of such a Security Council resolution would then allow the Palestinians to convene an emergency special session of the General Assembly to discuss the same issue and vote on a similar resolution. General Assembly resolutions are nonbinding, but carry political weight.

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

At that meeting the General Assembly adopted a resolution calling for Mr Trump's declaration to be withdrawn. Days earlier, a similar draft text had been vetoed by the United States in the 15-member UN 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 General Assembly to consider a matter "with a view to making appropriate recommendations to members for collective measures" if the Security Council fails to act.

The Palestinians followed the same path in June 2018. The General 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 General Assembly by Arab and Muslim states after the United States vetoed a similar resolution in the Security Council.

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

Mr Netanyahu told Russian President Vladimir Putin as they sat down for talks in the Kremlin that he wants to discuss the plan and hear his opinion about it.

“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 unique opportunity, and I’d like to discuss it with you and hear your insights.”

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

The Israeli leader’s visit comes a day after Putin pardoned 26-year-old Naama Issachar, who was arrested in April at a Moscow airport where she was transferring en-route from India to Israel.

Russian authorities said more than nine grams of hashish were found in her luggage. She was convicted and sentenced to 7 1/2 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,” Netanyahu said. “This moves all of us and our gratitude is on behalf of all Israeli citizens, from the heart.”

He added that Russia-Israel relations are 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.

Updated: January 30, 2020 05:02 PM

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