A desperate Abbas celebrates in New York as Palestinians take helm of major UN bloc of nations

January 16, 2019 by Israel Kasnett - JNS.org
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Mahmoud Abbas is in New York City to witness the Palestinian Mission as it takes over leadership of the G77 bloc.

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas (centre-left), receives the gavel from Sameh Shoukry, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Arab Republic of Egypt, at the handover ceremony of the Chairmanship of the Group of 77 from the Arab Republic of Egypt to the Palestinians. Credit: UN Photo/Manuel Elias.

While there, he will likely push the Palestinian agenda and lobby for full membership to the United Nations. Were he to succeed, U.S. law prohibits funding U.N.-affiliated organizations that accept the P.A. as a member state, and the United States would, therefore, be required to cut all funding of the United Nations.

Fortunately, that won’t happen.

Last July, the Group of 77, a U.N. bloc that includes 134 developing countries, elected the head of the Palestinian mission, Riyad Mansour, as its next leader for 2019.

The Palestinian mission to the United Nations was granted observer status in 2012, making it eligible to join U.N. bodies such as the International Criminal Court and UNESCO.

However, because the Palestinians have the status of a non-member state at the United Nations, which would have made them ineligible for the chairmanship of the bloc without a special vote, the U.N. General Assembly held one last October to temporarily elevate the Palestinians’ status at the world body to resolve the issue.

While it may appear that the Palestinians are slowly managing to achieve their goal of achieving full U.N. membership and being upgraded from observer to member-state status, the likelihood of this happening still remains slim.

Eugene Kontorovich, head of the International Law Department at the Kohelet Policy Forum, told JNS, “They’re not going to join the U.N. If they do, U.S. statutes would require the United States completely defund the United Nations, which would be a big deal if that happens.”

Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon said, “The Palestinians sign checks for terrorists and at the same time try to get into the U.N. We exposed the hypocrisy of the Palestinians. They continue to pay terrorists every month, and to encourage violence and incitement against Israel; therefore, they are very far from meeting the definition of a ‘peace-loving’ state. The P.A. continues to error in its attempt to establish facts on the ground through unilateral moves while it has not abandoned the path of terror.”

At the same time, an upgrade to full membership at the world body for the Palestinians would require support from the Security Council, where the United States holds veto power.

According to a statement by the Israeli Mission at the United Nations, Danon, in cooperation with a number of friendly nations, “led a diplomatic effort to thwart the Palestinian initiative. He also spoke with some members of the Security Council, stressing that the P.A. does not meet the fundamental conditions of permanent membership in the U.N. because of its clear policy of paying salaries to terrorists and the public incitement campaign it leads against Israel in textbook and social networks.”

“In light of the Israeli campaign that would save the need for the U.S. to issue a veto in the Security Council,” the statement continued, “it appears that the Palestinians realize that the likelihood of the proposal passing has been significantly diminished. Accordingly, the purpose of Abu Mazen is now likely to take part in a side event the Palestinians will hold, rather than to promote the upgraded status process.”

‘He lost the relationship with the United States’

Ronni Shaked, senior correspondent and commentator on Palestinian Affairs for the Hebrew daily newspaper Yediot Achronot, as well as the Middle East and Islam Research Unit Coordinator at Hebrew University’s Truman Institute, told JNS that Abbas is in a deadlock. “He is desperate, and in a terrible moment in his own history and the history of the Palestinians, especially after he lost the relationship with the United States.”

Shaked said that Abbas had a good relationship with President Barack Obama and also with U.S. President Donald Trump in the beginning of the latter’s presidency. However, that relationship soured when Trump moved the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

He also said that while Abbas is ready to reopen the relationship with the United States, he doesn’t want Jared Kushner to serve in the role as special adviser to the president on the Arab-Israeli conflict. Abbas wants Trump to remove him. This won’t happen because changing out Kushner means changing policy.

Now, Abbas has no manoeuvrability, and “not just because of his relationship with Hamas, not just because no one in the Arab world is paying attention to him,” said Shaked. “Rather, the issue is that Israel is facing elections now, and nothing will happen on the Palestinian front for at least six months after the election in April.”

Israel Kasnett/JNS

“The Palestinians know what goes on in Israel, and they know that [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu will be the next prime minister. The only thing they can do is try and do something with the U.S. to correct the relationship,” said Shaked. “Abu Mazen is not young, and there isn’t much time left for him to do anything. The most he can do is use diplomacy to use the U.N. and to use the European states [that] are helping him and backing him. But Europe is busy with their own refugees and [‘yellow-vest’] issues, and the U.N. today has also undergone changes with respect to the Palestinians.”

According to Shaked, the fact that the Palestinians will head the G77 bloc means absolutely nothing. “They will have no influence. It will not change the policy or attitude of the U.N. toward the Palestinians. It’s a big problem for Abu Mazen because there is now no power to help him.”

“He is just looking for more points for himself and for the Palestinians,” he said. “His visit is not going to change anything. This is one of the worst moments in his history.”

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