Mahmoud Abbas at the UN Security Council. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images
After blocking a Palestinian draft resolution at the UN Security Council rejecting its Middle East peace plan, the White House is signaling that it's willing to make changes to the plan if the Palestinians return to the table.
The backstory: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas rejected the plan in remarks today at the Security Council. That was to be followed by a vote on a resolution condemning the plan, but the Trump administration managed to delay the vote.
Senior U.S. officials tell me their goal was to show the Palestinians that they won't get anywhere through the UN and would be better off negotiating with Washington.
- “Today, by not putting forward a polarizing resolution, the United Nations Security Council demonstrated that the old way of doing things is over," one senior official says.
- "For the first time on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, the Council was willing to think outside the conventional box and not reflexively fall back on the calcified Palestinian position, which has only allowed the failed status quo to continue."
In his speech, Abbas said the Trump plan was a deal between the U.S. and Israel intended to “finish off the Palestinian cause."
- Abbas didn’t attack President Trump directly. Instead, he aimed his criticism at the president’s advisers.
- Abbas said he was willing to negotiate with Israel immediately but not on the basis of the Trump plan and not with the U.S. as the sole mediator.
- He called for an international peace conference and for talks to resume on the basis of UN resolutions under the auspices of the Quartet — U.S, Russia, EU and UN.
U.S. Ambassador to the UN Kelly Craft, who spoke after Abbas, didn’t attack him but gave an emphatic speech stressing that the Trump administration wants to use its plan as the basis for talks with the Palestinian leadership:
“This plan is not a take it or leave it. It is not a 'my way or the highway.' It is not set in stone. Rather, it is an opening offer. It is the beginning of a conversation, not the end of one."
Where things stand: "We are ready to start negotiations," Abbas told the council, but not on Trump's terms.
- The Quartet played a role in previous negotiations, but dialogue had been stalled for years before the Trump administration released its own plan.