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Palestinian president proposes new peace talks in UN speech

Haley, Kushner, Greenlatt and other officials listen to Abbass' speech. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas presented in his speech to the UN security council a Palestinian proposal for re-launching peace talks with Israel. In a relatively moderate speech, Abbas proposed holding an international peace conference in mid-2018, which would be the starting point for a new round of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

But, but, but: Abbas, who has said the U.S. can never mediate a peace deal after Trump's embassy move, left the security council room right after he finished his speech and didn't wait to listen to U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley. In her speech, Haley called on Abbas to return to the negotiating table. She said Jared Kushner and special envoy Jason Greenblatt — president Trump's "Peace team" — "are ready to talk, but we will not chase after you".

Kushner and Greenblatt attended the security council session and listened to Abbas' speech. Josh Raffel, a White House spokesman, gave a measured response:

“We appreciated the opportunity to listen to his speech. We were hoping to hear some new and constructive ideas, and the recognition that Jerusalem is holy to Jews in addition to Muslims and Christians is a step in the right direction, but as Ambassador Haley warned setting forth old talking points and undeveloped concepts for each of the core issues will not achieve peace. We are trying to do the opposite and will continue working on our plan, which is designed to benefit both the Israeli and Palestinian people. We will present it when it is done and the time is right.”

Here are the main points of Abbas's plan:

  • Holding the peace conference with the participation of both parties but also of other international players such as the five permanent members of the security council — the U.S., Russia, China, France and the U.K. — and other Western and Arab countries.
  • The peace conference will be held according to these principles: The commitment to accept the state of Palestine as a full member of the UN through a vote at the security council, mutual recognition between Israel and the state of Palestine on the basis of the 1967 lines, and the formation of a multilateral mechanism that will assist in the negotiations on all final status issues and make sure what is agreed upon will be implemented. Abbas didn't say it directly, but left the door open for the U.S. to be part of the mechanism but not the only mediator.
  • During the negotiation all parties must refrain from unilateral steps. Israel will stop building settlements, the Palestinians will halt all anti-Israeli initiatives in international organizations and the U.S. will freeze its decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem.
  • The implementation of the Arab peace initiative according to its original version – Israeli-Palestinian peace deal first and only then peace agreements between Israel and Arab countries.
  • The Palestinians demand that any future negotiations be based on UN resolutions, on the basis of the two state solution according to the 1967 lines with east Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine (Jerusalem will stay an open city for all). The Palestinians refuse any interim solutions or a state in provisional borders.